"And in the end, Fnatic wins", or how ROCCAT came so close to stopping a titan

The struggling ROCCAT had gone toe to toe, blow for blow with towering titans of the EU LCS Fnatic and forced the series to game five. Nobody had expected this. Fnatic, a team known for steamrolling the end of splits into an all-but-assured first place, had seemingly met their match in the sixth place ROCCAT, a team that many had observed to have fallen off dramatically since their stunning debut in the Spring Split. Yet this series had become one of the largest, most memorable bests-of-five in the history of gamescom. This was the sure game that became a bitter struggle.

This is the story of how ROCCAT made Fnatic fight to the last man.

Game 1: Can’t killean the Zilean

ROCCAT focus mid with three bans and a Zilean pick

Picks and bans in game one were very, very focused for ROCCAT, specifically on one person: xPeke. Just one year ago, xPeke arguably hard-carried his team to victory versus the Lemondogs with his aggressive roaming while maintaining spectacularly high farm. A Kassadin ban was levied against the one the Koreans call “The Father of Kassadin”. Orianna, a champion the man has set records on, was suddenly off the table. Finally, Twisted Fate, a champion having somewhat of a renaissance in League of Legends, was eliminated.

From one perspective, it is very obvious what the initial problem is: xPeke is not a player who can be easily banned out. The still-strong Ahri is open. Fizz would be banned out by Fnatic but left open by ROCCAT. Syndra, a champion that ended up becoming xPeke’s go-to, was left open. xPeke has a large, formidable champion pool - is it really so wise to focus him of all of Fnatic?  Yet from another perspective, this could have been ROCCAT recognising a key problem with their mid laner. Both Froggen and xPeke have set world records this split laning against Overpow. There is evidence in abundance that Overpow does not succeed in pressuring these players - or mid laners in general - hard enough. So here we eliminate two of the hardest roaming champions in the game, and one farming machine. There are options available, but not many, so it is easy to see why ROCCAT choose to ban this way.

Then they pick Zilean.

There was a time when this would shock many. However, Zilean has had a huge surge in popularity since his Korean outings. His safe laning, 600 range auto-attack and arguably two long-range damage abilities from level two (Q-W-Q) would allow Overpow to make it through the laning phase, then rely on ZIlean’s infamous revive ultimate Chronoshift to help his teammates.

But how does this translate into the game?

Diving to killean the Zilean pre-six by Fnatic

With the mid-focused bans, Cyanide is able to pick Jarvan IV. Jarvan has been a common counterpick versus. Kog’Maw all season, his ability to punish champions sans escapes with Cataclysm has made him a priority pick versus the late game hypercarry. This also makes him a good pick versus Zilean for the same reason. In game, Overpow finds himself focused pre-six. Had the plan been to prevent xPeke gaining so significant a lead through the use of Chronoshift, Fnatic wasn’t going to let that happen. Zilean dies to a three-man early turret dive from a roaming sOAZ on Alistair and Cyanide’s Jarvan IV. Jankos, a jungler who has sometimes given the best jungling performances in the west, has both blue buffs taken from him.

However, this is the game where Vanderlife made his return. An initial hook onto sOAZ at ROCCAT’s blue buff secures them the first kill. Later as Overpow is caught between Dragon Pit and mid lane, Vanderlife repeats his success and allows ROCCAT to gain a lead. Fnatic go for a four-man push top lane but the mobility and poke of Nidalee/Overpow is enough to hold them at bay long enough for ROCCAT, with Vanderlife in the fore, to secure the first inhibitor of the game. A final teamfight filled with Thresh hooks galore secures an unforeseen victory for ROCCAT.

ROCCAT had come out with two things for Fnatic to deal with: a team that could siege and chase, and a team with Celaver’s Kog’Maw. Celaver had carried ROCCAT to a victory with his Kog’Maw the previous day, but this would be the last time he got it this series.

Game 2: Mobility

Fnatic immediately change their bans. They replace the Fizz ban with Zilean, but retain the focus on Jankos’ Elise and Xaxus’s Maokai. Bans are thick and fast as ROCCAT’s are unchanged. With Fizz finally open, ROCCAT use their first pick to secure the Tidal Trickster. Fnatic seize this chance. They repeat the Nami pick they had secured with their first pick the previous game and add Kog’Maw. With Kog’Maw off the table, ROCCAT defaults to Tristana, arguably the only other choice in the 4.13 meta. Jankos, Xaxus and Vander retain their previous picks of Kha’Zix, Nidalee and Thresh while sOAZ changes to Swain and Cyanide to Evelynn, his trusty Jarvan IV no longer as effective.

This game’s story: ROCCAT’s insane mobility versus Fnatic’s sustain. An ill-advised gank top lane by Jankos at 10 minutes is responded to by an instant Dragon from Fnatic. At 13 minutes, the first kills occur. Nidalee is taken out by Evelynn, although Overpow’s Fizz is able to pick up the Evelynn kill, casually dodging YellOwStaR’s Nami, but is then eliminated by sOAZ on Swain. Jankos, meanwhile, has picked up a kill on xPeke and bought the scoreboard even in kills, though this doesn’t last. That would be the last truly even fight ROCCAT would achieve, and it was achieved because Fnatic were split up and thus vulnerable to ROCCAT’s repertoire of high mobility assassins.

A 19 minute inhibitor turret all but secures the game for Fnatic

Once Fnatic were grouped together, everything changed. No Zhonya’s Hourglass from an underfarmed Fizz meant ROCCAT’s chances of a quick dispatch of Syndra/Kog’Maw were diminished. A potato rotato bot lane leads to a base race that ROCCAT cannot win. The ensuing 19 minute inhibitor turret opens the base for Fnatic as they rotate to dragon and secure their second. Vander attempts to catch Evelynn but is met with the immense sustain tank that is Swain and heals from Nami. Overpow dives in to secure the Evelynn but has to pay for it with his life as Rekkles’s Kog’Maw is untouched behind so much protection. A triple kill for Rekkles and an additional pick-up for xPeke snowball the game.

The game’s story might as well end there. The match was strong teamfight after strong teamfight from Fnatic, a push top lane to secure the second inhibitor, a Baron where the full force of xPeke/Rekkles’s power became abundantly clear, and a final teamfight bottom lane to obtain victory in the shortest game of the series. Nevertheless, it was still 38 minutes long, a testament to the resolve of ROCCAT.

Game 3: Rekkt

The first pick Kog’Maw sets the stage

7-0-7 Rekkles Kog’Maw. That’s where this game is going.

This time, Fnatic take all the mobility they can. xPeke’s Ahri comes out, s0AZ has Nidalee picked away from Xaxus and Cyanide is on Evelynn again. Xaxus defaults to Aatrox, a pick that has become abundant in Europe yet again - potentially as a response to Wickd’s devastatingly effective Irelia - and the stage is set. Having used first pick to secure Kog’Maw, Fnatic give up their Nami and opt for Morgana instead. Vander is no longer on Thresh.

Jankos claims first blood with his Kha’Zix on xPeke’s Ahri, and his second kill top lane on s0AZ’s Nidalee. In the meantime, Rekkles secures a kill on Nami with the help of Cyanide. A messy gank leads to a messy fight, staring around Fnatic’s red buff then chasing up towards ROCCAT’s blue. No kills secured. Fnatic take two towers (one mid, one bottom) for two deaths, and steal a red buff. Then some luck: Roccat finally get the pick they need around their blue buff due to overextensions by Fnatic and make their lead 6-2. Then ROCCAT overextends and gives up two kills bottom lane.

This becomes a common occurrence. Jankos overextends, chasing Cyanide’s Evelynn, a champion that doesn’t really care about Kha’Zix slows, all the way to Fnatic’s bottom inner turret. A kill is secured, but he gives up another to Rekkles. Xaxus will get caught and open up a dragon for Fnatic. Rekkles is now 2-0-3 with a Trinity Force and a Blade of the Ruined King on Kog’Maw. He has achieved this by playing as the only sane man in an insane world, picking up kills amidst the craziness engulfing the rift. Xaxus gets caught again. 3-0-3 now, with Fnatic on the inhibitor turrets of all three lanes. The speed and mobility of both teams has been a factor thus far, but now Rekkles’s low mobility Kog’Maw is taking over.

Rekkles casually kills Xaxus between two turrets before the camera even sees them

It takes four members top lane for ROCCAT to take two kills, while Rekkles casually chunks mid lane turret to one third of its HP. A surprise event occurs as a Baron dance for Fnatic has them ignoring Xaxus’ split pushing bot lane. Xaxus takes the first inhibitor turret of the game this way, but it becomes yet another spot of greed. Fizz attempts to take the inhibitor later on but Ahri comes to stop him. Fizz misses his fish and Ahri makes short work of the ROCCAT mid laner. For this attempt, Fnatic take Baron and push down mid. The game is finished by the book.

Game three was exciting, but exciting for the wrong reasons. It was a game of an immense amount of overextending from both sides. As much as it can be said that ROCCAT threw, Fnatic had their throw moments, too. Rekkles, however, one of the most consistent players in the LCS (most kills, least deaths record holder) became the happy demon void puppy in the land of the blind and ambitious. He took advantage of ROCCAT’s mispositionings more than ROCCAT were able to take advantage of Fnatic’s, and took the game with it.

Game 4: Celavered

Rekkles takes centre stage in Fnatic’s composition - but Celaver has other plans

10-2-7 Celaver Tristana - oh baby.

Tristana is a champion who has seen a significant rise in popularity. Arguably only her and Kog’Maw are the true viable picks of 4.13, as they are hypercarries with great scaling. Of, the two, Tristana has seen her win rates in the LCS jump as high as 70% in the regular season. Celaver is about to show the world why that is.

Fnatic’s first picking Shen and securing Lulu support is all the makings of a Protect-the-Vayne (as, of course, is picking Vayne on Rekkles). Having just carried with his previous Kog’Maw  game, Rekkles is now on the champion he achieved a 44 regular season KDA with and a team that will let him do what everyone wants to see him do. A lane swap occurs. Shen does well in these situations - his ultimate is not so dependent on farm (unless s0AZ decided to continue tradition and make Shen a full AP top laner) and his Q will allow him to farm under the turret. Jankos knows this. He has an Irelia top lane to help out and he does so. First blood is secured top lane, and Xaxus takes a 25 CS lead over s0AZ. Jankos catches YellOwStaR’s Lulu by blue buff and burns Shen’s ultimate. Overpow comes in as Vander exhausts xPeke and ROCCAT secure two kills onto the newly appeared Shen and the arriving Jarvan.

However, s0AZ has secured Vander in this trade, and a Kassadin/Tristana leap onto Vayne yields a kill for Rekkles at the cost of his own life. xPeke interrupts the dragon on his third Syndra game, killing Jankos and dying to Overpow. Overall the score is 6-3 in ROCCAT’s favor. Rekkles secures two kills toplane shortly after and makes his own score 3-1-1. Fnatic secure three dragons in this time, and on the third secure another kill for Rekkles and take the lead.

Prior to the Baron fight, Rekkles is 5-1-1 on Vayne, Celaver is 1-2-2 on Tristana. Yet Celaver has shown great positioning so far, despite losing out to a Jarvan Cataclysm in the previous dragon fight.

xPeke pulls this off at Baron:

His Oscar bid and Xaxus’s death secure, Fnatic move onto Baron. Rekkles is now 6-1-1 and becomes ‘unstoppable’, but both Wild Growth and Stand United have been used. Overpow and Celaver are roaming outside, waiting for Vander and the respawning Jankos. Fnatic are taking too long with Baron and Celaver decides to abuse Tristana’s growing range advantage and takes chunks out of them. The Statikk Shiv procs allow Overpow to dive in, secure a kill and jump out. Celaver beautifully repositions himself towards Overpow as Fnatic dive onto the easier Vander, but Jankos is already here. Slows applied with Kha’Zix’s evolved W allow Celaver and Overpow to bring the pain and Fnatic are massacred.

Vayne is 7-1-1, Tristana is 2-2-4 and Kassadin is 3-1-5. Although Kassadin is miles behind on farm compared with Syndra, it is a show of success. Everybody else on Fnatic is on one kill maximum. Fnatic relies on Vayne to carry, but mechanical errors, specifically the mass use of defensive ultimates to secure Baron, left them wide open. Even with Baron buff and the numerical advantage, Fnatic came up short.

ROCCAT’s ranged poke helps them hold bottom lane turret and Fnatic are unable to get it down. xPeke is poked down to half health and YellOwStaR is picked to 200 HP. ROCCAT are able to send Fnatic on the run, Shen finds himself melted and unable to reach Tristana. Jarvan’s attempt is met with a Nami bubble, and Shen’s attempt to save him only serves to get them both killed. Overpow gives his life to slow down the final three members and Celaver plays cleanup. Xaxus on Irelia picks up Vayne as Celaver takes the quadra and sets his Tristana at 6-2-5 to Rekkles’s 8-2-1.

Celaver leaps to chase down the fleeing xPeke and secure an unofficial quadra

The game was set in that fight. Tristana’s damage now a force to be reckoned with, she singles out xPeke near Baron and acquires a critical reset to escape Jarvan IV’s cataclysm. The damage is too much. Xaxus out in front, Tristana too far away to reach and enough additional peel from Jankos’s Kha’Zix destroy Fnatic. Two inhibitors down for Fnatic, and Vayne takes more kills bottom lane, but ROCCAT secures Baron and turns to the third inhibitor. Celaver’s damage destroys Fnatic and Vayne is dealt with quickly. The rest of Fnatic collapse and ROCCAT bring on game five.

This game was arguably the most exciting out of the five in the series. Celaver, a player who had even been seen as a weak link in the Spring Split, came into his own and, with superb positioning and aggressive use of Tristana’s immense range advantage, played one of the single best games of his life. Regardless of the result of the series, this was a game for ROCCAT fans to remember.

A game to remember for ROCCAT fans everywhere

Game 5: Seek only the strongest

A Rengar composition - can Fnatic buck the trend?

A Rengar pick is infamously bad in the western scene, particularly in North America. Whereas in Europe he has managed to break even, a Rengar pick invokes fan skepticism in the European iteration of Ryan Choi (Korea, on the other hand, has Rengar as one of their most successful and feared jungle picks in OGN). This was Game five - everything came down to this performance, and Fnatic picked Rengar.

It was a brilliant pick.

Rengar has often been picked as part of a Rengar-Orianna combo mid lane. Thrill of the Hunt combined with Shockwave allowed the additional knockup and damage to secure a kill. With Lulu top lane, Rengar could have both Ball and Pix delivery systems, maximising the ultimate of Lulu or Orianna. With this composition, Fnatic had enough engage and disruption to keep the team away from Kog’Maw. Lulu was already a strong part of a protect-the-hypercarry composition and with Nami for disengage, so much had to go wrong for Fnatic to lose out on a teamfight.

Meanwhile, observe ROCCAT’s composition. The Fizz pick has lost both games because ROCCAT are unable to pick it with significant enough engage to break through Fnatic’s defenses. There are several AOE knock-ups on Fnatic’s side. If Jarvan jumps in, he can find himself eliminated before he hits his first attack. ROCCAT once again needed to divide and conquer - but Fnatic simply didn’t allow that.

A strong early game makes the jungle matchup look strongly in ROCCAT’s favor

ROCCAT start off strong. Jankos cements his claim to the MVP title of the series with three successful ganks in three different lanes, turret diving top lane and mid lane early on and ending up 3-0-1. Rengar manages to take out Xaxus’s Alistair during the top lane gank, but that would be the sum of his presence until level six. Rengar’s weakness has always been this ramp up time. ROCCAT were able to get this lead, but it wasn’t a strong enough lead to significantly contest Fnatic in the mid game. The threat of so much grouped AOE was enough to scare ROCCAT away from engaging until Fnatic wanted the fights - and find them they did.

The three-man Shockwave that turned the game

I can imagine being a ROCCAT fan during this game, seeing ROCCAT ahead in game five and honestly expecting the win - a secure spot at Worlds for a team that had slumped into sixth place in the regular season, levied with so much criticism. Seeing Jankos’s performance in the early game, I somewhat believed this could be a ROCCAT victory myself. From a neutral perspective, this was arguably an even bigger event. Fnatic had pulled out the win in three different splits - all three splits ever in the EU LCS. It had seemed a sure-fire thing by now. They had met so much success that it took many wake-up calls before they finally elected to secure a coach. It was a team that sometimes looked as though they relied on destiny more than “clear calls, good plans”. Perhaps this would be the final wake-up that to perform at Worlds, they needed to be better. Aranea’s face post-first game seemed to show it.

But, as with every playoffs story, as with every EU LCS story, in the end, Fnatic wins.

With two inhibitors down to Fnatic’s incredible siege, ROCCAT go for the only option they have left: Baron. Fnatic contest and Overpow goes onto Rengar, but xPeke lands a double Shockwave on Celaver and Jankos and the fight is won. Overpow gets away but doesn’t even start his teleport. “They know it’s over,” says Deficio, and over it indeed is. Fnatic take the first European spot at the Season 4 World Championships.

The two-man Shockwave that ended it

ROCCAT really showed up this series. They showed their fans that they hadn’t peaked in spring, they showed their critics that they were more than capable of going toe to toe with the big boys, and the individual players of ROCCAT showed that they were forces to be reckoned with in their own right. The Summer Playoffs are not the swan song of ROCCAT by any means.

What happened between the semis and the third place playoffs we might never know. Had the ROCCAT that came so close to destroying the three-time EU champion arrived to tackle SK, this article would have taken on a very different meaning. Though SK vs. ROCCAT may have seen ROCCAT outclassed, Fnatic vs. ROCCAT showed that ROCCAT has come a long way this split. If they could have translated success into consistency then their series against SK may well have ended differently.

Nevertheless, this is the EU LCS, where everyone beats everyone. It is in this environment that, on the 15th of August at Gamescom, ROCCAT still managed to surprise everybody.

Click here for more of our Leagues of Legends coverage, and go here to check out our EU LCS at gamescom preview.


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