The EU LCS finished one of its most dramatic seasons in memory this past weekend, as a rebuilt Fnatic squad fought to reclaim the European title and fend off a challenge from their spring nemesis, the Unicorns of Love.
It was a final matchup that nobody could have predicted at the start of the season.
I’ll cop to being pessimistic about Fnatic’s LCS prospects at the start of the season. Having to rebuild their team seemed like a body-blow from which recovery was impossible, and the hot team in Europe heading into the season was Elements, not Fnatic. And Unicorns of Love were on nobody’s radar as serious contenders.
But I’d underestimated just how thoroughly Fnatic had reinvented themselves in the off-season. It wasn’t I talked to Fnatic manager Oliver Steer for Red Bull eSports that I got the story of why their old roster collapsed, and why he was so confident in the new one. They quickly took up residence near the top of the standings.
Fnatic’s return to the top started to seem a bit inevitable by the end of the season, but it was Unicorns of Love who gave us the best story of the spring, as the “pals’ team” knocked-off the nigh-unbeatable SK team in a tense playoff.
That set us up for a final between Fnatic and Unicorns of Love, who were the only team that Fnatic absolutely could not get a handle on during the regular season. UoL were like Fnatic’s kryptonite, Road Runner to their Wile E. Coyote. Even when Fnatic got their Nexus down to a hanful of hitpoints, the Unicorns would somehow save the day and turn the game into a win.
But they’d never met in a playoff series, and that made all the difference for Fnatic. While UoL stunned the Fnatic squad in their first game, Fnatic absolutely brute-forced them in their second game. It was reminiscent of the Viper vs. The Mountain in Game of Thrones. Unicorns of Love were nimble, creative, and precise. But once Fnatic got a hold of them, it was all over.
Still, there was no guarantee it would go Fnatic’s way as the series went to an unexpected fifth game. When Unicorns were able to get an early start on Fnatic, Fnatic’s own instinctive search for teamfights would compound their defeats and let Unicorns run away with the game. But in Game 5, it was the Unicorns who seemed unable to make things happen against Fnatic, who took absolutely no chances as they methodically dismantled Unicorns’ base and cut-off their vision of the map.
But for a freshman outing, it was an amazing performance from Unicorns of Love. The challenge for them after this is to prove that it was more than a fluke. We’ve had some other teams start incredibly strong (hi, ROCCAT!), only to stagnate and fall apart over the long haul. Unicorns of Love have had a great run, but there’s a reason that strong organizations tend to stay at the top of League of Legends.
Speaking of strong organizations, Team SoloMid cemented their reclaimed No. 1 position in North America with a commanding 3-1 victory over Cloud9, who were undeniably outclassed by their old rival, a team now comprised of international all-stars. TSM look very hard to beat in North America right now.
If they’re trying to set their fans up for the most crushing Worlds disappointment in team history, they’re doing a great job. But maybe this time it will be different.