The champions of the Spring and Summer Splits in 2013, Fnatic has won every LCS Europe since Riot Games instituted the league. This season they’ve had a rocky ride to the finals, starting the split 7-0 before suffering an eight game losing streak. Since a strong performance at Intel Extreme Masters Katowice, easily the biggest non-LCS tournament of the year, they’ve rebounded to secure the second seed with a 17-11 record.
But Alliance also peaked at the end of the season, finishing 16-12, good for the third seed in the playoffs.
“I honestly think this was the hardest match we will have this series,” said Fnatic’s captain, Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez, after the game.
The first match extended into the late game with only a thousand or so gold separating the teams after 30 minutes. Alliance pulled out the lineup that got them into the semifinals, a late-game scaling team based around the champion Ryze in the top lane and Karthus in middle. Fnatic had a creative counter: mass heals.
“I was searching for a pick against Ryze and I tried Soraka in scrims,” explained Fnatic top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, “and it went pretty well.”
In other words, Fnatic placed Soraka, with her global heal Wish, in top lane, Kayle in middle lane, and Janna in bottom lane as support. The three proved very powerful against the steady damage of Hansen’s Karthus.
Fnatic built the composition around Martin “Rekkles” Larsson playing Lucian and Lauri “Cyanide” Happonen playing Kha’Zix, using the three support-capable champions to keep the two damage dealers in the fight. And it paid dividends. Larsson, the top vote getter in Europe in the All Star Challenge fan vote, ended the game without a death, with a 3/0/3 KDA.
Even so, the game stayed close. Alliance avoided the trap of a drawn out team fight. Then, around the thirty minute mark, they made a key mistake, thinking they had caught out Fnatic’s support when in reality they were entering a three on five fight. Fnatic took a triple kill and quickly ended the game.
Alliance kept the series close by winning game two, backed by a stellar performance from the league’s MVP, Hansen. Fnatic let Ziggs through champion select, and Hansen made them pay, posting a 9/1/6 KDA with 506 CS in a 49 minute game.
In the final game, Fnatic found a way to mitigate Hansen’s impact: Just win the other the lanes.
They were handed a gift in champion select. Alliance had paused the game illegally in the previous game, and so were penalized with the loss of one of their champion bans in the final match. They eliminated Soraka and Ryze, leaving Nidalee, a champion banned in every other LCS playoff match so far, for Fnatic.
Though that doesn’t mean they were happy about it. To a certain extent, it forced Fnatic’s hand, making them pick a powerful champion who they likely hadn’t planned on using.
“We wanted them to ban Nidalee actually, so we were pissed that we had to pick her,” Martínez said.
“She’s an annoying champion because she’s hard to play against, but if something goes bad early its hard to play with her as well.”
Lucky for Martínez, the game was all Fnatic. While Hansen kept him in check in the middle lane, Fnatic dominated the other two lanes.
Fnatic snowballed the early lead easily thanks to Nidalee and her long-range poke, taking the game in a fast 24 minutes.
Fnatic will face the winner of the SK vs. Roccat semifinal tomorrow in a best-of-five series for the Spring Split title. The winner of that match will take home $50,000, while $25,000 will go to the runner-up.
“We’re really confident that we can take it,” said Martínez, “Really we can.”