A tournament tucked in-between the spring and summer split, the Mid-Season Invitational is an annual League of Legends event that measures the strength of each region's champion before the coming summer split and Worlds. As a meeting ground of champions, the matches deliver many unforgettable and intense moments. The eventual winner of the tournament, RNG, displayed impressive performance throughout the MSI tournament. The same goes for Kingzone DragonX, the 2nd place winner of the tournament.
However, there was another team that I was personally impressed with: EU LCS's Fnatic. The games that they played were beyond enjoyable for spectators. Caps, who proved Yasuo isn't just "science"; Bwipo's Singed, who had a constant mark on Uzi; Broxah, who managed to steal Baron twice in one game; Rekkles, who is very competitive and knowledgeable about the game; and finally, Hylissang, the player that quietly supports the team from the back.
Despite their elimination in the semifinals of the MSI, the players of Fnatic gave it their all and played gracefully. The major attention they received from fans afterward was no surprise given their performance.
After the tournament, two players from Fnatic paid a visit to Korea to hone their blades before the coming Summer Split. One of them was Caps, who earned himself the nickname, "Best European Swordsman" with Yasuo; and the other, was sOAZ, FNC's veteran player who made many impactful plays in the 2017 World Championship, but unfortunately didn't see too much play time in the 2018 MSI.
Shortly after arriving at a hotel in Guro, Korea, the two players greeted us for the interview.
Q. You guys came to Korea right after the busy MSI schedule. It must be exhausting.
Caps: I became very eager [to perform better] after MSI because we didn't perform as well as I had hoped. I want to do a lot better in the upcoming EU LCS and Worlds, so I came to Korea to train, regardless of how tired I am.
sOAZ: For me, I didn't get to play too much during MSI, so it was probably easier for me to come here to practice. It's a different situation for me in comparison to the other players on the team.
Q. Have you guys gotten used to the time zone difference?
sOAZ: I'm actually fixing my sleeping schedule today, so I haven't slept yet. Caps wanted to do the same thing as me, but he fell asleep like four hours ago and woke up for this interview.
Q. During the MSI, you guys lost both your games on day 1 of the Group Stage. How was the team atmosphere at the time?
Caps: We definitely felt bad -- with the first game, I felt that we could've won, but the second game felt really bad because it felt like we had no chance at all. At the end of the day, I felt that all of our problems came from the draft and we weren't able to properly execute what we had practiced. We were a bit frustrated because our scrims were going really well... but we tried our best to calm down because it was a long tournament. In the past, we had made it out of groups during Worlds despite having gone 0-4 early on. So we knew that we could've made it out.
Q. sOAZ, you had a hand injury, and you had only played a few games during the tournament. How did you feel about that?
sOAZ: My hand had recovered 3 weeks to a month before MSI. The staff prioritized Bwipo over me because I was slowly coming back from my injury, I didn't play as many scrims. The staff believed it was the optimal decision.
Q. Caps, your Yasuo garnered a lot of attention during the tournament. Here in Korea, the fans regard you as the "best European swordsman." What are your thoughts on that?
Caps: People recognize me in every solo queue game that I play in, and they ask me to play Yasuo. (Laughs) They also call me "happy boy Yasuo." It's really funny.
A lot of people are recognizing me for my Yasuo, so I feel honored and proud.
Q. Were you aware that Yasuo is considered an instant-loss champion here in Korea? He's referred to as "Science."
Caps: I didn't know that at the time I picked him, but I read the KR reaction where a fan asked, "Can NA break science?" (Laughs)
Q. In a previous interview with Rekkles, he ranked ADC players from around the world, and he put Uzi at the very top. During the tournament, that same player performed extremely well and won the entire thing. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Caps: Uzi has always performed really well. In all previous tournaments, he was always a top performer. Although he didn't win anything until this year... I'm not sure if the current meta fits him very well or if it's because the ADC role is unbalanced right now... (Laughs)
There are currently three or four very strong ADC champions, and because Uzi is really good with all of them, he had a huge impact on all of the games. I felt like he was just really, really good with all of the strongest champions. During the tournament, he didn't play too much Ezreal in the beginning, so we thought that was his weakness; but at the end of the tournament, he did, and he played it well.
Q. The MSI semifinals between Fnatic and RNG were a trending topic in the Korean League of Legends community. How did you guys come to pick Singed?
Caps: Singed is a really good matchup against Ornn and other tanks. We thought that Singed could take over the game -- our win condition. If Singed started to get going, we could've really snowballed. We practiced it beforehand in scrims, and we were ready to pull it out if the enemy team were to take a tank in the top lane. I think Impact played a lot of Singed as well.
Q. During the MSI, Broxah stole a handful of Barons -- almost always on his own. Here in Korea, the fans created a meme called "Operation Broxah" because of it.
Caps: I think [the rest of the team] was around as well because I remember us hitting the Baron to lower its health -- because the enemy team stopped hitting it as they didn't want to risk it -- we were really behind and we wanted to force the fifty-fifty. There was a 50% chance to win and a 50% chance to lose, but we were probably going to lose anyway if we didn't take that chance. Also, we trust in Broxah.
Having debuted in Season 1, sOAZ is one of the longest-performing professional players in the League of Legends esports scene. As a veteran that has experienced both hardship and success, we were curious if his thought process would be different to relatively newer players like Caps. So we began the Moment of Truth.
- We'll now begin the O X Quiz to see how you feel about certain things. If you agree, raise the 'O', and if you don't, raise the 'X'. There will be a total of four statements. Please raise them on the count of three...
Q. The first statement is: "With our current roster and the state of the team, we can surely win the next EU LCS split."
Caps: I raised the 'O' because I believe that the experience that we gained through MSI could help us during the EU split.
sOAZ: Although I didn't get to play in the MSI, I saw a lot of things about the tournament -- from an outside perspective of the team. I mostly only talked with Rekkles though, regarding our issues during MSI and other factors. Everyone has different opinions, but we still have to get together before Summer and talk about what we should improve and change. I think I have a pretty good grasp on what we should do because I saw a lot of things about the team from a third person perspective.
Q. Here is the second statement: "We are fully capable of reaching the quarterfinals at Worlds."
Q. "I'm satisfied with the results that we got during the MSI this year. We did better than we had expected."
Caps: My hope coming into this year's MSI was that we could take down the Korean team, Kingzone. But they ended up losing to RNG... so I wanted to put up a good fight with RNG, make it a closer series or take a game off of them.
Q. The final question is: "To be honest, had we met either Kingzone or FlashWolves instead of RNG, we might've made it to the Finals."
sOAZ: We might've won against FlashWolves but we would've lost to Kingzone.
Caps: Actually, I have the same opinion. I think we could've stood up to FlashWolves and could have had a better chance.
Through the OX Quiz, we were able to find out that Caps and sOAZ shared similar opinions -- more than we had initially expected -- as Soaz's career goes further into the past in comparison to Caps. Now it was time to see if the two have always been honest with each other and the rest of the team with the help of our extremely accurate and unbelievably affordable lie detector machine.
- We'll now use this innovative machine to get the truth out of you both. Please place your hand on the machine and hope for the best. The first person to be questioned will be Caps.
Q. "To be honest, I'm better than Perkz."
- ...Is there anything you want to say?
sOAZ: Perkz is gonna call you out now! (Laughs)
Q. Here is the second question: "Although it's not always, whenever we lose, there's a certain player that I blame."
Caps: Maybe Rekkles. (Laughs)
Q. I'm the most important member of the team.
Caps: Maybe Rekkles, but I don't think there's anyone that is super important. It's kind of a team game, you know? Everyone is equally important.
Q. There's a certain player on my team that I really like... more than I should.
Caps: I like them strictly as teammates and nothing more. (Laughs)
- Caps, you are a very honest person, having lied only one time out of the four times. sOAZ, you're up next.
Q. The first question is: "Out of the games that FNC lost during the MSI, I think we could've won some of them if I had played in place of Bwipo."
sOAZ: We have different playstyles, so we would've played differently. It'll be difficult to put myself in his shoes.
- Okay, then we'll change the question a little bit: "While watching the games, there were a lot of frustrating moments that made me think, 'Ugh, I should've played that one.'"
sOAZ: Yes. (Laughs)
Q. "Fnatic isn't the same without me. I am a staple member of the team."
sOAZ: Yes. Even if I am to be replaced, it'll take a very long time.
Q. "I haven't reached my prime yet. There will be a time in the future where I'll be even better."
Q. We really want you to be zapped: "I like men."
Only lying once out of the 8 times, Caps and sOAZ were one of the most honest bunch that we had ever seen -- or maybe the machine was not as advanced as we had hoped.
Following the Moment of Truth, we decided to ask a few more questions, as we were impressed by their in-depth and thoughtful answers before the lie detecting segment. What is their opinion regarding their old and recent memes? How will FNC improve before the coming split?
Q. sOAZ, you're very famous for your dog champ meme.
sOAZ: Even the fans from Korea know about that? (Laughs)
- Everyone knows about it -- worldwide -- and I'm curious if there is a champion in the current meta that you'd consider a dog champ.
sOAZ: It'll probably be Shen. Although he is a situational champion, if you play him well... well, I don't think he's the ultimate dog champ.
- Then who is the ultimate dog champ?
sOAZ: Actually, when you're playing against a good team, Shen is the ultimate dog champ. He cannot do anything on his own in that case. I think he's a complete teamplay champion.
- How about River Shen?
sOAZ: River Shen? To secure the scuttle crab? (Laughs) Hmm... currently, every jungler is doing their best to secure as many jungle camps and scuttle crabs as they can, and I hope a change is made to this. I understand that they [Riot] wanted to make the game more dynamic by adding more fighting action to the game. But making it so that there are '3 vs 3' all-ins at level 2, and one team losing the game because of it -- at again, level 2 -- in my eyes, I don't think that's the direction the game should go. (Laughs)
Q. In Fnatic, there is a mix of veterans and rookies within the team roster. During feedback or discussions, are there a lot of conflicts/arguments between the two?
sOAZ: I don't think the difference between players comes from that. I think every player has a different perspective on how to play the game. For example, some players may watch more LCK than LCS, while some may prefer watching LPL. Every player has a different opinion, and I don't think the difference really comes from either being a veteran or rookie.
- Are there a lot of arguments though?
sOAZ: For us, there have always been conflicts regarding how to play the game -- ever since I joined a year and a half ago. But then again, I think this is the case for every team. Players and coaches have different opinions, so it's best to find a middle ground. It's also a good thing to have arguments to make progress... but you need to keep it positive.
Caps: From my experience, everyone has disagreed with each other from time to time, regardless of whether you're a veteran or a rookie. Maybe veterans are better at dealing with an argument. But yeah, everyone has different opinions.
Q. Who's the main shot-caller in the team?
Caps: In the early-game, it's me and Broxah because the game kind of revolves around mid and jungle early on. But after the early-game, I think everyone can make calls -- especially the players that are ahead of their opposing laners.
Q. Is there a team that you're watching out for in the next EU LCS? Maybe a team that you'd consider a rival?
Caps: There are a lot of teams. Obviously, there's G2, a strong team. And although Misfits underperformed at the last split, they always felt like a strong team; and they'll be back with an 8-man roster in the Summer. Also, there's Schalke who had an ADC that made rookie mistakes, but I think he'll perform better in the next split. It's the same for Splyce -- I think the rookies in the team will perform better in the next split.
sOAZ: I don't have a specific team that I'm looking out for because we'll have to eventually beat them all in the end in order to reach the top.
Q. In preparation for the next split, what're you guys focusing on during practice? What do you think you should improve on?
sOAZ: Since we're in Korea right now, our team didn't have a chance to talk about the MSI yet. So we didn't make a conclusion on what we want to improve on yet. However, in my opinion, I think the biggest things that we're doing poorly right now are the "basics." We can improve on our vision. We were getting flanked so many times in the mid-to-late game because we didn't play around vision properly.
I think the three biggest things that we need to work on are: basics, communication, and champion pool. I think we need to find a new and better way to practice so that we can get better.
Caps: I think one of the things that we could improve on is our champion pool. At Worlds and MSI last year, we had issues regarding our champion pool. However, I'm not too sure how we can effectively improve it, because the meta is constantly shifting. I think we'll have to practice a wide range of champions because it sucks when you climb up on an international stage, only to find yourself unfamiliar with the current meta champions.
Q. Through your spectacular performance at the MSI -- Operation Broxah, European Swordsman, etc. -- you guys got a lot of new fans from around the world, especially Korea. Do you have anything you want to say to them?
Caps: I want to say thanks. Every single game that I play here, people recognize me and say, "hey, you're Caps from Fnatic! I saw you at MSI." I just want to say thanks to everyone.
sOAZ: I visited Korea for the first time when I was about 18. I visited Busan, and I met with a lot of Korean fans. I think they're all very nice. Of all the places that I've visited -- and I've visited a lot -- Korea and Japan are my favorite.
- Then why don't you live here?
sOAZ: I mean, I don't speak any Korean. (Laughs)