The Play-In Stage of Worlds is now over, and in the end, there weren’t many surprises. Heavy favorites Cloud9, Fnatic, and Team WE all made it through to Groups with relative ease, however one outlier from the emerging regions qualified as well: Turkey’s very own 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor.
What’s even more impressive is that they did it with an emergency substitute jungler.
Kang “Move” Min-su helped 1907 Fenerbahçe reach stardom in their home region, but was unable to attend Worlds due to last minute visa issues. With Worlds fast approaching and no in-house jungle substitutes, Fenerbahçe turned to Lee "Crash" Dong-woo of China’s ViCi Gaming.
How does an underdog team take on Worlds without their tried and true jungler? First, the Turkish team needed to understand their two biggest problems.
Problem #1: Frozen can no longer rely on his usually aggressive style.
Despite having played with Fenerbahçe midlaner Frozen under Longzhu Gaming in 2016, Crash has a noticeable lack of synergy with his former teammate and the rest of the Turkish side. Between Crash and Move, Crash is the stronger player based on sheer mechanical skill, but teamwork can’t be built in one day.
Throughout the TCL, Move played heavily around Frozen. Even when he wasn’t ganking the mid lane, he was laying down surrounding vision, allowing the star carry of the team to roam aggressively and open up the map. But during Play-In stage, Move's stand-in has been caught multiple times invading without the support of his team, costing him flashes, deaths, and more importantly, control over the flow of the game.
Without Crash's support, Frozen has had to play more defensively, avoiding his heavy roam playstyle in many cases, and showing performances below what’s expected from the “Faker of TCL.”
Problem #2: Fenerbahçe’s weakest link ends up even weaker.
Going into the Play-In stage, Fenerbahçe’s bot lane of padden and JAPONE was the clear weakness. Padden averaged a -13.7 CS Difference at 10 minutes in his TCL Playoff Matches, and that number only improved slightly to -11.2 in Play-Ins after facing Team oNe.
Fenerbahçe’s bot duo frequently come out of lane behind, and without Frozen to bail them out, this lane is bound to get exploited more, especially as they move forward to face world class teams.
Either of these two issues could have been Fenerbahçe’s demise, but the the team held on. Instead of rolling over and dying, the Turkish team made up for their emergency roster by doubling down on their strengths.
Solution #1: With less team-wide communication, turn Thaldrin into the Initiator
The unsung hero of Fenerbahçe’s run at Worlds so far has been Berke “Thaldrin” Demir. The captain usually commands champions like Renekton, Camille, or Jayce, but at Worlds, Fenerbahçe knows he needs to take up the initiator role. Without experience with the team or with Turkish, Crash isn’t able to lead engages as Move once would.
So far, Fenerbahçe have made it a priority to give Thaldrin engage-heavy champions, and to great success. His Maokai is legitimately world class, from the way he manages to slip out of lane to land a gank in mid, to the way he plays around flanks with Nature’s Grasp and CCs priority targets.
When not on Maokai, he has shown solid performances on Jarvan and on his single Galio game.
Solution #2: Focus on macro fundamentals
More importantly, what sets Fenerbahçe’s apart from any other Turkish representative at international events is that they play the map with far more macro expertise. So far, they’ve shown excellent minion wave control, setting up slow pushes and playing correctly around globals to threaten strong rotations and flanks. They understand how to accelerate a game, even from behind. Let’s break down one example.
SECURING BARON FROM BEHIND
In their first face off against Hong Kong Attitude, Fenerbahçe are facing midgame with a 3k gold deficit at 22 minutes. HKA are looking to grab Baron control, hoping the buff can extend their lead and close out the game.
Fenerbahçe play it out wisely: Thaldrin sets up a slow push in the bot lane and then immediately moves mid to get in range for his ultimate. HKA peel off baron to try to force a 5v4, but Thaldrin’s timely arrival stops them in their tracks and wins them the fight with a 4 man taunt.
Both teams reset, and Fenerbahçe continues to buy time with these patient setups. They build a slow push, buy time for Galio to threaten fights, all while stacking up a wave that HKA eventually needs to answer.
Because of this, HKA never manages to get in a position to grab Baron, and once Fenerbahçe find the perfect timing, they pull the trigger, knowing that Galio’s ultimate gives them an advantage over the long-channel teleport from Maokai.
Let’s take a look at another game. In their latest BO5 against Team oNe, Fenerbahçe ADC Padden pushes out top lane, helps him team grab Rift Herald, then returns to pushing top. The rest of the team gather together and push out Team oNe from the top side jungle. They summon the Herald right as Padden takes the top tier 2, and with an imminent Rift Herald on the tier 3, the opposing ADC is forced to stay in the top lane to kill it. This gives the Turkish team the perfect opportunity to take their numbers advantage mid and grab the tier 2 turret there.
(Pay attention to Thaldrin's movement in the clip below - He constantly moves to the mid lane to get in range to use his ultimate.)
Two minutes later, oNe’s bot lanes moves forward to get the top lane wave pushed out, but what they don’t realize is that when Fenerbahçe dropped the Herald, they also placed deep wards in the enemy jungle and deep in the lane. The perfect setup for a TP Maokai flank.
The resulting fight allows Fenerbahçe to get vision control over Baron, and eventually close out the game.
Regardless of their opponents in the Play-In stage, it can’t be overstated that playing with a stand in can heavily impact a team’s performance. Despite such adversity, 1907 Fenerbahçe Espor, Turkey’s first representative at Worlds in 3 years, made it through to the Group stage. While it’s unlikely they’ll continue beyond this point, as they seeded into a highly contested group, the Turkish team has done a phenomenal job in proving their skill on the international stage.