Royal Bandits started Baron in their final match on the Vodafone Park stage in Istanbul for the 2018 Turkish Championship League summer playoff finals. The team picked off SuperMassive Esports’ jungler a few seconds earlier and used the opportunity to reset and then sprint towards the Baron pit.
They took down the giant worm and went straight to the mid lane, looking to push their advantage and hopefully end the over 40-minute game. Royal Bandits’ support Mustafa Kemal “Dumbledoge” Gökseloğlu saw an opening on a mispositioned Asım Cihat “fabFabulous” Karakaya, and sped the team up to catch him on their way to the lane.
But, the fight fell out of the Bandits’ favor in rapid fashion as the rest of SuperMassive collapsed on the Baron buffed squad. Thanks to their four ocean drakes, and long range damage from a deathless Lee “GBM” Chang-seok on Xerath, SuperMassive dispensed with three Bandits players and only lost one of their own.
SuperMassive walked down to Royal Bandits’ base, destroyed their nexus and booked their ticket to the 2018 World Championships. They took the series 3-1 and would go on to bow out of the international event in the play-in stage.
“It was a very sad finals for us,” former Royal Bandits player Aleš “Freeze” Kněžínek said.
This series was a small world premier to show off what the players on Royal Bandits could do. The team’s young stars, consisting of FC Schalke 04 Esports’ Sergen “Broken Blade” Çelik, 100 Thieves’ Can “Closer” Çelik and Felix “Abbedagge” Braun almost debuted on the world stage together with veterans Freeze and Dumbledoge.
As talented as the squad was, their real strength came in the bonds created that still reverberate through the players today.
“I played for eight years competitively, hands down, Royal Bandits was the best team I’ve ever been on in terms of dynamic team and environment,” Freeze said. “I’ve never had so much fun in my life.”
The Bandits make their way to the Thieves
After that season, the team and its members fielded many offers from organizations. The roster was full of youthful talent who already showed they could compete in a top league. They ultimately went their separate ways, even though they were heavily considering a move to keep the roster intact on another organization, according to Freeze.
Freeze would return to Europe to compete in the regional leagues before his transition to a coaching role. Abbedagge and Broken Blade were swept into the top flight of League of Legends competition in the LEC and LCS respectively after that season. Closer, on the other hand, would remain in Turkey with the rebranded organization, Royal Youth, and make a Worlds appearance in 2019 before the rest of his former teammates.
Freeze and Closer joined 100 Thieves in late 2020, becoming part of the organization’s retooled roster after a disappointing 2020 season. But, the band wouldn’t get back together until 2021, when 100 Thieves acquired Abbedagge to bolster their roster for the 2021 LCS summer split.
“Now, I’ve got the opportunity to play with a couple of them again with a lot of good memories from back then,” Abbedagge said. “I was excited to join.”
Abbedagge was not the first choice according to Freeze. He scouted the 21-year-old mid laner like the other potential candidates, but Freeze did have some bias going into the scouting process.
“I didn’t think very highly of him before when we used to play because he was very quiet,” Freeze said. “I felt like he might be the weakest member from my perspective back then.“
But the German player surprised Freeze in his scouting process. When Freeze reunited with Abbeagge he was surprised with how talkative and commanding his former teammate had become.
“He broke out of his shell,” Freeze said. “Where before he would be introverted and now he’s the guy leading. He’s calming everyone down.”
Almost like they never left
While the team separated after 2018, they did not lose touch with each other. Between various group chats and messages, the Royal Bandits crew kept in contact with each other. The team even reunited for the 2019 World Championships in Europe. Closer was competing for Royal Youth while Abbedagge, Freeze and Broken Blade cheered on their teammate and went out together in Berlin.
When Abbedagge came over to North America after signing to 100 Thieves, it did not take long for him to build up synergy with his jungler partner.
“It was just like how we left it back in Turkey back when we were playing… It felt like we were on the same page, right away,” Closer said.
The same can be said with Freeze, who has a slightly different dynamic with the player now that he is his assistant coach.
“It’s a very casual relationship,” Abbedagge said. “Just because he kind of has known me for longer there’s no hesitation, just because we are friends or something. He’s not afraid to say something bad or criticize me.”
And even now the three former Royal Bandits players still have the same goal and expectation as they did in 2018. They hope to continue their recent success in the LCS and qualify for the 2021 World Championships.
“I’m super excited to play with them and have a chance of going to Worlds and winning the championship in LCS,” Freeze said. “That will be amazing. That will feel the best.”