With Worlds 2021 on the horizon, the League of Legends European Championship’s second seed, Fnatic, are one of 22 teams from across the globe that are gearing up for their biggest and most important event of the year. The 2021 League of Legends World Championship will feature each region’s best players, all fighting toward one goal: to stand atop the mountain and hoist the Season 11 Summoner’s Cup.
Representing Europe, Fnatic arrive in Reykjavík, Iceland after a challenging and eventful summer. Fnatic are no doubt a familiar name to audiences worldwide for their consistent appearances on the international stage, and they will once again try to carry Europe’s dreams far into this tournament, much like their run to the finals in the LEC 2021 summer playoffs.
Fnatic (LEC) Worlds 2021 starting roster breakdown:
Top: Adam “Adam” Maanane | Signed in May 2021, formerly a member of Karmine Corp.
Jungler: Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau | Signed in January 2018, formerly a member of nDurance Gaming.
Mid: Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer | Signed in November 2020, formerly a member of Cloud9
Bot: Elias “Upset” Lipp | Signed in November 2020, formerly a member of Origen/Astralis.
Support: Zdravets “Hylissang” Iliev Galabov | Signed in December 2017, formerly a member of Unicorns of Love.
Coach: Jakob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi | Signed in November 2020, formerly a member of SANDBOX Gaming.
How Fnatic got here
For the ardent League of Legends viewers, Fnatic has been a household name throughout the years. It is a name synonymous with Europe since Season 1, and their success is only rivalled by their nemesis, G2 Esports. Including Worlds 2021, Fnatic have attended nine out of 11 World Championships so far and even have the first ever Worlds title to their name. It’s an astonishing record.
But 2021 wasn’t always kind to Fnatic. As the old adage goes, smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
Fnatic faced a monumentally difficult off-season, losing arguably the face of the LoL team and iconic player Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to rivals G2, in a move that shook Europe. Unless they brought in Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, anyone else coming in would face intense scrutiny from the black and orange faithful. Fnatic then finished fifth in spring, a disappointing end by their standards.
Fnatic’s plans to rebound for summer? Fnatic let star jungler Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek transfer to Team Vitality, swapped Bwipo from top lane into the jungle and brought in rookie top laner Adam to fill the void. Understandably, some were left befuddled by this series of events, but LEC analyst Marc Robert “Caedrel” Lamont felt this roster had the potential to go far.
“I think that from the start of summer, something I said was this team can only really get better, because you have a player who just role swapped and a rookie in top lane, and you have really good players in mid and bot,” Caedrel said. “A couple of pieces needed to come together over time and time was their best friend.”
And better they got. This new iteration of Fnatic looked revitalized and feared no one. They played with an almost unmatched ferocity and took almost any fight at any given time. This brought Fnatic to fifth with an 11-7 record in the regular season, and while on paper it wasn’t remarkable, regular season and playoffs gave this team all the time they needed to iron out their kinks. That was where Fnatic’s 2021 story really began.
Coming into playoffs, expectations weren’t sky high for Fnatic — but that didn’t stop them at all. They made an incredible run through the lower bracket with close series after close series: 3-2 against Vitality, 3-2 against Misfits Gaming, 3-2 against G2 to qualify for Worlds (with Adam’s now infamous Darius pick) and finally a big 3-0 upset over Rogue.
They would not complete the perfect miracle run story, though, and they fell to MAD Lions 3-1 in the finals. However, such a strong performance was something few thought Fnatic could pull off. According to Caedrel, it was a factor of the team’s fortitude.
“What we see on the outside publicly is how strong and how well bonded this team is together. It feels like nothing can really break that, and you saw that in the playoffs,” Caedrel said. “They played 21 games straight, and even though they lost the finals, they all kind of held their heads high and made an incredible run.”
To Worlds. pic.twitter.com/c2Bkusc0Bz
— LEC (@LEC) August 22, 2021
Fnatic enter Worlds as the LEC’s second seed and they have some unfinished business in this tournament. While the team was quite different last year, they ended Worlds 2020 getting reversed swept by Top Esports 3-2 in the quarterfinals. They will be looking to match that result or provide a better one. And maybe, just maybe, they look to reach the world finals once more.
Players to watch
There is a player in Fnatic people often cite as the one they “live and die” by: the often brilliant and mercurial god of hooks himself, Hylissang. While this is the part where we usually post some nice statistic about a player, stats alone do not do justice to what Hylissang brings.
The only metric some might look at, for example, is that Hylissang has the most deaths out of any support for regular season and playoffs, 74 and 75 respectively. But for everyone else who has seen Hylissang and his lane partner, Upset, on a roll, they single-handedly destroy the opponent’s bot lane. Caedral has seen it happen plenty of times.
“Hylissang is not just a player to watch because of how good he is, he’s just really fun to watch too,” Caedral said. “There’s never going to be a game with him where you’re playing a bot matchup and you’re going to go even. That’s not going to happen.”
— LEC (@LEC) August 31, 2021
Caedral said Hylissang will either dive for the kill alongside his teleporting teammates or die trying. As long as Hylissang can get his hands on something to engage the opponents with, he’s in his comfort zone.
Traditionally, Thresh has been a must ban against him, but these days you have to worry about his Rakan, or worse yet, his infamous Pyke. And now with whispers of Amumu and other ‘weird’ support picks potentially being viable for Worlds, this adds another weapon to Hylissang’s arsenal.
But it’s impossible to mention Hylissang without Upset, too, as he has been one of Fnatic’s most reliable carries this summer. This is Upset’s first ever Worlds, despite coming very close in the past.
Upset has always been touted to be one of Europe’s best bot laners and for this summer, and the numbers he has posted support this via Oracle’s Elixir: first in KDA for regular season (9.3) and playoffs (9.0), first in Gold Difference (292) and Experience Difference (77) at 10 minutes and second highest Damage per Minute (570) among LEC bot laners. Give him a scaling pick like Tristana or Kai’Sa, or his deadly Ezreal, and he will carry.
— FNATIC (@FNATIC) August 18, 2021
Last but definitely not least, is the sometimes unsung hero, Bwipo. Bwipo’s role swap made headlines all over the world, and his gameplay has arguably come under the most criticism. However, as the season went on and Bwipo got more comfortable in his role, Fnatic thrived under his synergy with the whole team. Bwipo has been finding his jungling style, but overall he has presented himself as a flexible all-rounder who can set up his carries or take the game into his own hands with picks like Viego and Lee Sin.
Bwipo has also never missed Worlds before, but this time, it will be his first entering as a jungler. But Caedrel, at least, always believed that Bwipo would be a good fit in the jungle.
“It might sound a bit weird to say this, but I think Bwipo is just an incredibly good player. He’s just naturally good at the game, so his role swap transition was a lot smoother than a lot of people probably thought,” Caedrel said. “I think that the most surprising thing to me about his role swap was the fact that he was able to play champions like Lee Sin or Graves in his first season of being a jungler.”
How Fnatic can succeed at Worlds 2021
At this point, the groups have already been drawn. Fnatic are in Group C along with Pacific Championship Series (PCS) champions PSG Talon and the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) third seed and MSI 2021 champions, Royal Never Give Up.
RNG are an old nemesis of Fnatic’s, especially when the Rekkles vs Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao narrative was prevalent. It’s not the most difficult group, but if Hanwha Life Esports makes it out of Play-Ins, they will inevitably be drawn into Group C, which could complicate Fnatic’s chances a wee bit.
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) September 22, 2021
That being said, Fnatic have exited Groups in the main event in seven out of eight World Championships they’ve played in so far. With the LEC accomplishing great results on the international stage in recent times, Fnatic are expected to at least challenge for top-two in Group C and make it to the Knockout Stage.
Caedrel said that for them to succeed, Fnatic must continue to build upon their strengths which helped them make their run to the finals in LEC.
“I think they need to just keep the mentality they had in summer, keeping this brotherhood together,” he said. “The most important thing about Fnatic is they play with no fear. No matter who they go up against, they really don’t give a s**t. They’re going to go in and they’re going to go in hard.”
With how the groups have been drawn and Fnatic’s playstyle, as well as potential inexperience of some players such as Adam and Upset on the international stage, they are understandably thought of as a very volatile team. They could go 3-0 in the first round robin and 0-3 in the second, and no one would be surprised. But Caedrel said they should still be aiming high this year.
“I think that they should be proud of themselves if they get to the quarterfinals,” Caedral said. “I think if they get to the semis, then that’s unreal. Anything past that? Yeah, God knows.”
This article is part of an ongoing preview series of all 22 teams competing at Worlds 2021. For our complete release schedule and more information on the other 21 teams attending Worlds, check out Upcomer’s Worlds 2021 Outlook Series hub.