Both intuition and experimentation had confirmed the suspicions. If Kayn was to work, it was either as a toplaner or a jungler. A kit that suffers against ranged champions, an escape mechanism almost impossible to use with the lack of walls in the midlane and the general consensus of Rhaast being far better than his Shadow Assassin form. Plenty of reasons for him to be a bad midlane choice.
Yet Fnatic, and Caps, disagreed.
In their second game against Misfits, Fnatic was presented with the perfect opportunity to play Kayn as a midlaner as his Shadow Assassin form. Caps, known for constantly looking for individual outplays and his overall aggression, did not hesitate. He saw an opening everyone else was blinded to, and went for it.
The Shadow Assassin is very good a dealing with squishies, but lacks the resilience and utility to teamfight properly unless tremendously ahead. He needs to splitpush to be effective later on, and can have kill pressure on almost every champion he faces at this stage, provided that he has had a successful laning phase.
However, as far as the midlane matchup goes, Kayn does not have enough tools to face Syndra. Even though he can avoid her ultimate with his Umbral Trespass, the poke and range disadvantage is too harsh to deal with. This is partially mitigated by his choice of Deathfire’s Grasp, that both increases his poke in lane and accelerates his transformation into his Shadow Assassin form.
Nevertheless, the damage disparity is still too high, and Syndra has a very easy matchup. Lucky for Caps, everything in Fnatic’s draft is designed to mitigate this problem, and ultimately even take advantage of it.
Not only do they have Elise, the better early game jungler, to exert kill pressure on the Syndra. They also have two pushing sidelane matchups. This priority means that Jesiz and sOAZ can easily rotate to exert pressure on the river which, combined with the better jungle matchup, translates into Fnatic having absolute control over the river vision.
At first glance, this vision should work as an insurance policy to keep Caps from getting ganked and his lack of escapes abused. This is true, but also far from the whole truth. Syndra’s aoe abilities force her to constantly push if he wants to exert pressure onto Kayn, putting Powerofevil and the whole Misfits squad between a rock and a hard place.
If Syndra pushes midlane to poke Kayn out, she is open to ganks from every Fnatic member, and has little vision to avoid them. Her being a squishy immobile mage, this will certainly result in a couple of deaths for her that will make Kayn impossible to deal with in the sidelane.
On the other hand, giving Kayn a safer lane and more space to push means that he will be free to abuse his fantastic roaming potential. With both sidelanes having plenty of setup for making a kill happen, Caps is presented with a plethora of tools to get himself ahead and again dominate the splitpush.
The trap now becomes apparent. Misfits have few, if any, tools to keep Kayn from getting ahead early. Push or freeze, there is no midlane response that can keep Kayn from snowballing.
From this point onward, the plan is straightforward for Fanatic. Kayn will work as it would a talon or a Zed. Since Powerofevil chose to play safe, Caps has to make plays happen in other lanes, getting himself ahead.
Once the laning phase is over, he can occupate a sidelane and assassinate anyone the enemy team sends to deal with him.
Again, Fnatic surprise everyone with their inventive game plans but, unlike animal style, this setup likely won’t be seen very often. Winning sidelanes and a jungle advantage are key for this plan to work, and teams will think twice before giving it away after this game.