The ending of the 2019 season was bittersweet for Fnatic. They managed to make it out of one of the most stacked groups in worlds history, and they managed to lose to the world champions. But they managed to lose to the world champions, and only in the quarterfinals. Similarly, TES was one series away from making the world championship, but slipped-up in the summer playoffs against international mainstays, RNG. So coming into season 10, and 2020, both teams were in a good spot, but needed to make slight adjustments to improve themselves.
To no one’s surprise, both teams did just that. FNC snatched arguably the best jungler in EU, with Selfmade, and TES picked up Karsa, JackeyLove, and both supports; QiuQiu and yuyanjia. The results were positive. Fnatic managed to make finals in EU once again, both splits, and TES not only made finals both splits, but took it to five games both times, and ended up winning in summer. But while their stories are similar, their regions are not. Because of the growing respect for the LPL, coming into this tournament specifically, TES was seen as one of the two favorites; only potentially behind Damwon Gaming. And it’s up to Fnatic to prove everyone wrong.
Unlike the last matchup, a quick look at the statistics will tell the story for both teams quite well. TES blows FNC out of the water when it comes to things like mid-game gold leads, and objective control. Fnatic barely scrapes ahead in gold by 15 minutes, while TES averages up 1571 gold by the same time. TES takes 20% more dragons, and 10% more heralds than FNC. And, their tower ratio (the turrets they take compared to their opponents) is almost three-times as good as FNC’s as well. But when you look at super early metrics, FNC comes out on top for all of those. They have yet to surrender a first blood in the tournament, and have taken every first tower but one so far, whereas TES have only claimed 33% of first towers, and 50% of first bloods. FNC’s aggression grants them some nice early pressure. But the lack of control they show gives up more to their opponents, leveling out their gold and kill stats.
Outside of the numbers, the playstyles are very unique as well. TES is all about leveraging jungle pressure to aid the solo lanes, while the bottom lane continues to farm-up, and carry in teamfights later. FNC also leaves their bottom lane alone largely, but instead, takes their solo laners’ pressure, and distributes it into the jungle, giving Selfmade all the resources. These approaches clash quite a bit, but both are heavily reliant on the junglers. One helps win the team’s lanes for them, and one is tasked with the burden to carry. The other large difference comes in the support role, where Hylissang continues his trend of roaming unconditionally, while yuyanjia sticks by JackeyLove, on protection duty with champions like Tahm Kench, Lulu, and Lux. This doubles-down on Karsa’s responsibility to pressure lanes, whereas Fnatic has yet another key member aiding their jungler, Selfmade.
When looking at the lanes themselves, the matchups are rather intriguing. Knight, TES’s mid, has been praised as maybe the best player in the world. His flexibility, ability to carry, and laning stats, all point to him being almost flawless at times. Meanwhile, Nemesis has fielded a fair bit of criticism over this past year, with questions on his champion pool, lane performance, and more. Top lane is a whole different story. Both Bwipo and 369 are incredibly good, and incredibly volatile. They’ve each shown unique picks (Bwipo’s Rengar comes to mind), and an ability to carry when given resources. Because of that, this could be a huge turning-point in the series. Whichever top laner can get the better of the other, could swing the rest of the matchups towards them. I mean, when you have a 3-kill Urgot TP-ing onto you, there’s only so much you can do.
Sadly, the bottom lane is pretty boring. Hylissang, of course, provides a lot of the utility, decision-making, and often-times errors by Fnatic, but the ADC position is left by both teams to carry later. JackeyLove’s stunning 36.1% damage share is almost double that of Rekkles’s 19.9%. A lot of this has to do with Rekkles’s two Jhin games, as well as Fnatic’s much quicker game times, but does show the reliance TES has on their star bottom laner to carry the weight of being the main damage-dealer. That being said, he doesn’t participate in many first bloods (only one in their first six games), or get many lane kills. So likely, it’ll end up being Rekkles and JackeyLove staring at each other in the face, while they try and see who can get the most gold by 15 minutes.
Overall, the matchups are all super weird when compared to the first two quarterfinals we’ve seen. Almost every role has a huge difference in either playstyle, skill level, or champ pool, and as a result, this could potentially swing either way. But, TES’s superior level of mechanical skill, specifically in the middle lane, is still a glaring issue for FNC to address.
Does Karsa even care about Selfmade?
As said earlier, Karsa plays for his lanes. He sacrifices gold, time, experience, and pressure to guarantee 369 and Knight get ahead. But will he change anything in the face of a huge carry, Selfmade? If Selfmade takes camps, and Karsa ganks lanes, there could be a 2, 3, even 4 level lead on Selfmade, combined with who-knows how much gold as well!
How gracefully can Nemesis lose?
Unless Knight is determined to become the front-runner for the Dade award, I can’t see a world in where he loses to Nemesis. So the question becomes, can Nemesis at least neutralize the lead Knight is able to get? If he can, that leaves one less win condition for the worlds’ favorites.
Will TES drop either the Evelynn or Lucian ban?
After Selfmade’s single-handed destruction of TSM in their first game of groups, everyone learned to not give him Evelynn ever again. Similarly, Nemesis’s late-season performances on Lucian showed a necessary ban for that as well. But with two near-necessary bans for TES, that leaves them in a bit of a draft-related pickle. Will they drop one of them to see what happens, or stick to their guns and hope FNC doesn’t have anything new up their sleeves?
Can Rekkles do it?
Rekkles has talked a lot about his desire to claim revenge on JackeyLove, but when you compare their two performances across all of 2020, it’s hard to believe he’ll be able to do it. His solo queue performances and a few of his regional games have shown he still can carry, but how likely is it to happen? I’m expecting at least one Sivir pick, if he wants to take matters into his own hands.
While my heart is forever-with Fnatic and their fans, I’m still going to skew towards TES. But I think the variety of different matchups, playstyles, and more, means this is going to be heavily-reliant on draft, and potentially very back-and-forth. For that reason, I’m going to give it to TES, 3-2. I’m praying for 5 games, and I hope you are too.