Schalke 04 claimed a spot in its first-ever European League Championship Series finals on Friday, taking down Team Vitality 3-1 in the playoffs.
Schalke shattered its reputation as a team with a slow early game, going toe-to-toe with Vitality's trademark early aggression. In fact, in both Games 1 and 2, Schalke 04 managed to find gold leads despite drafting late-game centric compositions. AD carry Elias "Upset" Lipp put together fantastic back-to-back showings on Ezreal, kiting immaculately while putting out more damage than Vitality could handle. Mid laner Erlend "Nukeduck" Holm flexed his champion pool with impressive showings on both Cassiopeia and Irelia. Vitality's team compositions were nearly impossible to play from behind, and Schalke got out to a quick 2-0 lead.
With its back against the wall, Vitality refused to waver in the draft, doubling down on its early-game focus. Fortunately, it finally paid off. Jungler Mateusz "Kikis" Szkudlarek found himself a dominant matchup, getting his hands on Kindred against the Poppy of Maurice "Amazing" Stuckenschneider. Meanwhile, Vitality's AD carry Amadeu "Attila" Carvalho similarly took Draven as a counter to Upset's Kai'Sa. Between these two picks, Vitality was able to successfully shut down Schalke in the early game, winning individual matchups before grouping for turret dives. A classic Vitality 25-minute victory followed, allowing the team to reclaim momentum despite a one-game deficit.
With the Kindred banned away in Game 4, Kikis was unable to repeat his performance, falling behind in levels to Amazing's Trundle despite getting the Graves counterpick. Attila came closer to reliving his Game 3 success, as his Draven once again came out of lane with a lead, and even found plenty of kills as the game continued. The same couldn't be said for his teammates, however, who were once again falling behind -- Vitality couldn't find a single turret for over 20 minutes. A couple of miraculous teamfights kept it breathing, but it ultimately couldn't overcome Schalke's sizable gold lead, and fell after a last-ditch effort at Baron.
Despite three members of Schalke having made finals appearances in the past, the lineup contains no EU LCS champions, and the team will be hungry for a win in the finals. It'll be no easy feat, as the team will face either Fnatic or Misfits, both veteran squads of the European finals. The EU LCS finals kick off next Saturday at noon ET.