Keeping up with the superteams: Is Finals still in the cards for Fnatic and Vitality?

Source: Michal Konkol/Riot Games


From the ashes of a wild LEC offseason rose two superteams, last November. Pieces of powerhouses such as G2 Esports and MAD Lions broke off and found new homes in two teams destined to lead Europe in 2022: Team Vitality and Fnatic.


With the final week of the 2022 LEC Spring Split around the corner, let’s take a look at how these superteams have faired so far. How did they start, and what progress have they made in the past seven weeks? And what are the stakes heading forward for both of them?

A 3-0 and 0-3 start, but not far apart

Both teams assembled five veterans from four different teams going into the season. With so many distinct personalities and philosophies about League of Legends being thrown into their lineups, there were bound to be stumbling blocks for Vitality and Fnatic. Inexperienced players are more malleable and can generally be persuaded to follow the direction and input of seasoned pros. But Vitality had four seasoned LEC players, and Fnatic five, that needed to play in harmony.


The initial dissonance was clearly visible in the opening week of the Spring Split. Vitality, also plagued by top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris being homebound due to COVID, tried to hit the ground running but fell flat on its face. In their opening game against MAD Lions, the lack of Vitality’s jungle/support synergy between Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek and Labros "Labrov" Papoutsakis resulted in ineffective roams.


The team-wide absence of coordination was only amplified in the mid and late game, when MAD Lions ran circles around Vitality in teamfights. The rest of the weekend became increasingly painful for Vitality. They also lost to Fnatic — which led to one of the most memorable clips of the Split, when Vitality fumbled a top dive — and EXCEL, closing out the weekend with a grim 0-3.



Fnatic’s scoreboard implied the opposite. They won against Team BDS, Vitality, and SK Gaming and joined Rogue in a shared first spot after the opening weekend. However, Fnatic had considerably weaker opponents in that opening weekend. BDS and SK Gaming quickly dropped to the bottom of the standings in the LEC. Furthermore, the games were far from clean.


Aside from the already-existing synergy between bot laner Elias “Upset” Lipp and support Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov, Fnatic looked scrappy. Against BDS, they were on the brink of losing, and it was only through an outstanding performance from Hylissang and jungler Iván “Razork” Martín that Fnatic stumbled across the finish line. Although Fnatic’s scoreboard read 3-0, they were not leaps ahead of Vitality at all in terms of performance.

Vitality’s worrying lack of progress

In the second week, when Alphari was able to join up in-person, Vitality bounced back from their rough start and defeated both BDS and G2 with relative comfort. Their gameplay wasn’t suddenly clean, of course, but the squad had made an important step: they realized that, in these early Spring Split days, their sheer individual level could brute-force victories. 


During the LEC Post Game Lobby segment that week, mid laner and team captain Luka “Perkz” Perković acknowledged his team’s failings in the week prior. But he also spoke faithfully about his team’s desire to keep improving. “I don't think there should be a problem for us to keep improving and keep doing better,” he said. “Everybody is trying really hard in scrims and I can see it. We can see it. We can see our improvements day-by-day, basically, when we give a task or a call, we do improve on it.”



Perkz may have seen internal improvement, but to the outside, it was hard to see. Vitality ended the first half of the Spring Split with a 5-4 score. “Oh great, they went 5-1 after the first week!” you may think. But the score was not reflective of Vitality’s play. One week they would dominantly defeat SK Gaming, and in the next one they’d almost lose to Astralis — who were in dead last. Vitality crawled across the finish line and only by the grace of other teams’ inability to close out games netted a positive win rate in the first four weeks. Their flaws did not go unpunished for long. In the fifth week, they went 0-2 against EXCEL and Fnatic. In week six, they lost to Rogue and once again almost fell to BDS.


There was perhaps no weekend more emblematic of Vitality’s struggles than last weekend. They did convincingly beat Misfits — who had been on a tear until then — but barely won against bottom-dweller SK.


Source: Wojciech Wandzel/Riot Games


Vitality severely lack team-wide, consistent synergy. Seven weeks into the Spring Split, they still play like a solo queue team, and it is worrying. The bot lane duo of Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság and Labrov, friends who had played together in European Regional Leagues and were expected to gel well, is performing mediocre. The jungle/support synergy between Selfmade and Labrov still doesn’t exist — Selfmade himself acknowledged that problem. Vitality’s synergy is mostly found at the top side. Selfmade and Alphari play well together. They were the ones leading the team in week seven and seemed to have made progress in finding each other. 


But that’s where it ends. Selfmade and Perkz seem to resonate to the same degree they did at the start of the Split. If Vitality are able to consistently find the shape of their game against Misfits, they’re clearly a top-contending force. Yet so far, Vitality are a bunch of gears spinning at different speeds that sometimes line up to play solid League of Legends. They mostly stammer throughout their games.

Fnatic on the uprise

Fnatic followed the same trajectory as Vitality in the first half of the Split in terms of team play. They were scrappy, uncoordinated, and it was due to individual performances — mostly from Hylissang and Upset — that they pulled through. Martin “Wunder” Hansen struggled in his lane aside from two great moments of punishing poor enemy top dives, and Razork had visible trouble finding his role within the team.


With relatively decent performances, Fnatic went 2-0 in the second week. But in the third week, their problems were laid bare. Especially against Rogue, Fnatic showed that their communication was lacking as jungler Kim "Malrang" Geun-seong tore them apart in the early game. It was through individual performances that Fnatic held on for a bit, but once Rogue reached their champions’ spike, Fnatic had no say in the game. Against G2, their early game looked better, but come mid-game their synergy was absent yet again and they netted an 0-2 week.


Source: Michal Konkol/Riot Games


At the halfway point, Fnatic sat at a comfortable 6-3 score. But in terms of execution, that score could just as well have been 4-5. Progress was limited mostly to Humanoid, whose individual play slowly started to inch towards his top shape of the 2021 Summer Split.


It wasn’t until week 5 that we saw what this Fnatic lineup was truly capable of. In the bot lane, Hylissang and Upset continued to hold as strong as ever. But something much more important happened: Razork had come online. The Spaniard had still not found his place in the team until then, unable to live up to his performance from 2021. But in week five, together with Humanoid, he reigned hell on his opponents. The mid/jungle synergy was alive. They made plays together across the map against Vitality and SK Gaming, showing no mercy. It was a hopeful sign of much-needed progress.



In terms of play, Fnatic had one more hiccup. Against Astralis in week six, they bit the dust. It was a reminder that, although progress was visible, there was lots of work to do still. However, as embarrassing as that loss was, Fnatic bounced back immediately in their following games. Rivals G2 were dismantled the next day. They also took revenge on Rogue and completely shut down their strategy in week seven and with patience Fnatic closed out the week against reigning champions MAD Lions.


One can say that Fnatic’s current score of 11-4 isn’t reflective of their Spring Split. It’s fair criticism, since the team could easily have lost one or two more games in the early stages of the season. But Fnatic has displayed something Vitality hasn’t: visible, clear growth. Small dips, which definitely still exist, are followed by big rises. Increasingly, Fnatic are marching in pace. Although they still have Rogue ahead of them in the standings, Fnatic has looked like the strongest team in the LEC in their past games.

The goal remains: top 2 at least

Three games remain in the final week of the LEC Spring Split. Fnatic have guaranteed itself a spot in the playoffs already. Vitality are almost secure: only in 3.12% of the remaining scenarios would they not make it to the top six. They play against a struggling MAD Lions and a shared last-placed Astralis, so the final victory to 100% lock top 6 should not be difficult.


Vitality’s players and staff have remained adamantly confident in their team. Once the playoffs begin, they’ve said, it’s a different story. There’s truth to that: best-of-1s are volatile, where any team can beat the other on a given day. In best-of-5s, stamina and resilience are tested more, and that’s where the veterans of Vitality can have an edge. The players have all said that the team is getting along well internally and doesn't shy away from confronting each other about issues that need to be fixed. But they’ll need to pull together teammates that have not been in sync for eight weeks yet—a tough task.


Source: Michal Konkol/Riot Games


Fnatic are in much better shape, but can’t take things easy. The LEC playoffs will be played on a different patch, meaning the meta is bound to shift. A pick like Pyke has been key to clutching out some victories for Fnatic, as Hylissang went on a rampage. What if that falls out of the meta? Wunder is playing better than in 2021 and is stable, but is the one member on Fnatic that seems to not be as in sync as the rest yet. Razork has finally found his spot in the team with Diana and Volibear, but can the jungler find that same spot on other champions or will he need time to adjust again?


It's unacceptable for either team to miss out on a top 2 finish in the playoffs. They’ve both invested a buttload of money into bringing together their rosters. One has seen clear progress in official games, one hasn’t. These superteams were meant to dominate Europe. It’s time to find out if they can.

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