The Breakdown - Fnatic vs ROCCAT

The Breakdown - Fnatic vs ROCCAT

The best game of the weekend for the European LCS was ROCCAT vs Fnatic. Not only was it a battle for first place, it was a 50 minute game that was close to the very last play. Extremely long games don’t happen often in pro play without the winning team making some sort of mistake to give up an advantage. That’s what made this game so special. Despite being a 50 minute game there were very few definitive “turning points” but instead just non-stop action.

How does a game like this happen? If a teamfight is won definitively how does a team prevent the enemy from snowballing? Both of these teams are masters at understanding Risk vs Reward in League of Legends.

Medium Risk, High Reward

Fnatic takes risks -arguably more risks than any other team in the EU LCS. Often times it seems like they are playing recklessly, when in fact they are making calculated decisions. Fnatic focuses on making low risk - medium reward, or medium risk – high reward plays. Fnatic is willing to put themselves in dangerous positions as long as the potential payoff is greater than the risk. Almost all of Fnatic’s in game decisions can be described with this mindset.

ROCCAT is still a relative unknown in the competitive scene. My first experience casting them they seemed to play an incredibly slow and methodical style. This was against Ninjas in Pyjamas in the spring promotion tournament. Their first game was 9 kills to 4, their second game was 12 kills to 14, and their third game was 10 kills to 2. All signs pointed to them being an extremely slow and passive team.

Upon learning more about the way ROCCAT plays, they are very reactive to their opponents. Just like Fnatic, they try to opt into situations only where the reward is greater than the risk; however, unlike Fnatic, they tend to not put themselves into risky situations by default. Therefore they had an extremely slow set of games against NiP in the promotion tournament, and a much more aggressive game against Fnatic. This is due to Fnatic inherently putting themselves at risk, whereas NiP has an extremely risk averse style of play.

Moments of risk

This game was all about moments of risk and reward. The first big moment was when xPeke pushed mid lane at the 3:35 mark. He pushed in a Pantheon, without warding his lane, at the moment when Gragas is most likely to have double buffs. If this were a solo Q game people would call xPeke an idiot.

However, that’s without understanding the entire picture. xPeke is cheating to the left side of the lane because he knows that Gragas will be coming from red due to the early game jungle invades. He knows that if he can make it to his jungle, he will have the support of his ally Lee Sin as well as the roam of Annie. If he can escape the initial damage he will actually lure Roccat into a 3v2 and create an advantageous situation where his team can actually get double buffs out of the hands of Gragas.

It works out. Fnatic baits Jankos into the jungle, and they successfully get double buffs onto Yellowstar’s Annie. Getting a kill this early onto Jankos is a high reward. If xPeke would have died to the gank mid lane, Cyanide could have continued to execute his 3v1 dive in the top lane and gotten a return kill. Therefore xPeke’s position was actually a medium to low risk. What actually appears at first to be a risky play, is in fact just forcing ROCCAT into a new set of decisions. Fnatic thrives off of these types of plays. Fnatic took the momentum from this early risk and turned it into a decent early game advantage.

ROCCAT jumping on opportunity

Thanks to the success of the early play by Fnatic, xPeke continued his aggressive play in midlane for the entire early game. By the 11 minute mark he had a 95 to 49 CS lead over Overpow’s Pantheon. Throughout the 11 minutes, xPeke could always back up his aggression with a fallback plan. If ROCCAT would try to engage on him, they would be punished or xPeke would be able to lure them into the trap. At 11:12 Peke is finally aggressive when Fnatic has no pressure anywhere else on the map. It cost him his life. This was an example of ROCCAT taking a situation and making a low risk, medium reward play. Even if the gank failed for ROCCAT there was no investment in the attempt. The kill and the subsequent turret closed the gold gap and set up a tremendous midgame.

ROCCAT continued their comeback from a poor early game by giving Fnatic poor decision trees. At 13:42, ROCCAT successfully pushes Cyanide away from the dragon pit by bursting him with Gragas damage. With no smite threat ROCCAT is able to bully Fnatic away from the dragon because there is no reliable way to steal it and no strong tank to initiate the fight. Even though the potential reward of stealing the dragon or winning a teamfight is high, the risk is also high. Fnatic analyzes the risk of not stealing the dragon and also losing multiple team members in the process, therefore conceding the dragon.

Action, Reaction

Fnatic is used to being the team that creates action. ROCCAT is used to being the team that reacts to the enemy team's playstyle. This game was no different. At 16:50 Fnatic decide to go after Xaxus’s Trundle in the top lane and initiate a push down that very same lane. The instant Fnatic begins rotating down to the bottom lane, ROCCAT immediately pushes mid.

Judging from the mini-map picture it seems like a rather bold move for ROCCAT to push the mid lane; however, they are reacting to Fnatic's movement and punishing the rotation. Many teams would consider Xaxus getting collapsed on in this situation him getting “caught”; for ROCCAT it was just an opportunity to take mid turret. Thanks to an exceptional Hook by Vander they were able to take even more, and turn their rotation into an inhibitor turret.

Open map, slow game

We have already established that Fnatic are the ones to take risks and put the other team out of their comfort zone. ROCCAT is also a team that is incredibly hard to take out of their own comfort zone and thrives off of making reactions. The next several minutes of the game were devoid of impactful actions or reactions. Since the gold was nearly even and turrets were tied 4 to 4, it makes sense. When four turrets are down on both sides of the map there is an immense amount of open space. Because of this, it takes Fnatic a long time to find a play that will carry less risk than the potential reward.

It wasn’t until 28 minutes that the next big moment came in the game. Fnatic systematically took control of the Baron pit by purchasing four sweeping trinkets and scared ROCCAT away from the pit repeatedly. When ROCCAT’s jungler Jankos tried to regain vision of the pit, Fnatic collapsed on him and picked up their 6th kill of the game.

There was almost no risk for Fnatic to pick up the four sweepers and control the Baron pit. The brunt of ROCCAT's gank potential comes from Pantheon, and wards aren’t going to help that much. Therefore Fnatic pulls off a low Risk, high reward strategy by building four sweeping lenses and gaining control of the baron pit.

At 30 minutes Fnatic takes an even bigger edge out of their vision advantage. Cyanide hops inside the Baron pit, Yellowstar drops Tibbers, and they began to very safely take out an uncontested Baron.

This continues to fit Fnatic’s playstyle. Consider the risk of this maneuver. If ROCCAT spots them doing baron all Cyanide has to do is hop back over the wall and Fnatic would be safe. They could then defend the baron using Orianna and Jinx Siege over the wall. If ROCCAT does not check, it’s a Baron buff for Fnatic. It often seems like a risky or bold move to take baron with two or three people. For Fnatic, it was not. This was another low risk, high reward play.

Now consider the risk if ROCCAT were to actually check the Baron pit. They have no vision control inside the pit. They could be going in completely blind. There are already two very powerful champions in lane showing for Fnatic in Orianna and Mundo, who if left alone could very easily apply turret pressure. If ROCCAT goes in blind they can’t check with their entire team, leaving them open to an ambush and a swift Lee Sin kick backwards. Just getting vision of baron for ROCCAT is chalk full of risk. Therefore they leave the baron for Fnatic to take because there are not appropriate rewards to justify the risk of checking Baron. There was no way for ROCCAT to react in a positive way to Fnatics play here. After the baron is taken Overpow actually checks with his Pantheon ultimate, which was a risky play in itself. The only reward was the knowledge that baron had been slain.

Fnatic’s first attempt at breaking Roccat

At 32 minutes Fnatic begins a siege outside of ROCCAT’s base. This is often the most difficult part of the game for Fnatic as a team. They rely so heavily at confusing their opponents and catching them off guard. It’s often difficult for Fnatic to do this when the enemy is trapped in their own base. This is also where the most risk usually needs to be taken.

For ROCCAT, their main defense for the Fnatic siege is to clear waves before they arrive at turret. This means that their main defender is Jankos on Gragas. Therefore he is also the priority for Fnatic to take out. This is why Yellowstar gets extremely aggressive and attempts a Flash initiation onto Gragas. If things were to go well for Fnatic, they would win the game: the greatest reward of all. However; if the initiation fails they run the risk of losing a teamfight and forfeiting their advantage. This is a high risk, monster reward scenario for Fnatic. Therefore it is worth the attempt.

Thanks to some swift play by Vander, Gragas is able to thresh lantern to safety and foil the initiation. Additionally, Soaz gets caught inside the base and quickly obliterated by ROCCAT 's damage. This is Fnatic paying for the risk they took in trying a flash initiate on top of ROCCAT 's turret. ROCCAT lives for reacting to such plays, and was able to turn this around beautifully. Note how Xaxus’s Trundle not only shredded Soaz’s defenses with his subjugate, but also blocked the entire Fnatic team from entering the base with his Pillar.

Many teams would be content with simply repelling a push from a baron buffed team. With the push stopped, the team would be free to farm their lanes and hopefully outlast the baron buff and fight later. ROCCAT is not most teams. They recognize that they have just taken out Fnatic's sole tank. If ROCCAT can simply find a way to one of Fnatic’s priority targets, they give themselves a huge edge in a fight. Good thing they have Pantheon.

ROCCAT is able to chase down Fnatic in an extended 4v5 and pick up a total of 4 kills on Fnatic at a cost of only 2 deaths. All of this was prompted by their reaction to Fnatic’s aggressive play. ROCCAT realized that there was a way to get onto Fnatic’s priority targets once they had removed the frontline, and they took it immediately. For the previous 15 minutes of the game ROCCAT was being held back by other pressures and could not find an initiation that would warrant victory. Off of the Fnatic risk they found their biggest opportunity.

Fighting a team with Baron, even if they are without their main tank is always a dangerous game. This was a high risk, high reward team-fight for ROCCAT. The reward is pulling the game back to even when they were just in danger of losing the game 30 seconds prior. Often times these risks are the mark of a good team. Without the willingness to opt in to these types of fights they would have been slowly bled out by the overall map pressure of Fnatic.

Continued risk-taking

ROCCAT just took their biggest risk of the game and was rewarded with a teamfight victory. Unfortunately for ROCCAT, the game was still close, and more risk would be required for them to take home a win. At this moment however ROCCAT had Fnatic on their back foot. It was ROCCAT 's turn to strike. No more than 3 minutes later ROCCAT sensed their opportunity to win the game.

Take a look at all the pings on top of Rekkles’s Jinx. ROCCAT knows that if they can take out Jinx while Mundo is away and not able to play frontline for Fnatic, they could clean up the fight. They also know that there is an exposed inhibitor and death timers are long enough this late in the game that they would have time to end the game. This is a medium risk, high reward move by ROCCAT. Defeat in this fight gives the map pressure back to Fnatic and puts them back in the driver seat.

Unfortunately for ROCCAT, this is where xPeke makes a play. He knows full well that Jankos is trying to get to Rekkles to burst him down. xPeke is able to stop Jankos in his tracks with a shockwave, and burst down enough of his health that Jankos is forced to use a sub-optimal Gragas ultimate.

Most importantly it meant Rekkles and xPeke are both alive for the fight cleanup. ROCCAT and Fnatic both had opportunities and took risks which could have resulted in victory. Both attempts failed.

This was by far the most exciting portion of the game. Fnatic had been unable to turn any of their plays in to definitive edges thanks to ROCCAT 's amazing ability to respond. At this point, every risk has harsher consequences and the rewards give greater benefits.

The 2nd Baron

Off the back of their failed team fight ROCCAT sensed another opportunity to take an edge. Overpow was able to stop an inhibitor push by jumping in behind Fnatic and blowing up Rekkles, which set up a fantastic baron opportunity. ROCCAT needs this baron to pull the gold closer and make up for their lost teamfight. Fnatic needs this baron so they can regain some map control and try again with their siege attempts on ROCCAT 's base. These are rewards that both teams need. Additionally, both teams have legitimate concerns about their ability to secure baron. Cyanide is a legendary baron stealer and can potentially combo his resonating strike with his smite, and Jankos can try to burst down baron with his Gragas barrels. Normally this is a situation where ROCCAT would try and zone Cyanide out so that he could not attempt a steal, but here they are working against the clock because if they can’t secure the baron swiftly Fnatic will arrive and crush them in a team-fight. This is a high risk, high reward situation for both teams. Chaos ensues.

ROCCAT secures the Baron as the Death Rocket connects with Celevar. ROCCAT has put themselves in a dangerous position just to secure the Baron. Now that they have it, the fight is on.

Fnatic continues the chase through the Roccat jungle, getting Celavar low in the process.

With Mundo away from the main fight, Overpow sees an opportunity to close on xPeke and avoid Rekkles entirely.

When all is said and done ROCCAT walks away with the Baron and 2 kills, again putting them on even footing with Fnatic.

Roccat with nothing left to react to

ROCCAT is so good at reacting to what the enemy does, that they still struggle when they are the ones that need to take the initiative - there is no clear-cut way for Roccat to take their advantage to victory. Once they secured Baron and won the subsequent team-fight, they ran out of steam. They tried to siege down turrets from Fnatic but ran into the wave clear of Jinx and Orianna. The best they could hope for would be a clean 5v5 brawl in the open, or a skirmish where Pantheon could jump in and turn the tides of battle. They got neither of those things.

Nearly 8 minutes after their successful baron play ROCCAT makes the mistake that cost them the game. While trying to split push Overpow makes a high risk, no reward decision.

Action, Reaction. In order for this split-push by Overpow to be successful the rest of the team needs to be presenting an ongoing threat to Fnatic. Xaxus’s Trundle is not threatening the inhibitor and the other 3 members or ROCCAT are stuck flat footed in the mid lane. By appearing in the top lane Overpow presented himself as a target for Fnatic. This would be okay if the rest of ROCCAT could gain a reward from his death like an inhibitor or a baron. They were not positioned for either.. Fnatic incurred no risk by going for this kill, and were rewarded with many benefits.

The final push

Once Fnatic regained momentum, they were not forced into additional high risk plays. They had achieved progress into ROCCAT's base on previous pushes and could play a more conservative style to close the game. After Fnatic picked up the kill on Overpow they took the Baron very easily. They then shopped and set their sights on the exposed inhibitor of ROCCAT. Once again, the main defense was all about Jankos and his Gragas keeping the waves clear and Fnatic at bay. This time, xPeke catches him, and the subsequent push ends the game.

It’s also worth noting that Cyanide made a clutch Lee Sin move to kick Celavar back into the Fnatic team, further securing their final team-fight victory.

It’s important to note that just because a game is long, it does not mean that the game is close. Likewise if a game is over in 30 minutes it can be very close throughout. It all depends on when teams decide to take their risks, make their plays, and decide the game. This was the game of the week because for every low risk high reward decision Fnatic attempted, ROCCAT often had an even better response. In the end Fnatic did a better job at calculating risk.

If you have feedback or questions for Jatt, let him know on twitter @RiotJatt

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