Fnatic and Gambit Gaming are two of the most storied franchises in League of Legends.You’d expect them to be a premier matchup, a battle between Europe’s best teams for the top spot in the League Championship Series (LCS). Last split, the two met in the season opener, and Fnatic’s win was the difference between them in first place at 4-0 and Gambit Gaming just behind at 3-1.
But in the Summer Split, their week two battle was to keep them out of the bottom of the standings.
Earlier today, Gambit Gaming beat Fnatic in what could only be considered an upset after a 1-3 Super Week for the Russians.
Fnatic, the defending champions, had themselves seen a slump in week one, and their loss to Gambit putting the two teams at a 2-3 tie in the standings.
Fnatic were heavy favorites entering the match, however, considering Gambit’s awful first week and the departure of their long-time mid laner Alex “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin. But Gambit managed to pull out the victory with a solid late game.
The match was very slow paced, an oddity sometimes for Fnatic. They seemed tentative to commit to fights, content to squeeze out small advantages around the map. That added up to huge a tower advantage. But despite a seven to one tower lead at the twenty-nine minute mark, with two kills apiece, the gold was even thanks to Gambit’s control of the gold-giving dragon.
Fnatic tried to force a baron with help of their superior vision control, but the solid team fighting composition of Gambit bullied them out of the baron pit and handed Gambit an advantage. From that point, the Russians took over using the superior scaling of Lulu and Jax to crush Fnatic.
The defending champions didn’t punish Gambit for giving up such a huge map control advantage. Instead of using the space created by their secured towers to control dragon, they surrendered the objective four times to the Russians. And with the gold earned from Dragon buffed in the 4.7 patch earlier this month, that’s been deciding matches.
“We took all the dragons and we won,” said Gambit jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov, “so our strategy was better.”
Gambit Gaming has struggled without the veteran presence of Ichetovkin in their lineup, but today showed there’s at least hope, if the team can maintain the right attitude. Ichetovkin’s replacement, Sebastian “niQ” Robak simply cannot live up to his legendary predecessor, at least without a couple more seasons of experience. But after a poor first week, Robak showed what he can bring to the team today with a very solid game on Lulu, posting a 2/0/8 KDA with 100 percent kill participation.
“[Robak’s] a very nice guy outside of the game,” Reshetnikov said. “It’s a joy to talk with him and talk strategies about the game and life overall. He’s a very good mid laner and I’m really satisfied that he’s in the team.”
Today’s game showed also showed that, in the right situation, the inconsistent Evgeny “Darien” Mazaev can make an impact. Reshetnikov, meanwhile, proved himself to be a star, even without his old mid lane partner. But is that enough, in the increasingly competitive LCS environment? Gambit will have a chance to show it is against one of the season’s hottest teams, Supa Hot Crew.
For Fnatic, this season is another chapter of the malaise that’s seemed to plague them off-and-on since the start of this year. In the Spring Split, Fnatic started on fire with a 7-1 record through three weeks before suffering a baffling 3-7 run. But they put it together before playoffs, finishing 7-1 in the final three weeks and taking the championship.
The All-Star Invitational, though, saw Fnatic return to their slumping ways as they failed to even dent their international competition. The state of the European scene and Fnatic specifically quickly became an offseason talking point. They admitted that they needed more practice, to take the game more seriously, and to acqurie analysts and coaches who could provide the type of support that an increasing number of Western teams already have. But so far in the Summer Split, they look no closer to figuring out what causes their slumps than they did during last season’s¸when they seemingly suddently remembered that they are very good players and started winning again.
Fnatic is so good that’s probably going to happen again—they’ll just start winning. It’s too early in the season to worry about a team as talented as Fnatic. But with the competition level increasing every year, you can’t afford to get complacent. Fnatic certainly has work to do.