In 2015, Enrique "xPeke" Cedeño Martinez created Origen to establish a legacy in the European League of Legends circuit. Fast forward to 2019, and the organisation has reached the 2019 League of Legends European Championship (LEC) finals for the third time in its existence. But the road did not run straight.
For a time, xPeke's player-focused organisation was successful, going from the Challenger Series to the World Championship semifinals in 2015, and immortalising itself in the minds of League of Legends fans. However, in 2017, Origen dropped out of the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS) due to a lack of resources and investments compared to their competition on the market.
"The moment that I couldn't do what I wanted to do, get the players I wanted to get, is when I had to change all my plans," xPeke said at the time.
Despite Origen's inability to qualify to the EU LCS in 2018, they made waves in the Challenger Circuit with a star-studded roster of free agents. In the process, they brought hype to the newly created European Masters circuit. But with little at stake beyond that, they focused their efforts on entering the to-be-franchised LEC.
In the process, xPeke reconnected with a man he nearly partnered with in 2015, Jakob Lund Kristensen -- better known as the co-founder of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive juggernauts Astralis, and of RFRSH Entertainment.
In truth, Kristensen was not the only person interested in bringing Origen into the RFRSH fold.
"We felt that it would be such a great fit with the infrastructure of RFRSH Entertainment, the company behind Astralis, and Origen and xPeke, what we could do together," said general manager and former shoutcaster Martin "Deficio" Lynge. "When Origen got relegated two years ago, I always felt that this organization had to be in the LEC."
"There's so many passionate fans around it; the 2015 history is amazing; and getting to work with xPeke and RFRSH and make Origen what it is right now, to me, is exactly what we dreamed of when we decided that it was the way we wanted to go."
And so, once Riot Games accepted Origen's franchising bid, they set to work. Deficio's knowledge of the scene helped him assemble a team that fit the mold -- team-centric with no overwhelming egos. In a way, the RFRSH method had kicked in when the roster was being built.
"When we were scouting the players, we knew that personality was going to be a very important thing," Deficio said. "We interviewed them properly on it, because it's crucial when you build a lineup of five players who work well together, solve problems [together], and adapt to the style that we're bringing to the table."
We always want to win, especially when we are talking about a final, but today that wasn't possible.— Origen (@Origengg) April 14, 2019
One year ago we couldn't imagine a picture like this, but now we are here fighting. Thank you for your endless support. Always.#WeAreOrigen pic.twitter.com/BNTiP18BZq
In came jungler Jonas "Kold" Andersen, after a season spent on bottom dwellers Unicorns of Love; AD carry Patrik "Patrik" Jiru, of the maligned H2K Gaming (2-16 in the 2019 summer split); top laner Barney "Alphari" Morris, who failed to qualify to the World Championship on Misfits Gaming in 2018 but reached the quarterfinals in 2017; Alfonso "mithy" Aguirre Rodriguez, a four-time European champion who played on Team SoloMid in North America and experienced monumental setbacks there; and Erlend "Nukeduck" Holm, a highly rated mid laner throughout his career.
None of them reached the World Championship in 2018, but that didn't deter Origen from considering that mix as the most functional unit they could build. In truth, those players were highly rated across the board, and Origen had the resources to turn them into contenders.
The model worked for Astralis in CS:GO; with retired Danish handball goalkeeper and legend Kasper Hvidt leading RFRSH's performance team, Astralis gradually ascended from a top-tier team to what many consider as the greatest CS:GO team ever -- with several trophies in the headquarters to show for it.
Even without trophies, Kold was on board. "Sometimes, you have to look at other areas of yourself, improve outside of the game, be in better physical shape and mental state," he said. "In the past, I was trying to push other players to become what RFRSH wants us to become."
Astralis has access to those resources during pre-event boot camps, as their schedule centers around major events - allowing them the freedom to rest with their families otherwise. On the other hand, the League of Legends team competes on a weekly basis in seasons that can last up to four months when including the playoffs.
"For us, [having] Origen live in Copenhagen has been vital," Kristensen said. "The problem is that, if there are too many factors that you cannot control, controlling certain factors won't make that big of a difference."
Deficio added: "You're having some players come in with different habits from the previous years of playing, and you put them in a world of sports coaches and insane structure -- very planned out ways of how they train both outside the game and inside, how they eat, how they sleep."
Gradually, Origen fended off an awkward start to the 2019 Spring Split and cruised towards second place in the regular season. But achievements, eye-popping as they may be, are not as important as benchmarks in Deficio's eyes.
"What is actually really important is the process: how do you become more successful?" Deficio said. "That's more important than winning. [...] I knew that this was going to be a big change for a lot of them, so the process of making that work successfully in the spring and not something that could hurt them, that was obviously the most important thing for us to nail."
In fact, that approach has paid off for their Academy team located in Barcelona, Spain. Despite having no marquee names on the lineup and their remote location (far away from Copenhagen), they reached the finals of the LVP SuperLiga Orange, Spain's local League of Legends championship.
And although Origen's LEC roster ended in a place, it was a bittersweet finish and a resounding success for a team in its early building stages. They looked like the second best team in Europe following their win over Fnatic and while G2 won the title against them in record time, Origen will be confident of closing the gap.