It wasn't pretty, but the Unicorns of Love finally prevailed over Team ROCCAT 3-2 to advance to the EU LCS semifinals.
After taking a commanding 2-0 lead to open the series, UoL made some key mid game errors in Games 3 and 4, while ROCCAT came alive when it was all on the line to force a deciding fifth game. In the end, it was Vizicsacsi's split-pushing Gnar that was the difference maker, as the Unicorns punched their ticket to a semifinal showdown with Fnatic.
Here's how the series played out.
The pick-ban phase was stock standard for both sides until ROCCAT’s last pick, when they chose a surprise Anivia for nukeduck. With that being said, The Unicorn’s composition was highly mid-game-centric while ROCCAT favored a late-game scaling team.
A 2v2 in the top lane marked the game’s first bit of action, and although a great Cocoon from Jankos initially put the skirmish in ROCCAT’s favor and had H0R0 running for his life, a well-timed roam by Hylissang turned the tables and secured both kills for UoL.
The Unicorns played their composition correctly, using their high level of crowd control and early damage to force ROCCAT back. All the initial fights went into the Unicorns’ favor, and by the 20 minute mark they had a solid 3.5k gold lead.
The game’s first major teamfight broke out in the mid lane. Using On the Hunt and Righteous Glory, UoL initiated the fight but initially came out the worse for wear, losing Vardags almost immediately. However, ROCCAT chased far too much, allowing UoL to kite back, wait for their cooldowns to come up and then clean up the fight four-for-five.
The fights continued to be explosive, but the results were even for the most part and neither side took any major objectives. A brilliant initiation by Vizicsacsi and Hylissang caught ROCCAT completely off guard, and the resulting fight ended in a Triple Kill for PowerofEvil and the mid lane Inhibitor to the Unicorns.
With the first major lead and baiting the Baron, the Unicorns crushed ROCCAT in one last extended teamfight to close out a convincing Game 1.
After the failure of the risky Anivia pick, ROCCAT decided to go full meta with their champions this time around. The Unicorns were also happy to play it safe with their classic Sivir and mid lane Varus carry combo.
Things immediately went better for ROCCAT, as they successfully secured First Blood for Jankos onto an overextended Vizicsacsi. Despite the success of Jankos’ early ganks, UoL fired back quickly by picking up a kill of their own onto nukeduck and slowly but surely pulled ahead with minor farm leads across the board, superior tower pressure and the first dragon.
PowerofEvil’s Varus was key to UoL’s success, and his poke allowed UoL to control the objectives while slow pushing towers safely. Even when ROCCAT found good initiations, PoE’s damage held ROCCAT’s carries at bay and helped his team slip away without too many loses. Just past 25 minutes, UoL was in almost complete control of the map and had a 3k gold advantage.
The Unicorns continued to be very patient as they played around the poke and control offered by PoE and Hylissang to grind out advantages. But although they had the lead, the Unicorns were unable to crack the base, losing multiple members whenever they tried to seige an Inhibitor tower.
Recognizing that they needed the Baron to have a chance of breaking through ROCCAT’s base, UoL forced the objective. They claimed the buff, but enough of their carries died in the scuffle so that the Unicorns were unable to secure anything further.
With the carries of ROCCAT scaling up and the Unicorns still unable to pull off siege, something had to give. And in this game, it was ROCCAT who made a massive blunder, starting off the Baron in full vision of the Unicorns. Not only did they lose both MrRalleZ and nukeduck in the fight, but also the buff, their mid lane Inhibitor and the game as a result.
Once again, ROCCAT came out of the early game in good shape, with farm leads on their carries for the first time all series. However, it was UoL who secured First Blood thanks to a gank by H0R0 and a sapling out of Vizicsacsi.
The first fight also went UoL’s way, with a flank from Vizicsacsi allowing them to punish an aggressive mid lane push by ROCCAT and pick up two free kills. However, ROCCAT held on strong, continuing to pressure the objectives and using their dual AD carries to win the next few fights.
MrRalleZ’s Kalisa was a standout for ROCCAT, and he kited the tanks of UoL around beautifully while staying out of the reach of Vardags and PowerofEvil in fight after fight. By the 25 minute mark ROCCAT was ahead by 3k gold mostly thanks to a 4-2 lead in towers.
ROCCAT continued to dominate, and, after a clean three-for-nothing team fight near the mid lane, secured the Baron to put themselves ahead. UoL desperately forced initiations to try and get to nukeduck and MrRalleZ, but the protection from Vander and Jankos was immaculate and ROCCAT easily claimed more objectives and kills all across the map.
Playing it smart, ROCCAT waited for the second spawn of Baron before taking down the worm, grouping up and methodically pushing down UoL’s remaining structures. The Unicorns did their best to hold out and even managed to steal away the third Baron, but a few team fight wins for ROCCAT and a catch onto PowerofEvil meant it was curtains for UoL.
Both teams opted into standard lanes, but, as in most of the previous games, it was UoL who drew First Blood after a great Shockwave by PowerofEvil plus a two man gank from Hylissang and H0R0 picked off both nukeduck and Jankos.
H0R0’s jungle pressure put the Unicorns further ahead early, pushing down the Tier 1 bottom and top lane, killing MrRalleZ and taking the first dragon. Despite UoL’s healthy lead at 15 minutes, MrRalleZ was quickly becoming a concern thanks to a 30 cs lead over Vardags.
ROCCAT got on the board with a pick onto Hylissang and a dragon of their own, but UoL responded immediately with the Tier 2 top lane. However, a very risky dragon attempt by UoL backfired thanks to some great positioning and poke from ROCCAT. Not only did UoL lose the objective, but three of their members as well. Getting a little overconfident themselves, ROCCAT started off the Baron, and while they secured the objective, they lost Steve and nukeduck in the bargain. With the powerplay, UoL grouped and sieged the Tier 2 mid lane, using a great GNAR! to pick up a free kill onto MrRalleZ and the objective.
Noticing that MrRalleZ was trying to solo the dragon, UoL made a snap decision to start off the Baron. Their gamble paid off, and they secured not only the objective, but multiple kills and the middle lane Inhibitor as well. However, just like in Game 2, UoL had difficulty pushing into the base any further when faced with nukeduck’s laser.
Peeling away, UoL claimed their second Baron for free. nukeduck tried to stall the game with a massive Chaos Storm, but he just barely failed to kill the carries and was taken down as a result.
With nukeduck off the map and the Baron buff in hand, UoL finally had what they needed to take down all three Inhibitors. With Super Minions pouring into their base, ROCCAT tried desperately to defend and keep their playoff hopes alive. Even with the disadvantage, ROCCAT managed to take a miracle Ace, keep their Nexus alive and claim both the fifth dragon and Baron buffs before the Unicorns had even respawned.
With 55 minutes on the clock and gold all but irrelevant, ROCCAT once again put up a solid defense, winning the team fight four-for-one and pushing all the way down the mid lane to complete the comeback and force a deciding game.
After back-to-back wins for ROCCAT, Unicorns of Love finally elected to ban away Kalista. As a result, ROCCAT went back to the mid-lane Corki that worked for them in the first game while UoL chose an unusual AD carry position Varus.
Changing it up for the final game, ROCCAT opened with an incredibly aggressive invade which forced H0R0 into an inefficient start. Things kicked off almost immediately when a four-man tower dive in the bottom lane secured two kills for UoL while only losing Vizicsacsi in the trade.
Repeating his early moves from Game 4, H0R0 picked on Steve mercilessly, finding multiple kills. However, while the top lane was going well for UoL, the bottom lane was another story altogether. Mirroring H0R0, Jankos camped the UoL duo and picked up a pair of kills onto Hylissang. At 10 minutes, UoL had a small 1k gold lead but MrRallez waas 1/0/1 with a 20 cs lead.
The game slowed down for the mid game, with ROCCAT clawing back thanks to a few kills here and there. However, UoL gained vision control around the Baron pit, and snuck away the objective pre-25 minutes without ROCCAT being able to react.
UoL tried to use their small lead to split push and siege multiple lanes, but a Flash-Cocoon from Jankos meant a clean defense by ROCCAT that halted some of the Unicorns’ momentum. But it was just a small victory, because a few minutes later UoL landed a massive Alistar-Gnar-Orianna wombo combo that decimated ROCCAT. With the power play, UoL took the Tier 2 mid, their second Baron buff and established a firm control on the game.
It took three games, but UoL finally pulled off a successful 4-1 split push siege that cracked both the top and mid lane Inhibitor towers. ROCCAT didn’t go down quietly, forcing UoL away from the objectives and even finding a handful of kills, but Vizicsacsi’s split pushing kept them contained and UoL in control. Multiple fights in a row, UoL kited back and bought time while Vizicsacsi infiltrated the base, taking Inhibitors and even a Nexus tower.
With their attention divided and minions pouring into their base from all sides, ROCCAT had little hope of stopping UoL, and eventually they could hold out no longer.
Taking the grueling five game series, Unicorns of Love will go on to face the fearsome Fnatic in the semifinals while ROCCAT will have to play through the Regional gauntlet if they want a shot at Worlds.
Nicholas Doucet is a News Editor for theScore eSports. You can follow him on Twitter.