The 2017 League of Legends World Championship featured its fair share of stories, such as fallen favorites (such as Longzhu Gaming), continued staggering (Team SoloMid), the fated encounter of Uzi and Faker in the semifinals, and the upcoming battle between Ambition and Faker.
The competition was also the environment for two of Europe’s squads to overachieve, and for its crown jewel to stagger – not without a fight. The teams had had a season ranging from the tumultuous to the picture-perfect. For Misfits and Fnatic, many saw their lineups as lacking international experience, thus vulnerable. Only G2 Esports had recently shaken off said inexperience at the Mid-Season Invitational.
Although the European squads ultimately fell, they did not do so without leaving valuable lessons on their wake.
G2 Esports: “The Devil is in the Details.”
As the once regional favorite to make a deep run, G2 Esports has had its fair share of naysayers based on its 2016 no-show on the world stage. The team had used that loss to fuel another victorious campaign in Europe, with staggers at IEM Katowice and Rift Rivals serving as electric jolts to wake its competitive spirit. Unsurprisingly, the team marched towards its fourth European LCS title in a row, the fourth in two years. However, the World Championship draw was another story.
Awaiting G2 were future semifinalist Royal Never Give Up and future finalist Samsung Galaxy, the latter reeling from its narrow qualification through the LCK Regionals. The European team knew that tough encounters awaited them and had prepared to the best of its abilities, holding a 1W-1L record against RNG. However, its record against Samsung Galaxy (0W-2L) spelled its undoing.
In truth, the devil was in the details. Against Samsung, G2 was a mis-Smite (70hp) away from asserting dominance in the two teams’ second clash, as well as a knock-up away from preventing an Elder Dragon steal that sealed its fate. Against RNG, the team could have held a 2-0 record, causing a three-way tie to occur, had it waited for Expect’s Gnar to replenish its rage bar fully before the game-deciding Baron Nashor dance.
G2’s fall was not due to a lackluster game plan – far from it. Wins against Royal Never Give Up (using a recall timing to create a series of events leading into a landslide victory) and 1907 Fenerbahce (one straightforward victory, one massive comeback from three inhibitors down) showed what the team was capable of. Despite the likeliness of Trick and Expect’s departure, G2 had laid it all on Summoners’ Rift, but minute events caused its downfall.
Misfits: “Always be a First Rate Version of Yourself and not a Second Rate Version of Someone Else.”
Judy Garland’s quote could not fit a team better than it fits Misfits, a squad many had considered as doomed on the world stage before the group draw ceremony took place. Following an encouraging rookie Spring Split where it finished fourth, the squad struggled to adjust to the increase in level of play, showing a lack of decisiveness at key moments domestically. Little did we know, Misfits was merely ramping up.
With Maxlore in tow, Misfits improved its communication and developed a unique identity in team play, marked with calculated aggression, savvy team-fighting and, more importantly, sound fundamentals. In addition, the team succeeded where others failed before – in adapting on-the-fly. As a result, it passed through an approachable Group D over Team SoloMid and a slumping Flash Wolves unit.
Then, the team went farther than any Western team not named Moscow Five or Counter Logic Gaming Europe, as it fought against heavily-favored SK Telecom T1 as equals. The manner in which Misfits nearly passed to the semifinals was the most noteworthy part: forsaking Ardent Censer champions in lieu of Blitzcrank, Leona, Alistar and Thresh, and taking aggression to SK Telecom T1’s doorsteps from Level 1 onwards. The team was 150 hp away from killing Huni in Game 4, in what would have been the game-winning (and match-winning) towerdive.
In matching SK Telecom T1 blow for blow and in pushing Faker to the extreme, without resorting to playing in the most optimal way out there and failing, and in sticking to its guns (especially with IgNar’s Blitzcrank pick and PowerOfEvil’s Nashor’s Tooth Orianna), Misfits had demonstrated that one needn’t be perfect – just the best version of themselves.
Fnatic: “It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over.”
Unlike the aforementioned teams, Fnatic underwent a play-in stage as Europe’s third seed in order to punch its ticket to the main event. The experience allowed rookies Broxah and Caps to gain some experience on the world stage, but it was nothing compared to what awaited: Longzhu Gaming, Immortals and the sensational Gigabyte Marines. An 0W-3L Week One performance later, few had imagined Fnatic moving on to the bracket stage. After all, no team that had such a losing record qualified to the bracket stage before then.
Yet Fnatic did. After losing its first clash of the day against Longzhu (further escalating its record to 0W-4L), the team needed to win the next two bouts and needed to rely on Gigabyte Marines to beat Immortals, which ultimately occurred. In the team’s second bout of the day, against Immortals, the tone was set for an extraordinary event to occur as Fnatic went from being sieged in the bottom lane to backdooring the Nexus, with sOAZ’s final autoattack sealing the deal. A victory against GAM later, Fnatic was in a three-way tiebreaker, with its hopes of making the quarterfinals revived.
With momentum on their side, Fnatic eliminated Immortals, before facing GAM in the deciding game. GAM started strong, but the European team turned the game on its head following a Baron Nashor play at the 28th minute. The team’s 4W-4L record (tiebreakers included) marked the first time a team had performed such a turnaround and attested of the squad’s mental fortitude, a matter that had failed them in the European playoffs.
Although Fnatic did lose to Royal Never Give Up in the quarterfinal, the end result (3-1) failed to portray how closely fought the bouts were. Although RNG had handled team fights better overall, Fnatic had posed a threat at some stages of the game due to its ability to stay within reach macro-wise – a matter that led to sOAZ single-handedly paving the way for a Game 3 backdoor victory, further reminding onlookers of the thriller events in the Group Stage.
About the Author :
Adel Chouadria is an esports writer by day, and a jack-of-all-trades by night. In the League of Legends scene, he has worked on projects ranging from live ticker updates to statistics gathering, but his calling has always been writing. Once a Counter-Strike fan, he has moved on to appreciate all types of games, including LoL, Rocket League and StarCraft II. Adel seeks to serve his audience by providing a different look into players, coaches and teams, as well as interacting in silly and personable ways on Twitter at @AdelChouadria.