Era before Rekkles
Fnatic has been the standard for excellence in the European League of Legends scene since before Rekkles was even born. Or at least it seems that way. Since the start of the LCS era in 2013, they’ve finished at the forefront of the European pack a staggering five times.
And last year’s squad that ran through the 2015 EU LCS Summer Split regular season undefeated before claiming the EU belt again was their strongest iteration yet. Behind a wildly aggressive playstyle, they nipped and ripped their way to the World Championship Semifinals before breaking their fangs on the same Korean wall that has knocked the rest of the world down for the last three years. But they were poised to grow. They’d only had a summer together as five. The baby teeth would be replaced and given another year to sharpen. It was a young team on the cusp of greatness.
Until it wasn’t. The offseason fallout saw a large European exodus of talent towards North America. Fnatic suffered the biggest losses as stars Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, Seong “Huni” Hoon Heo, and Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim left the squad to pursue new opportunities. Rekkles suddenly became the de facto face of one of the most storied franchises in League of Legends history.
Rekkles is accustomed to change, though. If not for an injury which sidelined him for the better part of a year, he might instead be roaming a soccer pitch. But the down time from the injury allowed him to discover League of Legends. “It also helped me learn that, sometimes, you don’t really have control of situations,” he says. He’s repeatedly applied this to his League of Legends career.
As one of the youngest players to enter the pro-scene, he was touted as a prodigious talent. He made his first major splash in 2012 with Fnatic at the now legendary IPL 5 tournament -- the last major international event before the LCS era -- as they surged and shocked to a second place finish in one of the most competitive tournaments ever.
Rekkles watched the LCS era begin in 2013 without him, though, because he wasn’t old enough to play. He dominated the European Challenger Series to prepare for his coronation -- even as expectations continued to soar with Fnatic’s Semifinals run at that year’s World Championship without him.
Despite their success, Rekkles still joined the team as scheduled for the 2014 Spring Split. Fears were immediately assuaged as he put on an MVP performance to sweep their first week en route to a dominant rookie split in the LCS. Those highs were quickly tempered, though, as Fnatic stumbled for the remainder of the year culminating in an early exit at the 2014 World Championship. And subsequently, Rekkles’ exit from the team.
The allure of forming a super team with Alliance’s Henrik “Froggen” Hansen’s proved too great to turn down. On paper, it was like an origami dragon. The combination struggled mightily, though. The dragon had no bite. And the brief stint ended after just one split.
It helped him understand what it means to be part of a team, though. He says, “I didn’t have the empathy to be a good friend or teammate, but the whole Season 4 and Elements stint made me realize it’s a team game, you know?
“In general, it’s hard for you to be allowed to create opportunities by yourself in the game, if you don’t fully trust your teammates and vice versa. I didn’t have this with Elements.”
Fnatic welcomed him back with open arms. Thus began the meteoric rise and fall of the 2015 Summer Split Fnatic squad, their strongest iteration yet. The fallout, though, means 2016 has been the first year Rekkles has had to truly lead his team. It has been a trying year for Fnatic as the team has yet to capture the dominant form of its predecessors.
But YellOwStaR is back. Rekkles is more composed than ever. And the European scene as a whole moves to define its new identity. The old wolves have by-and-large migrated away. Storied franchises and players no more than a distant howl. But you don’t have to do more than perk your ear, just a little, to find Fnatic.