Will Fnatic Bounce Back After Losing Caps?
When news broke that Fnatic and Caps were parting ways, it was hard to find a fan that wasn’t broken-hearted. After all, we had just witnessed one of the most amazing runs in the history of competitive league, and Fnatic (with Caps) were at the forefront of Europe’s success. But the biggest twist wasn’t just that he was leaving Fnatic, but that he would be signing with G2 Esports, the organization many saw as the only real threat to Fnatic’s throne.
This is arguably the biggest and most surprising roster swap in League’s history. After the initial shock subdued, however, everyone arrived at the same question — will Fnatic be able to bounce back?
Losing your star player is one thing but losing a player of Caps’ caliber is another. His skill, reputation, and mechanical prowess do all the talking for him. Even before he joined the EU LCS (now LEC), he was regarded as one of the best players outside Berlin. His solo queue expeditions quickly became a part of the EU West folklore. While he played in the Turkish region, he was still unknown to the average Western fan.
The guy was so insanely good that many thought he was scripting. That included Fnatic’s former head coach/team director Finlay “Quaye” Stewart. Much like Nicolaj Jensen (former Cloud9 mid laner), he was regarded as an incredibly toxic, albeit fiercely talented player.
When Caps finally joined Fnatic, it didn’t take for long before he made a statement against none other than Luka “Perkz” Perković, one of the best European mid laners to ever step foot on the LCS stage.
Even though Caps showed some serious inconsistency throughout his inaugural Spring Split, you could see glimpses of brilliance. Moves like these were few and far between, and to perform at such a high level against the likes of Perkz and his famous “lane kingdom” was absolutely mind-blowing. For a moment, Fnatic and Caps looked inseparable.
That trend continued in 2018 as well. It didn’t matter who was on the opposite side of the Rift.
Soon enough, he received the “baby Faker” moniker, and as of 2018, he has actually managed to justify it to a certain extent. He went blow-for-blow with the very best mid laners on the international stage and cemented his spot as one of the best players in the world at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational.
While certain aspects of his play aren’t that sensational (like his KDA and death share), he’s an absolute beast when it comes to laning and damage output. He’s the kind of player that’s able to clutch things out when it matters most — the kind of guy that can capitalize on even the smallest openings and win his team the game. He’s flashy and cocky, but he justifies his in-game boasting with some serious skill.
When Fnatic first signed him, he was a diamond in the rough. Months passed before he attained a consistent level of play. Once that happened, there was no looking back. Fnatic simply clicked as a five-man unit and started dominating on all fronts.
It’s hard to really explain just how impactful Caps was in 2018, and how big of a role he played in Fnatic’s success throughout the last two years. With the huge meta changes a couple of months ago, Rekkles had to take a backseat, which meant Caps and Bwipo had to do all the carrying. They didn’t disappoint.
While Caps’ performance at this year’s Worlds wasn’t that impressive, it’s hard to fault him seeing how well he performed throughout the last two years.
He was arguably Fnatic’ biggest asset and losing him on the very brink of the franchising era will surely impact their level of play, at least early on.
There was a ton of confusion when ESPN’s Jacob Wolf first reported on the roster swap, and with good reason. With Caps taking up the mid lane position, Perkz had to transition over to AD carry. It’s not the strangest of role swaps, and Perkz definitely isn’t the first player to do it. Far from it. However, such an arrangement made little sense overall.
If you give it a bit of thought, G2’s roster shuffle is actually ingenious.
What was the one aspect of their play (and roster) that was lacking? What was the one side of the map through which they could never play and dominate? Their bottom lane. They had one of the best performing top laners in Martin “Wunder” Hansen, the second best mid laner, and a very solid jungler in Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski, formerly known as the “first blood king.”
Petter “Hjarnan” Freyschuss and Kim “Wadid” Bae-in were serviceable, but for a roster that aims so high and has the World Championship in their crosshairs, “serviceable” isn’t enough. Not even close. By moving Perkz over to the bottom lane and pairing him with a mechanically sound support in Mihael “Mikyx” Mehle, they’re essentially upgrading their bottom lane.
Furthermore, by signing Caps they’re not just gaining the best mid laner in the region (and one of the best in the world), but they’re denying him from their competition — Fnatic included.
Obviously, all of this is based on the assumption that Perkz will be able to maintain his expected level of play in a different position. Fortunately, he’s one of the most talented and capable players ever to grace the LCS stage. Since he’s transitioning over from the most mechanically-intensive role in the game, he should be more than able to keep up with the very best AD carries in the region.
If everything pans out, G2 could have a concrete chance of reclaiming the LEC trophy. Whether or not that happens down the road remains the be seen, especially seeing how every other team upgraded as well. At the very least, they have the right tools at their disposal to make a dominant run.
Let’s focus on the new kid on the block. Filling Caps’ shoes is a tall order for anyone, let alone a “rookie,” but it seems like Fnatic has struck gold once again. At least on paper.
If you aren’t a huge big fan of the Spanish League, you probably never heard of Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek. He’s only known as a stellar mid laner for MAD Lions, a team run by Alvar “Araneae” Martín Aleñar (of Fnatic and Origen fame).
Where you could have seen Nemesis play was at the EU Masters (2018 Summer), where his team lifted the trophy with a stellar 3-0 win over Ninjas in Pyjamas after qualifying via the SuperLiga Orange.
All in all, as far as rookies go, Nemesis already has a couple of titles and trophies to his name, and that’s not something you see too often. He’s a solid laner, he doesn’t make positional mistakes, he’s not eager to go for those flashy plays that often backfire, and he’s a fantastic team fighter that’s able to clutch things out. While he isn’t a mechanical deity like Caps, he’s still an up-and-coming mid laner that has all the potential in the world.
When you place everything into context, Fnatic really isn’t making a big gamble by taking him in. He’s a proven performer, and while the LEC stage is far more demanding, he should be more than capable of competing with established mid laners. With time and the right guidance, he can become exactly what Fnatic need.
Fortunately for Nemesis, Fnatic is a team that’s stacked with talented players and grizzled veterans. Nemesis won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting himself, so he’ll be able to play without pressure.
If hype gets you going, Nemesis recently lifted the Iberian Cup trophy with a fantastic win over the Vodafone Giants. Not only that, but his stellar play resulted in a pretty slick Kassadin pentakill.
In other words, if you want to enter a new chapter of your professional career, this is as good of a transition as you could hope for.
As for Fnatic, this is far from their first rodeo. They’ve lost their star players before, and they’ve persevered through much bigger “losses” and roster changes than this one.
They found a promising young talent, and they’re going to create the right atmosphere to groom Nemesis into their next big star. Even if he fails to reach the potential many see in him, Fnatic has more than enough tools within their line-up to compete at the highest possible level.
That’s what Fnatic does best. They take risks and allow their rookies to develop and become the stars of tomorrow. Just because Fnatic and Caps seemed inseparable doesn’t mean the organization won’t be able to bounce back.
A lot of people are saying “Nemesis is no Caps.” Of course not. He’s Nemesis. There can only be one Caps, the guy who dominated regionally and internationally, just like there can only be one Nemesis.
Perhaps Nemesis will surpass Caps with the right infrastructure and guidance. Perhaps he won’t — only time will tell. Judging prematurely and not giving him the benefit of the doubt won’t get us far. The same could’ve been said when Febiven left. He was the “boy who killed Faker.” He was a part of the legendary roster that almost beat SKT T1 at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational and later reached Top 4 at Worlds.
Yet Fnatic was able to find a suitable replacement, and in time, even surpassed Febiven’s achievements.
The void left by Caps is a huge one, that’s a fact. However, Nemesis has the potential to fill it. What’ll happen remains to be seen, but it’s going to be an exciting journey, regardless of the outcome.