These two teams haven’t really ever meet in a best of five, mostly because both teams are relatively new. Sure, Fnatic is a long time staple in the EU LCS, but this roster is relatively new, outside of Febiven and Rekkles. Vitality, too, have familiar faces in their roles, but they’re a new team all said as a group. But more important than all of this is the clashing of styles that’s emerged not only in EU LCS but also across the pond in NA LCS: between Macro oriented play, where teams concentrate on objectives and out maneuvering their opponents on the map, and a more brawly, team fighting direction that wins by just beating the living crap outta the other team. I think that Vitality and Fnatic, respectively, represent those two styles, and they’ll come to blows in a real test not only of the teams but also of which is the current stronger style. It’ll also be an insane day historically: if Fnatic lose now, it’ll be the first time in their history they’ve ever not been top four (and only the second time they’ve not been Kings in Europe by taking first.)
Vitality: CLG of the EU
Team Vitality is a completely different beast than Fnatic in a lot of ways. If you’ve read my prior articles, I’ve dubbed (as many others have) Vitality to be a kind of CLG.eu of the split, that is, they play a lot of like the current iteration of CLG but in Europe. They have a bunch of strong talent, sure, in such familiar faces as Cabochard, Nukeduck, Kasing, as these are all arguably the best players at what they do. But the team is new, and they seem focused much more on a heavy map-oriented playstyle rather than a brawly, team fighting team. The biggest story line is the obvious clashing of style here. Vitality will try to outmaneuver Fnatic, while Fnatic will try to outfight Vitality. The real question is whether Fnatic can even do that. Vitality’s no stranger to fighting, and their team isn’t filled with a bunch of rookies with weak mechanics under pressure. Even at Fnatic’s own style of team fighting I am still hard pressed to see them coming out victors more than six outta every ten times.
Vitality also bring something completely alien to the Fnatic side: consistency. The team has consistently looked good, consistently done their play style, and drafted consistently well. Sure, there have been misplays, they’ve lost games, but for a team (largely) unfamiliar with each other, they’re looking good. So much so that I highly doubt a roster change in the off season will happen to the squad. Each player seems to know their role and they do it well, they make the proper calls at the right time, and fight when it’s necessary to their overall gameplay. It’s that kind of consistency mixed with depth that is vital to a squad going into the best of formats. Five games requires, it could be argued, five different strats, and further adjustments to those strats on the spot to counter apparent weaknesses or strengths of the opponents. Shaunz will be fully tested here, but I have a lot of confidence in him, and where he lacks the team can pick up those pieces. This is not simply just a clash of styles in Europe, but very well might be telling of the road ahead for Europe: Will the old Kings finally fall and usher in an era of teams attempting to fill the void, or will they, against all odds, manage to climb back up to claim their throne?
Fnatic: Never count a good team down
Fnatic come into the tournament with, possibly, the residue high of their IEM Katowice powering them forward. The regular split was a bit shakey for the returning champions, with the loss of three key members in Huni, Reignover and Yellowstar, and, more importantly, attempting to rebuild the team (again) without star captain in Yellowstar. It took a while, even though the team was still reasonably talented (particularly the two Korean imports,) before the Fnatic side saw consistent victories, eventually finding Klaj for support, who seems to have brought the team under a little more thoughtful guidance.
For Fnatic to come out on top, they’ll need to relie on their old guard members in Febiven and Rekkles. The two have shown carry potential before, and are no shrugs in either of their roles. But with an awkward jungler as of late in Spirit, and Gamsu not quite bringing much to the carry part of the table, the two senior members need to be in the right place at the right time. I can see them both being on equal footing against Vitality’s side, so there is a chance that, so long as other lanes don’t get out of hand, Fnatic can snowball either (or both) lane(s) to a victory. Still, that’s asking a lot against a very macro-oriented Vitality. The real storyline for Fnatic is not only their possibility of not being the Kings in Europe again, something they’ve only missed once, but not even being the Top Four in Europe. And they’re up against arguably the hardest opponent to make that run against.
Predictions: Vitality win over Fnatic 3-1
Yea, I don’t think Fnatic will climb to claim their throne. I have a lot of respect for the team, and think that this is not the end for Fnatic’s dominance in Europe. But I just don’t see them managing much against the solidity that is Vitality. I believe that Vitality just bests Fnatic in almost all regardless: they have stratigc depth, great macro-plays, they understand the game and each other very well, hell I’d even give it to them that in their respective positions I think they have more talented players (wait, you mean Korean imports aren’t always the strongest…?!) I think a loss here reflects more poorly on Vitality than it does in a positive light for Fnatic. Still, I think Fnatic will pull out a single victory against the Vitality side, they may even take two and I still wouldn’t be too surprised. But ultimately I have to give it to the Vitality side. They just seem to understand League of Legends, all of its facets and not just individual mechanics, better than the Fnatic side. And that wins games boys.