Fnatic are finding their footing. In the 2022 LEC Spring Split, the organization was praised for seemingly crafting another championship roster. Talented players at every position, strong team cohesion, and an experienced mastermind for a coach — anything short of the trophy would be a disappointment.
As they navigated their first competition together, many saw them as the favorites for the playoffs. However, a 2-3 loss to Rogue cut their championship aspirations short, and the team has not been able to build much confidence back in their start to the summer. Inven Global spoke with Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi to discuss his thoughts on what went wrong for Fnatic, what the team is doing to improve, and the landscape of the LEC.
Looking at all of the Spring Split, you guys had a great team on paper, I would say most expected you to win the playoffs. But obviously in the end it didn’t quite work out. You've had more time to digest that now, so how do you reflect on that performance?
Spring Split's ending was just a summary of a lot of the issues that we faced in spring. We weren't really functioning well as a group. We had strong individual players, but we struggled to connect, and we didn't really build a solid foundation for what team play was. And that stems from how we approached practice and how much we got out of practice.
So this was a very big point of contention for us coming into summer. Because in the end, we don't play that many games on stage. We managed to draw a lot of confidence from the stage matches, and it helped as well that a lot of the teams were a lot worse, I'd say. So we could get away with a lot more. But now in summer, you can see that some of the teams are already playing well together, and we definitely have a lot to work on.
But in the end, spring was just a failure of setting expectations that were wrong. We didn't have a culture where we were openly honest with each other. We carried a lot of the things that needed to be said rather than saying them, and always when we walked into scrims there was so much tension. Because the concerns and the things that we should bring up weren't brought up. And this is something that we're focusing on, working on, and actively trying to add to the mix.
That was something we saw a lot of your players discuss in the broadcast. What do you believe were the main issues your team had with your practice regimen, and what have you done to improve on this for summer?
We're just trying to be a lot more open and honest with each other. It was quite humbling: often you're in circumstances where you think something is easy — maybe someone else doesn't think is easy, and you take for granted that some problems are gonna solve themselves. And then when they don't, it creates unnecessary tension in the air, and it builds a long-lasting problem. You need to address things early in it, you need to address them quick, and you need to just engage in conversation.
A lot of the players tend to be a lot more reserved. And this is something that a lot of the players — our group as a whole dynamic — need to work on. Because at times, it was hard to read what's going through someone's mind. You need to speak up, you need to talk, and you need to share your point of view and your knowledge with the rest of the team. Through the power of conversation, you bond and understand each other more, and you can cover for each other's weaknesses and build and use your own strengths more.
That's what's key: using strengths. We have players that are very experienced, and they come from teams that are very successful in history. So they have a lot of strong ideas, but ideas don't really function unless everyone commits to those ideas. So the power of conversation, the power of honesty, and the power of feedback is what is necessary for us — something that we are banking on big.
You've been able to play quite a few of the teams in MSI now — what have been your impressions? It seems we're in a spot where many of the lower-seeded teams are capable of beating some of the better teams? How do you contend with this: is it a matter of meta understanding, or something else?
There are definitely three teams that hit the ground running quite well: MAD Lions, G2, and of course, Excel. They have pretty decent team play — nothing extraordinary, but decent. And G2 was definitely the team to beat. G2 has a very strong confidence and aura about them, that regardless of the game state they seem to be fine and at ease.
Generally speaking, they have a lot of experience on that roster, but the key thing is they have a lot of experience together. It's like every roster changed somehow this year, and G2 going through MSI and practicing literally...I remember they were even scrimming during the World Championship last year, it seems like they've really figured out a lot of things. So kudos to them for doing that — they are definitely the team to beat. The team to look out for.
The rest of the field — I'm looking at us for example — I don't think we're playing that well. We have a lot to work on. It was pretty tough for us, because we played the super week. Usually, in the super week, you get to highlight a lot of the issues, you get to test your theories because scrim bubbles aren't very good. And we don't get to scrim against three of the teams, and then we scrim against less teams, and it becomes a lot more concentrated.
In the super week, you need to figure out the meta, you need to rearrange where your horses are, and so forth. And you need to just spot your mistakes, because maybe the teams you practice against aren't so good at highlighting them. So you prioritize other things that seem more important due to how the scrims look. And the way we walked into the second week — after super weak — half of the team just got sick. We have players that are on antibiotics.
In the end, these players are soldiers. They're machines — they played well on stage. But of course, it affects practice. It's easier to be focused for one hour of the day and just give it your all on stage. But when it comes to practice — the days being long, and a lot of demand is on players when we're practicing — it's a lot harder to maneuver.
It's just one of the big problems with esports, and League specifically. You walk into a week, and if I get hit by a car, I need to walk on stage with one leg or whatever. If a player gets sick, you just have to figure out how to play with a sick player. It isn't like in traditional sports where, "Oh, a player's injured? He's sick? Let's sub him out and figure something out." It's not really built for that.
And this was definitely a struggle for us coming into this week. We couldn't attack a lot of the issues that we wanted to attack in the super week. And I think those same issues were highlighted even deeper coming into these two matches that we played against MAD Lions and BDS. So I am excited to have healthy players, and I'm excited to go full force to attack the issues.
So I kind of hijacked your question — you asked about the level of summer, that it's weird. I just wanted to make sure that I let the world know this week was very rough for us on the health front. And health is a priority for us. Things are looking up, though, health-wise. So I'm excited for the next week.
From a gameplay perspective, what would you say is the biggest point of focus for your team this split?
Mid game is the big one — how we analyze map states and how we judge information. Knowing when to base, when we can enter, when we exit, and how to use fog of war. How to leverage information. These are things that we need to become a lot more precise on. Basically, just reading the map state and moving in unison in accordance to the map state. This is something that we struggle with. It's evident when we are preparing for objectives sometimes that we get overeager, we look for fights that are not necessary and fights that just don't mean anything in the grand scheme of the game.
The way I view the game: you are doing everything you can to prepare for the final fight of the game. Every decision that you make needs to be in accordance with that. There is a time and place when you need to actively look for fights — maybe the enemy team is ahead or something like this and you're in a position where you get outscaled. Maybe you need to look for something more feisty. But often, we are a little bit too trigger-happy. How we connect in general as a team, being on the same page about what the next move is in the macro game, and knowing what to do individually in those cases is something that we really, really need to hammer down.
Our Rift Heralds are also not the greatest — we have a lot to figure out in terms of draft too. But I'm just happy that it's Week 2. We are aware of the issues, we have the capacity to attack them, and it all comes down to just making sure we're on the same page about what we want to achieve. But for now, we are not so good. But the keyword is "for now".
Is that at all surprising that the team isn't as strong in the mid game? When I've spoken with MAD Lions' players and researched general discussion of Humanoid, something that often comes up is his impact on MAD Lions' mid game shotcalling last year, and how effective he is in that regard. Has that not been the case this split?
I think the game has moved on from a point where one person can tell everybody what to do. I think in comms you can give a general idea of what should happen next: we should mismatch, we should match, ambush in this next wave. This piece of information that is shared, like, "I'm pushing next wave, they showed," this needs to be enough to trigger the right response. You can't move everybody around like chess pieces and so forth.
In the past, when I was playing, I could easily do this. I remember winning Swedish LANs because I literally micromanaged four people, like juggling balls. But now the game is a lot more complicated, and the windows where you can do something and not do something are a lot more narrow — when you can enter, when you should base, and so forth. All those seconds really add up quickly in the game of tempo, dominating space, and leveraging information.
So it all comes down to having a consensus on the idea, and also executing individually in that idea. So I wouldn't say it's necessarily Marek being in a slump or something. That would be very unfair to him because I think he's doing well. It's just something that we need to figure out as a group. And I don't think there's anyone, in particular, to blame besides maybe myself. Because in the end, this is my responsibility to find cohesion. And I've been rather disappointed in myself in this regard. But I'm working hard and I am still going to do my best no matter what.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.