UKLC casters Aux, Excoundrel and Hiprain review the spring 2020 regular split and preview the playoffs: Which team will win?

The UKLC 2020 regular split ended with a bang: BT Excel went undefeated and Enclave Gaming got their first win in the last game of the split! We now set our sights towards the UKLC playoffs, with BT Excel, Fnatic Rising, Barrage Esports and NVision Esports progressing in that order. Two teams will make the EU Masters, but only one will be crowned UKLC champion.

Long-time UK casters, Aux, Excoundrel and Hiprain join Megalodontus to look back on the UKLC spring 2020 split so far, as well as preview the playoffs and the EU Masters.

The UKLC regular split just ended, what were your favourite moments and highlights from this hectic split?

Aux: There were two bits which really stood out to me. Barrage Esports coming out swinging when no one expected it and taking down Fnatic Rising really hyped me up, following a split where the academy teams [Excel and Fnatic] had just dominated.

Secondly was when Enclave Gaming finally got their win in the last game of the split against Barrage. It was looking dire for them and a 0-14 split would be so demotivating as a whole. Obviously one win doesn’t turn it around, but it definitely helped them define the split as not a complete failure.

Excoundrel:  I definitely have fond memories of Kerberos slamming the Tryndamere and almost popping off – that was one of the most enjoyable casts/games of the entire split. I have so much love for that dude, he has a really unique playstyle in the top lane and I hope he never changes.

I agree with Aux, the entire split from Barrage was so awesome to see. A team which always struggled in the UK scene finally getting a great team locked together. To me, it really showed how team chemistry and environment can often trump individual superstar names.

Hiprain: The moment Demise’s Kerberos realised it was time to go back to his old school style of picking niche picks like the Darius and Tryndamere. Back when I was starting out as a caster, he was the king of off meta picks and it was nice to see him return to the 1v9 style (even if he didn’t actually 1v9).

“With three seeds from the SuperLiga Orange and the Prime League we are dealing with a much higher level of competition than previous iterations. Let’s not sell ourselves short though, the UKLC has leveled up too.”

Excoundrel

What was your favourite game you cast this split?

Aux: The first match between Barrage and Fnatic, this was the big test to see if they were the best of the rest to challenge the academy teams. Fnatic didn’t roll over and managed to get xMatty to a decent spot but Barrage just murdered top and mid lane. The aggression they put towards mid with constant dives just made MagiFelix’s life hell.

Excoundrel:  The game between Demise and Excel where Kerberos locked in Tryndamere, it was just a pure determination to drag Demise over the winning line. Alas, it didn’t work out but it was pure joy to watch that game!

Hiprain: The second game between NVision vs Fnatic. It was such a mad game to watch that I still can’t get over Noltey’s requiem killing xMatty the second his Guardian Angel finished reviving him.

Kerberos’ bold Tyrndamere pick has earned him much adoration from the casters and fans

Which teams and players impressed you the most throughout the split? Who is your Spring Split MVP so far?

Aux: For players, they are Adept, Taxer, Send0o, Syb0l, Erixen, all five exceeded my expectations for them coming into the split. Adept was the unknown quantity on a stacked roster and ended up being the best performer. Taxer and Send0o have typically been the weak links on BT Excel for the past year but this split it hasn’t been the case at all.

Syb0l and Erixen, I heard Syb0l had amazing games, looking like he was the second coming of Dandy but was inconsistent, and the split opened with him going over aggressive. But he started to deliver stand out games every single week. Erixen was just super consistent, especially considering how stacked midlane was. This was a huge factor in Barrage’s dominance.

For teams it’s Barrage and MnM Gaming. Again, teams who surpassed my expectations. Barrage doesn’t even need explaining with how they started their UKLC run this season, and their win against Fnatic in Round 1 was a stellar match.

For MnM it was the development over the split. Their turnaround in the second round robin was huge, to the point they very nearly gave Excel their only loss, and they made a close run where they narrowly missed out on playoffs. I had high expectations of Fnatic, NVision and especially Excel but these two teams needed to convince me and they absolutely did.

Excoundrel: For players I would say Adept, Send0o, Erixen, Special and kaSing. Adept and Erixen came into a very stacked midlane pool with the likes of MagiFelix and Special and held their own. I was particularly impressed with Erixen – I think this guy is one to watch in the EU Scene.

Adept always impressed me with the way he constantly froze midlane and forced errors/risky plays from his opponents. Send0o has had a lot of criticism over the past year, a lot of people calling him a ‘brand player’ for Excel but honestly, he’s had one of the best splits I can remember and fully deserving of praise.

Special speaks for himself, the best midlaner in the league. Finally, kaSing also drew criticism over the past two splits but he seems fully motivated working with Deadly and I think we’ve seen some of kaSing’s best performances for quite some time over these last few weeks.

For teams it has to be Barrage – a team which was considered a ‘free win’ most splits now in the playoffs. What a story.

Hiprain: This is a really hard one for me looking purely at players, it would have to be either Flaresz or Adept. Flarez picking things like the Kled and performing insanely well on them in the split would regularly draw bans, and for Adept he was put on a pretty star-studded roster as far UK veterans go. As the least experienced member on this team, his performance was the most consistent, going toe to toe with some of the top dogs in the mid lane with the likes of MagiFelix and Special.

I think if we look at teams it will always be Barrage. They went from one of the worst performances in summer last year to holding second place until the last week. The org must be so proud of their achievements.

The casters unanimously voted Barrage as the team who impressed them the most

So we move onto playoffs now, let’s begin with the first one: BT Excel vs NVision, our current undefeated team vs Shikari’s consecutive UK titles. How do you think this match will go and which player matchups should we keep an eye on?

Aux: I think that NVision could play upset here but it’s a matchup that is Excel-favoured. Excel have big advantages, for example their decisiveness which is something that manifests in them finding advantages around the map in terms of towers and advantages, but also picking the fights that suit them best. I expect Excel’s composition to have a lot of agency so they can dictate the pace of the game and their game plan won’t give NVision much space to relax.

Excel have shown weaknesses though, they occasionally take bad objective contests, sometimes this is a result of leaving Deadly in the sidelane and sometimes this is a result of them just stepping too far (see Taxer in their most recent match vs Fnatic), this gives potential for the enemy team to punish and at minimum get to the point in the game where they are more comfortable, which leads onto my next point.

NVision need to have a strong power curve in the game, they can’t take a composition that doesn’t contest early/midgame pressure but they also need to ensure their scaling is potent enough. Draft will be a critical factor and we saw this in the most recent Fnatic vs Excel game where Fnatic managed to contest in the midgame but their composition lost steam way too quickly. It’s a big ask for NVision but it’s possible.

In terms of players to watch, it definitely has to be jungle/mid and bot. Taxer vs Noltey will be vital for setting up plays in the early game and dictating the momentum. There is potential that if Noltey heavily focuses mid they could find a lead onto Special, who hasn’t been infallible despite some insane performances.

As for bot, Deadly has shown time and time again that if you give him resources he will dictate the game and that was something NVision couldn’t prevent in their last matchup. Now I think for Yusa, you can play around that and his Veigar has been a powerful tool for him. I really think it’ll be a pivotal pick for them as not only does the cage really limit how aggressive Excel can play but it scales extremely well, and this essentially forces Excel to try shut him down before he can get huge value from the AP he accrues and the repeated cages with 45% cooldown-reduction.

Excoundrel: I think NVision have a chance, but Excel should 2-0 this matchup. Taxer has been performing well and Noltey has definitely had some shaky performances, I’m worried about this match up for NVision. I also am looking at the top lane for Send0o vs Shikari. Shikari has always been a rock for any team he’s been a part of but has shown some cracks this split.

If NVision can put Special behind and get Yusa rolling you can eliminate the major win conditions Excel lean on. This could be their way into this matchup. However, Excel have always shown that they are able to bounce back from shaky early games and I feel they still have the edge in this matchup. Excel have been nigh on infallible in the late game, so if this goes late I expect Excel to edge out in those games.

Hiprain: I think it will be a 2-1 Excel win, even with NVision on an upward trend. However, if NVision are to win they need to play around bot side and get Yusa going. The dude is a 1v9 machine if he’s afforded the space and we’ve not seen that from him much this split. He’s got a lot of experience in Prosfair, so it’s really down to punishing Deadly, who Excel often pour all their resources into. If Deadly doesn’t get into the game, I feel like they could collapse.

I think if you are Excel the game plan is the same: get Deadly fed. Noltey has proven to be a bit of a sore spot for NVision, at times he’s all over the map like a rash and seems to be unstoppable; and sometimes he’s dying solo in the jungle. Taxer has been on fire all split and I think Excel will pull out ahead due to Taxer pushing Noltey out of the game.

A refresher for people the last time Excel faced NVision

“Pride hasn’t impressed me this split to be honest. He’s had counter-matchups he’s lost, seems to struggle in skill matchups, and as long as he’s denied Ornn he feels exploitable.”

Hiprain

Next is Fnatic Rising vs Barrage Esports. Fnatic seem to be on an upward trend while Barrage are struggling a little bit in recent times. How do you think this match will play out and what will be the key take away points?

Aux: Fnatic without a doubt are looking heavily favoured here, they’ve started to get into full swing and their drafts have been more consistent allowing them pressure to play from and scaling they lean into. I think the one avenue I’m still concerned about for them is toplane but Flaresz has really been looking lackluster recently, so I don’t think he’s in a great position to punish that.

Typically, we see Dan pair up with Bravado and look to heavily punish bot side, I expect that here and we have seen Hadow getting caught a lot more recently than he should be, so there’s absolutely an avenue to be punished. This can set up xMatty to be strong and they can lean that pressure into river control into the mid lane, which in turn sets up MagiFelix.

Now for Barrage, I think although they have those two members underperforming they can definitely prove me wrong. If those players stop making as many errors as they have been in recent weeks and return to their opening form, they’re in for a good shot. Particularly, if we see them heavily play into the topside of the map. Last time they won against Fnatic, Pride struggled under the pressure of Flaresz and Syb0l while MagiFelix couldn’t handle the repeated dives mid lane. In current form, it’s Fnatic’s series but Barrage have shown they’re capable of being in the form to win this.

Excoundrel: Fnatic are favoured here. I think the only major weakness for Fnatic has been Pride, but honestly Flaresz has not looked insane these past few weeks either. Top lane can be a bit of a snooze fest too, and unless you’re playing for the split-push it very rarely gives you a tenable win condition. I think the roaming duo of Dan/Bravado has proven too much for most teams and I often don’t see that same synergy from Syb0l/Hadow. Hadow is incredibly good at roaming by himself but this may leave him susceptible to Fnatic collapsing. Mid lane has been a focus for Syb0l/Hadow and MagiFelix is very hard to pressure. He’s a super safe mid and very rarely gives up a huge number of kills.

Ultimately, I think the power of players like MagiFelix and xMatty will be too much for Barrage across a best-of-3 but if there is a team that could topple them – outside of Excel – it is almost certainly Barrage.

Hiprain: This one is really hard for me to call, I agree that Barrage haven’t been looking on form but part of me thinks they will bounce back for playoffs. Fnatic are an org that always finds their form coming into playoffs so it will be a challenge for Barrage. They also hold the title and they want to be back on the EU Masters stage again.

xMatty and MagiFelix have been so close to the EU Masters title twice now they must be itching to get a shot at it again, I think that’s why I’ll be watching those two in the playoffs. I think xMatty has been as good as ever however I do think that MagiFelix has had an split not playing quite to the level we know from him. Erixen will have to be on top form though as I think MagiFelix will be back in full force for playoffs.

If I look at Barrage there is one player I think could make all the difference, and one player I worry about. First up is Flaresz, as I said earlier that I think he was one of the players that impressed me the most and this guy has been a force to reckon with, and up against Pride, Flaresz may be able to blow the game wide open. Pride hasn’t impressed me this split to be honest. He’s had counter-matchups he’s lost, seems to struggle in skill matchups, and as long as he’s denied Ornn he feels exploitable. However Hadow is a worry for me, he’s a little prone to getting caught out from time to time.

Barrage facing Fnatic in the final week of the UKLC

Now to really put you guys on the spot: Who will win both semi-finals (and the finals) – and what scores? Any spicy predictions?

Aux:  

BT Excel 2 – 1 NVision Esports
Fnatic Rising 2 – 0 Barrage Esports

My prediction is that whoever wins the Excel vs NVision series will win the whole thing. It’s Excel-favoured and I’ve shown that with my predictions but I definitely expect it to be the closer of the two. I’m really hoping Barrage show their early season form though, I know they can challenge Fnatic and it would be a shame for them to lose all their momentum now after a record-breaking split for the organisation.

Excoundrel

BT Excel 2 – 0 NVision Esports
Fnatic Rising 2 – 0 Barrage Esports

I feel both academy teams will be too good in these series. I expect to see Excel and Fnatic win out convincingly.

Hiprain

BT Excel 2 – 1 NVision Esports
Fnatic Rising 2 – 1 Barrage Esports

I know it’s nothing spicy but I would honestly love a Barrage vs. NVision finals (Author’s note: me too, Hiprain, me too…), but at this point I think Excel are too far ahead of the rest of the teams and I think Fnatic will not lose their title in playoffs.

Finally, based on who you’ve predicted to make the EU Masters Spring 2020, how do you think these teams will fare in comparison to Europe’s finest?

Aux: Honestly I think this EU Masters will be the most challenging yet, the change to format means the group stages will be stacked. Last EU Masters it was easy to predict who would make it out to knockouts but here it’s going to be much more of a fight. My honest prediction is I think one of our two teams will drop out in groups due to a tough draw and I think the other team is our potential front runner, likely Excel, and they could go pretty far.

I do think anything further than top 4 is a big ask with how stacked some of the other regions are, and the fact we’re now dealing with three seeds from the Prime League (DACH) and the SuperLiga Orange (Spain), who historically have been very dominant. Overall, I think we’re going to be looking at a situation where we may struggle to match the performance we had last split but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

The UKLC has been a closer fight this split and I’m still confident we can definitely put in a convincing challenge to show the strength of our region, even if I’m not optimistic about us making it to the number one spot. Always hoping to be proven wrong, however.

Excoundrel: Almost every region has leveled up in the EU Masters this time around. With the new format, the groups are going to be very challenging and this means teams that may have previously advanced are going to find it tougher. I do think Excel and Fnatic stack up well in the competition, however I feel Excel are more likely to make it further. I would label them as dark horses for the title and I expect at least a top 4 performance from them.

However, as Aux said, with three seeds from the SuperLiga Orange and the Prime League we are dealing with a much higher level of competition than previous iterations. Let’s not sell ourselves short though, the UKLC has leveled up too.

Hiprain: I think Excel in their current form will easily make the top 4. I worry some of the top teams from other regions will read the play around Deadly’s playstyle too much and shut them down. Fnatic needs to make some big improvements if they are to also make the top 4 in this form. Top 8 is where I believe Fnatic’s journey will end.

“Deadly has shown time and time again that if you give him resources he will dictate the game and that was something NVision couldn’t prevent in their last matchup. Now I think for Yusa, you can play around that and his Veigar has been a powerful tool for him.”

Aux

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Aux: I appreciate everyone who’s turned in so far for the split! It’s been a bit of a wild one with a change of UKLC tournament organiser (shoutout to DreamHack, who’ve done a great job), and also the COVID-19 situation, which ended up cancelling our live UKLC finals and also sending us casters home to the UK. Support however has still been great and I hope we can put on a good show for you! The teams definitely deserve it as they’ve all been putting a ton of effort in so far.  

Excoundrel: This has been one of the most entertaining splits of the UKLC so far. I know everyone is a little disappointed with the changes to the finals due to COVID-19, but DreamHack have been amazing and very accommodating to ensure we put on the best show possible! We have a great online finals planned for both the Nordics and the UKLC and I’m really excited to get in there and do our best. This is the best time to support our teams and share their content – especially go and check out player streams and support them during this downtime!

Hiprain: I know the world is a little crazy at the moment and a remote finals is the last thing anyone from the teams to DreamHack wants, but it was the right call. DreamHack are working on every angle to make sure this is as good of a finale for the fans to watch and they are handling this incredibly well. I have faith that the playoffs and finals are going to be incredible to watch. Everyone stay safe during this tough time!

Read more: The UKLC finals along with all the other esports events cancelled by Covid-19

You can catch the UKLC playoff semi-finals on March 23rd from 7pm at https://www.twitch.tv/dreamhacklol. The grand finals will follow on March 29th from 3pm.

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