When H2K Gaming made it to the semifinals of the 2016 World Championships, many fans thought it marked the dawn of a new age for European League of Legends. At the very least, the hope for H2K fans was that the team had made it over the hump into the EU stratosphere that had almost solely been occupied by G2 Esports.
For the entirety of 2017, H2K battled back-and-forth with the Unicorns of Love for dominance of Group B in the EU LCS. During the spring split, H2K finished just one game behind Unicorns as the second seed of the group. Once the playoffs hit, however, H2K was easily dispatched by Fnatic in a 3-0 series.
After licking its wounds for a couple months, H2K came into the summer split with a renewed focus. This time around, it finished with the same record as the Unicorns, but had a much better match record, giving it the top spot and a bye in the playoffs. Although it did finish with a pretty strong record, signs of future struggles were fairly apparent. While it only managed to lose four series all season, all four of those losses were against the top teams of G2, Fnatic, and Unicorns, while all of its wins mainly came from teams that didn't even make the playoffs.
With that in mind, it's perhaps not completely surprising that H2K fell short of glory once it came time for the playoffs. After having a bye due to its first place finish in Group B, it faced off against G2 in the semifinals, and it wasn't pretty. G2 showed the world why it's still one of the best in Europe even after a subpar split by taking down H2K in a swift 3-0 sweep. This set up a meeting with Fnatic in the third place match this Saturday.
While Fnatic didn't reach the international heights that H2K have in the last year, it's still had quite the upward trajectory that came to a screeching halt in the summer split semifinals.
Despite coming into the spring playoffs as the third seed from Group A with a subpar 6-7 record, the team put up a strong showing in the postseason. Despite facing one of the better teams in H2K, Fnatic dominated to the tune of a 3-0 sweep. G2 put an end to Fnatic's run, however, with a 3-1 win in the semifinals.
Despite the less-than-stellar ending to the spring split, Fnatic were seemingly unfazed and came into summer with something to prove. It opened up the split dropping just a single series in the first nine weeks of the season. Throughout the first half of the split prior to the break for Rift Rivals, the team was riding on the back of AD carry Martin "Rekkles" Larsson, whose use of Kennen in the bottom lane seemed to constantly confound the opposition.
Once the second half of the split got underway, however, Fnatic set out to show that it was more than just the Rekkles show. It started sticking to the meta picks that everyone was familiar with, and the team excelled all the same. It ended the split with near identical records in both halves, going 6-1 in the first and 5-1 in the second. Simply put, this was one of the most dominant teams we'd seen in Europe in some time. While G2 garnered a better record in the spring split, it only managed six sweeps in its 12 wins. Regular season dominance doesn't give way to postseason dominance, however.
This all sets up what should certainly be an interesting matchup between H2K and Fnatic in the third place match of the EU LCS playoffs. Both teams have underperformed in the playoffs after stellar regular seasons.
Despite the similar stature of these teams coming into this series, Fnatic have to be the favorites when you look at how these teams match up. The team houses a multifaceted attack that can see Rekkles pop off in one game, mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Winther the next, or jungler Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen after that.
When it comes to H2K, however, outside of jungler Marcin "Jankos" Jankowski and mid laner Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten, the team sometimes lacks playmakers. Facing such a massive offensively-focused team like Fnatic, H2K could find itself searching for ways to initiate and make plays throughout the series. Whichever team ends up coming out on top, this will no doubt be a fun matchup that will serve to whet fans' appetites going into the grand finals between Misfits and G2 Esports on Sunday.