Fnatic 2021 spring regular season summary

Offseason

The offseason saw some big changes to the Fnatic roster with superstar ADC Rekkles leaving alongside midlaner Nemesis. Coming in as to fill the roles were former Astralis botlaner Upset and Cloud9 midlaner Nisqy.

For the first time in 6 years, Fnatic would enter the league without Rekkles on the roster. But despite the fact that most fans would consider the swap a straight downgrade at face value, there is a lot of statistics that suggests otherwise.

Upset as a player showed in 2020 that he had the ability to grow early game advantages in lane and was ahead in CS 65% of the time at 15 minutes. He was also the ADC that did the most amount of damage in the 2020 summer split, this whilst being on the 10th placed team in the standings. Combined with a playmaking support in Hylissang, it was a botlane duo to watch out for.

2021 also saw the addition of Nisqy, one of the best enablers available in the midlane. His synergy with jungler Blaber saw Cloud9 skyrocket to the top of the standings over in the LCS in 2020. As a midlaner, he was willing to sacrifice his own leads for the good of the team and set up his teammates to succeed. Paired up with Selfmade, another jungler known for his carry oriented playstyle, Fnatic was looking for a similar performance from the mid-jungle duo.

All around, the two additions made a lot of sense. In my personal opinion, this roster pulled more in the same direction than last year’s. Two carry oriented players in Upset and Selfmade combined with three other playmakers that always look to find advantages on the map. It looked raw, aggressive and unchained.

Fnatic’s 2021 roster

Early weeks in the LEC

Nothing is more entertaining than non-stop teamfighting and explosive clashes between the best teams that Europe has to offer. But for someone looking for clean and calculated League of Legends, Fnatic games would leave you scratching your head on multiple occasions.

Early on in the regular season, the team looked uncoordinated and the players seemed to be on different pages when going for plays. Time and time again, they committed to fights that were niche and hard to execute and they also had problems coordinating a proper play when the opportunity presented itself.

Instead, we saw Fnatic force their way to victories through pure individual skill and outplaying the messy situations that they put themselves in.

The play below captures the essence of early 2021 Fnatic, going for every opening without hesitation and not stepping down before every single enemy had been killed, regardless of game state. It was neither level headed nor clean, but it was Fnatic nonetheless.

Example of Fnatic’s overaggressive nature (LEC week 1)

Fnatic’s mindset

These tendencies were not only bad though. The communication from the Fnatic camp was clear; the team was not backing down because of a few misplays on stage. Aiming for the stars and pushing the limits of the game in order to squeeze every advantage out of every single situation was the clear goal, and a few missteps on stage was acceptable to reach that goal.

Fnatic head coach on the performance of the team

Many teams would in my experience default back to a slow and controlled approach to the game in order to mask poor executions and questionable in game decisions. Fnatic however, stayed true to their style of play and improved week by week, cleaning up their performances one game at a time. The botlane in particular showed up in a spectacular way, finding many early advantages in the 2v2's.

Fnatic’s botlane dominating (LEC week 4)

Latter half of the split

Ultimately, the team wasn’t a shining example of consistency, but it was clear towards the end of the regular season that Fnatic was a contender for the trophy, despite them dropping games to lower seeded teams throughout the split. They were explosive and could take any unprepared team of guard, regardless of pre-game expectations.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows in the latter part of regular season either. The team was still going for many questionable plays, or in some cases, they simply miss executed.

This obviously wasn’t good and Fnatic’s drafting approach fueled the fire even more so. With the team commonly opting for snowball oriented teamcomps, early mistakes could be game loosing since they lacked enough scaling components to bounce back. Instead it turned into a cycle of desperation where the team had to risk even more to have any chance of coming back into a game.

Two crucial early game blunders (LEC week 8)

In the end, Fnatic finished the regular season in 5th place which is the lowest the team has placed since the 2016 summer split. In the last super-week, the team went 0–3, a shocking result for many fans who were expecting a strong showing before playoffs. It was clearly a regression in terms of performance. Many problems that haunted the team in the beginning of the split started to creep back.

Looking towards playoffs, Fnatic has a lot issues that needs to be fixed. Will they be able to bounce back? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Why did Fnatic struggle?

It’s still unclear why the team struggled to this extent. My guess was that the team had problems adjusting to the new patches. Since many early game oriented champions rotated out of meta (e.g. Samira, Renekton and Pantheon) it should theoretically become harder to take over games early on. So I looked at the all of the games this regular season and mapped out the average game time for each patch to get an idea of how the patches affected the games.

Keep in mind that the sample size for each patch is very small and that there are many other factors besides the patches that affects the game time. So we can’t draw any concrete conclusions based of this alone. But the numbers seem to suggest that the game has sped up about 1–1,5 minutes over the these 5 patches.

In theory, that would favor the early game oriented style that Fnatic plays. But we have to keep in mind that Fnatic’s average game duration clocked in at 29:33, almost 4 minutes before the average of the rest of the league. This could mean that Fnatic has opting for too much early game all this time, and that they have been reading the meta wrong since 11.1, either in terms of draft or how to approach other in-game aspects.

It is also worth noting that two people at the Fnatic facility tested positive for COVID-19 during week 7. How much this effected the team’s performance is hard to say, but it was obviously very unfortunate.

Statement from Fnatic on the COVID-19 situation

Regardless of what was wrong, games ended quickly one way or anther. Below we can see Fnatic’s gold lead over time. From the graph we can conclude that the team won most games from a winning position (72.7% to be exact). But it also shows how rare it was that they found a comeback from a loosing position. Their aggressiveness really was a double edged sword, and one misstep in game could be fatal.

Fnatic’s gold lead over time (wins in green, losses in red and average in blue)

Found this breakdown interesting? Follow me (League Analyst) on Medium and 👏this article to share it! I would also like to recommend yesterday’s post:

Video Games are not to be looked down upon

https://league-analyst.medium.com/video-games-are-not-to-be-looked-down-upon-fb1981640949

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