fnatic path

Fnatic: A path of fire

Fnatic (FNC) rewrote Worlds history this week, becoming the first team to ever advance to quarterfinals with an 0-4 start. How did FNC manage this miracle run? Certainly, the path to quarters was no easy feat for the European squad. From criticism in Play-In’s to breakdowns in group stage, Fnatic endured it all. Stepping into week two, FNC looked broken. However, the boys in orange had other plans in mind.

First sparks at Play-In’s

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Coming in as the EU LCS third seed, Fnatic’s Worlds 2017 journey started early. With Riot’s newly introduced pre-Worlds Play-In stage, major region third seeds had to compete against emerging-region teams gunning for their seats. Fnatic drew into Group C alongside the GPL’s Young Generation (YG) and the LAS’s Kaos Latin Gamers (KLG). Initial reactions after the group draw pinned Fnatic as easy favorites coming into the week.
Although FNC claimed first in Group C, several questions circled around the squad’s performance. Doubts flared after Young Generation managed to topple Fnatic, securing second in their group. Suddenly, critics referenced FNC’s poor showing at Rift Rivals earlier this season. Others attacked Fnatic for losing to the seemingly weaker Misfits Gaming (MSF) in the EU LCS playoffs. Fans and analysts began to raise preemptive red flags.

Fnatic promptly shut those critics down in the Play-In’s Knockout stage. After securing a clean 3-0 victory over Hong Kong Attitude (HKA) from the LMS, Fnatic calmly advanced to the Worlds main event. There, Korean titans Longzhu Gaming (LZ) waited for them alongside North America’s Immortals (IMT) and Garena’s GIGABYTE Marines (GAM).

Week One: Fnatic reduced to ashes

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Fnatic kicked off their Worlds 2017 group stage with an explosive standoff against the GIGABYTE Marines. A blitz strategy by the Marines shoved FNC on the back-foot. Blindsided, Fnatic opened their group stage with a harsh defeat. One player in particular, FNC’s top-laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, struggled massively against the Marine’s aggressive lane-swap strategy. sOAZ suffered through the first six minutes of the match, unable to kill a single minion.

The schedule was not getting any easier. Fnatic loaded in against North America’s second seed, Immortals. FNC’s AD-carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson came out guns blazing. With “Twitch” as his champion of choice, Rekkles infiltrated Immortals’ backline, mowing down enemies with wild abandon. However, living true to his name, Rekkles committed a fatal mistake that would cost his team the game.

Spotting IMT’s mid-laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park seemingly unaware, Rekkles unloaded onto his target. Seeing red, the FNC AD-carry tunneled onto this single kill that could earn his team an all crucial advantage to secure the win. The plan blew up in his face. Rekkles expended his “Flash”, desperate to secure the kill, only to be met by a full Immortals squad gunning straight for him. Fnatic scrambled to save their carry, but the pieces fell apart. Immortals tore through Rekkles‘ health bar and sealed the game.

Following this crushing loss, anxiety crept into the Fnatic camp at 0-2, but the week was not over. Korea’s first seed, Longzhu Gaming, loomed like a tidal wave over FNC. It was sink-or-swim. LZ’s top-laner, Dongha “Khan” Kim, rallied the crowd after locking in “Nasus”, a pick that had not seen competitive play for years. The next twenty minutes would be a systematic dismantling of Fnatic’s team composition. sOAZ again struggled to gain any ground against his disadvantageous match-up. Fnatic were helpless to stop Khan‘s massive “Nasus” from ripping through their lines. FNC ended their first week 0-3, a score that no team in League history had ever overcome to secure a quarterfinals position.

Week Two: Marching through the flames

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their bitter first week, Fnatic showed signs of internal problems. sOAZ took to Twitter, expressing his frustration toward being abandoned on “dog-champs” (champions, mainly tanks, whose primary goal is to supplement the team at all costs). Leaks and talks of the team’s turmoil spread like a social media wildfire. Suddenly, attention zeroed in on the burning European squad. Was this the end? How could FNC recover internally, much less on-stage?

Despite the eyes pointed at them, Fnatic stepped into week two of group stage determined. Their fate would be decided in a single day of games. The odds were almost insurmountably stacked against them. To throw salt on their wounds, Fnatic began their second week against Longzhu. Analysts feared another 20-minute rampage that would knock the European squad off their feet for good. FNC loaded into the game with clear heads.
Fnatic fought for 30 minutes through a close early-game. After several teamfight outplays from Longzhu, the Korean giants subjugated FNC to 0-4. If Fnatic’s goose was cooked at 0-3, now it was burned to a crisp. FNC recollected. There was still a sliver of a chance that they could change history. And so, they set out to face Immortals.
FNC’s jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Perdersen pressured Immortals early on his signature “Rek’Sai”. The game balanced on a knife’s edge for the first 35 minutes. Then, in a play eerily similar to Rekkles‘ previous falter against IMT, Immortals ADC Li Yu “Cody Sun” Sun flashed straight into four members of Fnatic. FNC seizing the opportunity, push through IMT’s entire base on that single mistake. Finally, with a win on the board, Rekkles sent Cody Sun his regards.

Don’t call it a comeback

fnatic

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

As FNC gained momentum, Immortals suffered three consecutive losses. This set in place, the necessary conditions for (dare I say it) a monumental comeback. Now, the onus was on FNC to overcome their previous performance against the GIGABYTE Marines. Having already seen two games from the Marines that day, FNC entered their match with unwavering focus. After GAM’s top-laner, Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran, locked in “Urgot,” FNC’s gameplan was clear.

GIGABYTE’s composition lacked engage, unlike earlier against IMT. Fnatic recognized this weakness, attacking the biggest potential threat on GAM: Archie‘s “Urgot”. Broxah spent this game eliminating Archie‘s pressure through repeated ganks. FNC dominated the GIGABYTE Marines and claimed vengeance over the squad that handed them their first Worlds defeat. Suddenly, Group B had a three-way tie. Fnatic held all the momentum heading into tiebreakers against Immortals and GIGABYTE.

FNC stepped into the first game against Immortals by locking in an unconventional “Malzahar” pick for their mid-laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther. IMT did not know how to react to the single-target pressure from Caps‘s “Malzahar.” And like a fire razing the plains, Fnatic burned through IMT in a 27-minute stomp. FNC stood one game away from rewriting history and once again, the GIGABYTE Marines stood in their way. Unlike their previous performances, GIGABYTE opted for a standard composition, hoping to outplay Fnatic without any hidden antics. FNC tasted victory and sOAZ set his sights on quarters. In a draining 43-minute match, sOAZ dominated on “Gnar,” earning himself eight kills and pushing his team into the history books.

Fnatic’s second week of Worlds 2017 is a testament to the resiliency of one of esport’s most storied franchises. So many times in FNC history, when the cards were down and the odds against them, Fnatic rose above. Now, the European squad stands to represent their home looking onto quarterfinals. After staging the biggest upset in Worlds history, can Fnatic continue feeding this fire? Is quarters as far as FNC goes? Or can Fnatic continue forging the path?

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Gigabyte Marines: Orchestrated chaos

GIGABYTE Marines (GAM) debuted on the international stage at the League of Legends 2017 Mid-Season Invitational. Their blitzkrieg playstyle and unconventional strategies surprised several major-region teams, earning international recognition overnight. After securing a top-six finish, the Marines dominated their region, the Garena Premier League (GPL), and charged toward Worlds.

The Marines drew into Group B at Worlds 2017, along regional powerhouses: Longzhu Gaming (LZ), Immortals (IMT) and Fnatic (FNC). Their notoriety on the international stage meant teams and analysts could not write them off as another ‘wildcard’ team. After week one of the Worlds Group Stage, GAM sit at third place in their group, with a 1-2 match record. How did GIGABYTE find initial success? And can they surge into week two to capture a spot in quarterfinals?

GIGABYTE Marines evoke chaos style

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into their first match at Worlds 2017, questions circled around how GIGABYTE Marines would size up against European powerhouse Fnatic. Determined to make a statement at their Worlds debut, GIGABYTE defied the meta. After locking in an unexpected “Nocturne” for their star jungler, Duy Khanh “Levi” Do, GAM took Fnatic for a spin.

Coming into the game, GAM transitioned their AD-carry and Support topside. Meanwhile, their top-laner Minh Nhut “Archie” Tran sacrificed his early levels to accelerate Levi‘s experience advantage. When Archie showed himself bottom, Fnatic responded appropriately, but fumbled the execution. FNC stacked four members onto Archie‘s Galio in a bottom dive. However, this left GIGABYTE’s duo free to rush the opposing top-outer tower. FNC failed to completely punish the lane-swap. Instead, they returned to their standard lane setup while Levi power-farmed his jungle.

Then, at 5:04, Levi broke a record, being the fastest player in Worlds history to unlock his ultimate. Archie‘s early sacrifice set his jungler up for monumental success. And Levi sprung to action. Not twenty seconds after hitting level six, Levi used his ultimate, “Paranoia” straight down bottom lane. Caught in a massive level mismatch, FNC’s support Jesse “Jesiz” Le dropped while his teammates scrambled to respond. What began as a surprise 2-on-2, became FNC committing four members to the fight. Despite the numbers, Levi secured three kills and GIGABYTE set the pace to ‘chaos’.

After a 24-minute bloodbath, GIGABYTE emerged victorious. The air was electric as casters and fans roared behind the Marines’ explosive win. Not only did GAM dominate their European opponents, they made a definitive statement on the metagame. Levi, in an interview with Worlds host Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, promised to bring even more exciting strategies against Longzhu and Immortals.

The Marines hit a brick wall

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

Heading into day two of the Worlds group stage, GAM sat across from Longzhu Gaming, tournament favorites and Korea’s prize first seed. What unforeseen strategy did the Marines have planned to challenge the Korean powerhouse? GAM head coach Nguyen Duy Thanh “Tinikun” Doung reached deep into his playbook for the upcoming match.

The draft between GAM and LZ began surprisingly safe, until Tinikun made the call to lock in “Mordekaiser” for Archie. GIGABYTE plunge deeper into the rabbit hole, rotating their AD-carry Vu Long “Noway” Nguyen mid-lane and placing their mid-laner Van Cuong “Optimus” Tran topside. Few knew what to expect out of GAM’s questionable composition, but Longzhu had a definitive game-plan coming into the match.

Longzhu invaded as five into GAM’s blue jungle quadrant, warding all possible paths to bottom lane. This gave Longzhu information on GIGABYTE’s lane assignments and a glimpse into the GAM strategy. By pivoting Archie and support Thien Nhan “Nevan” Phuong to the bottom lane, the Marines delivered the duo to their deaths. Longhzu, spotting this weakness, executed a clean four-man dive to secure first blood. After dropping to the early dive, Archie commits a crucial mistake, using his “Teleport” bottom, only to be dove again. This poor call set the GAM top-laner so far behind, he never truly recovered.

With their bottom duo limping through the early-game, step one of GIGABYTE’s grandiose strategy crumbled. Suddenly, the game became a steamroll for Longzhu. Archie was largely ineffective on the “Mordekaiser” pick and GAM struggled to trade objectives effectively during the mid-game. Without the early minutes of the game going according to plan, GIGABYTE Marines fell apart and could not seem to pick up the pieces.

Do the GIGABYTE Marines abandon ship?

gigabyte marines

Credits: LoL Esports Photos

After their crushing defeat at the hands of Longzhu Gaming, GAM look onto their third match against North America’s second seed, Immortals. Questions surrounded the Marines as analysts and teams dissected their previous matches. Without precise early execution, GIGABYTE could not seem to regain control of their game. It was clear. Teams that recognized GAM’s early objectives could capitalize on those weaknesses. No doubt Immortals prepared for GAM’s signature lane-swaps, but would the Marines shift to another strategy instead?

GIGABYTE Marines had a particularly weak draft, handing over the “Xayah” and “Rakan” duo to the Immortals bot-lane. Perhaps worse, rather than executing a unique strategy, GAM opted into standard lanes. Aside from an aggressive “Kayn” lock-in for Levi and Nevan running “Heal” and “Ignite” for his summoner spells, the GAM draft was largely underwhelming. Unlike their previous games, GIGABYTE did not have an explosive start. Without securing an early lead, the Marines struggle to play from behind. Once Immortals built up their advantages, IMT pushed those leads into a clean victory.

This third game looked grim for the GIGABYTE Marines. Rather than playing to their unique styles, they revealed glaring weaknesses in their standard compositions and ability to play at a disadvantage. Now, several questions bubble to the surface. Did the defeat from Longzhu shake team morale? Will GIGABYTE have the confidence to execute their unique strategies? Fans can speculate, but it is up to team captain Levi and coach Tinikun to steady their ship. As week two of the Worlds 2017 group stage barrels forward, the GIGABYTE Marines must recollect and march on.

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

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Longzhu finished week one of worlds top of Group B

Worlds’ OP five after week one

The first week of League of Legends’ 2017 World Championship has concluded, and this year’s event is already off to an exciting start. Between Gigabyte Marines’ mysterious “never before seen” strategy, Longzhu’s sub-25 minute average game time, and North America’s teams all being top two in their groups, fans and analysts have been gifted excellent performances thus far. Now the teams will have a few days to regroup and begin adapting for week two.

Almost every team had high points in week one. At some point, almost every player has had a high point, as well. But there is a reason the standings are as they are. Some teams have risen to the challenge of the international stage. Some players have executed a step above the pack. With three games in the books it is difficult to write off any team or player for the remainder of the contest. However, it is easy to recognize the following challengers for their stand-out performances.

Top: LZ Khan

Khan is the most OP top laner after Worlds week one

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Khan has definitely lived up to the hype carried over from LCK Summer Split. This guy has been an absolute monster in all three games so far. He has played a bruiser Jarvan IV against Immortals, a lethality Jarvan against Gigabyte Marines and Nasus against Fnatic. Khan is averaging 437 gold, 17 CS and 721 XP ahead at 15 minutes.

In the mid-game, Khan has been best at split-pushing, but his teamfighting is also incredibly strong. Khan has contributed 24.8 percent of Longzhu’s damage, which is exceptional when taking into account how strong his carries are. His 12.0 KDA is among the highest in the tournament so far.

TSM’s Hauntzer is the only other player currently close to Khan’s level. Some may even see Hauntzer as the better of the two so far, seeing as he has better laning and damage stats. But pressure is Khan’s key elevating factor. While Hauntzer teleports or roams to bring pressure to his teammates, Khan more frequently brings the enemy’s pressure to him. He pushes lanes, damages turrets, chunks out his enemy and forces the opposing team to respond to him.

As we get deeper into Worlds, it will be interesting to see how other teams adapt to Khan. Now that he has crushed a game on Nasus, who knows what else he may have up his sleeve? Few top laners in the entire tournament look up to the task of going toe to toe with Khan. If Longzhu take it all the way it will be hard not to attribute their success to the top lane.

Jungle: C9 Contractz

Contractz is the most OP jungler after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

One of the only junglers who has not drafted a tank, Contractz has been acting as a third carry for Cloud9. He has pulled out an AD Rek’Sai, Ezreal and Graves, topping the jungler damage charts with 24.8 percent. C9’s tempo has totally relied on Contractz’s ability to clear the jungle as fast as possible and pressure the enemy jungler. So far, he has been able to do it successfully.

Contractz is averaging 266 XP, three CS and 146 gold ahead at 15 minutes. He has also helped secure First Blood in two of their three games. C9’s loss to SKT severely skewed Contractz’s KDA down to 3.3, but he is averaging 6.3 assists, fourth highest at Worlds. Contractz is also partially responsible for C9’s 66.7 percent Baron control rate, which has been a huge objective for winning games.

If Gigabyte Marines’ game against Longzhu had gone a bit better, then Levi would most likely be here. His surprise Nocturne pick in game one truly kick-started the energy at Worlds. Highlights from that game will be replayed over and over anytime fans reference back to 2017 Worlds. But when GAM’s Mordekaiser pick got destroyed from level one, all of GAM’s hype deflated. Levi may be able to take this spot with more consistent gameplay next week.

Mid: LZ Bdd

Bdd is the most OP mid laner after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bdd is the only non-support player to go deathless in week one of Worlds. Despite drafting champions with strong roaming potential, Bdd averages ahead 11.7 CS, 488 gold and 910 XP at 15 minutes. These are all top two among mid laners. His 23.0 KDA is nothing to frown at either.

Longzhu does not look for Bdd to do huge shares of damage for them. Instead, they have drafted Taliyah, Ryze and Galio which each have powerful roaming ultimate abilities. These types of champions allow Bdd to zoom into top or bottom lane and outplay the enemy team by chaining crowd control and damaging abilities. Bdd is the central key that enables Khan’s aggressive playstyle, and he has been crucial for Longzhu’s success in Group B.

TSM’s Bjergsen, C9’s Jensen and RNG’s Xiaohu have also shown strong performances in week one, but none of them felt justified as the most valuable. In TSM and C9’s defeats, their mid laners looked much weaker in teamfights, and Xiaohu has not had the greatest laning phases. Bdd has performed solidly in both phases of the game.

ADC: RNG Uzi

Uzi is the most OP AD carry after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Royal Never Give Up has been on a tear, averaging the highest kills per game (12.3) and the lowest deaths (2.7). Their AD carry, Uzi, has been central to this first week of success. He is carrying a 28.0 KDA, scoring wins on Twitch, Tristana and Kog’Maw. Uzi has gone even or behind in lane with these champions, but truly terrorizes in teamfights.

At 722, Uzi averages fifth highest damage per minute of all players at Worlds. This amounts to a whopping 39.3 percent of RNG’s total damage. Uzi has been expertly navigating late game teamfights to maximize his damage and stay at a safe range. He has only died once so far.

SKT’s Bang is a close second in the bottom lane so far. He carries similar statistics, and has played similar champions. SKT and RNG are both 3-0 at the top of their groups. However, SKT’s wins have not come off the back of any one player. Their style is much more about how cohesive they are as the game gets later. The best players on the Worlds stage not only do not make mistakes, but also pinpoint the mistakes of the enemy and punish them. Uzi has successfully done this, while Bang has not been at that same level.

Support: SKT Wolf

Wolf is the most OP support after week one Worlds

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Bang also has the best-performing support at Worlds: Wolf. Although the support meta is fairly stale at the moment, Wolf was able to have a fantastically flashy Rakan performance against EDG. He single-handedly reeled in a game that was out of control by landing a huge Quickness-Grand Entrance and charming the entire enemy team.

It will continue to be difficult to parse apart AD carry and support success, due to the current Ardent Censer priority. It is a shame that audiences are not going to be able to see Gorilla, Olleh, Mithy, Swordart and all of the other fantastic support players on play-makers. Instead, Janna, Lulu and Karma will continue to rein supreme in the bottom lane. Plays such as Wolf’s Rakan will be so much more emphasized than heals, shields and peeling.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Team and Player Statistics: Game of Legends

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