League of Legends: Fnatic's road to now
In part two of his look at the story of Fnatic, Simon Helgeson takes us from 2015 to the present day for the storied esports franchise.
By Simon Helgeson
Last Updated: 28/02/18 1:27pm
Fnatic was little but a shadow of its former self when the 2015 Season was to begin. Humiliated at the World Championship and stripped of 4 of its 5 players, the team had to make do with rookies and import players.
Today Fnatic is known as one of the best, if not the best, European team and in part two, we will explore how they managed to rebound from this disaster.
Support player Yellowstar, the lone long-standing member of the team, was faced with what seemed to be an impossible task. He would have to build a team from scratch with a new coach and carry on the Fnatic legacy. That coach was Luis "Deilor" Sevilla Petit, a completely unknown name with no professional history in the game. Deilor became the coach as a result of a recruitment ad posted on Fnatic's social media, something that was urged by famous eSports personality Duncan "Thorin" Shields after he turned down an offer to coach the team.
Yellowstar Steps Up
Yellowstar, now the new captain, went on to acquire fresh blood for the team together with Deilor. The iconic top-and-jungle duo from Korea, Huni and Reignover, were brought in from abroad to play for the team. LCS rookies Febiven and Steelback were brought in to fill the void left by the legendary players xPeke and Rekkles, now playing for different European organizations. When the split arrived, it was time to see if the new Fnatic had the power to do what old Fnatic had done so many times.
They exceeded the expectations of the world when they rampaged through the Spring Split, facing their old rivals SK Gaming and their star AD Carry, Forg1ven - who had been dubbed 'God-given' by Steelback before the match. Fnatic entered playoffs as a second-place team but left as a first-place team after beating Unicorns of Love in a tense final played out in Spain, Deilor's home country. Fnatic entered the Mid Season Invitational, crushing the North American champions TSM and was looking good when they arrived to face the most difficult opponent yet - SK Telecom T1.
SK Telecom T1 is the most feared team in the history of League of Legends. They won a World Championship final 3-0 the same year they were formed, and in their roster is the player considered by most to be the greatest of all time - Faker. Many of the SKT members had champions, in-game characters, that they were undefeated with. Bang and his Kalista, MaRiN and his Maokai, Faker and his dreaded LeBlanc. To top it off, no western team had beaten a Korean team in a best-of-5 since 2012, when the scene was still in its infancy. Fnatic faced a monumental task.
The series started out as expected when Fnatic lost the first game against their korean opponents. What was not expected was when Fnatic tied the series 1-1 after a standout performance by their Toplaner Huni. The series continued to a nailbiting 2-2. Fnatic was a single game away from doing what no other western team had managed to do in 3 years. However, their hopes were quickly shattered when Bengi, SK Telecom's jungler, crushed Reignover with repeated invades, starving him of resources and preventing him from helping his lanes which ultimately resulted in a loss 2-3.
Fnatic failed to make the MSI finals, but shocked the world with their valiant performace against the world-beating Koreans. Rekkles returned to Fnatic in time for the Summer Split after having left his team, and Yellowstar was reunited with his old botlane buddy. Their return to Europe would be met with fierce opposition even as Fnatic was growing stronger than ever - sOAZ and xPeke was back in the LCS under the name 'Origen'.
EU-phoria and EU-logy
Fnatic showed the results of their practice. Now that the team once again had Rekkles and the classic botlane war reunited, they began a reign of terror over the rest of Europe. With an unprecedented 18-0 record the undefeated first-seed team looked as strong as ever when they entered the finals of the Summer Playoffs, where old friends clashed swords - it was Fnatic vs Origen.
Origen had a stacked roster: sOAZ and xPeke made up the old guard in Top and Mid, North American champion Amazing, as well as a powerful botlane in Niels, now known as Zven, and Mithy. The hype for the match was immense. Two teams were to face off in Stockholm in front of many thousands of spectators in the match that Yellowstar dubbed 'Fnatic vs Fnatic'. The match was intense and Fnatic narrowly came out on top with a 3-2 win where the new team captain took down the old. Having thoroughly conquered Europe, Fnatic set their eyes on the World Championship.
With a 4-2 lead bringing them out of their group as a first-seed team, Fnatic continued to steamroll the dreaded Chinese team 'Edward Gaming' that had won the Mid-Season Invitational. Fnatic entered the semifinals to face the Korean second-seeded team KOO Tigers. After the narrow loss to SK Telecom earlier in the year, Fnatic had improved and grown stronger and the iconic bot duo of Yellowstar and Rekkles was reunited. The stage was set for a grand showdown between Europe and Korea.
The analyst desk predicted Fnatic to win, the audience predicted Fnatic to win, and Fnatic predicted Fnatic to win. With SK Telecom waiting in the grand finals to decide the World Championship, Fnatic was geared to take the next step in their heroic journey. However, the stars didn't align. Fnatic was crushed in a devastating 3-0 sweep that left the crowd, once cheering, in dead silence as they couldn't believe what they were witnessing. Fnatic started off strong and gained advantages at many places, but rash and poorly-thought-out decisions caused them to suffer the heartbreaking loss. The five champions of Europe left the stage in tears and the European dream remained just that - a dream.
After the valiant defeat at the World Championship the team was once again broken up. Huni and Reignover left to play in the new North American team 'Immortals' and Yellowstar, refusing to stay around to rebuild the squad once again, faced his former allies in the league on the other side of the Atlantic when he signed for Team Solo Mid. A series of tryouts followed where different Toplaners, Junglers, and Supports were tried out. None of them worked, and Fnatic was dethroned as the kings of Europe by G2 who went on to win every EU LCS including the most recent.
Fnatic placed 3rd in the 2016 Spring Playoffs, Respectable but unsatisfying for a team with such an epic legacy. Yellowstar returned to play with the team in the summer that year and for a while Fnatic was on the top of the standings. For a moment it seemed like the old kings were back for their throne but it was not to be. Fnatic tanked the rest of the split and did not manage to qualify for the World Championship. Fnatic once again switched up their roster, most notably taking back the veteran toplaner sOAZ and acquiring the talented midlaner Caps.
With Caps and sOAZ in the solo lanes, Fnatic once again had sufficient starpower. Rekkles is widely considered one of the best AD players in the west, but has failed to weather the storm when the rest of his team is falling apart. The old giant was starting to rumble, placing 3rd in both the Spring Split and the Summe Split of 2017. Fnatic was the third-best team in Europe when the World Championship arrived and had to play through a second qualifier to even make it to the group stage.
Fnatic was defeated by Royal Never Give Up, the same Chinese organization that took them down in 2013, after narrowly escaping a group stage together with Longzhu Gaming, the Korean champions. The squad had once again placed top 8 in the most prestigious tournament of them all, and are back on the radar once again.
Fnatic has gone through trials and tribulations, heroic victories and tragic defeats, great highs and deep lows. From winning the first World Championships to showing up in the quarterfinals of the last, the name and brand of the black-and-orange Fnatic has been iconic in the eSports world even before the first line of code for the game League of Legends had been written.
It is truly remarkable what journey the players have been through to come to this point and this team always manages to ignite hope in the hearts and minds of European fans. Fnatic is currently 9-3 in the European LCS, placing them at the very top of the pack. As the European legends are once again headed for regional and international glory, who knows what the future holds?