A Worlds 2021 postmortem of Fnatic: The team that almost could

Screengrab via: Fnatic | YouTube

 

Fnatic’s run through the LEC Summer Playoffs was legendary, no doubt about it. Recovering a broken roster by picking up a rookie top laner and putting Gabriël "Bwipo" Rau in the jungle was an unorthodox move. FNC clawed their way through the gutters, prying themselves out of the loser’s bracket by taking out G2 Esports and getting all the way to the finals. Their story was one of hope, a team that took so many punches and got back up every time they got knocked down.

 

But tragedy struck for FNC at Worlds 2021 with personal and family issues preventing Elias "Upset" Lipp from attending and Bwipo from being in top form. Even then, FNC had a few shining moments toward the end of the tournament and showed us what they could have been — only a little too late.

 

Filling the Upset void

Typically, the ADC isn’t what a team is centered around. While ADCs are important, the star players on a team are usually those who can rotate and impact the map early. Superstars like Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao are the exceptions to the rule, and Upset fills a similar, defining role on FNC. 

 

FNC are an aggressive team, and Upset’s always ready for a fight if it means the team will take an advantage.

 

 

In FNC’s second LEC semifinals game against Rogue, their bot lane got beaten down. Steven "Hans sama" Liv has had one hell of a season, and he managed to outperform Upset in lane. However, Upset turned in a 4v5 fight over Baron and took down Hans. Bwipo used Hans’ body to rip the teamfight open, and the game turned around for Fnatic based on this play.

 

 

Meanwhile, Upset has no issue playing a meticulous game. He can farm and take advantage of small opportunities, resulting in a surgical playstyle that has a massive payoff. He consistently carries for FNC, but the way he does it differs depending on what the team needs. He’s a unique player, whose flexible playstyle and great decision-making is hard to replace.

 

Therefore, his last-minute departure from Worlds made him hard to replace. 

 

FNC’s best bet was Louis "Bean" Schmitz, the ADC for Fnatic Rising, FNC’s minor league team, which got second place in both the NLC Playoffs and EU Masters. Bean boasted a 6.21 KDA at the NLC Playoffs and a 4.84 KDA at EU Masters. 

 

KDA obviously isn’t everything, but Bean’s positioning and decision-making were solid even in Fnatic Rising’s losses. He’s a self-preserving player, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it didn’t work out for FNC’s first games.

 

 

A clip like the above is the perfect example. This was FNC’s day 2 game against RNG, showing how out of sorts Fnatic were. This clip doesn’t even include Bean, but that’s the problem. 

 

Notice how Bean went bot to farm rather than going mid to help. Instead of grouping up and trying to make something happen with his lead, Bean went to shove a wave and do nothing else with it. The same could be said of Bwipo, who seemed to be more focused on clearing his jungle camps than working with his team. I’d wager that Upset would have tried to play around his team here rather than going bot, or shot an Ashe arrow toward mid at the very least.

 

 

Meanwhile, Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer and Zdravets "Hylissang" Galabov, already behind and looking for a desperate play, went in a little too hard. As soon as that TP dropped, they were both dead. All five RNG players were closing in on mid, and there was no way out.

 

Disjointed (like in this fight) is the best word to describe FNC’s first days at Worlds. Hylissang’s aggro playstyle didn’t quite mesh with Bean, Nisqy seemed frustrated and overly aggressive, Adam didn’t have any good fights to rotate to, and… we have to talk about Bwipo.

 

It’d be unfair to say Bwipo played poorly. As a matter of fact, he had some impressive plays throughout the group stage.

 

 

Bwipo’s got fantastic mastery over the jungle. He’s consistently shown his ability to play mind games with the enemy jungler. He generally made their life much harder and he always wound up having a farm advantage in the early game. However, Bwipo looked like he was playing solo queue most of the time. He spent more time farming and worrying about his own game than he spent trying to help his teammates, and FNC had a hard time putting together a coordinated offensive as a result. Bwipo was playing, but his teamfight-centric playstyle was only there in spirit.

 

Round 2: A glimmer of hope

After starting 0-3, the odds of FNC making it out of the group stage were all but gone. Not only would they have to go 3-0 themselves but also all the right teams would have to win and lose. In that state, they went in their second encounter with RNG. 

 

 

Despite the 0-3 record, Adam going 1-8 in lane, and playing with a sub, FNC somehow pulled off a win. Bean stepped up and had a high-impact game, while Bwipo carried by stealing the carries’ bodies and hitting the backline hard. It was a triumphant victory for FNC and one that instilled confidence into the hearts of EU fans.

 

Next came Hanwha Life Esports, a Korean team that rose from 8th place in the Summer Split to a Worlds frontrunner. With Fnatic having beaten RNG already, taking down HLE wasn’t out of the question.

 

 

Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon carried HLE. Despite Bean gapping Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu in bot, FNC weren’t able to find a win in the end. However, this game looked much better than anything from the first days of the tournament. In their final days (as is tradition), FNC started looking like a team that got everything together. 

 

From the little we know so far, Bwipo had been struggling with personal issues, many of which he outlined in a lengthy twitlonger — about why he was lacking in round 1 and how he brought things together for FNC on the final day. 

 

This bled to the rest of the team. All of the factors that were stacked against Fnatic, both in and out of the game, were too much for them to take. Fnatic’s documentary-style video from Worlds showed their gradual descent and, while heartbreaking, it showed the importance of seeing things from the losing side.

 

It wasn’t just that FNC were playing bad as a team. It’s that they fell apart before even reaching the stage. Despite rallying on their last day, they weren’t able to recover fast enough to stay in the competition.

Screengrab via: Fnatic | YouTube

Moving forward

If there’s any winner in this whole situation, it’s Bean.

The fanfare and memes surrounding his sudden appearance at Worlds has brought him from a little-known minor league player to someone people want to see in the LEC next year. Ashley Kang did an interview with Deft where he spoke on what it was like to play against FNC’s bot lane. Along with saying that Hylissang could have been “the most aggressive support player I’ve ever played against on stage,” he had some kind words for Bean too.

 

“The second time I laned against him, he was aggressive. I could visibly see that he was feeling much more confident compared to the first time I had seen him. I hope he continues to do well.” 

 

Worlds 2021 may end up being a career-defining moment for Bean, and he should be an exciting player to watch going into 2022.

 

Otherwise, these are tough times for everyone on FNC. While it felt like the roster came together in the end, we may not see FNC return in this form ever again. The amount of drama around the players makes it hard to tell where this team goes from here. We got a glimpse of what FNC could have looked like at Worlds through their final day of play had it not been for the unfortunate circumstances that ate them from within. 

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