Hylissang's ups and downs on Fnatic highlight his worried nature

Fnatic support Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov takes the controls at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship group stage in Berlin. Courtesy of Riot Games

BERLIN -- Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov is a worrier by nature, and his League of Legends career did little to alleviate that.

The support has seen many ups and downs, but none have been as hectic as his time on Fnatic. Since he joined the team ahead of the 2018 season, Fnatic have risen to the top of Europe, crashed in the world championship final and endured a slump early in the 2019 spring split only to rise again in the summer split and secure Europe's second seed at this year's League of Legends World Championship.

But Fnatic's struggles are only beginning in a tense Group C, and nothing in the League European Championship could have prepared this team for the test of facing SK Telecom T1 and Royal Never Give Up in in the round-robin. So, Hylissang is worried.

"Usually, one thing goes wrong and I'm like, 'Oh, everything is doomed,'" he said. "So, maybe I overreacted a bit. But yeah, that's my view, like even in practice [when] it's not going [how] I want it to go."

Fnatic's success in the LEC was built on their knowledge of their regional opponents' tendencies, but that strength does not apply to worlds, especially with a new meta and unfamiliar teams clashing with them. For example, the Garen-Yuumi bot lane that drew many Yuumi bans against Fnatic in the end of the summer split met its match against SK Telecom T1's offbeat yet efficient Kayle bot lane.

Not only that, teams have left Yuumi open, as if calling a bluff and daring Fnatic to pick it. SKT did and won; Clutch Gaming wasn't as lucky but still drafted a quirky support in Bard.

"Everything has different counters," Hylissang said. "So we're [experimenting], I guess, because we don't know what we're going into. ... SKT for example, I would say it was cheese because they got an advantage in draft. But yeah, if we knew that they could play this, we would be more prepared."

Fnatic's Day 1 woes came despite a fruitful boot camp in their London headquarters, where they worked on solidifying their team chemistry. Despite improving, their return to Berlin for worlds made Hylissang wonder whether they left something behind. The team hasn't played with the bravado they showcased against G2 Esports in the LEC summer finals and in the boot camp, throwing him off a loop.

Fnatic are 1-1 going into a tough Tuesday matchup against Royal Never Give Up, who are also 1-1 in the group.

"I'm not sure what's happening, but onstage we don't play, like, so consistent," Hylissang said. "I'm a bit worried about that one. I feel like we're making a lot of mistakes and just not working pretty well, so I hope we can fix that and get out of groups."

In truth, those issues alone would not have been a cause for concern, but the pressure is at its highest in the world championship. Players have spent the entire year fine-tuning their skills and pushing through adversity for a chance at glory. So, to see it all crash down in an instant would be disastrous.

With so much to lose, teams take fewer risks and play unlike the way they practice or the way they play in their home region.

"Maybe it's the pressure," Hylissang said. "In-game, it feels different, like people are more stressed out and maybe more cautious, because you don't know [the] players you are playing against. Meanwhile, in LEC you kind of know what to expect, so it's just different."

After all, there is a much bigger margin for error throughout a nine-week-long season than at worlds, where teams play six games within a week and have very little amount of time to recover from setbacks. Had Fnatic lost to Clutch Gaming on Monday, they would have been down 0-2 and needed to beat SKT and RNG, two of the top teams in the world, in each of their next meetings.

"The pressure is a lot," Hylissang said. "Especially in this type of group."

As much of a worrier as Hylissang is, he has experienced this before. In 2018, Fnatic lost their first game at the world championship against Invictus Gaming, then eventually recovered to finish first in their group. Likewise, they lost the first game against EDward Gaming in the quarterfinals, only to close the series 3-1. And in the summer split, they matched G2 Esports blow-for-blow in two tense five-game series.

Fnatic's support has always pushed through, fixing his mistakes one at a time. That is how he moves on from setbacks and regrets.

"I try to learn from the mistakes we made in our previous games," Hylissang said. "SKT was really beatable in this game, and I regretted that we didn't beat them."

"I just hope we get out of groups, and I'm looking forward to meet the other teams in our group and play against the other Worlds teams as well."