After two and a half years of dominance, the spring split was marked in the history as the first in the European League of Legends Championship Series that Fnatic didn’t make it to the finals.
Fnatic has dominated the European LCS since its start. Fnatic won five of the seven splits played and made it to the finals six times. But when Bora “Yellowstar” Kim departed from Fnatic to play for Team SoloMid of the North American LCS, the streak came to an end for Fnatic
After a rough split, Fnatic could not find the right Support player or managed to get the team strategies to work. But Yellowstar has returned, and Fnatic is poised to reap the benefits.
Looking at Yellowstar’s Legacy and last year’s success with Fnatic, he was definitely one of the keys to the team. Watching Fnatic play was like listening to a symphony orchestra. He was not only their support and shot-caller but also the maestro bringing all the pieces together. Comparing last year’s Fnatic to the one we saw in this spring split this year, both lineups couldn’t be more different. The Fnatic we saw this spring split was messy, lost and couldn’t find the right strategy. They would struggle individually or fail in the shot-calling department
Even in a small sample size, Yellowstar’s return has already marked a massive improvement in the team’s overall performance. Not only does the team looked more united, but the players also started performing better individually. The bot lane of Yellowstar and Martin “Rekkles” Larsson was one of Europe’s best in 2014 and in 2015. Taking the European scene by storm, they had not only one of the best debuts in European League of Legends history in the spring of 2014, but they also kept improving over the years. Rekkles is known as a passive laner: he wants to farm up and carry the team later in team fights, so he needs a support who can apply the pressure needed for him to succeed. Yellowstar has been constantly showing up as a laner and is able to perform solid in most of those situations.
Besides that, synergy is one of their strongest points. When comparing Rekkles’ performance with his two different supports and then with Yellowstar, the difference is palpable. Rekkles performs much better besides Yellowstar than any of the other supports he played in the last two years. Rekkles is the type of AD Carry who will safely farm and focus on out-farming the enemy bot lane, but when he laned with Yellowstar he had historically the better performances. Along with the fact that they fit well with their play style, both players stated in interviews that they feel very comfortable with each other, and that definitely shows in their confidence in lane.
Fnatic struggled without its old leader and shot-caller Yellowstar. Rekkles took the role as shot-caller, Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-Jin and Lee “Spirit” Da-yun didn’t speak good enough English, which made the team’s communication difficult . Watching the games, sometimes it felt as if nobody was taking the lead and doing a definitive call. That should change with Yellowstar, as Rekkles can now focus only on playing and Yellowstar can take the main shot-calling role. This Fnatic roster has a lot of talented individual players, and all that was missing was someone to connect the dots. The team had mixed performances in the spring, sometimes dominating games and in others struggling to get rolling. Looking at it now and in the first two weeks of the summer split, Fnatic seems be improving in that department.
Watching Week 1 against Giants, Fnatic was much more decisive its game plan better executed and plays much better coordinated. Here’s an example of a top lane TP play from the first week’s game against Giants where Fnatic was able to pick Giants’ bot lane out of position.
It felt refreshing seeing Fnatic again on a dominating foot after all the mixed performances in the spring split, though it hasn’t all been clean. After all glimpses of hope, Fnatic struggled in the games against Vitality and H2K and sits at third place in the standings at 2-1-1 heading into its Week 3 matches.
In the games Fnatic lost, it wasn’t able to get an advantage in the earlier stages of the game, leading to the enemy team being able to snowball slowly. Drafting has also been a concern. Fnatic has been always capable of bringing new picks or establishing new strategies into the game. Sometimes they would pick comfort picks and sometimes they will stick to off-meta picks they believe are strong over power picks of the current patch. In the current patches, Fnatic was one of the few teams that still stuck with Kalista while bringing up picks like Zac top lane or Kha Zix Jungle. Looking at the drafts, they tend to focus on getting engages on AD Carry and their top laner, leaving the support pick for something more peel oriented. In general they also tend to run tank top laners and carry junglers. That’s fine, but the problem is Fnatic has not been performing when it doesn’t get to play a double-initiation composition. The game it struggled against Vitality in Week 1, they didn’t run either Sivir and Kalista and couldn’t get a kill below the 20-minute mark.
Still, the new Fnatic looks indeed promising to hit the high level of gameplay it had last year. But the team still has to mesh together and get used to each other. Certain parts of the team already showed improvements, but also drafts and strategies could be optimized. There is still a lot to improve in many areas, but it is good to see the maestro back together with his orchestra.
Photos courtesy of Riot Games.