From a cruelly disappointing Winter split to reaching the top 5 teams to represent the LEC in Worlds 2023, here's what Fnatic did right
Esports as a genre is elevated by the stories of its pro-players. These memorable narratives help make each season distinct and emotionally engaging. And while they also help raise the stakes of a particularly important run, it is especially true when these teams have history, or when we witness a legendary org fall from grace.
Fnatic ‘s influence in the LoL esports scene cannot be understated. Their League of Legends team became known ever since they won the inaugural World Championship back in 2011. Since then, their rosters went on to take 7 high-level titles within both European and international tournaments.
For a long time, their generational impact and intense rivalry with current LEC favorites G2 Esports solidified their status as one of the strongest teams to bet on, but as luck would have it, 2023 would be a humbling season for the black-and-orange team.
From early eliminations to surprising upsets, we're take a look back and examine Fnatic's chaotic 2023 run in the LEC to see how they went from being in the bottom 2 teams to joining the top 5 EMEA contenders for Worlds.
A Cruel Winter for Fnatic
The announcement of Carl “Rekkles” Larsson's return to the LEC stage back in January sent the clear message that Fnatic was in it to win it. After joining the org for the first time in 2012, the Swede talent was part of FNC for 8 years, and seeing the ADC reunite with the crew reignited fan hopes for a renaissance. But though the Fnatic roster showed a lot of promise, they unfortunately couldn't meet expectations.
Humanoid and co. gave it their all, but even when they were ahead in objectives and kills, they still couldn't destroy enough enemy bases to advance to the bracket stage. This early exit was a huge letdown that no one could have predicted. After more than a decade on top, it was the first time Fnatic ever missed out on Groups.
Our Winter run ends there. Thank you for all the support as always. We'll be back, bet on it. pic.twitter.com/I2IBXmO940
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) February 6, 2023
With team morale at an all-time low, management new that they needed a big overhaul while still keeping established talent. In their eyes, the team needed fresh, strong talent to help balance things out. As a result, Wunder and rhuckz were benched to make way for two rookies from FNC's academy team; Advienne and Spanish top-laner Oscarinin.
Revitalized in Spring
The uncertainty following both a disappointing Winter as well as a restructured roster could be felt by Fnatic fans when Spring kicked off. On top of that, the Spanish organization's recent victory in the VCT Lock//In Grand Finals back in March meant that there would be additional pressure on the League of Legends side to follow up on their success.
Under newly-recruited Coach Nightshare's wing, the new experimental Fnatic set off with dreams of redemption and a silver shield of their own. At the same time, all eyes were on Oscarinin to see if he could fill Wunder's boots and match his more experienced teammates on the Rift. In time, his promotion to the main team would prove to be the right choice.
Rekkles and his team managed to score 4-5 in the play-ins, getting them in the Groups Stage. Sadly, they couldn't score a single win against Vitality and the MAD Lions in the bo3 brackets, killing their mid-year run. Nevertheless, Fnatic's Spring run was ultimately an improvement over Winter, and the season wasn't over yet!
A Strong Summer
Despite not getting to compete in MSI 2023, the Spanish team had spent the off-season deep in scrims with a new botlane duo. Adrian “Trymbi” Trybus and Oh “Noah” Hyeon-taek arrived at the scene as Fnatic's newest strong side players. And although the team still needed to fix some issues concerning their comms, the new roster's synergy spoke for itself.
After tearing through the LEC's top 10 teams with only 2 losses, the new and improved FNC looked truer to form than ever before. Their newfound confidence and skill caused them to win enough match-ups in Groups (MAD Lions included) to qualify for Play-offs. From there they subbed Wunder in when they needed to be unpredictable and scored a triumphant 3-1 victory against Team Heretics before falling to Excel Esports in the lower bracket.
By the end of Summer, Fnatic showed remarkable development on all fronts. Moreover, the upward trend of placements across 3 splits was good news that eventually earned them enough championship points for a spot in Season Finals.
Fnatic's Season Final Deep Run
If their level-up back in Summer gave Fnatic the running start they needed, Fnatic's performance in the LEC's Season Final in France was downright unprecedented.
While G2 was effortlessly carving through the Winner's Bracket, Fnatic was winning multiple bo5 tiebreakers in the lower bracket, rolling with the punches to survive multiple game-ending teamfights, winning one match after another in a stunning display of sheer tenacity until they reached the Final stage. Fnatic may not have won a silver shield, but it became a master of silver scrapes in Montpellier.
The team has had more time on the bench than any other, and they spent all of their off-season time wisely honing their game so they could slice through the competition near the end. But there was still one team left standing.
In a tense best-of-five series, Fnatic faced off against their long-time rivals G2 Esports.
After everything that the team went through, only their long-time el classico with the Kings of Europe truly stayed constant. This fight would decide who would come out on top, and was the first time they met on the Rift ever since Winter season, but now Fnatic was wiser.
Even though both teams were equally matched in the draft, Fnatic and G2 were almost equals on the battlefield. As the games started, quick trades near bot-side ended in 1-for-1's in the early stages. But due to G2's ADC demanding the jungler's attention, Fnatic's top-lane fell to BrokenBlade's intense K'Sante. After two losses, the lads in black were able to eke out a hopeful win. But with Hans Sama playing his favorite pocket pick in game 4, Fnatic struggled to fulfil their win condition.
Winning is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
Fnatic's 2023 season was one for the books. Not because of the number of titles they won or how many of the players landed in the split leaderboard, but because of their persistence and dedication which paved the way for their runner-up spot in the biggest annual LoL esports event in the LEC.
One wins a game of League by adapting to your enemy's playstyles and finding the most efficient way to get leads, whether by getting kills or securing objectives. What Fnatic displayed in their 2023 run may not have been them at their best, but it was certainly Fnatic at their most determined.
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