With the LEC 2022 Spring Season approaching, a lot of discussion centers on which team will be on top. After a very eventful offseason that saw several organizations reach blockbuster signings, there are multiple exciting teams to choose from. Though G2 Esports has an exciting young core, and it’s impossible to ever discount MAD Lions, two teams stand out: Fnatic and Team Vitality. Both teams opted to focus on established LEC veterans — some of them the biggest signings of the offseason.
With their rosters both set, let’s stack these two teams up, and decide which one is more likely to find success in the LEC.
Top lane: Alphari vs. Wunder
With Adam "Adam" Maanane gone, Andrei "Odoamne" Pascu on a weakened roster, and İrfan Berk "Armut" Tükek likely hitting the snooze button until playoffs, the spot for the best top laner in Europe is wide open. Both legends of their position, Wunder and Alphari will lead the race… as long as they play like themselves.
What makes this matchup so unique is that both players are in similar positions — talented but slumping, now on new teams ready to return to their former highs. After Alphari suffered through internal drama with Team Liquid, he had a very disappointing showing at Worlds — unable to compete well against foreign top laners and dropping out in the group stage. Wunder’s performance was less disappointing, though that’s probably he and G2 were already on a downturn by missing Worlds.
We’ll finally see Alphari on a decent European roster, while we’ll see if Wunder can once again be an elite player on his third major team. Assuming both players compete in decent form, and that there aren’t major internal issues — Wunder’s the better choice. His laning isn’t as strong as Alphari’s, but he is a far stronger player out of lane and has a deeper champion pool — something that will come in handy depending on the meta. He has more experience and proven success in best-of-fives, and is overall a more versatile player.
However, I’d put a higher likelihood on Alphari returning to his old self. Ignoring the fact that Alphari actually made it to Worlds, it’s clear many of the issues he faced were due to the internal strife of Team Liquid. Sure, there were probably some problems on G2 internally, but not enough where we heard about them. The most suspected reason for Wunder’s decline is his apathy towards practice. Him being on a new team doesn’t change that. He’s already accomplished more than every other European top laner. Alphari has more to prove, and can be expected to come in hungrier for 2022.
Edge: Team Vitality
Jungle: Selfmade vs. Razork
Selfmade and Razork have quite a bit in common: bloodthirsty and eager to make plays across the map, with mediocre results in 2021, but now on teams that should fit their style and talent. This is the closest (and most boring) of the lane matchups between Fnatic and Vitality. It will very much depend on the meta, and even then it’s a wash in most cases. The likely winner will depend on whichever team builds stronger chemistry.
Just by a hair, though, the edge goes to Selfmade. He has reached higher peaks than Razork, has more experience adapting to different teams, and has achieved more success on his team and individually. We still haven’t seen what Razork is capable of, while with Selfmade we’ve at least had glimpses.
Edge: Team Vitality
Mid lane: Perkz vs. Humanoid
Here it is, the main event! Two of the best western mid laners in history. Rasmus "Caps" Borregaard Winther's down year in 2021 allowed Humanoid to rise and be the best mid laner in Europe. Though Perkz definitely treated his time in the LCS like he was on a booze cruise, he still showed up enough times to help his team to some respectable results. The most notable result was carrying Cloud9 to the bracket stage of Worlds — just as far as Humanoid went with a stronger team.
Looking at all factors, though, Humanoid wins. It will be exciting to see mid lane Perkz back in Europe, but it’s going to take time for him to acclimate to his new team (and to his new-but-old region). He had a habit of being babysat in lane while on Cloud9, which is something Selfmade hasn’t shown a willingness to do. Though Humanoid will certainly miss his former jungler, he’s been more durable in lane by himself, and stronger laning in general. He’s been conditioned to the LEC mid lane for years now. Unless Perkz has a time-machine to bring back his 2018 self, Humanoid is the better player.
Bot lane: Carzzy & Labrov vs. Upset & Hylissang
Upset and Hylissang win — end of story. Let’s give Team Vitality the benefit of doubt, though. Labrov was one of the bright spots for Team Vitality in 2021 — an aggressive support that was held back in lane and in-game. Carzzy’s strong team fighting and decision-making helped him prove to be one of the best AD carries in Europe last year. With him previously expressing interest in playing with Labrov, and the fact that the latter is similar to his previous support, their chemistry being strong seems likely.
Can we really act like this is a close fight, though? Hylissang has better playmaking, better laning, and is a proven winner. He’s once again on the top podium of LEC supports. With Martin "Rekkles" Larsson and Steven "Hans Sama" Liv gone, Upset might be the best LEC AD carry and is more consistent and impactful than Carzzy. Fnatic's dup having strong chemistry isn’t likely, it’s a guarantee. They’ve been building it for more than a year. While Team Vitality’s bot lane has a chance to overtake them, they have a lot of catching up to do.
Coaching staff: Vitality vs. Fnatic
Judging each team’s coaching staff is challenging, but by all metrics, Fnatic have a stronger one. While head coach Louis-Victor "Mephisto" Legendre had some solid results in the past, he still hasn’t found success coaching Team Vitality. His first three splits with the team saw them go 14-40 in total — placing near the bottom every time. LEC Summer 2021 has been his most successful foray and was still only able to make sixth with a roster that received a fair amount of hype going into the split. The rest of Team Vitality’s game-specific staff are unestablished personnel hired only this month, so Team Vitality doesn’t have as strong of a foundation as other teams.
On paper, coach Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi has the clear edge. He hasn’t had as bad of a split as Mephisto since his stint with Meet Your Makers in 2015, the first split of his career. Since then, he has been able to guide his teams to far more respectable results, including three separate campaigns to Worlds as well as a tenure in the LCK. Most recently, he brought a Fnatic team to Worlds many thought had no chance of making it. On top of that, Fnatic is one of the lucky organizations to have an unchanged coaching staff. Even as Fnatic’s players have growing pains, they can rely on a proven and experienced system that has brought the organization to Worlds before.
Verdict: Fnatic > Vitality
Team Vitality won the offseason in the LEC, there’s no question about that. Going from where they were to where they are now — it’s night and day. The problem is, Fnatic was already so ahead. Their team was already one of the best in Europe, and they’ve now been reinforced with stronger players.
Team Vitality has a bunch of strong signings, but now established support network or leadership to hone it into a team. Fnatic have a much more established foundation — an experienced and smart coaching staff with players that have already bought into it. You can argue whether or not Team Vitality has more potential (I’d say you’d still lose there). But a betting person would go for the team that has a much higher floor — the organization that’s been doing it since the beginnings of the competitive scene.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.