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sOAZ: “It’s just harder against top teams to rely on getting kills, so it’s the main issue behind playing this Fnatic style.”

sOAZ says Fnatic's changing play style stems from a realization they couldn't rely on getting kills against the top teams.
Fnatic's sOAZ (Paul Boyer) said Fnatic changed its style out of necessity. Photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Raphie Rosen.

Although Fnatic didn’t appear in the final of Rift Rivals, it still took two wins against Phoenix1. Following Fnatic’s second victory, Paul “sOAZ” Boyer talked to Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about some of the gaps in the team’s play, new head coach Dylan Falco, and Blitzcrank.

Kelsey Moser: First of all, I’ve asked Broxah a bit about this, but it seems like you guys are trying to change up — or at least you went into this tournament trying to change up the Fnatic style, with less emphasis on snowballing really early. What was the motivation behind this, and now that you’ve lost a few games, are you going to go back to comfort to focus on the event?

Paul “sOAZ” Boyer: I think it mainly came due to us having difficulty in some scrims usually. It’s like, for example, we played TSM in scrims, and it was really difficult because our style is like if somehow they don’t get picked on the side lane, then usually either we will get out-scaled or something like this because they will have like late game AD carry, and we will have a Blade AD carry. So if they will go like IE, and Statikk, and Rapid Fire, we will get out-scaled really hard. It’s just harder against top teams to rely on getting kills, so it’s the main issue behind playing this Fnatic style.

So we are just trying with what we possibly can to change things up a bit. It’s not like — I don’t really think we adapt to the normal form, but we are just trying in our way, I guess.

KM: In particular, I noticed you are putting less emphasis on getting counter pick mid. Is this by design or it just happens to work out that way?

PB: Well, we try both. We try a lot of different things in scrims. We tried a lot to counter pick mid. We used to do that a lot, and at some point we need to late pick top — it always depends on what bans there is and stuff. I think in this meta, it’s not necessary to last pick top lane. Most teams will early pick Renekton if it’s with Elise or one or two bans and pick Kled or something like this. I don’t think it’s something definitive, but we are just trying things out and see what is best for us.

KM: Teams have tunneled on the Shen ban in particular against you, but you have other answers in your team. Do you think it makes sense that they would target this champion in particular, or does it seem kind of like a wasted ban?

PB: I think Shen is definitely one of the champions that is really good for us because it’s going to allow us to not put any resources on top unless it’s a sure kill early on, so we can fully invest into getting a lead bottom or mid. Using this Shen ult to sack top lane and just play for side lane kills. Mid game especially, we will just look actively for picks and getting advantage from Shen ults because it’s much easier to set up plays with Shen ults since it’s much lower cooldown than TPs and it’s much easier to use it. There’s just less strategy behind using Shen ults than setting up wards and vision and all this kind of stuff.

KM: Something that seems to be a strength of Fnatic is the ability to trade sides. If something is happening on one side, you react really well for a favorable trade on the other side. Is that something you feel you have a particular knack for? Because part of that also seems to be your ability to read the enemy jungler or avoid ganks.

PB: Usually — it depends on the game, I guess, but usually we tend to trade sides because we cannot really force a play or force vision. So we have to wait until something happens unless we can get ganks off before. But if there’s not really any ganks to play for, and if we cannot really get vision, then we need to wait to see what play they do, then we just counteract it by going on the other side.

I don’t really think it’s a strength or anything, it’s just due to us not being able to get vision in enemy jungle or not having pressure, so we cannot get vision. So we have to play for the other side.

KM: Fnatic do like to do a lot of picks or pinches in side lanes, but it feels like for other teams, it’s much more popular to engage mid when you show in side lane. Is this something that has been giving you trouble in particular?

PB: It’s always harder to play for sides because the lanes are much longer, so if they can group mid and go with one wave with us clearing it, it’s obviously a big issue because then we most likely need to collapse, and most of the time they have a better 1-4, so they have a better team fight comp. Sometimes we can get a better team fight off because we play the fights better, but it’s really risky if they can just ARAM mid and just try to push and get full vision like this. A bit like ROCCAT did in the second game against us when their top lane was like 0-11, and they just group mid as four, and they will just run down middle. It was really annoying for us to do anything against that because we had a weaker team fight in the late game.

KM: I noticed in draft, Fnatic seem to really like to do the flex picks. Sometimes it even feels a bit like you flex pick just to flex pick. Do you look for picks like this and work on making it part of your strategy?

PB: I don’t think we use too many. Last game we played Corki, but it’s just Rekkles (Martin Larsson) wanting to be off-meta. He doesn’t really want to follow what’s meta. He has his own way of thinking about the game. He’s pretty much like this.

Flex picks. We flexed the Camille at some point, and it’s still the case. It was really popular before because of the Karma, Zyra, this kind of stuff, so Camille support is pretty strong. Against this style, it’s really good for us also to get picks. If it’s good flexes, then it’s good for our style because it’s always good.

Sometimes there’s just like mind games, like do we actually flex this or not? Sometimes it is the case, sometimes not. I don’t necessarily think we have so many flexes compared to other teams.

KM: You said just now that you think Rekkles wants to play off-meta. Could you clarify that a little? Is that something where he wants to be surprising or he just has a different idea of what is a strong pick?

PB: I think that he thinks that his picks are legitimately better — not in the sense of lane or whatever, but what he’s going to bring later to the game. Sometimes it’s good because, for example, when we play Kennen we’ll get so many picks on the side lane and win a lot of games for that. Sometimes it doesn’t work early or we cannot play early game as we would have wanted, and we fall really far behind, so I guess it’s like any strategy. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

KM: Recently Dylan joined the team, and you tend to have a lot of opinions on coaches, so I wanted to ask how you feel he’s fitting in and what you feel he’s adding right now.

PB: I think he’s good because he has a lot of experience. He has been with TSM for a bit, he has been with Immortals. I think, overall, even if — not bashing — but NA teams don’t have so much success, I feel like in terms of coaching staff, they always have more infrastructure and a lot of this compared to Europe. So he has some experience in terms of how a team should operate from like a management point of view, this kind of stuff. He brings a lot in terms of that and most likely about communication, make sure that we use our time efficiently talking picks and bans, just finding new ideas for our style to be working.

I think he’s good. Obviously, from a player perspective, the best is always to have a coach that has a lot of knowledge. But it’s pretty much impossible to have that anyway. There are some players who retire, and they are very good, but then they might not be as good on the other side of the game. But I think he’s doing a good job, and it’s great working with him so far.

KM: We’re seeing a lot Blitzcrank. Have you considered or experimented with Blitzcrank top?

PB: I told Jesiz many times that he should play some Shen top lane, and I should play some Blitz. I think I stopped playing Blitz — I think maybe until Season 4 it was my most played in solo queue, but after Season 4, it was not meta at all. I can’t remember for what reason. I think he was just really bad at the time. He wasn’t meta, and now he’s pretty popular when there’s no Braum and Tahm, since people tend to go for Thresh, and he’s pretty good against Thresh.

I would definitely like to play some Blitz again, but I will need to probably get a bit of practice before playing it. *laughs*

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games/illustration by Raphie Rosen