Esports, being as young as it is, doesn’t have a lot of tried and tested clichés, but everyone beats everyone and Fnatic wins in the end is quickly becoming one.
There is no smoke without fire, however, and even the organisation’s worst ever opening to a split couldn’t stop this team making it to playoffs.
Indeed, many analysts now consider them favourites to win the Spring Split outright. It’s been a monumental turnaround in the back half of the season, leaving a lot of wondering how we ever doubted the team in the first place.
I’d like to say I was right all along, after one of my pre-season columns was all about how Fnatic were still favourites for the title, with or without Caps.
My faith was tested for weeks on end, though, and I failed. I gave up hope after they were crushed by G2 in Week 4, leaving them near the foot of the table with just two wins from eight games.
The fact that they went on to lose to SK for the third time in two games the following week made it seems like the win over Splyce 24 hours earlier had been a fluke. Really, though, that was where it all started to turn around for last year’s Worlds runners-up.
The following weekend was the first in which Fnatic went undefeated. Not only that, they took down championship contenders Origen and Vitality. Another 2-0 week followed, albeit against weaker competition (there’s an opposing article to be written somewhere about Schalke’s late-season collapse).
I wasn’t convinced yet, though. Sure, they were almost guaranteed a playoffs spot with another couple of wins, but more than half the teams in LEC qualify for playoffs. Making it to the post-season is the bare minimum we should expect from a team like Fnatic.
Sure, beating the likes of Splyce and Origen was nice, but everyone expected Fnatic to be hanging with G2 at the top of the table. After being humiliated in their first meeting, the so-called Match of the Century would be a true test of Fnatic’s improvement.
Luckily for all of everyone (except G2 fans, I suppose) the game lived up to the hype. Well, there’s a long way to go in this century, but it was one of the best games Europe has ever seen. It had everything: throws, backdoors, counter-throws, and even a support stealthily taking down an inhibitor after his team had been wiped out elsewhere on the map.
Oh, and of course it ended in a base race because how else would a crucial Fnatic game finish? Ocelote must have been having flashbacks, poor guy.
That win clinched Fnatic’s playoff spot but, more importantly, it cemented them as one of the best teams in Europe. It also served as a 45-minute summary of Fnatic’s season in many ways. The resiliency shown in that game is what championship teams are made of.
It wasn’t a clean game by any stretch of the imagination but Fnatic dragged themselves over the finish line, bloodied and battered, but victorious.
If Fnatic’s season is taking that kind of route, it’s easy to see why so many people fancy them to get their hands on the trophy at the end of it. Metaphors like this don’t necessarily tell the whole story, but the fact that Fnatic is now undefeated in so long, against the best teams in the region, speaks volumes.
This is a smart team. The fact that, when given the choice of teams to face in the first round of playoffs, they chose Vitality over the statistically worse SK Gaming is a smart one. I joked earlier about SK beating Fnatic three times in two games, but even in the midst of Fnatic’s return to form, SK was the only team to beat them in the second half of the split.
That’s no fluke. SK had Fnatic’s number in both of their matches but will now face Splyce in playoffs – a team they lost both games against in the regular split.
If Splyce can make it three out of three against SK, that’s the only team to 2-0 Fnatic out of the equation. At this point, you have to fancy Fnatic against everyone else except maybe G2.
There’s a lot of League still to play in the meantime, but the prospect of yet another Fnatic-G2 final seems to be on the cards. Oftentimes, form goes out of the window on such occasions, which, weirdly, works in G2’s favour. They had a pretty mediocre run-in, regardless of the Fnatic defeat.
For a team that were undefeated until mid-February, a 13-5 record is sort of underwhelming, so they will be hoping that form really does count for nothing in knockout play.
If form does count, though, it really might be a case of Fnatic winning in the end.