As the 2017 EU LCS Spring Split draws to a close, two teams find themselves with dramatically differing trajectories. The most decorated of Europe’s teams, Fnatic, have struggled greatly as the season has progressed. This has culminated in the firing of Fnatic coach Nicholas “NicoThePico” Korsgard and the obvious frustration of team leader and star AD Carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson. On the other hand, Team ROCCAT has won four straight series including a win over the aforementioned Fnatic.
Rekkles looks like a defeated man. A well-timed pause after Fnatic’s game one win during their second series against ROCCAT, speaks volumes of the mental fatigue of the Swedish captain. The roster had just won the first game in a surprisingly critical series against a surging ROC lineup, and instead of relief or joy, the only emotion portrayed on Rekkles face is one of disappointment. These were not supposed to be close games, this was no longer the Fnatic that Rekkles knew.
Fnatic came into the season with mixed expectations. After missing out on the World Championships for the first time in his career, Rekkles and Fnatic underwent a serious roster shuffle in the off-season, focused around the iconic AD Carry as the only remaining player. Fnatic proudly established an entirely European roster, reuniting Rekkles with Top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and adding Support Jesse “Jesiz” Le, Jungler Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider, and up and coming Mid lane talent Rasmus “Caps” Winther.
Fnatic had a promising start to their season with the new roster, taking reigning champions G2 eSports to three games in a series where Fnatic showed their potential and Caps looked to be the next European star. While there were some questionable decisions in and out of game – ADC Kennen as the most infamous example – Fnatic’s problems seemed to be correctable, with the team once again primed to be a part of the European elite.
As the season continued, that did not prove to be the case. As IEM approached it was clear Fnatic had issues they were not able to correct quickly enough leaving them the clear third best team in their group. Poor drafting, bad macro-play, and inconsistent laning forced Fnatic to make their first change in replacing Amazing with promising Jungler Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen from Fnatic Academy. Any spark Broxah provided the team failed to ignite a consistent flame, and the team has continued to slide down the standings.
ROCCAT were keen to make their own roster changes during the off-season, maintaining only Mid laner Felix “Betsy” Edling from the squad that finished 10th in the EU LCS at the end of the 2016 Summer Split, barely avoiding relegation. A slow start to their season saw ROCCAT deservedly winless at the halfway point, and a spot in the relegation tournament seemed to be a certainty once again.
Once again experiencing the nagging dread of the Challenger Series, something within Team ROCCAT changed; ROC came alive to the tune of four straight wins in the EU LCS. Betsy is rejuvenated in the Mid lane, relishing a meta that has shifted towards traditionally strong picks for the consistent star of the team.
Top laner Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren has begun to significantly improve his play, once considered EU’s worst top he was able to secure a solo-kill on sOAZ in their series against Fnatic. ADC Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss has also excelled in their past four series, a steadying presence that has allowed ROCCAT to surge to a near tie in the standings with Fnatic.
With only five games left between the two teams before the split ends, it is possible we will see a tie-breaker match between the two teams to determine the third place finisher. Their last series was a mess that went to three games, with neither team looking to have established any significant advantage over the other. Still, as ROCCAT continues to improve and Fnatic continues to falter, there is no reason to expect the result would be any different in a tie-breaker.
This would be a dramatic fall for Rekkles and Fnatic, and at the same time a validating victory for a ROCCAT lineup who have found little to celebration in the past few years. While there is still a substantial gap between both of these teams and the elite of Europe, the state of mind for their fanbases and the teams could not be farther apart: One will rise, and one will fall.