Neither Fnatic or Misfits have started the LEC era in the way they would have wanted but this game could salvage a Playoff place for one of them.
It feels like just yesterday that the LEC studio opened its doors and ushered in a new era of European League of Legends. Yet, we are now down to the final two weeks of Spring Split with everything still to play for.
G2 are the only team who has a guaranteed place in the playoffs while there are currently four teams on even points who are all competing for the final two places. And of those four teams, two were expected to be challenging for the title.
Last year, Fnatic made history as they became the first European team to reach a World Championship final since themselves back in season one. Meanwhile, with the signings of Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten and Kang “GorillA” Beom-hyeon, Misfits were labelled as a “super-team” before the season even kicked off.
However, both teams got off to a disastrous start. Misfits dominated the first few weeks but quickly fizzled out while Fnatic couldn’t even get a fire started and didn’t pick up a win until week five.
With playoffs on the horizon, it’s do or die time in the LEC as both Fnatic and Misfits have stepped up in recent weeks to keep their dreams alive. The two superstar teams will clash this week in potentially the most important game of the regular season.
It’s a difficult week for Misfits as they also have to face Schalke, another team even with them in the standings, while Fnatic can't afford to concede their head to head record against Misfits having already lost to SK twice – leaving them with slim hopes of a trip to Rotterdam.
This clash of the titans will be extremely even but only one team will be left standing. Who will be one step closer to challenging for the LEC title.
Misfits’ super team needs a hero
After the opening games of the LEC, it looked like there would be a clear two-horse race for the LEC title as both G2 and Misfits dominated their opponents. But not long after, G2 raced ahead while Misfits struggled to overcome their first obstacle.
It’s the common curse of trying to create a super-team; having so many stars on one team makes it extremely difficult to get everyone on the same page. You could see that last week against Excel as Misfits stars looked lost at times in the late game. Misfits eventually won but you could see on the players’ faces that they weren’t happy, at a time when every game matters you can’t afford to have sloppy performances. If you don’t take your chance and grab the brass ring, somebody else will.
In the early season Misfits were ruthless, taking over the early game and snowballing their lead before their opponents could even think of a comeback plan. When all resources are put into Steven “Hans Sama” Liv, the French ADC has no problem demolishing his opponents.
But teams quickly realised that was Misfits’ only plan, and their superstar roster suddenly found themselves sliding down the standings. It’s no coincidence that the only game Misfits won between week three, four and five was when sOAZ dominated his lane too – and that was against Fnatic.
Going into that match, all eyes were on the top-lane as sOAZ took on his former protege Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau but the Frenchman said it wasn’t a grudge match just up top – he wanted to take down all of Fnatic, not just Bwipo. The veteran stayed true to his word, dominating Bwipo in lane before leading his team to victory.
Having had to watch a lot of Fnatic’s Worlds run from the bench, that win must have felt cathartic for sOAZ but his work is far from done. Securing Misfits’ place in the playoffs while ended Fnatic’s hopes of doing the same would be the perfect revenge.
And sOAZ won’t be the only member of Misfits with an extra bit of motivation either. Febiven will also be facing his former team but revenge won’t be his priority. Instead, he will be driven by the fact that the Spring finals will take place in Rotterdam, just 20 minutes away from where he grew up. The midlaner played the last time the EU finals were held in Rotterdam but he had to settle for third-place. If Febiven is to return home, he’ll want to do so as a potential champion, not a spectator.
Can Fnatic rise from the ashes?
After losing sOAZ and Rasmus “Caps” Winther, it was clear Fnatic would not be the same side that reached the Worlds finals. However, nobody would have predicted Fnatic to be in this position just four months later.
With a negative record against SK Gaming, an even record with Schalke and at best an even record with Misfits, Fnatic simply cannot rely on head-to-head records or tiebreakers. One or two more losses and the reigning European champions will not qualify for playoffs.
It’s a difficult position to be in but if any team can push through adversity, it’s Fnatic. You can never count out the organisation, who will always turn up when it counts. Back at Worlds 2017, the team looked doomed in the Group Stages with a 0-4 record yet, the team made a miraculous recovery and forced two tiebreakers to eventually qualify for the quarterfinals.
Following impressive wins over Origen, Vitality and Schalke, Fnatic have shown glimpses of the promise we know this team has.
Now, Fnatic find themselves on a four-game win streak with extraordinary chance to save their playoffs bid. Following impressive wins over Origen, Vitality and Schalke, Fnatic have shown glimpses of the promise we know this team has.
And young midlaner Tim “Nemesis” Lipovsek has begun to show his promise too as the Slovenian had arguably his best performance in Fnatic colours when they took on Rogue last week. Nemesiswill be keen to prove himself against a former Fnatic midlaner in Febiven but more importantly, will want to one-up his former MAD Lions teammates on SK Gaming in the playoffs race.
Nemesis’ vast improvement is great news for Fnatic but the most important improvement has been Fnatic’s teamwork. In an interview on stage last week, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson said he is always ready to carry a game but for him, the recent change in results is down to the fact that Fnatic have begun to play like a team again.
With new-found synergy and new-found hope, Fnatic’s playoffs dream is very much alive but Misfits will know that this could be their biggest opportunity of the season.