Fnatic has returned in the European League of Legends Championship Series summer split in the same way it had ended the spring split: strong. A 2-0 trouncing of Misfits hardly looked competitive during Week 1.
Finlay "Quaye" Stewart, the team's director of League of Legends operations and interim head coach of the League of Legends roster, had helped Fnatic in reaching its upgraded status - the end goal is to be a legitimate threat to G2's chances at a fourth LCS split title.
He was disappointed that he could not face G2 in Week 1, as top-seeded teams had traditionally faced the second seed in their group. However, a face-off on Week 2 guarantees that the two teams would face off with their full might, rather than G2's substitute squad it had in Week 1.
"Leaving it to Week 2 means there will be a better viewership experience because it will be the full G2 roster," Stewart said. "I think we can definitely win against them because they will be a little out of practice, considering their Koreans are on holiday.
"I'll give it about a 50/50 - either team will have a shot at taking it."
The organization has certainly come a long way from the spring season. Back then, the team was playing a style that wasn't its own. By Week 8, it was staring at the prospect of missing the playoffs, following a 2-1 defeat to Team ROCCAT. If the players were to reach the post-season, they would have to play differently. Only one action could guarantee that at the time - moving on from head coach Nicholas "NicoThePico" Korsgaard.
"The reason why we decided to part ways with [NicoThePico] was because the performance wasn't there," Stewart said on Fnatic's woes at that time. "During those weeks, we lost to ROCCAT, and before that we lost to Splyce. These games that we shouldn't really lose. Losing to ROCCAT was the final straw in that sense."
With NicoThePico gone, the squad was able to play its own style. The players and Stewart were able to identify what Fnatic was - and what it was not. The coach recalls a time when the squad had played the likes of Graves and Viktor, among a wide array of champions that lacked the ability to spark team fights. As such, Fnatic's success hinged more on drafting champions that could initiate fights at a moment's notice.
"It's about finding a style and drafting champions that we can always be looking to make proactive plays with, because we are a proactive team," Stewart adds. "We don't like to play reactively, unless of course we're playing a more scaling comp."
The initial rendition of Fnatic's style was a times messy, as the reckless, team-fight rich, trigger-happy brand of League of Legends that the team played was later dubbed "animal style" by Paul "sOAZ" Boyer. However, its brilliance was undeniable. A 3-0 sweep of H2k-Gaming in the spring playoffs in a time when H2k was considered the stronger team on paper led to a strong impression against G2, despite a 3-1 loss.
Fnatic had the makings of a lethal unit, and refinement would allow it to reach its ambition: reclaiming its place in the top of Europe. To that end, the organization held a boot camp in South Korea and allowed AD carry Martin "Rekkles" Larsson to rest, taking substitute AD carry Rasmus "MrRalleZ" Skinnenholm in his stead.
"[The boot camp] was pretty useful in the fact that the team got to play a lot of solo queue," noted Stewart. "It was good for Broxah and Caps because they were new players, and they got to spam [games] and play against Koreans. It was very good for Jesiz and sOAZ, who were the veterans, for them to get focused, and for them to properly prep for summer split [...] In general, it was really beneficial."
For the coaching replacement, rather than chasing a strong figure and potentially derailing the progress made near the end of the spring split, Fnatic opted to emphasize the strengths the roster had developed with Stewart as a coach. The organization found its answer in former Immortals head coach and former Team SoloMid analyst Dylan Falco.
"I thought 'this guy is a better version of me, and it if [coaching Fnatic] went well with me, it's going to go even better with Dylan,'" remarked Stewart. "I thought we should hire this guy as soon as possible - and don't bring in anyone else that's going to change the team."
The boot camp allowed Fnatic to prepare for the summer split, and for G2 Esports. Despite Falco's inability to coach the players onstage due to visa issues, the team cruised to a perfect 2-0 (4-0) Week 1 showing, allowing mid laner Rasmus "Caps" Winther to play scaling champions such as Orianna and Taliyah.
"People say "we can only play this animal style" "we can only play these all-in comps" but we don't. We have proven that we can play Protect the Carry, we can play 1-3-1, we can play 1-4, we can play all-in early game, we can do everything," Stewart pointed out. "Especially now that we've had more time [...] in Korea, where we were playing with MrRalleZ, forced us to play a more standard style. So the team as a whole got much better playing standard 1-4 style.
"I think teams should be pretty scared of us."