SK Gaming versus Fnatic
The moment is finally here: Season 3 of League of Legends has officially begun and what a season it shall be. Taking the right steps to promote League of Legends and e-sports in general, Riot's efforts towards turning competitive gaming into a weekly action-packed sensation, is nothing short of commendable.
Offering players and teams an annual salary, along with a fixed cash-prize at the end of the league: Riot have practically turned League of Legends into a regular sport. Even gathering interest from major sports news network, ESPN; there should be little doubt that Season 3 will change the way we think of competitive gaming and its competitors.
Competing across four days, every week, the Spring season is underway. We have already seen the first half of the NA teams in action and on Saturday, we will see the first of the top teams in the EU.
And what better way to start than with two of the biggest names in the EU scene: SK Gaming and Fnatic RC.
Whether or not you have been actively following League of Legends - if you have followed e-sports within the last 10 years, there's a good chance you will have heard of SK Gaming. Creating one of the first e-sports communities, SK Gaming have been around since 1997 and so, perhaps quite reasonably, in 2010 they created their first League of Legends division.
The original roster probably consists of a lot of names you may have never heard of but they secured 2nd place for themselves in the 2010 World Cyber Games. Shortly afterwards, they acquired the roster of former Team Dimegio which included, most importantly, Araneae, nRated, Wickd and Ocelote.
Looking at the roster changes for SK Gaming, there aren't a lot of top EU players that haven't been rotated through this stable:
Across 2011 / 2012, players like: Snoopeh, Youngbuck, MoMa and Dedrayon, would all make appearances within the SK Gaming squad.
In early 2012 though, they would finally settle on Kev1n, one of the strongest top laners in the EU.
Still, the most iconic member of SK Gaming and also one of the biggest crowd pleasers: Ocelote, is arguably the reason why SK Gaming holds such a cherished status in the League of Legends scene.
Emotions and passion holds strong in the SK Gaming squad and Ocelote is definitely not afraid of showing that side of himself.
Known particularly in recent times for his joyous outbursts during the Cologne Regionals in Season 2, after defeating powerhouse CLG.eu - Ocelote retains a balanced edge between stoic precision and a passionate embrace of the game and his team.
After rotating out both YellowStar and Araneae, SK Gaming are hard in training adjusting to their new AD Carry; CandyPanda and their new jungler: hyrqBot. While CandyPanda has played for SK Gaming in the past and in some of their latest tournaments: Season 3 offers new challenges that requires a whole new set of preparations.
SK Gaming may enter Season 3 as a bit of a dark horse... but their fans will always make sure they look and feel like the best team in EU.
Fnatic may be considered one of the most rigid and reliable teams in the EU. Entering the League of Legends scene in 2011, their original roster consisted of: WetDream, xPeke, Lamia, Shushei, Cyanide, Mellisan and MagicFingers.
Two of those names are STILL on the roster and if it wasn't for Lamia's perhaps, surprising, retirement - He would probably have still been there too.
Proving themselves to be a strong team, right off the bat - They went on to win Riot's Season 1 Championship. No small feat.
After sOAZ joined in June, last year and nRated followed shortly after in August, the squad was pretty set and comfortable with their current roster. Unfortunately, due to Lamias departure - they were forced to look for a replacement carry.
In the period without Lamia, they only attended three majour tournaments, with mixed results. Fnatic looked off their game and you had to wonder: Would they come back from this?
Then, in November, Rekkles joined the team. It's not often a single player has such a massive impact on a team but they could simply not stop beating teams with their new AD Carry. Plowing their way through Dreamhack 2012, they beat CLG.eu in the finale to place first. Facing a cavalcade of skilled players at the IPL 5, they finished in second place - losing only to Team World Elite.
They beat Azubu Blaze, they beat CLG.na... they were looking unstoppable.
Things like these are not meant to last though, it seems, as the bad news arrived: Rekkles could not join Fnatic in Season 3 due to being underage. Even though Rekkles now has a place in the Fnatic Academy squad - Fnatic were once again without an AD Carry and forced to look for someone else.
The spot would eventually go to SK Gaming's former AD Carry: YellowStar. The question everyone were asking was: Can he live up to the expectations?
Rekkles left a huge impression on the team and everyone else before he left and surely, whoever followed him, would have all eyes set on him to perform equally as well. Thankfully, with Fnatic's mild-mannered nature and seemingly the ability to make anyone feel welcome: YellowStar has so far slowly worked towards creating a name for himself within his new team.
How does SK Gaming beat someone who consistently provides winning results? The Best-of-1 format should work pretty well for SK Gaming, as their match against CLG.eu in Cologne proved: They can produce very creative tactics that can surprise even the most seasoned team.
Mechanically, Fnatic are solid enough to withstand any "traditional" play and their win against Azubu Blaze is a testament to this. It may be better suited for SK Gaming to mentally outwit Fnatic, especially within their own jungle. Throw Cyanide off his game and allow Ocelote and Kev1n to run their games in their own lanes.
Most importantly, the bottom lane for SK Gaming needs to be aware of all of YellowStar's flaws. As he played for SK Gaming for an extended period of time, they should be aware of what his shortcomings are and they have to abuse those in order to get a grip on the bottom lane.
Fnatic previously hitched their wagon behind Rekkles a lot, while he was playing for them. They can't rely on YellowStar to do the same and that's why xPeke and sOAZ have to carry as best as they can. On paper, that should be fine as they are some of the top players in the world but they are also up against very strong counter-parts. Both Ocelote and Kev1n are capable of challenging anyone.
Emotions may run high but SK Gaming have to ensure that does not go against them if they fall behind. They should be aware of how strong Fnatic will be in the early game and make sure they have tactics to keep them in the game if they were to fall behind early on.