Fnatic sucked in this year’s League of Legends LEC Winter Split. I’d ask you to sue me for the controversial opinion, but in all honesty you’d probably be more likely to shut me down if I said Fnatic played well. However, while the boys in black and orange let me down immensely, I don’t think their early departure ruins their chances of bouncing back into the MOBA’s cream of the crop – quite the opposite, in fact.
As someone who had always supported G2 Esports up until the recent Carlos ‘ocelote’ Rodríguez Santiago controversy, I always had a soft spot for Fnatic. Martin ‘Rekkles’ Larsson is my favourite League of Legends player of all time, and having met him (albeit briefly at a bus station) following the LEC Summer finals in Malmo last year, I fully jumped on board the Fnatic hype train. When he announced his return to the LEC I immediately ended my friendship with G2 for Fnatic.
While the first couple of weeks of the Winter Split are always a little shaky, Fnatic continued to struggle before my eyes, making rookie mistakes that made it look like I could compete on the LEC stage. It was no surprise that they fell at the final SK-shaped hurdle, and I vividly remember rolling my eyes so hard that I ended up watching Netflix instead. My reaction wasn’t, however, to go on an angry Twitter rant. Instead, I sat and watched as the apologies flooded in from Rekkles, Martin ‘Wunder’ Hansen, and even founder Sam Matthews, which oddly gave me a hopeful spring in my step before bed.
So why am I content about Fnatic’s absolutely awful performance? Well, it’s because they didn’t try to hide it. There was no blame cast on the league’s new format, no attacks on coaches and staff; every single player just expressed that they should have been better. It’s that honesty that leaves me feeling good about Spring split; if Fnatic thought they had played well, it would be a very different story.
The team played badly, and they know it. That in turn encourages them to work harder, scrim more often, and work on their communication. It’s a negative that can be turned into a positive with the correct encouragement and a passion to do better. Fnatic has almost felt somewhat untouchable, and in many ways that encourages complacency. This is a pretty big wake up call, and it looks like Fnatic has smelled the metaphorical coffee.
So what can Fnatic do to reaffirm itself as one of Europe’s best, you may be asking. Firstly, drafts need to stick to the meta. Rekkles’ continued reliance on farming ADCs simply isn’t working – the bot lane is a menagerie of enchanters at this point (although League of Legends patch 13.3 may change that) and you need to kill them before they buff their allied ADC enough that they kill you first.
Rúben ‘Rhuckz’ Barbosa also needs to widen out his champion pool to include some of these spellcasters. Sure, as we move into a meta where melee supports are set to make a return with new buffs, what happens when the meta changes again and enchanters return? Both Rekkles and Rhuckz need to expand outside of their comfort picks or the bot lane will continue to be a point of weakness that players can – and will – exploit.
Additionally, general communication seems relatively poor. Even listening to the pre-match voice comms that the LEC puts out on YouTube, there’s very little laughter or personality – it’s all just business. While striking the balance between playful and professional is a fine art, the team just lacks soul entirely, and that’s translating across to the Rift.
Thankfully, the off-season is the perfect time to iron out both of these issues and rebuild that confidence that has been crushed in Winter. It’s a time to reignite that passion that drives Fnatic – especially when the meta looks to be shifting in their favour.
But for those of you online calling for a team change, celebrating the potential bot lane change leaks, or cancelling staff, take a step back. It’s irrational and downright pointless; you want the team to perform well, so why grind them down when they’re trying to pick themselves up? Be sad, be angry, but most of all, be kind.
Fnatic sucked during the LEC Winter Split – they really, really did. But redemption is out there, and it’s within reach – let’s just hope Britain’s finest are up to the task of grasping it.