Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi has his eyes on the prize. Fnatic were considered to be one of the most promising teams entering the new season and so far have shown great capability. The roster has one of the best records in the league [tied for second place at 6-3 as of Feb. 11 — Ed.], and doesn’t have any noticeable weak link.
Still, though, YamatoCannon is hyper-focused on having the team be the best it can be and is optimistic of Fnatic’s potential on the international stage. Inven Global spoke with YamatoCannon, to discuss his philosophy on roster construction, perspective on Fnatic’s roster, and opinion of North America.
Wunder was someone many fans did not have much confidence in coming into this split. What have been your impressions so far? Have the jokes about his work ethic and play been accurate for him on Fnatic?
It was crazy to me that we managed to get him in the offseason. It blows my mind even thinking about it. Because I think Wunder is GOATed. Hhis work ethic is insanely good. His level of professionalism is exemplary — he doesn't give a shit honestly about public opinion. He truly doesn't. And I think that's a strength of his. I think the G2 social media team played with the idea of him playing World of Warcraft and so forth.
And when you're a team that is winning everything, you always try to find ways to balance burnout and make sure the enjoyment for the game is there. So you sometimes play a different game. And that's completely normal and natural. Thinking of G2's prime time — when they were going to MSIs and they were going to the World Championship — they kept themselves quite busy. And Wunder, I think in scrims his input is the most consistent. He is always there, no matter what is happening in the game. Mentally, always there. In terms of solo queue, he's always prepared with his champions.
I couldn't ask for more from him, I am extremely happy with him. And he just played with the memes and G2 took it too far that it painted this image. And, of course, when you begin to lose for a little bit, those memes take a different side. It's like, "Oh, you're losing to a guy who plays World of Warcraft? How funny." "Oh, this guy is losing because he's playing World of Warcraft? How funny." There're always two sides of a blade, so to speak. He doesn't give a shit about public opinion. Neither do I. I know Wunder and he is delivering.
With the big signings that Fnatic made, you have a lot of vocal and experienced players. How different is it to manage personalities like those in comparison to in the past when you signed some rookies?
Yeah, it's a different kind of challenge because you have players coming from different types of teams. They come in with different expectations. Some things they might find easy, might not be so easy for someone else. And also, these players have played against each other a lot. So they have created opinions about each other. And that takes some time to uproot. And the main thing that was important for us was that we needed to create our own version of what the basics are.
When you've played in a team for long enough, you have a set way of playing the game and you're reinforcing the idea of how to play the game for many years. Like G2 with Wunder or Marek [Humanoid] with MAD Lions, and of course us in Fnatic with Hylissang and Elias [Upset] — we also had a view of the game. And it's all about making sure that we align and that people are capable of giving each other space. The journey so far has been to realize whose information is the most precise in terms of certain aspects of the game.
So now, it's kind of a balancing act and agreeing together on how we want to play the game. But it's a huge advantage to have so much experience, it's all about just making sure that we put our effort and pilot together into one thing at the same time. Because it's very easy to believe that something else is more important. And then the energy gets divided, and that's where you'll begin to jump at each other's throats. So it's all about just putting together the energy, putting together the knowledge, attacking each issue as one, and then finding a point of agreement. And if you do that, then all of that experience definitely turns into a massive weapon. But I think the trouble of most super teams is that you have players that believe the game should be played a certain way, and then you have five players that become disconnected and this is a challenge that we are tackling as hard as possible.
"It's a good thing that [the honeymoon phase] is gone because it can blind you from the mistakes that you've done. It happened to us last year in Summer."
In a recent interview with Wunder, he stated Fnatic’s skipped the honeymoon phase and have already gone through discussions and disagreements. Is that unique for a team?
I think the standard for everyone in here is just very, very high. And when the standard is very high, you will have a group that is hypercritical of things that we are doing wrong. And actually, at the beginning of Spring Split, we're going to have things that we do wrong. And we just jumped straight into it, because we've been in that position so many times where we didn't use our time properly. From the get-go, even when we won, we just wanted to improve and fix all of the mistakes we did. Sometimes almost too much, because we barely celebrate the victories we have. And I'm trying to make the boys realize that the journey that we're going through right now — even though how cliche it may sound — we are creating memories as we speak.
And eventually, we will reach a point — maybe in a couple of years — where maybe we don't work together anymore. Then we will look back at these moments that we've managed to capture. So it's a balancing act. I just have a group that is hypercritical about what we do wrong, and everyone just wants to move forward and make sure that when we are in playoffs, that we are going to be as good as we possibly can. I get the feeling always that no one wants to walk away with any regrets. And everyone always wants to make sure that no stone is left unturned. We're just attacking everything and making sure that we progress.
So the honeymoon phase, I think it's a good thing that it's gone because it can blind you from the mistakes that you've done. It happened to us last year in Summer. We won a lot of games in a row, we had really good standings, and then we hit a wall and we lost, I believe, four games in a row or something like that. And then you have to address the issues you knew were there but were hidden by the fact that you're winning. And in this scene, we don't give a shit about winning, we just give a shit about our performance and how well we play, and what we can do better from the games.
What about playstyle? Last year Fnatic liked to put on pressure — go in hard, go in fast. From how you currently play, how much different is Fnatic’s approach to the game?
I believe our potential is way higher now. I think last year we were very predictable, and we really leaned into one way of playing. Eventually, when you face the very strong teams, you're not going to get away with it. There is a set level of macro and micro that you need to achieve in order to compete with the best.
Last year, we made a lot of band-aid solutions to cover up a lot of our weaknesses. We were a very bot-centric team and our bot lane was forced to overperform together with jungle priority in order for us to squeeze out wins. Most of the time, everyone knew heading into a game with us that we would play heavily bot side, but we could outmaneuver some of the weaker teams. Every team besides MAD Lions. And I think when we eventually faced MAD Lions, we had the issue of just being too predictable, and them able to devise a plan to make sure that there was as little volatility bot lane as possible. And that in itself is a very, very big weakness.
This year, I don't feel like you can put us in any type of box. We have the same lethal bot lane, but on top of that, we have solo laners that are very experienced and can do the difficult nitty-gritty of managing the silence super well. And just leveraging the amount of experience they've had winning their leagues in order to make us a multi-dimensional team. So I think this is the big difference. What is our playstyle? Whatever the meta tells us. So if tomorrow all bot lane champs gets nerfed and we need to shift something around, we are ready to do so. Because we just have so much firepower in terms of the players and in terms of just experience and knowledge. We are also definitely there and ready to brawl against anyone in any type of style.
While you guys look great right now, the general shift of the League seems to be more towards developing rookie talent than signing big players. I spoke with Mac last week, who said that historically, he's not a big fan of investing a lot of money into veteran player, and in the long run, it’s better to develop talent. For you as a coach, when you see the majority of top teams focusing on younger players, what makes you confident in how you constructed your roster?
I've been a massive proponent for rookies. As long as I've had a career— the first initial Splyce roster in Spring, everyone's calling for me to kick Wunder and bring in this known player that they've seen in the last splits. But in my mind, there's a certain level you want a rookie to achieve. And that is the elite-tier level of players. That is like top 3 in your region. I think if you can manage to grab a player that is top 3 in your region, you don't necessarily need to take bigger risks on rookies. I think it's always a question of, "Has this player proven in the past that he can compete with the best and he's capable of being the best in his position?" If the answer to that question is no, then I think it's better to go for some of the riskier players in terms of a rookie that is coming up and is young and is ready to be molded into something new.
I just didn't believe in the past in recycling the same players that keep losing to the top teams. I don't believe in that idea. So if I was on a lower-end team, for sure I would be also taking those big risks. But I see on Fnatic — when we can sign players like Razork, Humanoid, and Wunder — then we're going to take those opportunities because these are players that can become and be the best players in their position. And that's the only metric I measure everything by.
For example, in Vitality, I remember when I went away, I created the roster with Jizuke, Gillius, Jactroll, etc. — that was three rookies. And at the time, everyone thought that we were going to be in 10th place, but that allowed us to become the team that becomes very awkward to play against. We made our own style, and we pursued it completely. And we were very different from everyone else which allowed us to win a lot of games. We were like the boxer that fights southpaw. We just put ourselves in a position to do super well. And in contrast, I could have created the roster with names. If I mentioned them now, everyone would recognize them. But I knew we wouldn't have the potential to create something that would be very awkward to play against and to actually challenge the top positions, because that's the only thing I care about.
Does that make MAD's additions curious to you then, seeing as they were a top team last year?
I think Reeker and UNF0RGIVEN are pretty decent signings. These are players that I also kept an eye on. More so Reeker, because we were in a transitional period of what we were doing in mid-lane, of course. Elias — I knew that he was going to stay in the team so I cared less about AD carries. But I think they still have the core, intact with Kaiser, Elyoya, and Armut. Of course, losing Humanoids, I think anything that loses Humanoid has very, very big shoes to fill. Because I think he was a big part of what made them so dangerous in the previous years. But all in all, I respect the pursuit of Reeker, because this was a player that I also had had my eyes on.
Something recent TL’s coach said was he thought the LCS has a stronger floor compared to Europe, and that the teams in LCS have higher level and are more competitive than the LEC. What are your thoughts?
The sad part is I don't care enough about North America to know. I have enough LPL to watch, LCK to watch. The only reason I ever watch North America is to support people that are close and dear to me. Like last year, I really enjoyed watching Jizuke. This year I enjoy watching just Team Liquid with Bwipo over there, and just to see him in action. Which I think is super cool. For the rest of the field of teams, I don't care enough to have a very good answer.
I think the LEC right now if I look at the general level, I don't think it's super, super high. I think the top teams have a lot of work to do. I think Rogue have managed to start on the right foot to figure out how they want to play. And it's just a question of making sure that we catch up to them and make sure that we fulfill our potential fully. And if I think of North America more and more, I can barely mention the rosters. I think C9 might be interesting, Team Liquid is interesting, and maybe EG. But other than that, I'm not gonna waste my time watching North America, sadly.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.