How many times have you heard casters talk about legacies? It’s almost unavoidable. Whenever Fnatic go against G2 Esports, the overdone Old Kings vs New Kings narrative rears its head. And now that the two are about to clash in the EU LCS finals, it’s getting overwhelming.
Of course, both organizations are renowned for their rich histories, but it’d be a mistake to think of them as the same teams that once fought for the European crown.
A step forward
Fnatic have always been defined by their veterans. Whether it’s xPeke, sOAZ, or YellOwStaR, someone consistently stepped up as the driving force behind their success. In 2017, that someone was Rekkles. The legendary AD carry stood at the vanguard of their offensive, and the entire team rallied around his unorthodox playstyle.
In 2017, Rekkles was Fnatic.
However, building a team around a single player comes with certain limitations. And these limitations were fully exposed at the 2017 EU LCS Summer Playoffs and the 2017 World Championship. Something had to change for Fnatic to take their game to the next level, but few expected them to overhaul their entire League of Legends paradigm.
Granted, their roster looks quite similar. And yet, this version of Fnatic presents a stark contrast to its previous iterations. There’s only so far you can get by putting all your eggs in the Rekkles basket, so Fnatic made sure other players entered the spotlight.
The first one was Caps. Hailed as one of the most talented mid laners in the league, he’s finally managed to reinforce his mechanics with game sense. This allowed Caps to draw a ton of jungle pressure without falling behind his opponent. And as absurd as the Baby Faker title seemed at first, this is exactly what the best mid laner in the world is known for.
Speaking of jungle, Broxah also went from an Elise/Lee Sin specialist to a well-rounded player that can show up on tanks and carries alike. Still, the most surprising change was the one Fnatic never intended to make. And when sOAZ had to step down, Bwipo brought some much-needed firepower to the top lane.
More importantly, the team evolved. In 2017, there was a sense of desperation in Fnatic’s play, and it often seemed like they were walking on a razor’s edge. The 2018 iteration of the same team is much smarter about the way it moves around the map and approaches neutral objectives. Fnatic’s players ascribe this to their head coach Joey “YoungBuck” Steltenpool who revitalized the lineup with in-depth macro knowledge. With his help, they finally made the jump from a ragtag group to a legitimate team.
G2 have built their brand around a stable 5-man squad. And it was only in the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split that they’d have to answer the question of whether there was something more than a string of lucky signings behind their success. It’d be one thing if they held on to their coach. But with YoungBuck leaving for Fnatic, G2 had to turn to a new mentor in Fabian ‘GrabbZ’ Lohmann.
They had to rebuild.
With that, the only one who remembered their old ways was Perkz. And it didn’t seem like that was enough. The new G2 had little in common with the lineup that won four splits in a row, and while their players were undeniably talented, they were also out of sync.
But gradually, things started coming together. First, Jankos and Perkz developed honed their synergy to the point where they became the strongest jungle/mid duo in the EU LCS. Then, Wunder blew everyone away with one stunning carry performance after enough. These players became the core of the new G2 Esports—an unstoppable force that was more than capable of overwhelming its opponents.
And then there was the bot lane. For the longest time, things didn’t click over there, as Hjarnan and Wadid struggled to fill the shoes of Zven and Mithy. Coming into the playoffs, it seemed like they would be G2’s Achilles heel. But inexplicably, Hjarnan and Wadid stepped up their game. And even though they’re not the most lane-dominant duo, they’re certainly started pulling their weight in teamfights and skirmishes.
But while these players are playing under the same samurai banner, they aren’t the G2 of old. They’re much more willing to focus on Wunder in the top lane, and Jankos often prefers high-impact plays to Trick’s farm-heavy playstyle. More importantly, they’re dying to prove themselves. Three of their players have never even been to the finals, and they’re ready to go above and beyond to claim their first EU LCS trophy.
Fnatic and G2 might be two very different teams, but they have one thing in common: hunger. They’re both at the very start of their competitive journeys, and they’ve put in tremendous amounts of work to get to the EU LCS finals. Now, it’s no longer a matter of who can live up to their legacy.
It’s a matter of how they will forge their future.
All images courtesy of Riot Games