After a big slump and some internal problems during the spring split of the European League of Legends Championship Series, Fnatic managed to earn a playoff spot. In its third place match against Misfits on Saturday, Fnatic looked like the dominant team of old in a 3-0 win. Slingshot’s Alexandre “DrPuppet” Weber talked with Fnatic coach Finlay “Quaye” Stewart afterward about fixing Fnatic’s issues and playing outside the meta to find a comfort zone.
Alexandre “DrPuppet” Weber: So Finlay, how are you feeling now that you guys won and secured the third place after the whole rollercoaster ride Fnatic went through the past couple of weeks?
Finlay “Quaye” Stewart: Just as you said, it was kind of a rollercoaster ride, but going to the third place match is kinda bittersweet because you are not in the finals but you get a victory, which is kinda good at the same time. So you didn’t come here for nothing. We are sort of relieved now that the season is over and can go into a bit of a break before planning and preparing for the next split.
AW: How was the atmosphere previous and during the games today? Did you guys go in and did you have the feeling you are going to win? Or did you expect a much closer series?
FS: So we knew they would be taking red side, so we were prepared for blue side drafts. Ivern is also really strong right now. My jungler also said that there is no champion really good against it so we simply first picked it, and I think as you could see in the games it went fine, at least for the first two games. Specially in Game 2 I felt that we could lose after the failed bot lane dive where Lucian got a triple kill, but Misfits decided to randomly die in our jungle and we got everything back. At this point I was a bit worried but when we won Game 2, and after the draft of Game 3 I just had to hope that sOAZ (Paul Boyer) didn’t die on top lane because he didn’t play Gnar in a while. He ended up doing really well, and the game was fine.
AW: As you mentioned the Ivern, Ivern became a more unusual pick in the last two patches. The combination with a Ryze mid lane and a Kennen AD Carry is even more unusual. What was the thought process about this strategy, and what was the core strength that you guys felt confident in playing it?
FS: I think you are going to see in the finals between G2 Esports and UOL a high priority on Ivern. This champion has current a 75 percent win rate. I’m even not sure why it fell out of meta in the first place, but in general for us, it isn’t the normal style we usually play. You don’t play it like Elise or Lee Sin, a jungler that can make a lot of plays and has a lot of impact in the early game. Adding to this, Ivern fits our play style in a different way since you can very easily camp bot lane, siege and control objectives really well. All you have to do is change up your play style a little bit because he can even be very effective with ganks if you have a lot of damage coming from your laners. So in general, I think he will be contested a lot tomorrow and we might see him nerfed by the beginning of the summer split.
AW: You mentioned you changed up your play style because you felt it worked better for you guys, and last week we saw a very confident Fnatic playing their own style even if it didn’t fit 100 percent into the meta. Was it your decision after you took over the head coach spo? Or was it an evolution from the team after regaining confidence?
FS: It was more where we realized that the current meta didn’t fit us as a team very well. We knew we had good individual players but we weren’t good as a team playing calculated and slow and this kinda stuff. So every time we did that we would just fall behind and further behind until we lost games. So we decided to change it up and decided to play champions that would not only play aggressively but also scale very well. Champions that you can make things happen, that have good tools like Ryze. He might not be the best early game champion, but he can always make — with Level 2, Ryze can always enable a gank, since he has CC and damage, and the same thing goes for Camille. I think in the end it was just a mindset change, and we just wanted to play our own way: to play aggressive and take opportunities when teams do mistakes, and teams in Europe make a lot of mistakes except for G2. So by doing this, I would say we are the second best team in Europe because I think if we had played Unicorns in the semis we would be in the finals. Just for the basic fact that we play a similar style and it was working out for us.
AW: So as the last question, how did you and Fnatic as a team handle all the mental stress and pressure?
FS: It was very difficult, but we have a mental coach that helps us a lot with those things. It isn’t all happiness and virtues like the fans want to see. There has been a lot of individual and internal conflicts, and the past four months haven’t been that smooth sailing everyone might have expected. So even (with) that, we were grinding and working hard. It wasn’t easy, but we were getting the results, and in the end it is what matters.
AW: any shoutouts left?
FS: Shoutouts to all the fans that believed and cheered for us even when we were down and not even looking to getting into playoffs. We could turn things around, and this was all because of the fans supporting us through this hard times. So thanks a lot to them and to all our sponsors AMD, Monster, MSI, Ballistix and Fnatic Gear. So big thanks to them.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Slingshot