Giants Gaming, the unlikely Cinderellas of the Summer season, had pulled ahead after winning a key fight around Baron. Their poke composition, led by superstar Isaac “PePiiNeRo” Flores on Ezreal, was perfect to methodically siege down Fnatic’s towers and close out the game.
But in this David versus Goliath story, the diminutive warrior’s sling wasn’t enough to topple the titans of Europe.
Fnatic pulled through thanks to the combination of wily shot calling by veteran Bora “YellOwStaR” Kim and impressive play from new AD carry, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, who showed fans why the team replaced Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi with a 13/3/4 KDA on Kalista.
In many ways the match was a story about two carries. Giants Gaming featured Flores on an Ability Power-based Ezreal using a new build featuring Ranger’s Trailblazer and the Runeglaive enchant, which provides some unique advantages over the Lich Bane it replaced in the build order. The spellblade proc of Runeglaive provides area damage, giving Ezreal increased wave clear over previous versions of the build. Plus, the Smite provided by Ranger’s Trailblazer restores health and mana, giving Ezreal more reign to spam spells without buying more mana items.
It proved extremely effective for Giants Gaming as Flores topped 70,000 damage and was nearly able to one-shot Fnatic players late game with his ultimate. He finished the game with an 8/2/7 KDA, but ended up overshadowed by Larsson’s performance.
The match itself was an odd one, including a remake after 20 minutes. Giants Gaming mistakenly selected Nocturne and quickly brought it to the attention of the referees. The rules allow them a remake of the game, but the refs erroneously did not offer one until 20 minutes in.
That set the stage for another champion select and another match, and what a match it was. The game was the most exciting all season, with solid performances in most phases of the game by both teams in a back-and-forth affair.
Giants Gaming scored an early lead by wiping Fnatic’s bottom lane, but Fnatic’s scrappy nature allowed them to build a small lead. But at the 21 minute mark, Giants Gaming turned the match on its head by scoring a four for two trade that allowed them to secure Baron.
That allowed Giants Gaming to take advantage of their poke and push down multiple Fnatic towers, with the Fnatic team unable to enter a fight harassed by a salvo of Ezreal’s Mystic Shots and Corki’s Missile Barrage.
But this Fnatic team always seems to find a way to get back in the game. When Giants went for another Baron at the 29 minute mark, they secured it—but found themselves trapped in a pit filled with Kalista spears.
That allowed Fnatic to stem the tide until Rekkles himself found him on the receiving end of some poke, opening Giants to push all the way to the Nexus as Fnatic had no damage threat left on the team. But Giants fell back before closing out the match, and Fnatic capitalized near Baron yet again, allowing them to start a siege of their own.
As the match went on it seemed like Fnatic found more ways to avoid PePiiNeRo’s deadly poke and engage fights on their own terms, leading to the death blow after 44 minutes, courtesy of Rekkles himself.
It was likely the closest match of the season and certainly the most exciting, a match where star players like PePiiNeRo and Rekkles showed off their incredible talent. But in some ways, it was probably the leadership of YellOwStaR that made the biggest difference. Fnatic’s veteran and shotcaller just laughed after pulling off the gritty comeback.
“I’ve been through worse,” he said in his post-game interview.
The win pulls Fnatic to 11-0 on the season, their 11 game win streak the current record in the European LCS. The possibility of a perfect season nearly died against Giants Gaming. If Fnatic does suffer a loss this Split, it will likely come next week when they face Origen and H2k Gaming, the two teams directly below them in the standings.
For Giants Gaming, the loss is another sign that the team that needed to win a tie breaker to avoid auto relegation is a distant memory. The addition of Oskar “G0DFRED” Lundström may not have solved all their problems. His play today, for example, was a bit uneven. But it’s allowed Giants Gaming to play like a team.
Today’s match also makes you wonder what might have been in the two team’s first meeting this Split, where Flores opted to play the AD carry position to live out his dream matchup against Rekkles. Today was a much better battle between the two players, with each serving as their team’s sole damage source and carry.
The loss drops Giants Gaming to 5-6 on the season, a mark that seems weak compared to their form throughout the season. Still, it’s enough for fourth place currently and a spot in the playoffs. But right now, the European season is truly the story of Fnatic.
The team started the year as an underdog themselves but they’ve quickly grown into one of the best teams that Western League of Legends has ever seen, and matches like this one, where they showed they can survive falling behind and grind out a victory, are the sign of a good team becoming a great one.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr
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