FC Schalke 04 is not your average top-tier EU LCS team. Unlike well-established teams such as G2 Esports and Fnatic, FC Schalke 04’s road to the top has been much more difficult.
A rocky start
The team came into being back in May 2016 when FC Schalke 04 – a team in the German Bundesliga – bought the seed and the roster of team Elements. The first year of a team is never going to be easy, but while Schalke performed remarkably well at the start of the Split, things took a turn.
By the end of the regular Split, Schalke had dropped to eighth place. Ultimately, they were relegated to the Challenger Series.
The (up and down) rebound
In 2017, with a new team comprising Smittyj, loulex, Selfie, Upset, and Vander, Schalke proved their mettle in the Challenger Series and battled their way out, becoming the only team to be undefeated throughout a whole regular Split. The EU LCS was once again in their sights.
Spring Split 2018
You would think, with the momentum of promotion behind them, that Schalke would be ready to take on the EU LCS with a show of force. With a new roster in place, comprising Vizicsacsi, Pride, Nukeduck, Upset, and Vander, the team looked set to work around Upset and climb their way to the top.
Unfortunately, things just didn’t pan out during the Spring Split. Upset was too ill to play during week one’s games, forcing Vander to play in the ADC role with coach Boris heading up support. Although their week one ended in a loss against Misfits and a win over ROCCAT, the struggles that the team went through to get that week one win should have been a sign of things to come.
Throughout the Spring Split, Schalke never truly came online, which showed in their results - they only won both their week's games once during the whole Split, and that wasn't until week eight. Although they showed glimpses of potential, especially during their week eight match against G2 Esports, when Upset exploded on a 6/1/5 Tristana and Nukeduck shone on a 3/0/8 Azir, Schalke wasn't able to produce such results against any other top-tier EU LCS team during the Split.
As a result, Schalke secured eighth place during the regular season – missing the playoffs entirely.
Summer Split 2018
The Spring Split was a clear sign that something wasn’t working for Schalke.
In response, Amazing – the veteran jungler with experience in both the NA LCS and EU LCS – was brought in to provide stronger leadership for the team for the Summer Split.
Whether Amazing was up to the task was another matter. Many doubted the choice of jungler, especially given Amazing had spent the whole Spring Split working as an analyst on the EU LCS and so was out of practice compared to other players. Although his week one games, by his own admission, showed his skills were little rusty, the team still secured a respectable win over Unicorns of Love, even if they did, somewhat understandably, lose to a dominant Fnatic the following day.
Over the next few weeks, Schalke still struggled and lost both their matches in week three. At that point, any Schalke fan would have questioned whether the roster change in the team had had any impact at all.
However, from week four onwards, victory came after victory. Schalke looked revived, on the same page, and ready to live up to their potential. A four-game winning streak greeted the team in weeks four and five, and whether the win was facilitated by Vizicsacsi on Poppy, Nukeduck on his insanely deep champion pool, or Upset carrying in bot lane, everything started to come together for Schalke.
Perhaps the greatest sign that Schalke could challenge during the Summer Split came during week six's game against G2 Esports, when Schalke absolutely dominated. They won just after 31 minutes of game time, with a 12k gold lead, 16 kills to two, and eight towers to one. Upset once again stepped up, taking a KDA of 6/1/5 on Ryze, while Nukeduck proved it really was the year of the duck, with a KDA of 6/0/4 on Zed.
That win started a six-game winning streak, putting Schalke in contention for playoffs. Although they weren't able to secure the second-seed bye during the tiebreaker games with G2 Esports and Vitality, Schalke finished third during the regular season, with the EU LCS playoffs in their sights.
A shot at Worlds
Schalke continued to dominate during their playoffs games against Splyce and Vitality. Amazing and Upset really shone in particular, with Amazing proving he could go toe-to-toe with aggressive early game junglers such as Kikis, and Upset putting out insane damage stats that almost broke EU LCS records.
Although Schalke ultimately lost to Fnatic during the Summer Split finals, there was a lot to like during the finals series.
Schalke had prepared well for the series against Fnatic, and dominated during game one with a smart counter pick in mid lane, with Nukeduck taking Lissandra against Caps' Akali. However, Fnatic got the better of Schalke in the end and closed the series with a 3-1 win.
Despite the defeat, there's still a chance for Schalke to make their mark by securing the league’s third-seed spot at Worlds.
Schalke should probably already have bagged their ticket to Worlds because of their performance during the regular Summer Split and their second-place finish in the playoffs. However, a bruising and unexpected defeat from a struggling H2k in the final week of the regular season, coupled with the resurgence of Vitality, means that Schalke still has to face the Gauntlet.
As Schalke has secured top seeding going into the Gauntlet, they will have to face up against either Splyce, Misfits, or G2 Esports on Sunday 16 September. It’s unlikely that Splyce or G2 Esports would pose much of a problem for Schalke, given that Schalke is, essentially, a better late-game team than Splyce, and G2 Esports has been struggling ever since the end of the regular Split. Schalke may face a tougher challenge in Misfits, but only if the Misfits of the first half of the Summer Split shows up on the day.
As a result, Schalke’s shot at Worlds has never looked so good, and what better consolation prize is there for a team that wants to prove themselves on the world stage?
Do you think FC Schalke 04 can make it to Worlds this year? Let us know in the comments below!