BERLIN -- Time and time again, Splyce have proven naysayers wrong.
The No. 3 seed out of the League of Legend European Championship qualified for the world championship quarterfinals Thursday in what may be the biggest achievement in organization history. With a 1-2 record following the first half of the round robin group stage, Splyce rallied in front of a home crowd with wins over the hit-and-miss FunPlus Phoenix, an impressive League Masters Series squad in J Team and Gigabyte Marines.
The execution errors that plagued them in their 1-2 run were gone as they showcased their steady macro and solid team fight execution to the world and followed a 3-0 day by pushing FunPlus to their limit in the No. 1 seed tiebreaker game.
Under duress, to the Verti Music Hall crowd's delight, Splyce rose to the occasion.
"We always knew we could do it," AD carry Kasper "Kobbe" Kobberup said. "Early on in practice, or starting summer split, we saw what we can do with this roster, and I feel like we unlocked all of that today."
The acclaim Splyce received on the wake of their qualification contrasted with the way LEC fans reacted to their roster announcement before the season started. Indeed, the lineup -- composed of rookie mid laner Marek "Humanoid" Brazda, second-year support Tore Hoel "Norskeren" Eilertsen, third-year jungler Andrei "Xerxe" Dragomir and veterans Kobbe and Kiss "Vizicsacsi" Tamas -- looked unimpressive compared to G2 Esports, Fnatic, Origen and Misfits.
"Basically, at the start of the year, no one expects anything from us," Kobbe said, "and I feel like we did a good job."
From there, criticism shifted from Splyce's perceived inability to compete in the LEC to their inability to play as fast and efficient a style as G2 Esports and Fnatic did. Fans criticized Splyce's early game, and when the team shored that up, the critiques shifted to the mid-game. There was always something, it seemed, for the LEC community to latch onto.
"We know that we aren't Fnatic or G2; at the same time, we keep getting reminded of it," head coach Hadrien "Duke" Forestier said. "As Splyce, we don't receive much praise from the audience/community, and it's quite rare for us to be complacent."
Splyce's one true flaw, their slow adaptation to meta changes and game patches, nearly ended their season. After their loss to Fnatic in the final game of the summer split caused them to slump, Splyce were sent to the playoff quarterfinals against a hungry Rogue squad.
Against all expectations, Rogue won and dashed Splyce's hopes for a semifinal spot, sending them into the LEC regional gauntlet and a month-long break.
Eventually, Splyce recovered enough of their form to sneak into the world championship, although their bid for the second seed failed in a spectacular 3-0 loss to Fnatic. But Splyce still made it as the third seed after powering through a slump and meta changes.
Now, they're on to the knockout stage of the world championship for the first time in organization history after making the group stage as a play-in team.
"We had many setbacks this year, and we ultimately were the last team standing behind G2 and Fnatic," Duke said. "There was one spot to take behind those two teams; thanks to our discipline and mental fortitude, we went through.
"We had to fight all year long to survive in the LEC. We're happy to be here."
Splyce's qualification as Europe's third seed turned out to be a blessing.
Europe's second seed, Fnatic, have their backs against the wall in the so-called Group of Death. Like Splyce, Fnatic stumbled to a 1-2 record after losses to Royal Never Give Up (2-1) and SK Telecom T1 (3-0) in a stacked Group C.
Fnatic's campaign also started directly at the group stage, with no prior onstage tuning. Splyce, meanwhile, had play-in matches that provided them ideal grounds for tinkering, meta experimentation, confidence-building and improvement.
"We always had the mindset to prove to ourselves and others that we deserve to be here," Duke said. "Because of that, we always keep fighting until the end of our games and our best-of-five series."
Splyce's early group stage losses provided challenges they needed to overcome. Instead of faltering in front of the home crowd, they fixed the issues that plagued them in those games.
"We set goals one after the other," Duke said. "We stayed focused on the end goal, put things in perspective constantly and worked hard."
In doing so, Splyce awakened the talent that had seemingly laid dormant since the summer split.
"It's been like a comeback since that Rogue series," Kobbe said. "There is a feeling going through the gauntlet, going through play-ins and now through group stages as well. It's been going up, up since then, and now I'm just really happy with that."