It’s that time of year again. The LCS is back!
This year’s action opened with Fnatic vs. Origen – the European classic.
After a crazy off-season filled with dozens of player transfers, new teams coming into the LCS, and even more top tier European talent leaving the region for North America, the 2016 European Spring Split began today.
On paper this EU LCS season features teams that are unquestionably less talented than the ones on display a year before. The clear favorites; Origen, Vitality, Fnatic, and H2K, all seem likely to roll over depleted teams like Roccat, Elements, and Giants.
Naturally this creates opportunity for upsets. The general consensus going into the split is that the longer the team has been playing together, the stronger they are expected to perform.
Fnatic entered the 2016 EU LCS with only 2 returning members. Their rivals, Origen, changed only a single player. If you buy into the “less is more” theory when it comes to roster changes, then Origen was the clear favorite this time around.
As caster Pyra pointed out in the pre-game analysis, this is the first time in a long time that Fnatic enters a game in which they are not considered the favorite.
You would have to go back to the beginning of 2015 when Fnatic lost franchise players SoAZ, xPeke, and Cyanide. They would be replaced by an underachieving Korean jungler and rookie top laner. This rag-tag team would go on to set new LCS records by completing an entire split without losing a single game.
Drafting Phase: Small Victories Clear in Hindsight
The differences between Fnatic and Origen when it comes to drafting are particularly interesting due to the difference in infrastructure of each organization.
Origen was formed by a bunch of friends; former Fnatic players, and remains essentially the same team aside from the single aforementioned roster change. Origen doesn’t seem to believe in strategic coaching. After cycling through a series of 3-4 of them they have come to the conclusion that their own judgement serves them best. They have a “life coach”, who judging by his title, probably does not play a large part in the pick and ban phase.
Fnatic is run by coach Deilor; a former poker professional who right now may just be the best Western League of Legends coach of all time. That title may not mean much considering how new coaching is to the League of Legends scene, but it doesn’t make it less true. Deilor has been said to heavily regulate the schedules of his players and undoubtedly plays a major role in developing Fnatic’s in-game strategies.
The draft began in patch 6.1 style with Fnatic snatching Poppy as the first overall pick. Flex picks are in style this season and Poppy is considered one of the strongest.
Both teams left the draft with the following champions:
- Top (Gamsu): Olaf
- Jungle (Spirit): Zac
- Mid (Febiven): LeBlanc
- ADC (Rekkles): Lucian
- Support (NoXiak): Poppy
Bans: Kindred, Kassadin, Tahm Kench.
- Top (SoAZ): Lissandra
- Jungle (Amazing): Lee Sin
- Mid (PowerOfEvil): Orianna
- ADC (Zven): Ezreal
- Support (Mithy): Trundle
Bans: Lulu, GangPlank, Ryze.
The Olaf picked for Fnatic’s Gamsu was a great pick in hindsight, rendering all crowd control useless. Lee Sin kick, all of Lissandra’s spells, all of Orianna’s spells, blue build Ezreal slows, Trundle’s pillar… all useless. You’re probably not going to be hitting an airborne Zac with any of those abilities either.
The pre-game feature showed Febiven expressing his opinion on Origen mid laner PowerOfEvil. Febiven claims he never thought that highly of PowerOfEvil because of his limited champion pool. PowerOfEvil’s Orianna pick did not contradict this statement.
Fnatic vs. Origen: Welcome to Summoner’s Rift
The game started with standard lanes and had first blood going to Mithy’s Trundle. The Origen bot lane duo were chunked after taking some unfavorable trades against Rekkles’ Lucian when Amazing came through with a well timed gank to secure the first kill of the 2016 EU LCS Spring split.
What happened next would prove to be the story of the game.
Just seconds after Origen secured first blood on Rekkles Fnatic would answer with Spirit diving the low health Origen bot lane, assisted by a teleport from Gamsu’s Olaf. SoAZ would NOT follow with a teleport of his own and Fnatic would earn 2 kills of their own.
Another sign of the 6.1 meta: both mid laners rushed Frost Queens claim after starting with a dorans ring.
SoAZ would make use of his teleport advantage a couple minutes later by teleporting to a ward in the brush behind the extended solo-pushing Rekkles, assisting on a kill by Amazing’s Lee Sin.
Just a few minutes after that Gamsu would teleport to help Spirit successfully win a 3v2 skirmish, securing 2 kills for Gamsu’s Olaf in the process. Gamsu was getting big at this point.
And then he got bigger.
Gamsu’s 1v2 outplay against OG SoAZ and OG Amazing.
After forcing SoAZ’ Lissandra to self-cast his ultimate Gamsu would successfully solo kill the Lissandra under her own turret with about 20% HP to spare. This made him a juicy target for the nearby Lee Sin, Amazing’s signature champion. Amazing would go on to miss 2 Sonic Waves and proceed to get pounded into the ground by the seemingly invincible Olaf.
This did not get any better for Origen as the game went on. Gamsu and Spirit, who make up two thirds of the roster changes that Fnatic fans have lost plenty of sleep over, would continue to be exactly where their teammates needed them. It appeared as though the almost unchanged Origen lacked the chemistry put on display by the retooled Fnatic lineup.
Existing players Febiven and Rekkles were no slouches either. Febiven played LeBlanc with a ton of confidence and was able put constant pressure on enemies Lissandra, Ezreal, and Orianna. Rekkles would end the game with second-most damage dealt to champions.
The shining moment for Origen was when SoAZ evaded Febiven’s LeBlanc by teleporting back to base after hiding in a brush Febiven lacked vision of. A move that we should probably start calling the “SoAZ”.
This game ended shortly after Fnatic took down an inhibitor and the Baron, earning their first win of the season against rival Origen.
End of Game Awards: New Fnatic Looks Like Old Fnatic
MVP: Gamsu, with special mention to Spirit. They showed strong chemistry throughout this game.
Unlucky: Amazing failed to show up on his best champion. Everybody has off days, so I’m not particularly worried for him.
Unfortunate: SoAZ. Although you can make the argument he may have got Dyrus’d in the mid-game, he seemed titled as the game went on. At one point he used his blue trinket to reveal Febiven’s LeBlanc hiding in the bush. About 20 seconds later he continued pushing up the lane where – you guessed it – Febiven was still there. RIP.
The Fnatic vs. Origen rivalry is just beginning. Origen certainly has some catching up to do, but in the context of the 2016 Spring Split, they have a lot of time to do so. You would be silly to think that Fnatic can safely considered a strong team again after just a single impressive performance.
The EU LCS continues tomorrow. Here’s how day 2 of the spring split shapes up:
EU LCS Week 1, Day 2: Friday, January 15th:
- Giants vs. Unicorns of Love 18:00 CET/12pm EST
- Splyce vs. Elements 19:00 CET/1pm EST
- Team Vitality vs. Fnatic 20:00 CET/2pm EST
- H2K vs. Origen 21:00 CET/3pm EST
- G2 Esports vs. Roccat 22:00 CET/4pm EST
Will Fnatic show up against a Vitality team who put up a horrendous performance on day 1? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know I’ll be watching.