No longer Fnatic Black: a look at Origen's Group Stage success

by theScore Staff Oct 7 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Riot eSports Flickr

The undefeated European team at the 2015 World Championship isn’t Fnatic.

After a year of following Fnatic’s rise — their climb from a team of amateurs and their nearly undefeated summer season — they have come out of the first week of the 2015 World Championship with a 1-2 record. Their pseudo sister team, Origen, fondly nicknamed “Fnatic Black,” have clobbered their opponents to assume sole position of first place in Group D with a 3-0 record.

It may be time to stop calling Origen “Fnatic Black” and start calling Fnatic “Origen Orange,” except that doesn’t sound as cool.

As the tournament is still in the midst of best-of-ones, it’s entirely possible that Week 1 was a fluke: Fnatic will return to form, and Origen will collapse after LGD realize that it’s time to be serious — or something.

Certain trends of Origen’s and Fnatic’s current forms could be tracked prior to the World Championship. Fnatic’s Heo “Huni” Seunghoon struggled to play from behind against ahq and continued to attempt to engage, which is behavior consistent with Fnatic from the 2015 spring season. Meanwhile Origen have shown steady strategic improvements since they entered the European LCS.

I’ve gone into more detail on Origen’s flexibility and adaptability while other teams remained stagnant in the past. In an interview with AD Carry Jesper "Niels" Svenningsen, Niels went over Origen’s approach to playing against teams this tournament. He said that Origen’s goal is to target ban and counter the preferred style of the opposing team.

In the current meta game, several extremely strong champions exist. A team on red side can take the approach of banning out over powered picks, but typically at least one will be left for the taking. In focusing on target bans instead of banning over powered champions, Origen have avoided giving opposing teams their biggest comfort while also forcing them to pick just one really strong champion while giving themselves two more. So far, Origen have played two red side games and had great success with this approach.

Against LGD Gaming, Origen denied jungler Zhu “TBQ” Yongquan his comfortable Lee Sin and Rek’Sai picks while also banning Mordekaiser, which forced the opposing team to choose between power picks Lulu, Elise, and Kalista. After they selected Lulu, Origen went for both Elise and Kalista to deny the Lulu-Kalista combination and continued to construct an area of effect composition that could find and demolish LGD’s Kog’Maw pick.

According to Niels, KT often favors utility mids like Lulu or Azir, so Origen chose to ban both, let KT again have Kog’Maw, and went on to single him out. On the blue side against Team SoloMid, Origen could ban even more targets and went for Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg’s strong selections then chose a kiting composition to counter the Darius first rotation with Anivia and Lulu.

In letting the opposing team more or less get whatever they want with a few caveats, Origen have shown strong scouting and the versatility to play counter-strategies. In looking to counter the map play from LGD Gaming and KT Rolster in particular, Origen’s counter-strategies have also conformed to the meta in that they’ve made heavy use of global pressure and Teleports to catch up to movements made by opposing teams.

Part of Origen’s ability to adapt so successfully comes from the experience of their individual players. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez have both been praised for versatility in the past. sOAZ has shown a tendency to fit a wide variety of roles his team requires, and xPeke has often shown powerful performances on pocket picks. Both have played unique champions in all three Group Stage games so far. Whatever composition the team requires, they’re able to fit the niche.

A few exceptions exist. xPeke’s poor Azir play probably requires the team to ban the emperor more than other teams might. Perhaps his Azir play in the regionals and European playoffs have lead to lower expectations for xPeke, which he's more than surpassed in his matches so far.

Even with extensive experience, sOAZ and xPeke don’t make the calls on Origen, but Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez have also played the game extensively. Niels said that to beat KT, not much shotcalling was required because everyone simply knew what to do. Sometimes having too many voices on a team can be damaging, but Origen have begun to think similarly in game, which makes communication much simpler.

Amazing and mithy focused on improving synergy and roaming together. Most of the top teams across the globe have excelled with strong synergy between support and jungle, and mithy and Amazing represent the best in Europe in terms of setting up plays in the bottom side of the map. Amazing has stated that Origen’s high dragon control in wins usually comes as a result of bottom lane focus and effort to get Niels ahead.

Coach Tadayoshi “Hermit” Littleton has said that his role on the team has become more akin to that of a mediator since he took over for Titus “LeDuck” Hafner. His function is to get everyone on the same page. The fluidity of their team play hasn’t gone unnoticed as their team fighting also seems to have become more in synch over time.

Criticisms like “disjointed” can be levied most against teams like Invictus Gaming that seem to lack focus and coordination, and Origen have gone a long way to improve their apparent communication. Origen have used not just their practice time between Regionals and the World Championship wisely, but their practice time all year to great success. They’ve used the amount of raw talent they’ve been given and developed themselves strategically.

Earlier in the summer, Origen often made mistakes in committing too hard with leads or not picking to their strengths. Since the playoffs and especially following Regionals, most of those mistakes have disappeared. The team seems much more happy to select midgame power spike picks and has worked well with this strength. They’ve identified dragon as a major objective for the success for the victory and snowball they get off dragon fights rather than the objective itself. They’ve learned to push out minion waves.

Since Origen have spent this summer improving, the fear becomes that they’ll rest easily once they’ve gotten an edge. Most of the team has acknowledged low expectations once their group was drawn. Niels mentioned that little pressure was placed on the team, but now that they’ve managed to go 3-0 in the first week of Group Stage, expectations are higher. Just as we haven’t seen Fnatic in a losing position where they have to adapt for a long time, we haven’t seen Origen at the top. Complacency seems to be a theme that hits once teams are dubbed “contenders.”

Luckily, Origen has several examples of fallen favorites to look at around them, and they know the cost of resting from their own experiences (everyone remembers All Stars last year and reports of team members showing up hungover to their scrims). sOAZ commented following their 2-3 defeat at the hands of Fnatic that Fnatic has become much more serious as a result of the rebuild, but it seems the bug has also bitten Origen.

From a personal standpoint, I believe Origen’s approach to drafting will be adopted by the other teams at the tournament. Origen have found an edge that will begin to permeate not only their group but others. Once they no longer have that edge, they’ll have to do it even better to avoid falling behind again.

Another point of contention comes up in lane swaps. So far, Origen have avoided 1v2s with the exception of the game against Team SoloMid where TSM could pick up an early lead with turret rotations and punish a lack of wards around mid.

In the European LCS, Origen struggled more in lane swap situations. If other teams force a lane swap against Origen, the question becomes whether they’ve shored up this weakness as well as they’ve recovered from their others. They’ve benefited from extended 2v2s with the power of Niels and sOAZ to control a game, and that’s a luxury they’ll have to work around going forward.

After Origen begin to acquire dragons, however, they become mobile, have precise control over mid game, and seemingly make calls without hesitation. Over the course of the year, Origen haven’t just learned to improve upon the goals they set for themselves and fix their in-game mistakes, but to also improve their coordination. I would be shocked to learn if their communication functioned exactly the same as it had when Origen was a team in the Challenger Series.

I’m still not ready to call Origen finalist material, as I think both SK Telecom T1 and EDward Gaming have a lot they haven’t shown, and the week has given other teams even within Origen’s own group more time to study them carefully. But it doesn’t seem like Origen’s 3-0 is a fluke so much as the result of a steady progression since their formation.

xPeke’s new team is no longer sitting in the shadow of Fnatic, the black sheep of Fnatic, or aiming only to defeat Fnatic. In the race to see who comes out ahead, Origen are currently in the lead. They may have the best chance of the two teams to win Worlds, the goal that prompted Fnatic’s early gamble this year.

The pressure is finally on. Everyone is watching Origen.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.