One of the core parts of the European esports ecosystem, Fnatic have a long way ahead of them in 2022 League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Summer Split Playoffs. Two victories will take them to Malmö, two more will give them the trophy.
But this split, every opponent is tougher than the one before, so they must show absolute perseverance if they want to lift the LEC trophy for the first one since 2018. We spoke with Fnatic’s coach Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi about their reverse sweep victory over XL, their first challengers Misfits and the road ahead, as well as Nilah’s place in the meta.
Aykut "Kots" Sapaz, BLIX.GG: Congratulations for your win against XL, you guys live to fight another day in the LEC playoffs. How was the series, in your opinion?
Jakob "YamatoCannon" Mebdi: It was nerve-racking. There were a lot of key decisions. You know, we didn’t play on stage for quite some time, right? Two weeks and it’s always tough, the preparation. You’re playing against a team that are in their own bubble. There’s very little information and that’s something that becomes progressively easier as you go deeper into the playoffs because people are showing information in their best-of-fives.
But all in all, I’m happy because we got away with the win and we got away with a lot of experience. A lot of things to fine tune for sure. This was far from perfect; it was quite dirty. But I feel like most of the best-of-fives that I’ve seen so far in Europe have been very dirty. And I think the rust will come off as time progresses as well.
BLIX: The term “got away” is a very good term to describe because this was a reverse sweep. Were you expecting the series to go this way, you know, 2-0 into 3-2?
Yamato: I didn’t know what to expect from XL. I think in terms of what they are, as identity, I think they have a lot of depth in terms of what they can play bot. Which makes them a very dangerous opponent. I think they have a very strong identity in terms of how they like to play.
I think it was definitely shown within the games with them pressuring in the bottom side, the swaps into Herald, so definitely this is a team that is different from the other teams to play against and that definitely made it harder. Honestly, I’m just talking and I don’t even remember your question because I’m so exhausted. [Laughs] Sorry, what was your question?
BLIX: Were you expecting the series to go 3-2? Were you expecting a reverse sweep? Were you expecting a clean banger?
Yamato: Oh, I came in with the expectation that it would be tough. Like, I think 3-2 is perfectly reasonable. It could’ve ended either way on the day. I think my players definitely stayed a lot more cool when it mattered in the game. I think in the progression of the series, we definitely captured the essence of what was needed into game five in terms of draft and so forth but XL is a tough opponent.
Very tough opponent, they are very different from the other teams, as mentioned before, like they have a lot of depth in their botlane play and I think they’ve shown a lot of moments of dominance throughout the split and XL was definitely a team that we respected coming into the series. We knew it wouldn’t be easy.
BLIX: Speaking of their bot lane, were you expecting Nilah to be picked in this series?
Yamato: Yeah, they played it on stage, they played it on SoloQ. It’s nothing that was surprising to us.
Looking toward the Playoffs
BLIX: Do you think the pick will grow in popularity throughout the playoffs?
Yamato: Maybe, maybe not. I don’t wan’t to answer too much because we’re still in the midst of it. But Nilah definitely has a place in the meta. It’s something we’ve seen globally, Gen.G played her today for example, with the Singed into the Yuumi. That’s something that can happen.
Nilah is definitely a champion that requires you to think a little bit different about the game. Definitely you can create a situation where you have an edge. In terms of information, if you are the team that practices it, and you’re on the outskirt and the other teams maybe don’t pay too much attention to it there’s definitely an opportunity there for sure.
BLIX: Would love to see Singed support in LEC, especially in the hands of Hylissang. I can’t think of anyone besides Lehends that’s that good at playing that champion. But we’ll see, further in the playoffs, maybe. And speaking of that, you guys will play against Misfits, what are your thoughts on that matchup?
Yamato: I think on paper, XL was a tougher matchup for us. I think Misfits is a team that is very rejuvenated ever since they’ve gotten Zanzarah into the picture. I think the jungle meta is very good for him. They definitely look better as a team but I believe matchup-wise statistically it should be easier for us to beat Misfits then it was for us to beat XL.
Then again, a lot of things could change within the week. Misfits maybe takes some learnings from the G2 series. So we’re walking into it, preparing as hard as we can, and expecting Misfits to step up their game and bring something heavier and stronger. They also, same as XL, have shown a clear identity, but their identity definitely on paper is easier to break. But respect to those guys, they managed to pick up a lot of wins throughout the regular split and impressed me. When summer split was starting, I didn’t think they could even make it to the playoffs and I think they’ve definitely shown they could make it to playoffs.
BLIX: They have the Yamato Stamp of Approval. That is quite the compliment. The road that you have ahead of you is a long one with Misfits, and then MAD Lions, and then the loser of G2-Rogue, if you guys win that, the winner of G2-Rogue. Who will be the toughest opponent in the LEC playoffs for you?
Yamato: Honestly, I think the trickiest part of it, if I allow myself to look so far, because our main focus will be Misfits and that’s it, but looking further ahead, I think the most difficult aspect would be to beat Rogue and G2 back to back in Malmö. That’s gonna be a tough one but I’ll have home crowd there cheering for me so hopefully, you know, that’s going to be a big boost for us.
In my mind, the gorgeous thing about this crazy bracket system, I’m just happy we finally play in a big arena. Because the benefit will be that we play in a big arena back to back and that’s what I’m looking forward to. But of course, I repeat, our focus will only be on Misfits first. Then we take everything step by step, as today we took everything game by game, we don’t get ahead of ourselves because all of the teams in the LEC playoffs definitely have some teeth.
BLIX: Of course, this was a very close LEC as well. So we don’t know who we’ll see at Malmö. And finally, do you have a message for the fans out there, especially Yamato fans, now that you’re probably going to your hometown?
Yamato: To all the Fnatic supporters, I appreciate all the kind messages and the support they’ve been showing us on socials. Even through the rough times, it definitely goes a long way and it’s a positive boost to the team. We will continue working ourselves to the bone to make sure the fans get what they want.
Cover image: Riot Games