As quickly as Fnatic’s hot streak began at the 2018 League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational, it was cut short by none other than Royal Never Give Up.
This international crossover between the LPL and EU LCS is quickly becoming a burning rivalry, and unfortunately for Fnatic and their fans, it isn’t going in Europe’s favor so far. In fact, it seems that no matter how much confidence Fnatic can amass, and no matter how fast they can tear through games against the world’s best teams, they just cannot beat RNG.
Fnatic’s history with RNG and their ADC superstar Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao began last year at the 2017 World Championship. Of course, they’ve played one another in the past, but last year’s case was the first truly upsetting meeting for Fnatic.
After dropping every single game during the first week of the group stage at Worlds, Fnatic went on a miracle run through the second week. This resulted in Fnatic advancing into the knockout stage, where they squared off against RNG, and they were totally outclassed as RNG knocked them out of the tournament.
Over the course of the recent Spring Split, Fnatic proved that they were reinvigorated with confidence, style, and more importantly, talent. So when the schedule for MSI was announced, and Fnatic were pitted against their old nemesis from Worlds as the first game of the group stage, the hearts of Fnatic’s fans burned for revenge. After all, Fnatic were much better than they were at Worlds, and they seemingly stood a good chance at pulling off an upset this time around.
Those fans were wrong.
Fnatic dropped the first game after Uzi steamrolled Fnatic legend Martin “Rekkles” Larsson in the bot lane, and, after an extremely bloody game, ultimately carried his team to victory over the kings of Europe. Today, almost the exact same thing happened. Fnatic mid laner Rasmus “Caps” Winther picked up an early lead and attempted to carry, but he was no match for Uzi in the late game.
This pattern of Rekkles falling short before Uzi is unsettling. Typically, Rekkles is one of the most confident and talented ADCs in the world—perhaps the greatest Europe has to offer. And yet, when he stands toe-to-toe with Uzi, he freezes. Not only does he usually lose lane convincingly, but he also maneuvers around teamfights uncharacteristically poorly. He also often chooses needless aggression as a strategy, even when he’s whole items behind his LPL counterpart.
This odd shift in confidence from Rekkles may be rooted in Fnatic’s original loss to RNG at Worlds, or it could just be a freak coincidence that the two times he’s faltered the most during the past six months were against the same team. Either way, if Fnatic wants to secure their position in the knockout stage, they’ll have to overcome Uzi and RNG.
Their next game is tomorrow against the Flash Wolves, who are in sole possession of first place at the time of writing.