This is the first article of the upcoming series "Just my $0,94" by @TheyCallMe94.
It feels like a homecoming because it is one: during their second live event, Fnatic and sOAZ announced the return of the French top laner for season 7 after being a part of Origen for almost two years.
In an interview with theScore esports, he said: "I felt Fnatic would be a good fit and they could help me and also the team a lot more than other organisations." This was not meant as a front to other teams (which he clarifies about three seconds later) but moreso a testament to the good work he must have experienced during his time with the Fnatic franchise.
With the start of LCS this coming weekend, however, both Fnatic and sOAZ kind of get a fresh start.
Fnatic in 2016
Fnatic has had a rough display last year, although having a perfect record in the 2015 Summer Split and even a very good showing at IEM Katowice where they only had to give in to SK Telecom T1 in the finals. Losing not only the dominating Korean duo Huni and Reignover but also a very important cornerstone in YellOwStaR was something which was not fully compensable.
That is why after a disappointing regular season in the Spring Split where they placed 6th (but managed to get 3rd place in the playoffs), the team was excited to get YellOwStaR back into the lineup after he had his one-split intermezzo with TSM.
So their captain returned. But the glory days? They did not. The team, then with new top laner Kikis, who replaced the underperforming Gamsu, came up short against H2K in the quarter-finals. The last chance to qualify for Worlds has also gone to waste as Fnatic was clean swept by the Unicorns of Love. From then on out, everyone knew things had to change.
After the announcement of the departure of long-time head coach Deilor, which had already been announced after the regular season ended, a restart was imminent.
sOAZ in 2016
It is safe to say that Origen did not have the best year of their organisation either. Similar to Fnatic, they had high hopes going into the season as the Worlds semi-finalist. Additionally, on paper Origen only got better by acquiring PowerOfEvil for the mid-lane.
And that's the way things started out. The line-up won IEM San Jose and after a rocky regular season, they collectively got into gear for the playoffs where they only had to give in to G2 in the finals.
source: theScore esports
Unfortunately, that was when things started to go horrendously wrong for the organisation. Zven and Mithy left the team to join direct competitor G2 in a very dodgy move that startled the scene, the replacements FORG1VEN and Hybrid had a huge fallout soon after joining the organisation which resulted in FORG1VEN leaving after Week 1 and xPeke playing make-shift AD Carry, even part of the staff revolted and left the organisation in July.
All of these problems resulted in the team severely underperforming and only getting the 9th place, possibly facing relegation. They made sure that they stay in LCS by beating Misfits but it was no longer a secret that some sort of reset button should be activated - especially for sOAZ who decided to leave the team immediately after the relegation has been prevented.
2017 - the restart of something old?
So it makes sense for sOAZ to feel the urge to return to the organisation in which he had the best time of his career. He joined Fnatic back in 2012 and had a really successfull stint there right from the get. Still in 2012, they were able to win the ESL Major Series X, the ASUS RoG Paris Games Week event as well as DreamHack Winter where they were able to best teams like Curse.EU, Copenhagen Wolves and the legendary CLG.EU squad.
But their real success did not start before 2013 where they began to go on to win three consecutive Splits before being dethroned in the 2014 Summer Season by losing to Alliance in the final.
source: fnatic/Tim Metternich
Nevertheless, these 18 months of continental dominance are yet to be repeated by any team in the west which makes this roster one of the all-time great rosters in the history of League of Legends, which stayed virtually identical in course of time.
But it was not only the success that made this team stay together - it was a genuine group of friends that really enjoyed living together. I once visited the Fnatic team house myself when LCS still was in Cologne and you could literally feel the fun they had living together, working on their goals and being a role model for the futurous Fnatic League of Legends teams to come.
Start of Season 7
So last weekend marked the start of a new chapter. They faced the current champions G2 in their first series of the newly created group stage of EU LCS.
And overall, they did a good job. It was a very competitive best-of-three with three 40+ minute matches where Fnatic was able to go toe-to-toe with Europe best team of 2016 - as it was expected. An apparent problem was the consisteny of shot calling where some really good calls were followed by some really weak calls - but that also had to be expected.
Spotlighting sOAZ, in this first series he went deep into the tanky top lane meta by picking Maokai, Nautilus and Shen - and mostly doing a solid job on those champions.
You can see that the team has done solid groundwork in the last few weeks leading up to the start of the season. But more importantly, you can see that the team has not yet arrived at their ceiling as there is still a lot room to improve.
What does the future hold?
The whole scene attests the new lineup many opportunities to grow. After their match on Thursday, Zven said he thinks Fnatic is the team that they think about the most and that he is excited to face them again in Week 9 as they will have had a lot of time to hone down on their compositions and executions.
On paper, they have set up their team very well with Caps in the midlane surrounded by veteran players who can help him excel on and off Summoner's Rift. For this reason alone, it was smart by Fnatic to pick up sOAZ who one of, if not the most experienced player in the European scene right now.
Another aspect of his play that is seldom reflected on is his outstanding game knowledge which is a result of both his game IQ as well as his experience from more than six years of being a professional. This not only helps the team on the Rift but also in the preparation and reflection of games.
One problem he has, though, is that despite his presence in the scene from the very beginning, he has always been prone to tilting when times are rough which makes signing a player with these kind of problems a risky move. He gets discouraged very fast when he notices that his team-mates fall off mentally and do not give it 100% of their effort.
But, again, the line-up composition is designed to work in their favor here as "Baby-Faker" will want to use his first LCS season to show everyone what he is really capable of. Additionally, you have two of the veteran players that have always been known for their insatiable drive to become better each and every day - Rekkles and Amazing.
For better or for worse, Fnatic will most likely be the last professional team sOAZ will play for in the LCS. Although it is a risky move for both the team and the player - on paper, it definitely makes sense why both decided to work together again.
The remainder of the season will indicate if it turns out to be the right decision. They seemed to have laid the right groundwork in the off-season which in return resulted in them being able to hang with a well-established LCS team, arguably the best Europe had to offer in 2016. As soon as they find their cadence, they have the potential to return to the place both sOAZ and Fnatic were just a few seasons ago.
Or to put it in another way: the only place they both know from being together.
Tags: League of Legends