When I tell you about Fnatic’s stumble just minutes into the first game of the League of Legends 2015 EU LCS Summer Split final, do your eyes glaze over, two sad saucers staring out into a strange and confusing new world of electronic sport? If I describe the nature of Tahm Kench does your mind begin to wander to dusty corridors untouched since the time somebody tried to explain osmosis to you at a party? I've sat opposite these empty expressions, trust me I understand this pain. The world of eSports can be choppy waters for the uninitiated.
But don't you see how difficult it is for me? Having to humour you in your stupid conversations about other things?
So take my hand, please. Let me be your shamanic guide leading you into the strange lands of League of Legends [official site]. Don't be scared. You only need press your forehead to your monitor and allow me to impart my knowledge unto you. No, don't do that; simply read on to learn... What You Need To Know About The EU LCS Summer Split To Get Through A Conversation About It.
What is happening?
We are on the road to the League of Legends World Championships! Twenty teams across North America and Europe are competing for a place at this year's Berlin-based season final, with the top six teams across Europe and her colonies duking it out for a qualifying spot.
Over the weekend we saw the conclusion of what’s called the LCS Summer Split, essentially a play-off system that determines what teams head to Worlds. There are a few ways of getting a place in the World Championships, which can make things a bit complicated. One way is by winning the Split finals, which is what a team called Fnatic did in Europe over the weekend. Another way to qualify is by racking up “Championship Points” over the course of the season - these are earned based on a team's performance in the playoffs. Finally, there are the quarterfinals which is a regional qualifier that determines the third team to make it through. We’ll get to all of that stuff a little later.
So wait, what happened over the weekend?
Oh it was wonderful! Here at Casa Del Gera we slipped on our Sunday best to watch the five game-long European throttle between Fnatic, a seemingly inhuman team that had become the first Western LCS team to complete a split undefeated, and the recently formed Origen. Fnatic emerged as top dog for the European Summer Split.
How about an anecdote?
Perhaps the strangest thing about the EU LCS Summer Split was how fast things crumbled for our Fnatic, who at that point had a score of 18 wins and 0 losses but saw that winning streak broken in one game against Origen. That first game was a bloodbath - Origen steamrolling in, crushing 11 towers to Fnatic's meagre two. Twenty-two minutes in, and after a somewhat confused team fight, they managed to take out four of Fnatic’s champs, downed a Baron and got themselves within sprinting range of the enemy Nexus – That’s 1 – 0 to Origen.
It became 1 – 1 by the second match but that early game would be the first of two in which Fnatic lost its footing. In Game 4, Fnatic held its own in map objectives – the team downed Baron not once but three times, soaking in those sweet Baron buffs. But by 47 minutes in, it was Origen that used simple brute force to take down Nexus turret after Nexus turret, and pushing the score to 2 – 2.
Yeah, so what?
You’ve got to remember that Origen are the new guys on the block. Not only that, they were founded by former Fnatic star mid-laner xPeke which makes for a nice layer of subplot.
But sure, fine, by this point Fnatic already had a place in Worlds regardless. Remember when I mentioned Championship Points? Those accrue all season, and Fnatic – with 18 wins under its belt – was at the top of the chart, qualifying them as shoe-ins for Worlds.
Let’s go over that one more time: Based on the sheer number of Championship Points accrued, Fnatic would be going to worlds even if Origen won the best of five series. This would have a knock-on effect elsewhere. Placing second in the Championship Point chart is a team called H2K Gaming, and their future teetered on the edge of a Fnatic win. Had Origen placed first, Fnatic would swan in on points, leaving H2K to continue the fight for Championship entry in the quarterfinals.
More importantly, all of Fnatic’s earlier wins didn’t guarantee them first place title in the LCS Playoffs. It’s a slightly confusing aspect of Riot’s tournament structure, but even in the face of Fnatic’s win streak, they had to beat Origen to avoid dropping to second place on the chart.
Okay so what happened?
A distinct pattern was emerging in terms of champions picked. We had seen the recently revamped Gangplank played by both teams over the course of these matches, and by the fourth match Origen had taken Tristana out of the hands of the opposition – a champ that had so wrecked the team earlier on when played by Fnatic just one game earlier, scoring the day’s only pentakill.
With that 2 – 2 score by Game 4, the next game would determine who’d be going forward to the Championships. And, you know what? Just watch it.
Here’s what Fnatic captain YellOwStaR’s said about it in an interview with Riot Games immediately after:
"We were going back to our old style that we are most comfortable playing with - hard engage and trying to finish the game within maybe 30 minutes. But they somehow held against us and it was really hard. We took so many Barons and we couldn't close out the game. They made a mistake, I think, because they were not patient enough. They wanted to finish the game and we found an opportunity."
"When I got a pick on Azir, I started to be really confident," YellOwStaR continued. "I didn't know if we'd win or if we'd lose, but then when we started attacking the mid tower, I was like, 'We did it, guys! We did it!' We were super happy, and we just realized that we were winning. I even made the safe call to just get all the inhibitors but the guys on the team were all like, just finish!"
So wait, now what’s going to happen?
Fnatic, with its win in the Summer Split, is heading to Korea. For a bit, anyway - that’s where a bootcamp will be held ahead of the October final. Joining them is H2K Gaming with the second highest number of Championship Points in the EU LCS. That’s two of the EU spots in the 2015 World Championships cemented in place, leaving one more up for grabs. Both Origen and the Unicorns of Love, along with Roccat and Giants Gaming, have a chance of getting to the global tournament by winning the Regional Qualifiers, which starts August 29.
(Images courtesy of Riot Games' Flickr portfolio)