Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten is a star. He burst onto European League of Legends scene by taking H2K Gaming to the LCS stage. Then, he jumped ship to Fnatic, one of the most storied franchises in European esports.
What happened next was pure domination. Buoyed by star carries Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, the team put together the perfect split, 18-0 in the summer of 2015. It wasn’t a fluke either—the team showed up in a big way at international tournaments, with Febiven leading the charge.
Fnatic took a step back after Huni and Reignover departed for North America. But 2016 proved Febiven’s bona fides as a star carry, someone who could almost single-handedly carry a team to the playoffs. Then, with Fnatic facing another overhaul, Febiven returned to H2K last offseason in one of the biggest swaps in European League.
Now, in a dramatic twist, Febiven will face his former team as H2K prepares to square off against Fnatic in the EU LCS playoff quarterfinals. But he won’t be competing against many of his former teammates. In fact, the only player that’s carried over from Febiven’s last team is ADC Martin “Rekkles” Larsson.
With turnover at four positions and head coach, this team looks very different from last year’s squad. But dig deeper, and you find that their play style has some striking similarities.
The mid lane fulcrum
Let’s start with the mid lane. Fnatic chose a rookie to take Febiven’s spot and, for the most part, Rasmus “Caps” Winther has stepped up. He isn’t up to Febiven’s level yet, but he’s a fine laner and, at his best, has given Fnatic someone to play through. Everyone knows of his two solo kills on Luka “PerkZ” Perković. But sometimes that doesn’t work out, and Caps is caught trying to make a hero play—he’s died a lot this split.
But when he is able to pressure the mid lane successfully, it unlocks Fnatic’s real strategy: moving Rekkles around. The team signed away notable EU names Paul “sOAZ” Boyer and Maurice “Amazing” Stückenschneider from Origen over the last offseason. But those two have been disappointing this year, with Amazing flat out benched in favor of Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen.
That means that Fnatic’s only real winning lane is the duo of Rekkles and Jesse “Jesiz” Le. In fact, sometimes it’s just Rekkles, as evidenced by his split-like affinity for AD split push Kennen. If Fnatic have mid lane pressure, they can move Rekkles around the map for turrets without getting hopelessly flanked or out-maneuvered for objectives. That’s how trades like this happen:
At their best, Fnatic can beat teams like Misfits by prioritizing Rekkles and moving him around. But the problem is, that hasn’t worked against the best teams, and Misfits is their only series win against playoff teams.
H2K’s winning lane: the jungle
On H2K’s side everything is positive. With Febiven as the star, they have winning lanes all over the map. But pushing lanes can be punished by ganks, and H2K’s style requires jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski to be omnipresent.
Don’t let the drop in Jankos’ First Blood percentage fool you—he’s done another fantastic job this split, but with a weaker duo lane compared to last year, one that requires more help. But the team just dominates the lane phase in a way that most EU teams can’t match. And Jankos should have a huge advantage against Broxah.
Jankos should be aided by Febiven’s advantage in the mid lane, as well as a favorable top lane matchup. The meta has shifted more to H2K top laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu’s favor, as he was never much of a tank player. SOAZ is a fine split pusher too, but he has taken a discernible step back this year, likely due to the issues in Fnatic’s jungle. H2K should have the lead there, allowing Jankos to extend jungle control.
When H2K defeated Fnatic in their only regular season meeting, it was by taking Jankos’ lead and moving as a unit. Even when Fnatic found fight wins, H2K responded beautifully by sticking together.
Of course, that’s also the problem for H2K is, as it often seems to be. They’ve thrown multiple matches this year on questionable calls, poor fight execution, and lost objectives. They need more clean plays like that Baron call to keep their mid game demons at bay.
H2K’s match to lose
Finally, it can’t be ignored that Fnatic have limped into the playoffs, needing a slugfest against Misfits to fend off ROCCAT for the final playoff spot in Group A. The team’s drafts have been in disarray for much of the year—Caps has somehow played 16 champions. That’s more than even Fabian “Exileh” Schubert, who plays for Unicorns, the off-meta kings of EU. Things got so wonky that the team made a mid-split coaching change to sort their issues out.
With issues in the mid and top lane, it’s hard to see Fnatic beating H2K three times in a five game series. Sure, H2K should throw a couple (or more) times, but these squads are heading down different trajectories. Fnatic may make it interesting, but Febiven should get the last laugh against his old squad.