iSPY: A Glance at The Fall and Meteoric Rise of Splyce
Mon 19th Sep 2016 - 10:30am
Wow, what a trip it has been for Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi and his all-European squad; from being nearly relegated in their rookie split during the 2016 EU LCS Spring Split to achieving 2nd place in the following Summer Split and ending their season with a win against the Unicorns of Love in an epic 5 game series at the Gauntlet Finals to reach the 2016 World Championship. Following the sale of Team Dignitas EU to Follow eSports, Follow acquired the all-Danish roster of top-laner Martin "Wunderwear" Hansen, mid-laner Chris "Sencux" Laursen, ADC Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup, support Nicolai "Nisbeth" Nisbeth, and lastly, ex-NME jungler Jonas "Trashy" Anderson. With a disappointing record of 2-4 by the end of the 3rd week of the 2016 Spring Split, with their only substantial win being against a newly revamped Fnatic squad, things were not looking up for the young Splyce organization.
Unlike their fellow Spring Split rookies, G2 (who went on to win the Spring Split in a dominating manner), things seemed grim for Yamato's crew. Finishing the Spring Split with a dismal 5-13 record, Splyce seemed to be a full step behind the rest of the middle-of-the-pack teams, such as the always seventh Elements and a seemingly lost Fnatic. Aside from a few flashes of brilliance from the likes of Sencux as well as Trashy's (mostly) consistent play, Splyce had very little to propel them ahead of the better teams, especially with frequent poor play from Wunderwear and the apparent mediocrity of their bot lane. Ultimately, their macro play was not nearly enough to compete with the rest of the LCS and the continuation of individual mistakes seemed to be the final blow for the young Danes, who now had their feet out the door. However, Yamato and company were not done yet.
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Only one best of 5 separated Splyce from another shot at the LCS, but GIANTS! Gaming were not looking to yield after barely scraping past the Copenhagen Wolves in the first round 3-2. Having lost the first game to GIANTS!, who ran with a Varus-Corki poke composition, Splyce needed to win the next game or face the stressful task of having to reverse sweep their opponents. Game 2 showed a very systematic comeback by Splyce, who faced a 5k gold and 4 kill deficit at the 22nd minute, but managed to turn a teamfight in their favor, resulting in four kills and a Baron buff, which were all they needed to kickstart their way into GIANTS! base. Big props to Wunderwear in game two, as even though he came out of the laning phase 0/2/0, he managed to go deathless for the remainder of the game while picking up 7 kills and 4 assists on Fiora.
Game 3 had a different tune, however, as GIANTS! jungler Wisdom and ADC S0nstar had monster games on Gragas and Lucian respectively, sharing a combined 10/2/21 KDA. With the potential for a second relegation match staring Splyce down, the team needed adjust their mindset in order to take the next two games off GIANTS!, who were ready to get back into the LCS. A totally different Splyce team burst into Game 4 of the series, as each individual performed seamlessly, regardless of the pressure they faced. Starting off hot with a solo kill on SmittyJ in the top lane, Wunderwear's Poppy looked primed to neutralize GIANTS! carry-style top laner, and one who is not known for performing well from behind. About four minutes following Wunderwear's First Blood, the young Danish top-laner pulled off a spectacular dive on SmittyJ, both of whom having less than 400 hp, but Wunderwear's knowledge of Poppy's limits allowed him to come out ahead without giving up a kill.
From that point on, Splyce slowly picked off GIANTS! members until there is simply nothing GIANTS! can do to come back. Accumulating a combined 19 kills against GIANTS' mere 3 kills, Splyce went into game 5 with a fire under them and they were not going to buckle. The 5th and final game of the series perfectly displayed the determination both teams had going into this final game. Being up for the near majority of the game, Splyce were poised to re-enter the LCS; however, GIANTS! support Hustlin had other plans. As Splyce started to take down Baron, Hustlin threw a Nautilus anchor out onto Trashy and followed up with his ultimate, Depth Charge, onto Kobbe, knocking both himself and Nisbeth up, and leaving a perfect opportunity for Wisdom on Gragas to throw a perfect Explosive Cask which scattered the members of Splyce. Having cleanly aced Splyce and secured the Baron buff, things were looking dire for YamatoCannon and his team. By taking advantage of SmittyJ's over-aggression, Splyce were able to stall until the 43rd minute where Trashy was able to steal Baron away from GIANTS!, which was followed by a clean four kills for Splyce, and ultimately, the series.
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Although Splyce could breathe a sigh of relief with the comfort that they would have a secured spot in the 2016 Summer Split of the EU LCS, the off-season was no time for the Splyce organization to be taking any breaks. "Concerning" would be a good word to describe the next LCS split for Splyce if they did not make some serious adjustments, whether that be within their management, player roster, or both. The question for YamatoCannon was essentially what roles would he need to adjust or replace in order to avoid a repeat trip to relegations. I personally anticipated some serious roster changes, mostly to their bot lane and perhaps Wunderwear, who had questionable performances for a fairly large portion of the split. To my surprise, however, only one substantial roster change was made coming into the Summer Split; the relegation of Nisbeth to a sub spot, and the acquisition of Slovenian Support, Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle, to the starting lineup. Aside from a brief stint as a support sub for Fnatic during the 2016 Spring Split, there had never really been much mention of the rookie support.
Few expected Mikyx to make as big of an introduction into the scene as he did, in fact, I would argue that most would never have expected for Mikyx to have such a large contribution to Splyce's success for the entirety of his rookie split. Quickly becoming one of the most feared Bard players in EU, Mikyx made a name for himself as a mechanically talented support who would help enable his laning partner, Kobbe, and eventually shape the duo into a bot-lane not to be taken lightly. YamatoCannon praised the rising rookie during an interview with theScore Esports, stating that, "[Mikyx] has mechanics that measure with the best supports in Europe" as well as mentioning his ability to learn quickly and absorb information given to him by others.
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For the first half of the Summer Split, Splyce looked decent, as they only suffered losses to Fnatic and the ever-dominant G2, while also taking 2-0 victories off the likes of Vitality, Schalke 04, and GIANTS!; however, they never really seemed to break through the middle of the pack. At the end of Week 5, Splyce were sitting at a tie for 4th/5th with Schalke 04, and a growing GIANTS! team trailing by only 1 point. When taking into consideration the teams they had beaten, lost to, and tied leading up to week 5, it was reasonable to believe that Splyce would finish with sole possession of 4th by the end of the regular split, a vast improvement from their record in the preceding season. Whether they finally started to click as a team, or they were all possessed by YamatoCannon's fiery passion for the game, Splyce began to tear their way up the standings starting in Week 6.
Following Week 5, Splyce won 6 consecutive games (excluding a draw with G2 in Week 7) and gained recognition as the second best team in Europe without question. It was as if a schism developed in the EU LCS where G2 and Splyce were an entire step above the rest of the teams. While some of that division may be attributed to Splyce and G2's constant scrims with each other, but that is not to take away from the fact that, by the Summer Split Playoffs, Splyce had developed into an incredibly cohesive team that had not only polished their macro-play (which was arguably their main issue in the Spring Split) but each individual had improved his mechanics and game-sense tremendously.
Having automatically secured a spot in the semi-finals of the Summer Split by finishing in 2nd place during the regular season, Splyce looked towards their match against the victor of H2K vs. Fnatic. With the addition of FORG1VEN to their lineup, H2K had no problem with the Fnatic squad who suffered from the departure of their Head Coach, Deilor. The 3-0 crushing of Fnatic by H2K left a lot of anticipation for the upcoming series against the unstoppable Splyce squad, with eyes on the bottom-lane as Kobbe and Mikyx would see themselves matched in lane against the likes of FORG1VEN and Vander, one of the most highly-regarded duos in Europe with particular excellence during in laning phase. As a result of the tower change in patch 6.15, both teams would be playing the Standard Lane meta, which looked to be in favor of H2K as that variation of the meta enabled both their bot-lane and their jungler, Jankos.
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Game one started horrendously for Splyce, as Wunderwear gave up 3 kills within the first 8 minutes of the game, one such death being a suicidal Teleport to save his top tower. Things continued to fall apart for Splyce in Game 1 of the series, as Kobbe was picked off on a couple of occasions, once during a 4-man tower dive in the bottom lane with only Mikyx's Tahm Kench to provide support, and there seemed to be no answer for the momentum that H2K was gaining. Suffering from a 10k gold deficit 34 minutes into the game, Splyce made a last-ditch effort to team fight H2K and hopefully shift their lucky around. Picking off and shutting-down FORG1VEN's Lucian seemed to be the green light for Splyce to take back the game through an attempt at Baron. Unfortunately, even a fallen FORG1VEN was not enough to give Splyce the opportunity to turn the game around, as the four remaining H2K members teamfought spectacularly around the Baron pit, resulting in a Game 1 win for H2k.
There is not much to be said about the second game, as the match was fairly uneventful up until the 34th minute where Splyce were able to pick off H2K top-laner Odoamne as well as Vander, resulting in a Baron for Splyce followed by a kill onto a desperate Jankos who was looking to salvage the game with a Baron steal. With the series tied at 1-1, both teams sought to solidify their lead in the series and place themselves one game away from Finals. Unlike Game 2, Splyce seemed to be lost when it came to late-game teamfights, as they allowed H2K to pick up a 32 minute Baron which spelled the end of Game 3 for Splyce. While H2K was in prime position to advance to the Summer Split Finals, being down 1-2 in a best of 5 was not a new position for Splyce and they were prepared to demonstrate that they do not crumble under pressure, whether it be in relegations or the playoffs. If there were one player to be recognized in this series as performing much better than expected, it was Trashy, and he showed in Game 4 that he did not fear Jankos, the First Blood King. Ganking the side lanes early and often, Trashy enabled his team to gain an early lead, particularly in the case of Wunderwear, which set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Trashy's assistance to Wunderwear throughout the game not only rendered Odoamne helpless, but placed Wunder in a position to take charge of the mid-game with beautiful plays in Mega Gnar form. In the end, the bloodiest game of the series went to Splyce, who must have been feeling revitalized especially with the dominance of Wunder, upon whom a substantial amount of pressure falls since his play can make or break a game for Splyce. This idea held true, as Wunder, with the assistance of his team, accumulated the first 3 kills of Game 5 on Gnar, the champion whom he played fantastically on in the previous game. Besides a small misplayed teamfight at the 29th minute, Game 5 was simply a meticulous dismantling of H2K as they slowly gathered a lead in kills, objectives, and gold, until the last teamfight at the 32nd minute where Splyce caught an out of position Odoamne, and picked up a couple more kills to close out the series.
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With their victory over H2K, Splyce set their sights on a finals match against their rivals and scrim-partners, G2. This series would prove to be Splyce's most difficult yet, though, as the roster was outclassed in virtually every aspect of the game. Better individual skill, objective control, and capitalization on leads were only a few of the traits that G2 had over Splyce, but with the unbelievable level of play that Trashy was producing compounded with their overall synergy, it seemed possible that Splyce could go blow-for-blow against the titans of Europe. Much to the despair of the Splyce team, G2 showed up with the fervor to reclaim their throne with the added benefit of being Europe's first seed at Worlds. I wish I had more to say about the 3-1 series which went in the favor of G2, but barring the anomalous, albeit commanding, Game 2 victory, there was little Splyce could do to usurp the kings of the EU LCS. While, yes, it would have been ideal for Splyce to have qualified for Worlds through winning the Summer Split, the odds were too heavily stacked against them; however, a run through the post-season Gauntlet left Splyce with one final opportunity to prove that they can compete on the biggest stage in League of Legends.
Burning their way through the Gauntlet was a Unicorns of Love squad who were looking to prove that they didn't need scrims to beat out the opposing teams in the Gauntlet. GIANTS! GAMING, a 3-0 win for UOL. Fnatic, another 3-0 for UOL. This UOL roster could not be stopped as they ran through the Gauntlet with ease. Ultimately, they would be stopped, though, as Splyce had to remind UOL that nobody could stop YamatoCannon and friends from taking that 3rd seed to Worlds. The Unicorns would not give up though, as they took Splyce to a 5 game series which could have gone either way as UOL was playing up to the skill level of Splyce. The third game of the series was undoubtedly the most exciting, as it ended up being a 60 minute slug-fest in which both teams were making game-saving plays left and right while trying to avoid being down a game in their most important series this split. Once Trashy had stolen Baron away on a one-man mission, I knew this game was going to be stressful to watch. "They were winning up until they lost" would be the perfect way to describe that game, as the Unicorns of Love were a step ahead of Splyce at each and every point of Game 3, but a squandered team fight at the 59th minute in Splyce's base was the nail in the coffin for UOL (at least for that game).
Undeterred, UOL stepped back up in Game 4 with support Hylissang playing an immaculate Bard. Hyli's Bard was not necessarily the pick that won them the game, though, as the entire team played around the map beautifully, and Splyce just could not keep up. A final Game 5 was all that separated both of these strong European squads from their shot at Worlds, and to be quite honest, I would not have been all that upset to see Unicorns of Love make it. The way their Head Coach Fabian "Sheepy" Mallant is able to inspire a continuously rotating roster to find their way into playoffs time and time again is impressive to say the least. Regardless of Sheepy's feats, YamatoCannon had his own aspirations to fulfill for both himself and his team. An absolute roller coaster of a game, the fifth game of the series nearly went to the Unicorns as they had several impressive comebacks late into the game. Commanding a 10k gold lead and leading in kills 13-5, Splyce sought to make one final push to Worlds. Things proved to be difficult for Splyce though, as they lost two major teamfights at the 30th and 34th minutes of the game, with the latter resulting in an Ace and Baron buff for UOL.
The fatal mistake for UOL would be executed by veteran top-laner Vizicsacsi, who extended just too far under Splyce's tier two mid turret. The ensuing fight lead to a well-played tower dive in the Unicorn's base by Trashy onto ADC Veritas, who was quickly taken care of by the rest of Splyce.
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Tears streaming down his face at the sight of his team finally achieving what they had practiced so diligently for, YamatoCannon embraced his players immediately following their victory, a victory which sprung from the cultivation of countless hours of practice, defeats, triumphs, and development. Last week, theScore Esport's interviewer and ex-LCS jungler Marcel "Dexter" Feldkamp spoke with Yamato on how he felt after his victory. "After that series, I'm exhausted, happy, sad, and... even more happy, you know? I'm just trying to explore my emotions but it's really really hard to find one state that I'm in." stated YamatoCannon, who was riding a wave of emotions following his team's qualification for Worlds. Although the odds are against Splyce going into a Worlds group with TSM, RNG, and SSG, if there is one thing that is for certain, this Splyce crew fears no competitor, regardless of status or reputation. I wish you and your team the best, YamatoCannon, as you have poured your heart and soul into this organization, and regardless of what happens at Worlds, everyone will still know of the man who kept his faith in his troubled team, and molded them into champions.
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