SK Gaming's triumphant victory over Fnatic is a strong confirmation that the LEC marks a new chapter in European League of Legends history.
SK Gaming got a lead against reigning EU champions Fnatic behind Choi "Pirean" Jun-sik's Kleptomancy Corki. SK rallied behind their Mid Laner's advantage and strong early game jungling from Polish rookie Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek, but a technical issue forced a remake and ended SK's chances at an upset.
Selfmade managed to repeat a strong early game performance in the remake, but Pirean struggled early on Lissandra. While the game remained close through 25 minutes, Fnatic gained ground with an eventual 3,000 gold lead as the late game loomed.
However, an ill-fated towerdive from Mads "Broxah" Brock-Pedersen's Lee Sin was capitalized upon by SK Gaming. A sweeping teamfight victory led to the first Baron Buff of the 2019 LEC Spring Split, and also, a reclamation of control of the game for SK. A Baron-empowered seige and a gem of a Sejuani ultimate from Selfmade secured the victory for SK Gaming, shocking Europe with an incredible upset to kick off the season.
The revival of El Clásico
SK Gaming and Fnatic have clashed several times on the rift over the past decade. The rivalry developed throughout the years and became the premiere matchup in EU LCS, dubbed 'El Clásico' by fans in reference to premiere European football matches. Both teams remained at the top of the standings in Europe for years and brought many of the most memorable moments in EU LCS history.
In the summer of 2015, prodigal talent Konstantinos "Forg1ven" Tzortziou parted ways with SK Gaming. The AD Carry's departure would be the death knell for SK Gaming. The squad plummeted to the bottom of the standings and were relegated at the end of the season. SK Gaming was out of the EU LCS.
After failing to re-qualify for the EU LCS from the 2016 EU Challenger Series Spring Split, SK Gaming left the League of Legends scene for two years. The organization formed a new team in the summer of 2018 and competed in series of minor tournaments to middling success. The LEC franchise was a big step in the organization's return to prominence, but the new signings for the LEC roster were met with underwhelming response.
Pirean was expected to provide serviceable Mid Lane play after a year on the second-string behind Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok for SK Telecom T1, but the rest of the roster was a question mark. Fnatic were coming off a Worlds Finals run as the greatest Western League of Legends team of all time. El Clásico could not have felt more underwhelming.
The End of the EU LCS
The context of SK Gaming's fall from grace in League of Legends and the resulting hiatus of El Clásico is what makes its opening day win so exciting. A single game sample size should always be taken with multiple grains of salt, but Selfmade's impressive debut and Juš "Crownshot" Marušič's strong Ezreal performance have already conjured the sound of several power rankings being re-shuffled.
A common trend has been woven throughout the fabric of the EU LCS season after season: "Everyone beats everyone, and Fnatic wins in the end." With the book officially closed on EU LCS, SK Gaming's against-all-odds-post-advantageous-remake victory against Fnatic was a bizarre, wonderful beginning to a new chapter in European League of Legends.
SK Gaming's win was only one game in a split of eighteen; and a season of hundreds. However, its pecuilar, unusual serves a staunch reminder that the LEC is emblematic of a new era, and will be unlike any season before it.