Fnatic's Beasts And How To Fight Them
As Roccat delivered the best performance of its history, denying G2 the perfect split, everyone’s eyes turned to Fnatic. As a struggling lineup from a brand that had seen better days, they were in need of a decisive response if they aimed to get a shadow of redemption from their split performance.
That response was Animal Style.
Characterized by a skirmish heavy game plan with split push components, Fnatic increases the strength in these two fronts by drafting off meta AD carries. Where the meta would have you restricted to less mobile choices that have a hard time split pushing, Fnatic chooses to step all over it, electing to play the likes of Twitch or Kennen.
To make those picks work, they completely forfeit all hopes of scaling, committing to an all in early to midgame, shown by Rekkles build path.
While early game oriented teams are nothing new, the deviation from the current supportive ADC meta and the decision with which they bet everything on it is far from the usual. Combining these weird build paths, wonky picks and resource funneling onto the bot laner, Fnatic end up having a sort of fighter in place of the usual marksman.
All these choices end up netting Fnatic a much stronger mid game skirmish unlike any that a meta draft can achieve. The early peaking threat of Rekkles’ damage is no match for the likes of Caitlyn or Ashe and, even when their top laner is relegated to a more supportive role, they still are much better suited for mid game trading.
Going as far as taking unfavorable lane swaps to get Rekkles through hard laning phases, the team is absolutely aware that their composition is on a clock. This is primarily showcased by their relentless rotations and constant willingness to take a fight.
It’s undoubtedly hard to assess how much of this style bases its success on the merits of the idea and what portion of the advantages is derived from people being unfamiliar with how to play against it.
G2 presented a more solid gameplan against the animal style than H2K did, and it played a considerable role in their success. This advantage was mainly available because of additional time to prepare and the extra sample of games they were able to observe.
With their focus on bottom river control during the early game, they ended up forcing Fnatic into strange lane swap shenanigans, netting more problems than they did solutions. Fnatic let themselves get pushed in to facilitate ganks for their jungler in the H2K match, G2 learned from their mistakes and adapted accordingly.
Nevertheless, we can’t completely assume Fnatic’s choices to swap were due to G2’s better game plan . The big difference in skill among the bot laners of their playoff opponents played a big role on their approach to laning. It’s much easier to get away with off meta choices when you are not laning against Zven and Mithy, who can exert a pressure purely based on individual skill.
"The strong bot side river control from G2 forces Fnatic to look
for creative paths in order to secure number advantages"
One of the bigger impairments for H2K was the misunderstanding of Fnatic’s win conditions and overall approach to the game. It is not the point of the article, nor should the reader fall into the temptation to bash H2K’s approach to the series. It’s pretty hard to play against something new you don’t understand, especially something as oppressive and snowball heavy as Animal Style is.
Regardless, in hindsight, we can still pinpoint the problems in H2K’s draft choices, and there were quite a few.
Every draft featured strong assassination elements, that were looking to pick Rekkles off and put pressure on Fnatic whenever they were looking to split push. While this definitely works on paper, even more so if one follows the earlier narrative that Fnatic were constantly looking to play an open map, it plays exactly into the jaws of their now fight hungry game plan.
This was at the time a very reasonable interpretation to make, yet critically fatal for H2K. To achieve pick potential from the pool of meta champions, H2K drafted Syndra and Zyra in games one and three.
Because we now know Fnatic’s plan, we can quickly asses the risks of one such composition. Even when the first game was featuring only two squishy immobile mages, one could argue that Fnatic needs no more to achieve success. In a context where they are looking to peak early and constantly look for fights, these draft choices have a heavily impaired influence over the game.
Compare this to G2’s identical draft in games one and two of their series. While they were featured reasonable pick potential aimed to deal with Fnatic’s backup split push plan, they drafted so in a much safer manner.
Because of the Karma, they were able to exert a much stronger bot lane pressure. Combined with Orianna they achieved higher protection from Fnatic’s pack. The combination of haste buffs and shields, paired with two mobile ADC type champions, guaranteed much safer scaling that can still punish split push, thanks to Graves’ burst and Camille’s ability to quickly close distances and lock down a target with Hextech Ultimatum.
Their good balance between scaling and pressure with enough pick potential to keep Fnatic from rolling all over them map wise, gives G2 a solid game plan at every stage in the game.
In contrast, H2K show neither shields nor mobility in their composition. With their draft, they lock themselves into a composition that is much easier to trap and one that dies faster. Even if they manage to avoid getting killed by Fnatic, the nature of their draft would have them renouncing much more pressure than G2’s. This gives the animals room to either get safer split push options or heavier control over Dragons and Baron, which unavoidably lead to an easier win condition.
Even when H2K chose Tahm Kench and Ezreal in game two, the approach hardly seems justifiable with the knowledge we now have. While these choices make sense in the context given, the pairing with Leblanc and Kha’Zix hardly looks justifiable.
As exposed before, Fnatic directs a humongous amount of their resources into peaking at mid game skirmishes. Any attempt to outperform them in what they have deemed to be their ideal gameplan with and inferior composition to do so is, at the very least, a risky choice.
Note that G2 have similar problems on their approach on game one. Even when the draft might be considered perfect to deal with Animal Style, they still overextend into fights, completely ignoring the same factors that H2K’s draft did.
We can conclude that the approach of avoiding all confrontation, while drafting enough threat so that the revitalized team can’t run amok on map objectives, might very well be what can keep Fnatic at bay.
Paired with heavy control over the bottom side, one can more efficiently starve Rekkles from the additional gold needed to be relevant in skirmishes. As seen in the later games of the G2 series, Fnatic hardly have another plan if this primary strategy is disrupted, they have little to fall back onto.
However, even if we have a deeper understanding of proper counterplay, we shouldn’t mistake it for solvability.
'Animal Style' has a lot of merits, and the biggest flaw might actually be Fnatic’s inability to play anything too different from it. Remember that the arising of resource and counterplay does not mean that the style is figured out, or that it can even be nullified.
Their inability to build other composition they can play from a disrupted draft is now the key element to work on if they aim to make this into something more than a short rebirth.
With one additional week to work on the now exposed flaws of the style, we are yet to if they can bring a crisper iteration of the style into the Rift.
And whether or not Misfits can do something against it.