In the past six months, Fnatic have undergone a massive transformation. They no longer play a solo lane split push style or farm out the lanes before a team fight. They’re all-in from “Welcome to Summoner’s Rift,” and if they have a lead, they don’t let go of it. The only player they've retained from their 2014 roster is support captain YellOwStaR — but that’s about to change. On Thursday, Fnatic announced that Rekkles will be returning to Fnatic as their starting AD Carry, replacing Steeelback.
Rekkles now finds himself in alien territory. Top laner Huni pushes any advantage he can get, relying on strong synergy with his jungler, Reignover. Febiven is a solid backup carry. YellOwStaR controls vision, and Steeelback — Steeelback is there to take towers.
The question now becomes whether Rekkles rejoining the team will allow Fnatic to retain their successful identity. Last summer, Rekkles claimed the record for most regular season kills in the LCS, branding him as a gold hog. On a team that’s all about their solo laners, he seems out of place.
But that isn’t who Rekkles is, and it's a too-basic analysis of Fnatic.
Deciding exactly how to characterize Fnatic is increasingly difficult. Earlier this split, Reignover seemed to mis-position himself and only succeed on a very limited pool of champions. Over the course of the split, he started to improve, playing a wider variety of champions and making higher impact plays. At the Mid-Season Invitational, he looked like one of the best junglers at the tournament, until Bengi man-handled him in their Game 5 semifinal match against SK Telecom T1. Ultimately, I’d still situate him firmly in second for consistency among MSI junglers.
Moving forward, Reignover is the man to free up. His ability to perform different actions on the map is quite high, and Fnatic owe a great deal of their MSI success to him. Diversifying his jungle pathing is a priority.
Undoubtedly, Fnatic’s peak performance was against SK Telecom T1. Their troubles of picking champions that didn’t fit their playstyle evaporated. Even if Warrior Enchantment on Rek’Sai seems suboptimal, it fell in line with their understood strengths. Fnatic needs to win early.
Fnatic operates off of Reignover and YellOwStaR as the duo seems to work well in tandem. During his period on Incredible Miracle, Reignover was often called “Game Over.” A lot of this came down to his inconsistent performances in high pressure situations where he would fumble skillshots or fail to make plays.
In a recent interview, Reignover told theScore eSports that, “we have YellOwStaR, who never tilts, no matter what happens. He'll know what to do in every case.”
Since joining Fnatic, it’s not hard to imagine that having that kind of reliable rock as a shot-caller and hard-engage champion player would boost Reignover’s confidence. It shows.
He also told theScore eSports that “if it's a strong team against a strong team, I think it comes down to the early game.” Reignover and YellOwStaR will take it upon themselves to make plays as early as possible, and that's derived from when their laners will best succeed.
Huni wants to pressure dives with carries and mages and punish misplays on the opposing teams. Febiven performs best on the likes of Leblanc, who needs to snowball to get off the ground. Steeelback is hard to pin down. Steeelback wants to be an aggressive carry who fits in on Fnatic. His role has been described as “janitorial,” but his propensity to over-extend in laning phase is still a sore spot.
Steeelback may have had fewer deaths than any laner on Fnatic during the regular season with 25, but when teams at the Mid-Season Invitational took a “TSM Dyrus” approach to Steeelback’s lane, Fnatic had to reappropriate their jungle pressure. In the series against SK Telecom T1, there were a lot more bottom lane teleports from Huni and a lot more ganks from Reignover sent Steeelback's way.
The adaptation served them well to a point, but it removed pressure from Febiven and Huni, putting more gold and more power in Steeelback's hands. This is where the setup fell apart. If a player receives more gold, he needs to be able to carry, and that’s not what Steeelback was there to do. He was there to clean up, he was there to take towers.
Rekkles isn't going to carry Fnatic either. If Reignover and Huni camp Rekkles’ lane in the 2015 European LCS Summer season, he isn't going to carry them to victory. He’s going to farm with his advantage and play a firmly janitorial role. Analyses of Rekkles’ damage contributions by Fernando "FFGlord" Cardenete have shown that he tends to do very little damage to enemy champions for the amount of kills he gets. On the old Fnatic team, Rekkles played cleanup for sOAZ and xPeke’s more bold moves. He’d get the last hit and the massive kill score to go along with his low amount of deaths.
A low number of deaths is the key. Rekkles is your standard ultra-safe AD Carry. He won’t go in and make the big plays. He isn’t tempted by low health opponents without adequate vision cover.
Rekkles doesn’t need his jungler.
Sadly for Steeelback, who never quite seemed to understand his role on Fnatic, Rekkles is exactly the player Fnatic needs. With their current setup, I liken Fnatic to OMG from the 2013 LPL Summer season. Their heavy-weight solo laners traveled with their duelist style jungle to invade and make plays on the top side of the map, while the bottom lane let their tower fall. Support could roam and secure vision as his whims favored while the AD Carry farmed patiently.
If the game got to 40 minutes and OMG hadn’t won, San, their AD Carry, would appear as the knife in the back, securing kills and being that last extra push for a team that had yet to win in their desired window.
It’s unclear as to whether Rekkles can stand up and perform a late game carry role like San did. Elements had two late game carries, and Froggen had some powerful plays, but when the chips were down, Rekkles wasn't daring enough.
Rekkles' safety will allow Fnatic’s moves on the top side of the map to come more easily. Aside from that, there’s no denying that Rekkles is highly skilled mechanically, so with a little more late game protection, this could be the split where he does become that late game positional carry everyone already thinks he is.
At the Mid-Season Invitational, Fnatic showed us both what they can be — a powerful squad that takes cues from an aggressive jungler — and what they're missing — an ultra safe AD Carry who doesn’t need a jungler. Despite connotations, Rekkles lets Fnatic be a better version of themselves.
His true test will come when Fnatic has spent 40 minutes on a game they haven’t closed out. If Rekkles can be the knife in the back that San always was for OMG, he’ll open up more dimensions for the team. They might not stagnate on early game strategy. They might flourish from the team that stood toe-to-toe with SK Telecom T1 and took their pound of flesh on an over-performance to a team that will keep their opposition guessing at the 2015 World Championship.
Rekkles might not be a great move, but he’s a good one. “Good,” for now, will give Fnatic a little more consistency, and that’s all they need to stay at the top of the European LCS.
Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for the Score eSports. You can follow her on Twitter for EU LCS and LPL rambl.