We know many things about Fnatic: they have strong team fighting, their top laner likes to play carries and pressure his advantages diving the back line, they like Olaf compositions, and Febiven solo-killed Faker. None of these things make them the strongest team in Europe.
Fnatic dominates Europe because they control the minions and he who controls the minions controls the universe. The way Fnatic deploy their man pressure to control side waves and keep their jungle warded wins games. By controlling the flow of creeps, they can better prepare for objectives.
Creeps grant more vision the deeper they run on the map and when Fnatic pushes out their creep waves, they have more information. The enemy team has to react to eliminate both the information gathering and the ease of which Fnatic could use the minions to rotate quickly to a tower and eliminate it. Fnatic excels when the map is open, when a few towers fall, or when a lane swap occurs.
I've already looked at Fnatic's command of H2K in a lane swap. To look more closely at their strengths, I'll examine two of their strongest games so far this split and two of their weakest where they make a comeback.
Fnatic vs Unicorns of Love: Week 1 Day 1
As with H2K later on, Fnatic started a game in a lane swap scenario. Unicorns of Love sent their duo lane to the top side, and Fnatic opted to fast push the lane. After fast-pushing, they took an early dragon and dove the top lane. With a composition like Fnatic's, UoL should probably have expected the dive.
After the dive, Fnatic sent Huni to the bottom lane to catch up on the farm he had lost while on the top side. Unicorns of Love had, at that point, pushed out the bottom wave, so Huni could easily intercept it under Fnatic's existing first tier turret and compensate for the CS he missed diving with the rest of the team on the top side of the map.
This system repeated throughout the game. Every time Unicorns of Love tried to push out a lane, Fnatic sent Huni to intercept the free farm before minions could exert appropriate pressure.
The one mistake Fnatic made this game was when they failed to ward a small portion of Unicorns' bottom side jungle. When their duo lane pulled out, Fnatic pinged the unwarded part of the map, assuming they were setting up an ambush there, so Febiven ceded his split-push pressure. In reality, Unicorns had backed to push down the mid lane in full force to get a turret.
At that point, the Unicorns of Love were so far behind that it was insignificant, and Fnatic continued to rotate Huni to push free lanes until dragon fights broke out to win the game.
Fnatic vs Origen: Week 4 Day 1
As against both the Unicorns of Love and H2K, Fnatic sent their top and jungle bottom to get the early turret in the lane swap. sOAZ went top side in response to help push, so unlike against H2K or UoL, he didn't give up an early kill.
Huni is kept on the bottom side of the map to compensate for farm lost in the dive again. Origen tried to make an invasion on the top side of Fnatic's jungle after Fnatic's duo lane had rotated top. In addition, Origen's engage had ignored the fact that Huni had dropped vision on the bottom side and was able to get to the fight before sOAZ.
The mistake Fnatic made in this game that gave Origen an early dragon happened when Origen's duo lane pushed the wave on the bottom side to turret against Rekkles and YellOwStaR. Rekkles had to walk through the jungle to get to the dragon fight, while Niels and Mithy went through the lane and up the river. Origen had better control of the area through an earlier man advantage and picked up the dragon and the initial kills.
Fnatic's largest play came when Huni kept applying pressure in the bottom lane. sOAZ went top after Fnatic had rotated their duo there as well, and sOAZ couldn't push. Origen's duo lane were setting up a siege in the mid lane, so Huni could push out the bottom lane completely. Origen sent their support and jungler in response, which allowed Fnatic to take control of vision and river wards around mid lane.
As a result, when Niels pushed up, Fnatic had an easy collapse, kill, and grabbed the Baron.
Given the successes that Fnatic has in lane swaps, it seems strange that they rarely opt into them themselves. More often than not, Fnatic keeps their duo lane bottom, meaning they're prepared for the 2v2.
Part of this is a result of Rekkles picking a lot of utility-based AD Carries that also tend to be lane dominant. Rekkles has played Kalista five times, Sivir three times, and Ashe and Ezreal twice each. Three of those picks are known for strength in lane, and Rekkles has built Trinity Force on Ezreal, bypassing the usual lane weakness inherent in Tear of the Goddess builds. Theoretically, Fnatic should most often favor the 2v2.
Yet their two weakest games in the past two weeks have both been in a standard lane scenario.
Gambit vs Fnatic: Week 5 Day 2
Gambit focused on jungle bans in this game, trying to shift Reignover off his preferred Olaf and Rek'Sai. As Ekko, Huni came later to lane than Cabochard's Hecarim and suffered from a poor matchup.
Knowing they had a lane advantage for their top laners, Diamond executed ganks onto Rekkles and YellOwStaR. When both top laners teleported in, Gambit got the advantage.
Despite Huni getting caught out a couple times after that, Fnatic came back because Gambit over-prioritized bottom lane side wave control. Fnatic pushed out top side, got vision advantage on the Baron pit, and went for yet another early Baron. They got their advantage through better objective priority in terms of where their players were positioned on the map after the turrets fell.
Following that, Febiven's Jayce reached his Muramana and Last Whisper power spike, so he could easily force the opposition off objectives.
Giants vs Fnatic: Week 6 Day 1
Most might reduce this to "Runeglaive Ezreal," but Ezreal's largest impact came from applying global pressure. Instead of banning Rek'Sai like Gambit, Giants tried to counter it with additional globals. They picked up Ezreal for Trueshot Barrage and Shen for his ultimate.
The threat of Ezreal ults stalled some of Fnatic's pushes in the side lanes so they couldn't control or pull pressure from Giants. As a result, Giants got the Baron area vision control. When Fnatic went for their early Baron, Giants won through using their globals to start the fight with more players in position.
Unfortunately, the Giants fell short in their 1-3-1 pushing. They did not accumulate a significant lead, and Fnatic reappropriated it by picking off both Adryh and Werlyb in the side lanes. The Giants did not provide adequate vision control, and Fnatic continued to win the map control game.
Despite a reputation for a lot of First Bloods, Fnatic don't always win the early game. They've shown that they struggle in standard lanes at times because they can't use their biggest advantage. Put simply, Fnatic get advantages by sending the right players to the right places on the map. More often than not, that involves sending Huni to split push bottom so the opposing team will send their own members, and Fnatic can prep for Baron.
Fnatic can't always control and push out waves in 1v1s or 2v2s to allow Reignover to invade and lay down necessary vision. If they have bad matchups, they might be forced under tower or fall behind in farm so they cannot aid Reignover should he get in trouble.
With less control of the jungle, the enemy team can gank Fnatic's bottom lane more freely. This ultimately will keep YellOwStaR himself from roaming to lay down vision. YellOwStaR, on average, places 1.33 wards per minute, an asset no one on his team wants tied down.
To take down Fnatic, teams should bring global abilities like Giants did. This way, when Fnatic almost assuredly finds a way to get a man or minion advantage at some point, their opponents can react by sending backup teammates more quickly. They can push out minion waves without fear of a bad fight breaking out on the other side of the map.
Go for standard lanes. If possible, deny at least one or two of Rekkles' preferred utility champions. With the amount of priority Fnatic places on early Barons, it's honestly absurd that teams have let them have Kalista five times in 12 games.
Teams should let Huni have whatever champion he wants as long as it isn't Ryze. Given Ryze's ability to flatten his opposition, no semi-competent top laner should be permitted to pick him. Reignover's ability to slip in and out of the opposing jungle seamlessly is a larger threat. Take out his Rek'Sai, and if Fnatic's would-be assailants decide to go for a global team composition, a first pick isn't out of the question.
Jayce. Jayce is a problem, as he gives free wave clear, siege, and picks off targets for free for an easy man advantage with two items. This is absolutely everything Fnatic wants, so it's also off the table. Both Ryu and xPeke have shown they're willing to pick Jayce, so he shouldn't fall into Febiven's hands so easily this week.
Remember the Baron priority. Fnatic likes to get a push advantage in the bottom lane with their top laner so they can pull members from the enemy team to ward the pit and control it. Teams should answer in kind. At bottom, Fnatic will out-rotate any European team at some point, but steps can be taken to minimize it as long as their opponents don't give up Baron.
Fnatic has strong players capable of great feats, but they're best when they maneuver around direct confrontation. Fnatic doesn't win because their players outplay the opposing team. Fnatic win because their minions do.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports who thinks Fnatic are likely to drop a game this week. You can follow her on Twitter to mock her if she's wrong.