From runner-ups to bottom feeders, Fnatic’s fall from grace this 2019 LEC Spring has been nothing short of surprising, and we took the time to try and explain why this has happened.
Time is a paradox when it comes to esports: in the regular course of our lives, three months is not a long time, but those involved in the scene, it could very well be years. Case in point, Fnatic’s downfall.
For much of 2018, Fnatic dominated the European scene and took on all comers. No one else came close. They even made it into the Grand Finals of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, battling valiantly in a 0-3 loss against the LPL’s very own powerhouse, Invictus Gaming. But now, just barely a quarter of a year later, Fnatic have kicked off the inaugural 2019 LEC Spring season at 9th-place with a 1-5 record.
No one in their right mind would have expected this. Sure, Fnatic weren’t the same team. They lost Dylan Falco, a top-tier top laner in Paul “sOAZ” Boyer, and more importantly, a world-class mid laner in Rasmus “Caps” Winther. Surely, however, retaining more than half of the roster that played at Worlds 2018 would still be enough to help them retain their place at the top of the league, right?
Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. Once the kings of Europe, Fnatic has been met by loss after loss at the 2019 LEC Spring, with their only win coming against the only other team lower than them in the standings — the winless Rogue.
Why and how has this happened? We try to break it down.
Fnatic’s Drafting Has Been Off this 2019 LEC Spring
Since Dylan Falco’s departure, Fnatic has had Joey “Youngbuck” Steltenpool as their drafting coach. Youngbuck is known to be the six-star general: he has won six splits in a row, and he is now seeking to get his seventh. For the past year, he has been Fnatic’s Team Director, in charge of perhaps general macro play and assistance in terms of preparation. This means that he has been away from drafting duties for around a year, and he might be taking some time readjusting to his regained duties.
No biggie. Adjustment periods are always okay. But, going 1-5 is not, especially for a team like Fnatic.
They say that drafting is half of the game, and if you win the draft, you’ve pretty much all but won the game.If that’s truly the case, then Fnatic often start games on the losing end, forcing themselves into a corner by running compositions that are ill-fitted for their player’s strengths. Their lack of understanding of the current meta is especially concerning. In their game against Misfits Gaming, Fnatic drafted a full scaling team composition, which meant that they were pretty much sacrificing the entire early game.
Just in case this is not clear to everybody reading: scaling compositions are truly risky compositions especially in the current meta, as there is more gold present in the early game due to turret plates and the fact that having losing lanes also means losing jungle camps.
The worst part? Fnatic don’t seem like they are willing to adjust.
While Fnatic’s ship hasn’t sunk yet, they’ll need to develop a better understanding of the current meta if they want to turn it around.
On Draft Execution and Micro Play
Drafting to lose is one thing, but not making use of every advantage you can get is just inexcusable, and that’s exactly what Fnatic’s doing. They just don’t seem to know how their lanes should play out and often skew leads towards their enemy’s favour.
Take Gabriel “Bwipo” Rau for example. Although his aggression is what makes him one of the more standout players in the LEC, it is the very same trait that’s led to his downfall this 2019 LEC Spring. He often gets caught out, getting solo killed in the lane several times, and very rarely seems to know where Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen is.
Another good example is their failure to put Tim “Nemesis” Lipovsek in a favourable matchup. What’s worse, though, is he doesn’t seem to put in any effort to try and win them. Don’t let the occasional solo kills fool you, his wave management is average, at best.
Finally, Fnatic’s bottom lane is just in a constant state of disarray. Martin “Rekkles” Larsson and Zdravets “Hylissang” Galabov look like two headless chickens running around, losing quite convincingly even when placed in situations where they should thrive. Even when they put Rekkles on Lucian, one of the best champions in terms of lane priority in the current meta, they barely broke even and had no choice but to go top to avoid what was supposed to be a favourable lane matchup.
The players need to step up in terms of individual play, and show that they are still the same players that went into the World Championship Final in 2018.
Macro play and Team Identity
The talent right now in the 2019 LEC Spring is miles ahead of what it used to be. It’s no longer possible for high-skilled teams to brute force their way to victory these days. They actually have to play around their individual identities and execute.
That’s something that Fnatic are severely lacking.
Vision-wise, Fnatic look like a shell of their former selves. Although, it’s perhaps because of how their drafts have often played out. Their lack of execution around taking objectives is also noteworthy, and overall, the lack of macro play on the team isn’t up to par in previous splits. Yes, they team is quite skilled in building early leads, but, a good team knows how to play even when things don’t go their way, and Fnatic, for all their individual prowess, seem to struggle to find ways to come back into the game.
This all circles back to Fnatic’s lack of identity.
While the best teams are often the most versatile, they have a core identity that they stick with. Back then, Fnatic used to play through their middle laner, Caps, and enabled him to create leads so that he could affect the other parts of the map. In doing so, he would be able to create space for Rekkles to carry the game.
That doesn’t seem to be the case for Fnatic this 2019 LEC Spring.
As such, Fnatic will need to develop a clear way of playing the game, or else, their free fall will only continue.
In esports, we usually seem to be over-indexing towards whether our team has won or lost. This is perfectly understandable, as this determines their fate: whether they get into playoffs, whether they go to MSI, or whether they go to Worlds. Somehow this also influences future roster decisions.
When they win, we look towards the person who carried. When they lose, we look towards how terrible one player, or the rest of the team, is. The fact of the matter is, however, a team’s current place in the league only indicates an individual player’s skill up to a certain extent. A lot of things comprise a victory or a loss, and it goes way beyond the question “which set of players is playing?” We are not privy to what happens behind the scenes, when they are not playing the matches we observe every week.
Besides, we still have a long way to go before the split ends. We are soon arriving at the fourth week of the LEC, and after that there are still five weeks left in the regular season. There’s still twelve matches for each of the teams left to play, and who knows, in that span, Fnatic could start showing shades of their former selves.
What do you think is the biggest reason for Fnatic’s struggles in 2019 LEC Spring? Do you think it’s fixable? Or, will Fnatic have to settle for a bottom placement this spring? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.