It’s relief rather than a feeling of triumph for Fnatic and it’s fans as they clinch the final playoff spot in the European LCS. The team has never missed out on the postseason, and this campaign took them to the brink. It’s been a concerning season for the legendary organization, and now they face an uphill battle against the best that Europe has to offer.
The team can take some confidence in the fact that they had to pull out a victory against an in-form Misfits to even secure their spot in the playoffs. It certainly wasn’t guaranteed, as their opponents had claimed victory when the two sides met earlier on in the season. In classic European League of Legends fashion, it took a reverse sweep from Fnatic to get the win they so badly needed.
Fnatic failed to make the grand final of the European LCS for the very first time last summer, and just one split later the side is struggling to even qualify for the playoffs. This could very well be the lowest that the team has sunk, which is actually quite an achievement. After all, Fnatic were the first ever world champions, have continuously threatened at international events, and have produced some of the best talent Europe has ever seen.
At the start of each regular split, most teams usually have a roster-Shuffle in an attempt to build upon the success of the last year, and shore up any weak-links in the team. the transfer window is relatively tight, and there is always a flurry of action for the best players at this time.
However Fnatic did not have much success to build on. Missing the Summer seasons finals and failing to qualify for the world championships, both a first in the history of Fnatic, indicated that things needed to change.
A common theme amongst western squads is to look to South Korea, by far the most successful region in the world, and bring over some of their lesser demanded talent. For years, this has been the norm, to varying degrees of success.
This year Fnatic stepped out of the fold. Announcing a full European roster. Furthermore, they bought back some old school players in the form of Maurice “Amazing” Stuckenschneider, Paul “Soaz” Boyer, and Jesse “Jesiz” Le were legacy names, but not necessarily enjoying the present. A number of doubts started arising about the strength of the Line-up and whether some of these players had passed their primes. Could they stand up to the hunger of newer, fresher players, or match the mechanical prowess of Korean Imports?
The hope of the line-up rested on the untested, young talent of a 17 year old Rasmus “Caps” Winther. Just old enough to play in the competitive scene, his individual mechanical skill was hyped before he set a single foot on the stage. Some even nicknamed him “Baby Faker”.
Fnatic’s new roster did not flounder, but neither did it fly, they mostly just floated around the mid-table. Consistently beating Every bottom four team, but also consistently losing against the top 4 teams, the once best western team now struggled to make an impact in the middle of the table.
Neither was this new position undeserved, being out-drafted at the start of the game became the norm, questions about either the players champions pools, or the coaching staff strategies started to gather steam. Under this pressure, cracks started to appear in the performances, with none of the veteran players truly able to carry the weight. Only their new player Caps really shone, but one 17 Year old cannot carry all ships.
The Young Blood.
This lack of true success and mounting criticism is hard for any team to handle and Fnatic was no Exception. With little hope of a high table finish in sight, Fnatic switched veteran Amazing out for their academy teams untested jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen. While not an immediate fix, Broxah was certainly a game changer for Fnatic. He put out a steady and respectable performance for the remaining five weeks of regular play, with solid showings on carry junglers. Eight games of Lee sin and several across Graves and Elise. Broxah picked and performed with the staple jungle champions all top tier talent should be comfortable with.
Broxah was crucial for Fnatic to turn their season around | Image Courtesy of LoLEsports
Now Fnatic are a different team. Two complete rookies in their ranks, with one only joining mid season, they could not be expected to be the polished orange and grey machine of days gone by.
Yet the Fnatic legacy lingered. This was an organisation that was meant to be competing at the top of EU, making international teams sweat, not struggling in the mires of the home region. This was an organisation that by its sheer reputation should be able to pull top talent to it.
Week 10 came round and resurgent Roccat were contesting the Fnatic playoff spot. After being the first team in two splits to beat G2 it seemed guaranteed to be Roccat’s path to the postseason. However Fnatic countered the Roccat miracle with one of their own, beating out Misfits, a team who had been running circles around them all Split. Fnatic enter the playoffs in the weakest position in their history history, but they do enter.
The Days that may yet come to pass.
Looking back on the split, with the context of Fnatic as an organization, one can’t help but feel deflated with their performance this split. Untested talent with veterans passed their prime, left the fans wanting more. The choice of taking no import talent to boost the team was a questionable choice at the start of the split and one that seems to have haunted them throughout the ten weeks. It’s left them in a position where they’re now heading into the playoffs with a target on their backs.
But look at this lineup: without the Grey and Orange filter, This line up, as it’s existed for only five weeks. What that consists of is one the most mechanically gifted mid laners at such a young age, a jungler who has established himself comfortably in the EU scene very quickly, and an AD Carry who historically thrives when he’s able to throw out consistent damage from a safe distance, while others around him make the big plays.
Fnatic defeated Misfits in their final week of regular play. This alone speaks volume. Fnatic at their peak would have been happy to walk away with victory against such a strong line-up, they may have a lot more to give us or they fall at the first hurdle of H2K in the quarter finals. It’s just a shame it’s taken us 10 weeks to get to a place of being excited about Fnatic again.