This spring was Fnatic’s time to shine. Their personality conflicts died down, their players saw noticeable improvements, and their coaching staff was bolstered by YoungBuck.
With that, Fnatic dominated the EU LCS and put an end to G2’s win streak in a confident 3-0 final. For all intents and purposes, they were the best team Europe had to offer.
But when the time came for the 2018 MSI, they fell apart. Fnatic struggled in the group stage and barely qualified for the playoffs where they suffered a crushing defeat at the hand of Royal Never Give Up. Of course, you could argue that the LPL representatives went on to win the entire thing and that loss doesn’t look so bad now. But this doesn’t change the fact that Fnatic once again fell short on the international stage.
So what were their shortcomings? And how can they fix them in summer?
Solve the carry problem
After the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational, fans called to rebuild around Caps. Indeed, Fnatic’s mid laner had the tournament of his life. His combination of mechanics and playmaking was the only thing holding the team together.
The other carry—Rekkles—paled in comparison. And while he picked up the slack for the semifinals, his shallow champion pool and passive playstyle definitely held Fnatic back in the group stage.
With that in mind, focusing on the mid lane should be a no-brainer, right? Well, not exactly. It’s clear Fnatic are too reliant on their marksman, and Rekkles bears the heavy burden of being a team captain and the main damage dealer. But while Caps can relieve some of that pressure, it would be a mistake to rally around him.
The main reason behind this is his playstyle. At his core, Caps is a risk taker. He thrives in do-or-die scenarios, and his raw talent and relentless aggression open up countless windows of opportunity. Making Caps the focal point of the team would smother him. If that were to happen, Caps could believe he needs to provide a stable mid lane presence, effectively going down the path of Bjergsen and Perkz. And while that’s not a horrible development, it would hamper the playmaking that made Caps so successful in the first place.
Instead, he should play a role similar to that of Samsung White’s PawN: a wildcard. He should be the player who changes the course of an entire match simply by playing his own game. And Fnatic need a solid side lane presence to enable this high-risk, high-reward playstyle.
Build up the bot lane
Rekkles took a lot of flack during the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational. Even so, he remains the best AD carry in Europe, and he needs to be more reliable than ever for Fnatic to succeed.
Granted, this is easier said than done, considering Rekkles was outperformed by almost every single AD carry at MSI. But while his misplays are noticeable, it’s easy to overlook another part of Fnatic’s bot lane: the support.
Hylissang was a glaring weakness over the course of the tournament. His unrefined aggression cost his team many games. Of course, it would be a stretch to call him a terrible player. Hylissang is very good when his team is ahead, as he doesn’t hesitate to create picks and initiate teamfights. Still, his Janna and Tahm Kench games revealed a staggering inability to play on the defense, and his brash positioning made it easy to pick him off.
At this point, Rekkles has proven he can keep improving. He has the competitive drive, and if he doesn’t submit to bizarre mental blocks, he can still stand up to the best AD carries in the world. However, a solid support could elevate him to new heights. With that, Fnatic need to push Hylissang out of his comfort zone and focus on refining his teamfighting and positioning.
Pick between sOAZ and Bwipo
Let me preface this by saying there are very tangible advantages to having two top laners on your roster. And these grow tenfold when both of them have wildly different champion pools. However, it’s clear that the sOAZ/Bwipo equilibrium cannot last.
The Bo1 regular season doesn’t provide enough opportunities to develop two top laners, so one of them will inevitably get the short end of the stick. Plus, it’s clear both players aren’t content with the current situation. Bwipo has already set his gaze on the starting position, and sOAZ made it very clear he thinks he deserves more playing time.
The choice is made more difficult by the playstyle differences. Bwipo has shown he’s willing to play carries, and he does have his moments on champions like Gangplank and Camille. But it’s also clear he’s not communicating well, as he often feels out of sync with his teammates.
Meanwhile, sOAZ is a smart tank player and a gifted teamfighter. However, he’s also a known quantity, and it’s common to see him fall short against world-class top laners. In the end, Fnatic have two very different paths in front of them. And they need to decide which one to take.
There are many changes Fnatic need to make this summer. Fortunately, they have the talent and the infrastructure to implement them. But China and Korea won’t be standing still either. And Fnatic have their work cut out for them if they want to have a better showing at Worlds.
Editorial credit: Riot Games