Going by the results in League of Legends World Championship 2017 Play-In Group A and B, the favorites of Group C, Fnatic, were supposed to have an easy time in their Play-In journey to the first place in the Group and Round 2. That’s not what happened.
In Pick and Ban, their opponents, Young Generation, picked themselves a very aggressive bot lane of Thresh and Draven, as well as Syndra in the mid lane. Fnatic mulled over getting Galio for their own mid laner, Rasmus “Caps” Winther, which would have been able to survive Syndra’s burst at the cost of damage potential with two more tanks already picked.
Instead, Fnatic picked Caps LeBlanc, a skill matchup which is strong early but notoriously hard to navigate in late game teamfights. Fnatic’s star AD Carry, Martin “Rekkles” Larsson, picked Varus to go against the lane bully Draven.
Where Young Generation lacked in tankiness (their only non-Support frontliner was Gragas top), they made up in spades with damage, having picked Nidalee jungle.
The Pick and Ban phase showed some arrogance from the Fnatic side. It seemed like they didn’t really respect the threat Young Generation could put forward on the field of battle. It honestly looked like they forgot the bitter lesson from the 2017 EU LCS Summer Split Semifinals against Misfits. It’s possible that they would have picked differently if their opponent was SK Telecom T1 instead of Young Generation.
On the Rift, Fnatic struggled to keep up with their Vietnamese opponents. The most noticeable offender was Caps. He actually got outplayed 1v1 in lane by YG’s mid laner, Võ “Naul” Thành Luân after greeding a flash and getting caught. Naul didn’t even need to blow his own Flash after Caps did so.
While Fnatic’s mid laner was getting owned in lane, Fnatic put their resources towards stopping the BAMF bot lane of Young Generation, Draven and Thresh. With the awesome engage by Varus, Rakan, Sejuani and Shen, Fnatic were able to get Rekkles ahead. They not only sent most of their forces to help him, but sent him to clear waves, giving the player well over 500 CS over 45 minutes.
Eventually, Fnatic did manage to gather themselves and start taking over the game after securing Baron Nashor and following it up with Elder Dragon as well, closing out the game at 52:18, which took much longer in reality because of multiple pauses.
The truth will out, as they say. Fnatic was objectively a much stronger team, so it’s not surprising that they won. However, it was a close call for much of the match. If the Europeans want to get to the Group Stage of 2017 Worlds without giving up too many of their secrets, they have to avoid these kinds of games as much as possible, putting opponents down and doing it hard and fast, in the manner of Team WE and Cloud9.
Hopefully, this match will serve as a warning for the Fnatic team. These teams are not G2 Esports by any means, but they still have teeth and need to be respected.