It’s been more than six months since G2 Esports and Fnatic scrapped in one of the most exciting LEC playoff series of 2021. But after a busy offseason and an even more tumultuous 2022 Spring Split, the two most recognizable League of Legends teams in Europe are set to write another chapter in the annals of their eternal feud at the Berlin studios.
Both teams have gone through significant transformations throughout this season, and their hard work through the spring has brought them to the playoffs once again. The rosters might be different compared to what we’ve seen in years past, but the rivalry still blazes on for those stepping into the spotlight.
Each lineup will be armed with weapons across each role, from young fiery rookies trying to stamp their mark in their debut season to veteran stars finding greater heights to stand upon. These players will want to earn their stripes and prove their worth, and there isn’t a better place to test your mettle than in the LEC’s own El Clásico.
G2 have fallen from their perch high above the LEC after two years of straight dominance. The former kings of Europe finished in fourth this past split and must now earn their place among the new guard of the region. In a similar vein, Fnatic ended their 2021 Cinderella run by crashing down in spectacular fashion at Worlds, forcing the org to retool its roster completely. But now, they’ve made the journey back to the playoffs, and in this opening series, an epic battle will take place when G2’s unshakeable top side duo collides against Fnatic’s legendary bottom lane powerhouse.
Foundations and fortitude
When G2’s kingdom crumbled at the end of 2021, many people wondered if we’d ever see the organization challenge for the domestic throne again. And yet, the team regrouped around its star mid–jungle duo with Caps and Jankos, and built a team that can stand toe-to-toe with the best. But G2’s Summoner’s Rift game plan has drastically shifted compared to previous years along with their overall early-game goals.
Jankos has always been one of the best junglers in EU, but instead of focusing on the mid or bottom lane like past seasons, he has made a living in the top lane—and for good reason. Last year, G2 set their former top laner Wunder to a weak side role with a majority of games on champions like Karma, Sion, Gnar, and Gragas. Granted, he is one of the better weak side top laners in the LEC, but now, we get to see the league’s resident samurai squad with a shiny new blade.
Through the 2022 Spring Split, G2’s new recruit Broken Blade had the most kills, the highest kill-participation percentage, and the highest kill share of any top laner in the league. He was also the only player on the roster that had relatively decent early-game numbers, according to League stats aggregate Oracle’s Elixir. The rest of G2’s lineup had relatively low average gold difference and experience difference counts at 10 minutes compared to the 22-year-old.
G2’s reliance on Broken Blade’s performances on carry champions isn’t a secret, and his stellar play has even led to four Player of the Game awards. The top lane should be a battleground that spectators keep their eyes on as the series progresses, since Wunder will need to weather the storm that both Jankos and Broken Blade bring to his doorstep.
Wunder’s statline this season doesn’t completely pass the eye test, with lackluster early-game stats and the second-lowest kill-participation percentage in his role, according to Oracle’s Elixir. These numbers have to do with the lack of jungle attention he gets with Fnatic, but he still boasts a relatively flexible champion pool and a willingness to fit into any team composition. This coming playoffs, he’ll also be even more motivated to contribute because of his new role within the G2–Fnatic rivalry.
“My part in the rivalry was winning for Caps, or winning for whoever left the team and joined [G2],” Wunder said in a post-game interview. “Now, I’m kind of in that position, so now I want to win against my old team, and I want to win against my old teammates… I’m not the guy having to win for my teammates, rather I have to win for my own sake.”
As a veteran with a ton of postseason and international experience, this isn’t the first time the 23-year-old Dane has had to deal with an intense amount of pressure. In the past, he faced off against players like Khan, Nuguri, Impact, and Smeb. Now that he’s facing off against his old team, a new fire has been lit to compete. If Wunder can hold his own and avoid giving too much to the oncoming onslaught, Fnatic should be able to watch their super-powered bottom lane shine, featuring two of the league’s MVP candidates.
Old dog, new tricks
After being known around the world for his borderline reckless style of play and love for heavy-engage champions, Fnatic’s star support Hylissang has evolved into a new beast just in time for the new year by limiting his careless deaths while maintaining his signature aggression.
Throughout last year, Hylissang led the league in deaths for both seasons in 2021. The 26-year-old veteran saw the grey screen an audacious 99 times during the Spring Split and a whopping 74 times during the following summer. In fact, since Summer 2019, Hylissang led all LEC players in deaths in every season save for the 2020 Spring Split.
In 2022, however, Hylissang shifted into a calm, calculated go-button for one of the most stacked rosters in Europe. He had the fourth-least deaths in his role, according to Oracle’s Elixir, and also has an impressive 70.4-percent kill-participation percentage, the highest that stat has been for him in over six seasons.
Hyli broke out classic picks like Pyke, Thresh, and Rakan this split, but he also added League’s newest champion Renata Glasc into his repertoire as a curveball for any draft strategies, making him the player to watch in Fnatic’s run to the top. It also helps that the Professor has the best AD carry in the region alongside him to blast through anything that stands in their way.
Upset’s theoretical stocks have skyrocketed ever since he took Rekkles’ place in Fnatic’s lineup, and this season, he continued to make waves by posting a league-leading 16.5 KDA with the fifth-most kills and the best early-game stats in the league. The last time an ADC posted a double-digit KDA was back when Rekkles locked in a 12.6 KDA in the 2021 Spring Split with G2.
Upset and Hylissang were major contributors to Fnatic’s massive 1,920 average gold difference at 15 minutes this split and are the team’s lynchpin to success in the early game. After taking over the opening moments, they can snowball their lead into more fights and advantages across the map.
In G2 and Fnatic’s last meeting during the regular season, this exact juxtaposition was put on display. Early on, G2 found an early kill on Wunder with a well-timed roam from Jankos and Caps, but pressure from Razork allowed Fnatic’s bottom lane to secure a response kill, take first tower, and even gave Hylissang the freedom to roam around the map. He eventually made his way to top lane and found a kill on Broken Blade, negating the lead the G2 top laner had in the first minutes of the game.
Weathering the storm
Both Fnatic and G2 will have to batten down the hatches and survive on opposite sides of the map. Wunder will need to hold his ground and prevent Broken Blade from becoming a major carry threat, while G2 need to shut down their opponents’ early-game explosiveness in the bottom lane.
Both teams are talented, but games could ultimately be decided during the draft. G2 should consider banning some of Hylissang’s comfort choices to ensure their rookie bottom lane of Flakked and Targamas have a chance to survive the early barrage of ganks and roams from both Razork and Humanoid.
At the same time, Fnatic need to give Wunder a champion where he can hold his own in the one-vs-one against Broken Blade, while still having the ability to affect later teamfights. Champions like Jayce, Gragas, Gwen, and Akali are all fine picks that can survive a dive or gank, while still holding the power to run over a teamfight with their damage output.
The chess game has already begun between these two organizations, but only one team’s king will be left standing by the time the final Nexus has exploded. Momentum is paramount to success in the playoffs. Losing against your sworn nemesis in the first round won’t be great for anyone’s confidence, especially if they’re forced to battle against another charging superteam in the lower bracket. Look for Fnatic and G2 to come out swinging when they step onto Summoner’s Rift on Saturday, March 26.