The end of Rift Rivals was supposed to mark the start of a learning curve for Fnatic and the other European representatives. Embarrassed by North American opposition, the EU LCS favourites vowed to return to the drawing board, but have the lessons been learned?
Fnatic’s unique playstyle received widespread praise 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 was destined to sweep through Rift Rivals with aplomb.
Rift Rivals served as an unpleasant wakeup call, the League of Legends eSports equivalent of being awoken by a bucket of ice water. Fnatic’s veneer was entirely stripped away and the flaws in their play exposed for all to see.
Rift Rivals, though embarrassing, was a necessary process. Fnatic’s early summer mentality could easily be summarised as: “if ain’t broken, don’t fix it”, a reasonable approach given that EU LCS opposition had attempted to combat Fnatic’s play style head on time and time again, and were consistently swatted away by the resurgent squad.
Speaking with Slingshot eSports, Fnatic Head Coach, Dylan Falco, provided further insight into the team’s thought process:
“I think it was really hard for us in the first half of the split because we had a formula that was winning in a lot of the matches that counted, but also we kind of struggled — we were all very aware of the weaknesses of our play style early in the split, I’m pretty sure everyone was.
“I think it was kind of frustrating that we didn’t have anything else when we lost, but it wasn’t like a team understanding where we thought what we were doing was invincible, and we were just like — had our eyes closed or something.
“We knew the weaknesses, it was just a calculated risk.”
Dylan Falco, Fnatic Head Coach
Fnatic’s lack of a ‘Plan B’ outside of their aggressive, skirmish-orientated playstyle cost them dearly at Rift Rivals; the team’s inflexibility meant that defeat was inevitable.
Reigning EU LCS champions, G2 eSports, has repeatedly voiced their concerns about 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.
After failing to establish a single lead at the 20-minute mark in any of their games, placing a baffling lack of wards and proving unable to secure a single dragon until their very last game (defeat to Cloud9).
Fnatic returned to the EU LCS with meta on the agenda, raising eyebrows as team captain Martin “Rekkles” Larsson locked his pocket picks away and drafted a standard composition.
Fnatic fans revelled in delight as the European heavyweights cleanly dispatched Team Vitality in Week 6, with Sivir and Varus rounding out two stabile FNC drafts. The warnings of Rift Rivals appeared to have been heeded.
But defeat in the final week of the regular split at the hands of the EU LCS poorest team, Ninjas in Pyjamas, has sent alarm bells ringing once again.
After making good initial progress, Fnatic regressed to a number of bad habits as they were outplayed by NIP in a clean 2-0 series.
With Rasmus “Caps” Winther unveiling an unexpected Azir pick in the mid lane and a scrappy strategy that conceded objectives across the map, Fnatic’s defeat to Ninjas in Pyjamas was eerily reminiscent of the team’s loss to Team ROCCAT.
Whether the Fnatic squad has genuinely learned from their previous mistakes will not be realised until the team’s next international event; the 2017 World Championships.
European fans were fooled once into thinking Fnatic were the best team in the west, but fooling them again – after claiming to have amended your flaws – shame on who?