The now-iconic Unicorns of Love and Fnatic rivalry often features back-and-forth games and exciting team fights. Fnatic won their most recent confrontation 2-1, cementing a spot in European League of Legends Championship playoffs and helping to get back on track after a disappointing Rift Rivals. At the end of the series, support Jesse “Jesiz” Le spoke to Slingshot’s Kelsey Moser about Hylissang’s Rakan, a few niche support picks, and Fnatic’s process working with Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to cooperate more as a team post-Rift Rivals.
Kelsey Moser: Game 1 was the messiest and most difficult, dealing with Talon and Cho’Gath in team fights. What do you think was the biggest factor that gave you difficulty in some of those fights?
Jesse “Jesiz” Le: I think the biggest difficulties were a mix of both the surprise factor from the Talon and the Rakan. Rakan more so in terms of the Rakans we scrim against are not that great. In lane, they just play aggressive or have a good lane with like Kalista, and out of lane they’re just not impressive at all. But Hylissang is probably one of the few that actually plays it really well and knows what he’s doing with the champion, so he has a lot of pressure in general.
Because he was on Rakan, for some reason, we felt like we had to give up a lot of priority mid lane even when we saw Cho’Gath bot and stuff, and it was actually 4-v-4 with the Shen ult. When we could actually contest our vision and stuff, we were just playing a bit scared and giving up priority a lot of the times when we didn’t have to, but I think that comes from playing against Hylissang’s Rakan and just the surprise factor from Talon.
KM: Taric is still kind of a niche a support, but you played it in the second game. What conditions made it a good idea to pick Taric that game?
JL: So I think it’s really good against Braum. It’s not going to stomp Braum or anything, but it’s like a 60-40, and Braum is really a priority pick in the current meta for supports (especially when Thresh is banned). If you have a champion like Taric that’s like 60-40 in lane, and with the current tank meta, a lot of slow fights and tanks that want to jump in and dive in and do these sorts of things, Taric is like the perfect champion for this. Because a lot of team fights and fights in general are very telegraphed, which makes it a lot easier to play Taric as well.
Plus, Taric got buffed a lot recently. You’re still skilling the same way, pretty much. You’re not maxing W second anymore, but you’re still going max E into max Q, and you can rush Ardent Censer. For the first nine levels, you don’t need more than one skill in Q. Every auto attack, you get a new Q, which is super great. It makes the skirmishing better and your lane phase better because you basically have your passive in every single small skirmish. Taric is just overall great, and I would probably only play it against Braum. If it’s the perfect scenario as a team comp, I’d probably be willing to play it against whatever champion as long as I know that I wouldn’t lose tower because of the pick.
KM: You mentioned the Ardent Censer. We’re not as used to seeing this item on tank champions, but what makes it valuable right now?
JL: Ardent Censer, I don’t know if it’s really valuable or an OP item or anything. I think it’s specifically good on the shield supports still like Lulu and stuff, and on Taric it’s super strong too because he’s very mana dependent, and in the mid-late game team fight, he can proc the Ardent Censer on all five constantly. So I don’t know, overall item is just pretty good.
It’s also because you can’t really first item Redemption anymore, and you can’t really first item Locket either, so you kind of need to choose between going Knight’s Vow or Ardent Censer, and I think that’s what makes it better. Because it’s like an in-between item, kinda.
KM: We haven’t seen ranged supports as much, but Janna has been appearing a little. I think either you or Hylissang hovered it in one of the games — it was the last game —
JL: He was never going to play it. There’s no chance. Not against Thresh.
KM: In what conditions do you think some of these ranged supports will get played again?
JL: I think Janna is a different Lulu. I would only play Lulu if the enemy has Zac. Like Zac plus melee support that’s not Blitzcrank or Thresh. I would only play it against like Braum, Taric — what other melee supports are there in the meta — Alistar, of course, but no one’s really blinding all these champions. Not really Alistar, but a lot of people are blinding Braum. But I would play it against Braum, and I would play it against Zac. But if there’s no Zac, I would probably, in most cases, just rather play Lulu than Janna.
I think Janna is also strong right now because of the change to Coin. The quest. So maybe that’s why some people are thinking of playing it as well.
KM: Last game, it was a little surprising to see UoL’s first three picks, especially given the kind of compositions we’ve seen so far on this patch. Did you understand what their thought process might be?
JL: I think UoL’s third game draft was the perfect example of a team getting a bit desperate and a bit affected by the recent loss. I think that’s where a coach should step in and not be emotional (because the players are going to be emotional) and decide all the things in draft. I think their draft was bad because they probably got emotional and they just wanted certain things.
Like for example, Exileh was probably like “I need to get my Talon right now, or they’re going to ban it, and then I’m going to be uncomfortable.” That was probably his thought process. Then when they first picked Elise, they were probably like “Well, we’re losing bot lane the first two games, so we should probably keep trying to snowball top and then just get the Renekton/Elise combo, and try and snowball through that.”
But I think the biggest mistake of the first three was that they went Talon along with Renekton as well. I think it’s such a mistake to really go that far because we can just ban out supports, and don’t really have a problem withholding AD when they aren’t picking AD either. The Talon pick was just the result of players getting emotional after a loss.
KM: You’ve been in a coach position before, and you’re working with Dylan, who you’ve worked with before. What’s that dynamic like now?
JL: When I was in Immortals with Dylan, it was very — he was asking me a lot of questions, and I was giving him a lot of feedback and vice versa. He’s the type of coach that tries to draw as much information as possible and draw opinions of everyone. I was that kind of guy for him in Immortals.
Now that he came to Fnatic, he doesn’t really have another coach next to him or anything like that. He doesn’t really have another strategic coach or another pro player that can help him, so he tries to — I think it’s just pretty much the same as Immortals. I’m just basically another strategic coach as well as player. He asks me for a lot of feedback on his coaching and how he’s doing, and I give him a lot of information in terms of gameplay related stuff as well.
Currently, in Fnatic, it’s pretty much the same as Immortals in terms of coach-to-coach kind of thing, even though I’m a player. So it’s just pretty much the same.
KM: I spoke with G2, and they said that after Rift Rivals, they had a big talk to turn things around, did you have something like this with Fnatic?
JL: Mmm-hmm. We had very clear flaws. We knew that we had those flaws and weaknesses going into Rift Rivals — and before that, way before that, we knew we had those weaknesses, and it was only a matter of time before a top tier team punished us. It was shown really badly (maybe too obvious) at Rift Rivals. They just punished so hard, and it was the most frustrating thing to play because we had nothing to fall back on and all that stuff.
Of course we had a big talk. Mostly between the four of us (not Rekkles) and the staff. And we were just talking through most things. Because Rekkles went home to Sweden to like take some time off just for his mental, I guess, so we had to talk about gameplay-related stuff and just like in general about the team. It was very obvious that we had to change no matter what in terms of gameplay.
We didn’t want to go too far away from our identity. We wanted to have that as like an extra style, but we needed to be able to play meta every single week. I think we had a talk with Rekkles as well. Obviously, he likes his niche picks. The entire split and the end of last split, we had to really play — like pick around what he wanted to do and adapt a lot even though it was frustrating for a lot of us. Maybe not the most optimal in most of our eyes. We still did it, and we still took one for the team (all of us) to make sure whatever Rekkles wanted to do, we would follow and help him out.
But we basically had a talk with him when he came back, and we all sort of gave feedback to each other, and we all kind of decided — and Rekkles also decided — that, yeah, he was going to play meta because what he had been doing clearly was not working anymore. So it was very necessary to sort of change.
KM: Do you feel like the atmosphere is better now?
JL: I think it’s better. Martin is more part of the team now. He’s still a bit for himself, but he’s slowly becoming more and more a part of the team again. I don’t know if that’s just from him having his break or from him playing more for the team, but overall, things are getting better, and he’s becoming more a part of the team.
Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games