While critical to the success of teams, coaches are often overlooked in esports, especially without knowledge from the kitchen. Every team is also different and coaches are far from a plug-and-play solution. Building up a working relationship is important, and it’s rare we get to the whole process of it.
However, thanks to Fnatic’s wealth of video content and some insight on the LEC broadcast, we’ve been able to see firsthand how much of an impact Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi has on Fnatic — LEC’s #2 seed and once again a promising contender at Worlds.
A legacy to uphold
Like their rivals at G2 Esports, Fnatic as an organization have always carried high expectations, coming from their legacy status. G2 and Fnatic have dominated Europe throughout its entire history, despite going through many roster iterations. MAD Lions’ era of dominance changed that part a bit, but even the new kings of Europe couldn’t peg down the community pressure these two orgs are carrying on their shoulders.
Worlds 2021 group stage results
If we were to go by Fnatic’s overall record for the year, G2 were the team that should have made it to Worlds. Odds were stacked against Fnatic coming out of the Spring Split. After getting 3-0’d by the now-defunct Schalke 04, Fnatic seemed dead in the water. Oskar "Selfmade" Boderek was off the team, and Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau had roleswapped into the jungle. Adam "Adam" Maanane had taken the top lane, but despite being a promising, EU Masters-winning rookie, he was still that: a rookie.
Fnatic’s collapse seemed imminent and expectations for this roster were low. But then, Fnatic dominated.
Ok, to be fair, they dominated the Summer Split at the beginning. Going 1-4 in the last two weeks, Fnatic dropped off at the end of Summer and dragged their feet to 5th place and their weak finish made their upswing look like a flash in the pan. Going into playoffs, they then shook this preconception and made one of the longest loser’s bracket run in LEC history, eliminating G2 along the way, and making Worlds as #2 seed.
So, what the hell is going on with this team?
YamatoCannon’s coaching has a unique direction when it comes to Fnatic. At least, going off of the limited amount we get to see, that is. Fnatic aren’t a team that have a hard time finding openings and gaining leads. If anything, they go too hard.
Here’s a candid interview of YamatoCannon saying that Fnatic inting is “a good bet”. This sounds bad, but only if you don’t know about Fnatic’s identity as a team. It’s hard to deny Fnatic’s one of a kind character when Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov is a standout player while simultaneously maintaining one of the highest death counts in the LEC.
After a crushing loss against MAD Lions in game 1 of the summer finals, Fnatic bounced back with a five-man tower dive in the early stages of game 2. There aren’t many teams that would go into the game after a soul-crushing loss with absolute confidence in their aggression, but Fnatic are different. Their unshakeable confidence likely comes from Yamato’s mantra when it comes to Fnatic’s playstyle:
“Only the game ahead of us, nothing else matters.”
Fnatic are a team that strives from ahead and they’re always looking for a fight. Every player on the team prioritizes teamfights and rotation over their own farm, to the point that it can sometimes sink Fnatic. Their identity as teamfighters is a double-edged sword, and Fnatic often fall onto their own blade and impale themselves. Their sets are bloody, messy, and sometimes defy the logic every other pro team goes by. Five-game sets are the norm for Fnatic. But they still win those sets and in the end, only the result matters.
This is the pillar that shattered G2’s chances at making it to Worlds, and it exemplifies what makes Fnatic such a strong roster. They have a very clear identity, and they play to it. Fnatic’s draft philosophy seems to be picking champs that are easy to execute, outrotate the opponent, and crush them into submission. Mechanically simple doesn’t mean that the players on Fnatic don’t have good mechanics, either. There’s the perfectly timed Bwipo pillar from above but also examples like the 1v1 outplay of Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer against Misfits’ Vincent "Vetheo" Berrié.
Fnatic don’t feel the need to depend on mechanically involved champions when they can just run you down. You’re never going to see Adam on Jayce or Bwipo on Lee Sin; it just doesn’t fit their playstyle. YamatoCannon's coaching for this team seems to take the “less is more” approach and rather than trying to mess with Fnatic’s style, he trusts his players to win games playing their way.
And when it comes to unique champion pools, Adam, Fnatic’s newest member, is a standout.
Fnatic’s second jungle
Adam’s playstyle, champion pool, and overall attitude toward League of Legends is entirely unique, at least for a top laner. Adam isn’t too worried about his farm or his wavestate. He rotates for every objective, he forces any favorable fight he can take, and he’s solely focused on getting his team ahead. This is where a few champions only Adam picks come into play.
Olaf is one of Adam’s signature picks, and he plays into his strength as a drain tank by itemizing as much healing as he can. His interpid positioning here against G2 is largely due to his sheer confidence in his damage and healing. Blade of the Ruined King combined with Goredrinker makes Adam’s Olaf lethal in both 1v1s and teamfights. Even if the enemy rushes Grievous Wounds, they’re not going to have a fun time. His Darius has a similar playstyle considering Darius’ Q healing and the strength of Goredrinker.
It’s fair to say that G2 was extremely behind in this clip, but it says a lot about Adam’s playstyle that he chose to flash on top of the enemy ADC in a 1v3 situation rather than trying to escape.
Everything came together
Without the open mind of YamatoCannon, it’s hard to imagine any of this would have been possible. Before this split, Bwipo had never jungled in his professional career. Adam was a young rookie who might’ve been on the top of the LFL but knew nothing of international League of Legends. Adam’s playstyle was (emphasis on was) unproven at the highest level of play, and bringing him on board was a risk. While the other three players were tested and reliable, making it all come together in one split is no small feat.
MAD Mac: "This is one of NA's better years in terms of their ability to hold against other teams."
Fnatic’s is a roster stacked on talent, young and old, but this talent comes with their own drops of madness and they needed a coach to enable that and guide it all the way. YamatoCannon fit Fnatic well because he didn’t make them play a Yamato-style of League of Legends. Instead, he let his players flourish through indulging in their proclivities, mad geniuses-style.
It’s hard to say whether YamatoCannon is the best coach in Europe. It’s hard to even say what “best coach” really entails. But it’s safe to say that Yamato is the best coach Fnatic could've asked for.
Carver is an esports journalist and analyst who specializes in Eastern League of Legends.