Disclaimer: Michael "Veteran" Archer temporarily served as Dignitas EU's head coach at Dreamhack Valencia. He has not coached or provided analysis for them prior to or after that event.
The fight for first place in the EU CS’ regular split was a hard one. Dignitas EU held it for the vast majority of the weeks, only to give it up in the final run to their longstanding rivals, Gamers 2. This was the setup people were fully expecting for the playoff finals. Sencux vs. P3RKZ. The ultimate fight for the next in line to the glorious lineage of European mids. Denial, a group spearheaded by their former LCS players, was expected to follow them into the promotion tournament. All talk was a variation of these three teams.
What happened in the semifinals blew all expectations out of the water. Nothing went as planned.
Europe has always had to do things differently. Hopefully teams take this as trial by fire.
The Rengar Effect
Denial’s use of Rengar isn’t the first we’ve seen in the EU CS, as Kikis brought it out to help Gamers 2 take the first seed away from Dignitas EU. Champions with invisibility mechanics require a notorious amount of warding in terms of effective deep vision — the best way to know which lanes are in danger is to track the enemy jungler. Dignitas EU seemed to recognise that as an early game win condition with an early sightstone rush on Obvious. However, this didn’t translate into deep vision at any point of the game.
Denial declared the mid lane to be the battleground and Dignitas fought at a disadvantage. Having not warded effectively to track the Rengar, Denial’s CozQ was able to handedly win the lane against Sencux and Obvious failed to make his presence known elsewhere in response. Several ganks top lane came several buys backs too late. Wickd’s Rumble had already hit his Sorcerer's Shoes/Haunting Guise power spike before receiving Obvious’ attention. Denial took control of the game early on and didn’t let go, leading to a decisive win.
Game 2 was far closer. Gangplank was resurrected and proved incredibly difficult for Wickd’s Rumble to lane against. Later on Denial would miss out on a free dragon due to hesitation after a teamfight resulted in a 5v3 advantage to them; a critical error that cost them their best chance to end the game. Frequent spell rotations by Sencux on Xerath would render CozQ’s Viktor unavailable for late game skirmishes and Denial, now unable to take favourable fights, would eventually crumble to a collapse around Baron with a beautiful flank by Wunderwear’s lore-tainted pirate.
Game 3 was interrupted by a DDOS attack on Kirei with Denial in advantage. The game was forced into forfeit amid much controversy.
There is almost no way that anybody could have predicted Mouz’s eventual victory over Gamers 2. In the first game, Gamers 2 pulled out a strong Yasuo composition. Throwing focus from their usual carry, SmittyJ, and on to their mid laner, P3RKZ, Gamers 2 simply had to stay grouped and pick fights accordingly. On Twisted Fate, Mouz’s Xioh made himself terribly difficult to capitalise upon in an otherwise countered lane. A fatal trade of Mouz’s Tier 2 bottom tower for Gamers 2’s Tier 2 mid tower gave Xioh’s Twisted Fate all the pressure he needed to run amok. A solid 1-3-1 following a successful Baron sealed the deal as Mouz joined their forebearers of Final Five and Low Land Lions in wiping out a stronger man-for-man team with a well disciplined splitpush.
Game 2 took the principals Mouz used in the open middle lane and applied them on a global scale. Gamers 2 dominated draft phase coming out with a Viktor/Sivir composition to die for and SmittyJ on a carry again in Hecarim. However, in opening up the map early on, Mouz had the side lanes as their pallet and drew a masterpiece of wave control to apply pressure around neutral objectives. Gamers 2 were forced into making decisions and they frequently made the wrong ones, mistiming abilities on teamfights or miscommunicating the position of their Hecarim’s follow up flank with their engaging team. Gamers 2 crumbled.
Mouz never let up their map control. Gamers 2 had made one too many mistakes and eventually the game was sealed. Elevated macro play defeated a stronger individual team. Hats off to Mouz’s coach Inero and the great work he and the rest of his team pulled off at their bootcamp.
Europe as a region has always been defined by the team that quits last. The region pulls off immense comebacks, ridiculously risky plays to end the game out of nothing, and have never been afraid to innovate. Mouz encompassed that with these games. They focused on their macro and they never quit. They were the last men standing and they stood on their own terms against odds nobody expected them to overcome. How very EU.
It is important that Gamers 2 do not quit from this upset, and Denial do not quit from their hard luck. The fight for first and auto-promotion is now up in the air. The fight for third has just become a lot more significant.
Michael “Veteran” Archer is a writer, analyst/coach and lover of all things European. Especially himself. You can follow him on Twitter