Jan 20 2015 - 3:03 pm

xPeke - Europe's mid lane king

There was a time, not very long ago, when League of Legends was not the most watched esport in the world, a time when Korea was not the best region in the world and Malzahar was a legitimate pick for mid lane in competitive play.
Dot Esports

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There was a time, not very long ago, when League of Legends was not the most watched esport in the world, a time when Korea was not the best region in the world and Malzahar was a legitimate pick for mid lane in competitive play. At that time the professional League of Legends scene saw the rise of one of its most known and acclaimed veterans: Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martínez.

2011 was a year that saw him changing a lot of teams, or rather the exact lineup he was part of being picked up by other names from the competitive scene. One of the last names he played under was myRevenge, a name under which his team won the IEM Season V – Hanover Invitational and caught the eye of the Fnatic organization, with whom he would be identified for years to come.

Season 1 World Championship

The Fnatic lineup consisted of xPeke in the top lane, jungler Lauri "Cyanide" Happonen, mid laner Maciej "Shushei" Ratuszniak, Manuel "LaMiaZeaLoT" Mildenberger as the ad carry and Peter "Mellisan" Meisrimel playing as support. Even if he was playing as top laner, his affinity with mage champions led him and mid laner Shushei to develop the “double AP” strategy, one that he would later refine with sOAZ.

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This new Fnatic lineup managed to get a foothold on the European scene by competing in online tournaments, back then the “bread and butter” of all European teams, and managed to qualify for the Riot Season 1 Championship in Jönköping, Sweden. Despite him having passport issues and not managing to play with the team during the group stage, Fnatic managed to get out of the group stage after defeating Team Pacific. His return saw an immediate improvement in the team’s performance, as they were able to defeat CLG, TSM and aAa without losing a game. Thus, they made it to the Grand Final, were they again defeated aAa, and became the first World Champions. This determined a huge increase in his popularity, as one of the strongest and consistent mid laners in the world.

The season that was not

After having a dominant pre-season, placing 3rd at IEM VI – Cologne and 1st at IEM VI – New York, xPeke and Fnatic started to underperform. This was also a period of time that saw the emergence of strong competitors like SK Gaming, Counter Logic Gaming EU and Moscow 5. Feeling the need for a change, they signed in top laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer to replace Shushei, and after a 5 month trial with Patrick "Pheilox" Riehle, they finally settled on Christoph "nRated" Seitz, for the support role, one week prior to the Season 2 Regional Finals.

The tournament began well for Fnatic as they managed to take down Team Curse EU, two to zero, and make it to the semifinals. Here they faced the strongest teams of the moment, Moscow 5, and despite putting a good fight, managing even to take one game, they lost to the Russian powerhouse. Thus they were put in the position to fight in the 3rd place match against Counter Logic Gaming EU. With mid laner Henrik "Froggen" Hansen and ad carry Peter "Yellowpete" Wüppen playing exceptionally well, CLG EU gave no chance to Fnatic, and denied them the chance to defend the title they earned a year earlier. A month after this disappointing result, ad carry LaMiaZeaLoT announced his retirement from the competitive scene of League of Legends.

Regaining the crown

In need of a new ad carry, they had a trial period with Adrian "Candy Panda" Wübbelmann, former ad carry of SK Gaming, but in the end decided to sign the young and talented Swedish player Martin 'Rekkles' Larsson. With Rekkles on the team, they had a stellar performance at Dreamhack Winter, where in the final they defeated CLG EU, the same team that had denied them access to the Season 2 World Championship earlier that year.

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With Rekkles on board, and nRated and sOAZ having refined their shot-calling and in-game decision making, they attended the IPL 5 held in Las Vegas, a tournament stacked with big names. They, again, impressed everyone by defeating Azubu Blaze in the group stage, and only losing to Gao "WeiXiao" Xuecheng team, World Elite. In the bracket, they defeated reigning world champions Taipes Assassins (2-0) and CLG (2-1) but fell again to World Elite, in a three game match (2-1), in the higher bracket final. Relegated in the lower bracket, they repeated their performance against Taipei Assassins, and gained another chance to defeat World Elite in the Grand Final, a feat they were unable to achieve.

In the last tournament of the year, IEM VII – Cologne, they managed to beat SK TelecomT1 and have a perfect group stage. The semi-final was against one of the favorites, the CJ Entus of inSec and Dade, a match that Fnatic were able to win in three games. Moving on to the final, they faced their group partner, SK Telecom T1, and after each team won a game, SK Telecom T1 managed to win the third and decisive game and take first place, with Fnatic a close second.

With the new League Championship Series qualifiers approaching fast, Fnatic found themselves in a though spot when they discovered Rekkles, 16 year old at the time, would not be able to play, due to age restrictions. Having to wait a year until he could join the team in the LCS, they signed in Bora "YellOwStaR" Kim, former ad carry of SK Gaming and participant to both World Championships. They will play with him on the roster in the next tournament, IEM VII – Katowice, where xPeke had his most legendary moment, when in the game against SK Gaming executed a perfect backdoor tactic, destroying the nexus and winning the game or his team. Managing to get out of the group stage they fell in the semifinal against Azubu Frost.

Dominating Europe

Going into the first ever LCS split, Fnatic dominated the European scene, managing to secure the first place in the regular season with a record of 22 wins and 6 losses, one win ahead of Gambit, the second placed team. In the playoffs, they defeated Evil Geniuses in the semifinal and went on to face Gambit, their biggest challenger, in the final. The final was a very disputed match that went on for all five games, but in the end Fnatic managed to win and secure their first LCS split crown.

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Four weeks into the summer split, the announcement was made that nRated was to be removed from the team. Instead of bringing a new support player, Fnatic opted for a position switch for YellOwStaR and signed a rather unknown ad carry, Johannes "puszu" Uibos. With all these changes affecting the team, they were unable to assert the dominance they had demonstrated during the spring split, and were at one time even in the position of thinking they would have to play relegation matches. The end of the split was marked by highly disputed matches, and the regular season ended with four teams having the same game record, Fnatic among them. After a four-way tiebreaker series they managed to secure second place, and guarantee a place in the play-off semifinals. Here they beat Evil Geniuses, 2-0, and made it ti the finals where they defeated Lemondogs won the second LCS split in a row and qualified to the Season 3 World Championship from the first position in Europe.

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The Season 3 World Championship was Fnatic’s opportunity to prove that missing the tournament the previous year was just a fluke. They started on the wrong foot, with a loss against Team Vulcun, but they quickly picked themselves up and won all the other games they had in the group, a group with teams like Gambit and Samsung Ozone. The amazing performance of the team in general, but of xPeke in particular, in the group stage propelled them in the quarterfinal were they met the American powerhouse, Cloud 9. The match was close, but in the end Fnatic managed to win, two games to one. In the semifinal they faced the Chinese team Royal Club that ended their winning streak.

The key to their success

altSeason 3 was an amazing one for xPeke and company, and most of their success must be attributed to him. His consistent play, calculated aggression and roaming were also the tactics that the team shot callers, nRated at first and YellOwStaR later on, could rely when formulating their in-game strategies. A season that had assassins as the mid lane meta was a blessing for xPeke, and he thrived on champions like Ahri, Kassadin (a must ban for any team playing against him) or Zed, while also having Orianna or Lissandra as backup. There was almost no game in which he did well and the team lost. Undoubtedly he was the team’s star player, and a threat no team could ignore but not many learned how to silence.

The fact that xPeke was that could “make or break” the game for Fnatic, was evident in their semifinal at the World Championship, against Royal Club. They were the only team that identified this weakness and played it in their favor, by refusing xPeke his mid lane matchup, and thus making him unable to provide his team with kills, pressure on the map and roaming ganks, while also denying him his key champions.

The decline

With the World Championship over, and Rekkles now part of the team, Fnatic looked like a team ready to take over the world. They managed to take second place at both IEM VIII – Cologne and IEM VIII – World Championship, and started the spring split by winning seven games in a row.

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Their problems started with a loss against Gambit and followed with another seven losses, for a total of eight games lost in a row. The team as a whole looked very shaky, the shot calling was at times non-existent, and they did not seem to be able to keep up with the developing meta. Eventually it was another game against Gambit that turned their luck around and boosted their confidence, and by the end of the regular season they managed to secure the second place spot. In the play-offs they managed to beat Alliance in the semifinals and then proceeded to defeat SK Gaming in the final, managing to win three LCS splits in a row.

However, their form did not seem to be at the level it should have, and in the first half of the summer split they had a 50% win ratio. They managed to improve in the second half, and finished second with a 19-9 win/loss record. In the play-offs semifinal they were hard pressed by Roccat, which took them to a five game series. In the final they faced the “super team” Alliance, and for the first time since the start of the LCS they lost it, three games to one.

The next tournament they took part in was the Season 4 World Championship, where again they showed a lack of form, this time not managing to get out of the group stage.

A new beginning

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After the World Championship, the Fnatic team began to unravel, with all sorts of rumors going on about the fate of the players. On November 24th Rekkles leaves the team to join Alliance, and less than two week later

“I have a lot of good things to say about Fnatic and my teammates, but to not make the list too long, there is only one reason for me to leave Fnatic and that is to fulfill this dream I have had for a long time now. My dream is to make my own team, and I believe that this is the time to do it. At some point I said that I was going to stay in Fnatic for the next year and that’s because I thought I was, but with the events that have happened recently I thought that this was the time to have a change in my life and start this new adventure. … I wish the new Fnatic players the absolute best and hope that they can keep the same harmony we had, since I'm leaving a big part of my heart there!”

Fnatic.com

On the 7th of December 2014, xPeke announces he will form a new team, named Origen, which will be competing in the challenger scene, and on the 17th of December the first four members are announced: xPeke in the mid lane, Maurice "Amazing" Stückenschneider in the jungle, and Jesper "Zvanillan" Svenningsen and Alfonso "Mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez as ad carry and support. On the 15th of January 2015 the last member of the team was announced, xPeke’s former teammate from Fnatic, sOAZ.

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As one of the best western players of all time, and with a new team that has a lot of former LCS players on its roster, xPeke will most probably continue to be a central figure on the western professional League of Legends scene for a long time. If you would have to bet on a player having good performances, and challenging the best players in the world, there are few safer bets than betting on xPeke.