Fnatic were without doubt the biggest disappointment of Rift Rivals. Since their revival at the end of the Spring Split the European heavyweights have been on the charge in the EU LCS, but the team’s newfound style came unstuck against North American opposition.
Fnatic’s unique playstyle has received plaudits during the first half of the Summer Split, praised for its aggression and innovation.
The team’s off-meta team compositions, AD carry Martin “Rekkles” Larsson’s eccentric build paths and Rasmus “Caps” Winther’s unrivalled dominance of the league’s mid lane led many to believe that Fnatic were destined to sweep through Rift Rivals with aplomb.
EU LCS opposition had attempted to combat Fnatic’s play style head on and were consistently swatted away by the resurgent squad. The only side able to steal victory away from FNC would be the ironically inconsistent Team ROCCAT, who despite being burdened with an 0-11 top laner in Ambrož “Phaxi” Hren, were able to funnel their resources down the middle of the map to win the game.
The holes in Fnatic’s style were revealed as ROCCAT scratched the surface, but it wasn’t until the favourites for the EU LCS title faced opposition from NA that the veneer was entirely stripped away and the flaws exposed for all to see.
Fnatic knew they were in trouble the moment they started scrimming against North American opposition ahead of Rift Rivals. Where their EU LCS rivals failed to punish the team’s macro mistakes, NA sides would make Fnatic pay.
Speaking to Slingshot eSports, Fnatic top laner Paul “sOAZ” Boyer described his feelings of concern after scrims with Team SoloMid:
“We played TSM in scrims and it was really difficult, because our style is like: if somehow they don’t get picked on the side lane, then usually either we will get out-scaled because they will have like late game AD carry, and we will have a Blade AD carry.
“Usually we tend to trade sides because we cannot really force a play or force vision, so we have to wait until something happens unless we can get ganks off before.
“But if there’s not really any ganks to play for, and if we cannot really get vision, then we need to wait to see what play they do, then we just counteract it by going on the other side.
“It’s just harder against top teams to rely on getting kills, so it’s the main issue behind playing this Fnatic style.”
Paul “sOAZ” Boyer
Fnatic’s objective and vision control was appalling throughout Rift Rivals. Unable to establish a lead at the 20 minute mark in any of their games, placing a baffling lack of wards and failing to secure a single dragon until their very last game (defeat to Cloud9), European fans watched in horror as their greatest hope for the tournament appeared clueless to the game’s fundamental macro.
It’s an issue that has been flagged in the EU LCS before. Fnatic lacked a ‘Plan B’ outside of their aggressive, skirmish-orientated playstyle, and once it was shut down in the early game by North American opposition, the inflexibility of Fnatic meant that defeat was inevitable.
Reigning EU LCS champions, G2 eSports, has repeatedly voiced their concerns on European teams’ approach to playing the game, suggesting that even the likes of Fnatic are out of touch with basic elements of the macro game.
Despite falling short of the mark in their execution of macro strategies, G2 were the only European team to secure an early game lead in their two game victories over Phoenix1.
In many respects, Fnatic need to learn the lessons of Team SoloMid’s dominance in North America. For years, TSM triumphed in the NA LCS without ever taking the initiative to perfect the finer details of their play.
The danger of a ‘dependancy on incompetency’ was evident when the North American favourites were dumped out of the 2016 World Championship, despite being untouchable in the regular split. Fnatic will need to return to the drawing board ahead of their expected return to Worlds.
A unique combination of off-meta picks and strategies are a great weapon to have in the back pocket, but without a solid meta game, Fnatic will be fatally wounded before they even get a chance to reach for their holster.