Coming into the Intel Extreme Masters XI Oakland event, Team SoloMid were thought to be the undisputed favorites to win the whole thing. Waiting for their opponents in the Semifinals, they had less opportunities to screw up and go down in flames early. Of course, before TSM could start playing, the two Quarterfinals matches had to be played first.
In the Quarters, fighting for a spot to play against TeamSolo Mid and Flash Wolves, two teams to play in the World Championship, where they got eliminated after the Group Stage, were INTZ e-Sports, a Wild Card team from Worlds, Unicorns of Love, The Chiefs eSports Club from Australia and Longzhu Gaming. In the first QF, EU Unicorns of Love, the undisputed coolest-named team in the world, easily snuffed out the Brazilian INTZ, while the Korean Longzhu had no trouble with the Australian Chiefs.
Now, having defeated their opponents, Unicorns of Love had to play against Team SoloMid. Even without their star AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, who took a hiatus after the World Championship for the entire duration of the Spring Split 2017, TSM was just as strong on paper, having their former AD Carry, Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, to sub in the bottom lane. On star power alone, TSM was supposed to win the match easily. That is not what happened.
In the first match of the series between UOL and TSM, the NA team picked the Worlds’ favorite Support, Zyra, UOL tried to counter with Miss Fortune, however, it was not successful. It took TSM 37 minutes, but they emerged victorious in the end. Their Top Laner stood up well to enemy team’s Gankplank, Olaf smacked around Unicorns’ Lee Sin, WildTurtle crushed his opponent’s Jhin on Ezreal. TSM looked to be on their way to victory.
In the second match, TSM held off from picking a Support until Unicorns did it first, to avoid the MF counter. This time, however, the bottom lane went less successfully for Vincent “Biofrost” Wang and WildTurtle. UOL’s Ashe finished the game with a 6/0/12 score. Together with the tons of damage coming from the Kennen/Orianna AoE combo, the Ashe was too much to deal with for the somewhat immobile carries from TSM (Cassiopeia Mid, Jhin ADC, Zyra Support). Unicorns tied the score in 29 minutes.
The third game didn’t go as TSM wanted, however. Unicorns took away WildTurtle’s Ezreal and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen’s Olaf, Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg’s Viktor got outshone by UOL’s Kassadin. While the game was more or less even for a long time, Unicorns managed to win several essential team fights and won the match, 2-1, moving on to face the winner of the match between Longzhu and Flash Wolves in the Finals.
The second Semifinal between Flash Wolves and Longzhu Gaming was much less competitive and hyped. Flash Wolves showed why they were in the World Championship and Longzhu wasn’t in two matches, winning both. To be fair, however, Longzhu did put up a decent fight in game one, the match took 40 minutes for Flash Wolves to win and the gold difference was only 3k. The second match was much more of a stomp, though. Flash Wolves won in 30 minutes with a 12k gold difference. They took four drakes, to none from Longzhu, had 8 towers to 1 from the Koreans, while also killing their enemies 19 times and dying 7 times.
While the Finals matchup between Flash Wolves and Unicorns of Love was not what most fans who decided to watch the matches wanted to see, the series prove to be the most competitive. After a five game slugfest, UOL managed to defeat FW to become Intel Extreme Masters XI Oakland champions.
The first match went in Flash Wolves’ favor, however, the Unicorns weren’t too worried about the Wolves’ bite. They slugged them right back in the next match and the one following, getting ahead 2-1. The Flash Wolves weren’t about to roll over and admit that Unicorns can be more fierce than Wolves, however. They came right back in Game 4, absolutely demolishing UOL in 24 minutes, somehow managing to get 27 kills and a 19k gold lead. Surprisingly, the Europeans didn’t flinch and made sure that this was to be the last snarl of the Wolves, tidying up the last game of the series in 27 minutes, running a surprise Thresh/Kalista bot lane against Flash Wolves’ Alistar/Ashe. The Thresh pick wasn’t that surprising, to be honest, it has been played in the series twice before, but the Kalista was very surprising due to the fact that it’s been considered a very weak pick for a while.