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May 13
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Top
LCK

LoL Week in Review: Fnatic Upset G2 Esports

Mike Plant

The biggest matchup of the week was between old rivals, G2 Esports and Fnatic. G2 may have taken Fnatic’s star player this offseason, but Fnatic struck First Blood in 2021. Other happenings around the world include a new top lane debut from T1, an early season benching on CLG, and a look at the LPL as they head into their two-week break. We take a look at the top news and storylines across the LEC, LCS, LPL and LCK.

Fnatic celebrate without Rekkles

Fnatic didn’t need Rekkles to beat G2 Esports in their first matchup of 2021. (Photo courtesy Riot Games - Yicun Liu)

FNATIC UPSET G2 ESPORTS

In an offseason full of moves, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s decision to leave Fnatic for G2 Esports was one of the biggest. As much as it surely was about the opportunity he would have with G2, it’s hard to believe that Fnatic wouldn’t take the move as somewhat of an insult. Rekkles wouldn’t make the jump to G2 if he didn’t think he had a better chance to win there.

After one game between the two rivals, Fnatic have made a compelling case otherwise. They took down G2 19 kills to 9 in the first matchup between the two teams in the 2021 season.

While Rekkles was the pregame headliner, it was Fnatic top laner Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau who stole the show. Bwipo dominated Martin “Wunder” Nordahl Hansen’s Camille in the 1v1 matchup, even after getting solo killed for First Blood. Bwipo came back with a solo kill of his own and never allowed Wunder to play the game again from that point on.

In the bot lane, the action was more focused around the supports than the two new ADCs. Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov and Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle took turns getting caught out of position. Mikyx somehow Alistar punted Hylissang under G2’s turret not once, but twice. On the flip side, Fnatic took advantage of Mikyx’s aggressive posturing on multiple occasions.

Still, perhaps the most important takeaway from the match is how well mid laner Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer and ADC Elias “Upset” Lipp are fitting into Fnatic. Both Nisqy’s Azir (4/0/7) and Upset’s Aphelios (3/0/7) went deathless in the win. With Bwipo (7/2/3) turning his game around, Fnatic showed why they still belong in the elite tier of the LEC. Talent was less of a question than fit for the team last year. If Nisqy and Upset are fitting well with the team, Fnatic should have high hopes for 2021.

On G2’s side, it’s hard to take away too much from the loss. Wunder threw away his early lead top by missing his Hookshot on the wall, setting up a kill for Bwipo. Mikyx and Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski had some miscommunications bot that threw away their leads. If anything, we might just be a little worried that Jankos hasn’t had the best games on Lillia, but that’s still an awfully small sample size with plenty of time to fix it. Rekkles continues to play well with or without dedicated jungle attention, so he’s fit in with the new squad seamlessly.

The real test, of course, will be if Fnatic can beat G2 in a best-of series in the playoffs. But until then, Fnatic have proven that their new roster has what it takes to take down G2 Esports — even without their former captain.

CLG BENCH POBELTER

It’s not often that a player gets benched before his first official game of the regular season, but CLG made Eugene “Pobelter” Park the first player in the LCS to get benched this season. Visa issues have made it impossible for CLG to get their full roster together so far, but Pobelter started all four games for CLG during Lock In.

CLG General Manager Daniel “Tafokints” Lee suggested that the move was just regular roster experimentation. Of the move, Tafokints said: “we wanted to be more proactive about experimenting with roster swaps earlier in the season as opposed to waiting towards the end of the split where it might be too late.” Takokints said of Pobelter’s replacement, Alexey “rjs” Zatorski: “RJS [Alex] has been performing well and we wanted to see how adding him to the LCS team would influence the dynamics of the team.”

That all makes sense. Pobelter is a known quantity and has been around the LCS for a long time. Rjs played with CLG’s main roster briefly last year, but as a top laner. His role swap to mid lane (though he’s played it earlier in his career) makes him the higher ceiling, lower floor type of play for CLG. Considering CLG don’t really look to be a contender this year, it makes sense to throw a mix of players out there and see who sticks.

However, Tafokints wasn’t the only person who had comments on the roster move. Appearing on IWillDominate’s “The Crackdown,” starting ADC Jason “WildTurtle” Tran suggested that Pobelter’s benching could have something to do with attitude issues involving the coaching staff. That wasn’t confirmed by CLG, but WildTurtle wouldn’t speculate something like that without witnessing Pobelter’s issues with the coaches.

Assuming that it’s true, we don’t necessarily even know what part of the coaching staff Pobelter is having issues with. CLG’s new head coach is Galen Holgate. Formerly known as “Moon,” Galen replaced Kim “SSONG” Sang-soo at the start of this offseason.

Regardless of the reason for the move, rjs got his first three starts as an LCS mid laner this weekend. Individually, his performance was a success. His team lost three times, but rjs was never holding them back. His Twisted Fate (4/4/8), Orianna (8/3/12), and Zoe (4/2/5) scores were all impressive. He looked like he belonged in the LCS, outplaying Tanner “Damonte” Damonte and Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage for stretches.

Unfortunately, he was still a part of those three losses. CLG are the only winless team in the LCS through one week. To make matters worse, CLG had a gold lead in all three of those games heading into the mid game: 1.5k, 3.8k, and 8.5k. It could be argued that Pobelter’s veteran presence could have been useful in helping CLG close out those winning positions, especially with Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen still unavailable.

It will be interesting to see how CLG proceed with mid lane, especially when Broxah is able to play. Every game in 2021 counts toward international qualification, so CLG don’t have a ton of time to figure things out.

ZEUS GETS HIS LCK DEBUT

T1 have not had a good start to the season. The expected challengers to DAMWON KIA started the year 2-4 and looked lost as a team. Despite having the most talented nine-man roster in the league, the results weren’t coming together. Starting top laner Kim “Canna” Chang-dong was one of the main issues, seeing a steep decline in play from his 2020 performance.

Fortunately for T1, young top laner Choi “Zeus” Woo-je just turned 17. Though he didn’t debut in the first match he was eligible to play in, T1 brought in Zeus for the next two matches against Nongshim RedForce and Fredit BRION. Zeus played in all five games of those two matches, helping T1 go 2-0 on the week.

Zeus’ overall performance was a mixed bag. We saw glimpses of promise and areas for improvement in his first two games. In game one against NS, Zeus was great. His lane priority top allowed him to roam down the river to secure the first two kills of the game. He also survived a three-man gank attempt at the end of the game to set up the game-winning fight for T1. Zeus’ Gnar finished 3/0/8 in a basically flawless performance.

However, game two did not go nearly as smoothly. Zeus picked Jayce and played too aggressively, eschewing early back timers to go for more poke. That left him open for ganks, which NS punished to set him behind. Zeus was also later caught out by a Nidalee spear to die in a pick that allowed NS to force Baron. Zeus finished 2/6/3 in this loss, showing there is still plenty of room for improvement in his play.

In the end, Zeus still has shown plenty enough for T1 to keep him in the starting lineup. Zeus has been a strong laner in general who should get better with more time with the team. He has undoubtedly had better laning phases than Canna so far. Zeus is 4-1 in his five games. As long as T1 are winning games, it makes sense to keep that momentum going. A rough early start doesn’t afford them as much leeway in the standings to experiment.

Also of note for T1 this week: Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok became the first LCK player to reach 600 games played and the first to win 400 games. The legend continues to add to his legacy — at least when T1 plays him.

LPL TAKES BREAK FOR CHINESE NEW YEAR

As the first pro league to kick off their season, the LPL also became the first to take a break in the middle of the Spring Split. As usual, the LPL is taking a two-week hiatus as the league celebrates the Chinese New Year.

The LPL went out with a bang in their last game, throwing the Esports Spring Gala on the final day of competition before the break. Many popular Western personalities including Sjokz, Jensen, and Perkz made promotional videos for the big night of games, capped off by the long-time rivalry between Invictus Gaming and Royal Never Give Up.

In a continuation of their magical season, RNG beat iG 2-1 to win the series. Converted top laner Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao continued to impress, going 9/4/7 on Sylas and 1/1/11 on Gnar in the two wins. Xiaohu’s ability to stand up to Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok in lane can’t be understated. He should give even more confidence in RNG’s ability to make a deep run in the LPL this year. They enter the break 6-1, good for third in the standings.

Ahead of RNG are EDward Gaming (7-0) and FunPlus Phoenix (7-1). Interestingly, Ming “Clealove” Kai has not played a game for EDG since coming out of retirement. Instead, Zhao “Jiejie” Li-jie has taken the role over himself. The additions of Li “Flandre” Xuan-Jun and Park “Viper” Do-hyeon have been just the help Lee “Scout” Ye-chan needed to make EDG great again.

Meanwhile, FPX are looking formidable without Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang. Replacement jungler Zhou “Bo” Yang-Bo has been exactly what they needed, showing the mechanical skill on the high farming champions. Tian will need to show that proficiency if and when he comes back from his mental health break. Tian’s wrist issues have slowed his performance over the last year plus.

The LPL will return to action on Monday, February 22. That will be a night of big games, as Suning (3-4) takes on JD Gaming (4-3), followed by Team WE (5-3) versus FunPlus Phoenix (7-1).

LOOKING AHEAD

Like the LPL, the LCK will also be going on a break this week. They will return with Week 5 action on Wednesday, February 17.

Meanwhile, action in the West will roll on. 100 Thieves (3-0) will have a big week, as they take on both 3-0 Cloud9 (Saturday, February 13) and 2-1 Team Liquid (Sunday, February 14). In the LEC, the game of the week is between G2 Esports (5-2) and Rogue (6-1). That will be the final match of the day on February 13.