The kings of China vs. Europe's old guard: Top Esports face Fnatic in Worlds 2020 quarterfinals
The match takes place on Oct. 17 at 5am CT.
To many fans, Top Esports vs. Fnatic is excepted to be the most one-sided matchup to come out of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship knockout stage draw.
TES are considered by many to be among the favorites to win the 2020 Summoner’s Cup. And they’ve looked impeccable since their debut on the Worlds stage. They dropped only a single game in group play, an outlier loss to the LCS’ third seed FlyQuest. Aside from that loss, TES have shown consistently strong performances befitting of a tournament favorite.
While Fnatic have also looked strong, going 4-2 in their group with some dominant showings, the LPL’s recent prestige is such that TES are generally considered the favorites in this best-of-five.
But how accurate is this preconception? What is at first glance a one-sided matchup on paper could become an incredibly close series with something as simple as an adaptation in the draft phase or creative level one pathing. The importance of level one skirmishes so far in the Worlds meta means that a game can often be snowballed out of control within the laning phase and teams can gain unexpected advantages off the back of clever early plays.
Factoring in all these possible variables can be confusing, but here are some of the biggest storylines heading into TES and Fnatic’s matchup in the quarterfinals of Worlds 2020.
A clash of titans in the bot lane
The AD carry matchup in this series is possibly the most interesting of any laning matchup, even in a meta where the role has been significantly less impactful than in previous years. Both Rekkles and JackeyLove are considered among the best ADCs in the world—and rightfully so. But the reasons for which they hold this prestige are starkly different.
Rekkles is the best laning ADC at the World Championship. This isn’t just a bold claim, it’s supported by statistics. He has the best experience and gold differentials at 10 minutes of any bot laner at the tournament, according to Oracle’s Elixir. His wave manipulation alongside support Hylissang ensures that he’s rarely missing unnecessary farm—and he’s second in CS per minute only to DRX’s Deft.
Traditionally, his role on Fnatic has been that of late-game insurance. While his solo laners and jungler take risky fights around objectives, Rekkles will quietly sit in a side lane and advance his lead on the enemy bot lane through gold income alone, building up a stash of items to be unleashed in teamfights. Fnatic’s fast game times have meant that Rekkles has often been unable to reach the point in the game where his usefulness truly shines—and his late-game performance has looked, at times, underwhelming.
JackeyLove is a completely different beast. His laning stats are fairly average and he tends to be slightly down in experience to his lane opponent due to TES’ tendency to group for early dragon pressure. Out of the lane, however, he’s arguably the best ADC in the world. He has the single highest damage per minute of any player at Worlds so far at 712 and his teamfighting is revered even in his home region of the LPL—a region stacked with strong ADC talent. His positioning in teamfights allows him to efficiently pump out ridiculously high levels of damage and he’s not afraid to flash forward when he knows the moment is right.
TES play through JackeyLove in a way that few other teams in the knockout stage do. Second only to Gen.G’s Ruler, JackeyLove receives the highest share of his team’s gold out of the ADC pool. This enables him to reach his item power spikes quickly despite his lack of dominance during the laning phase. Rekkles, however, receives the lowest share of his team’s gold for an ADC at Worlds, with Fnatic instead choosing to funnel their power into the top side of the map.
The ideal draft for Fnatic in this matchup would see Rekkles on a lane-dominant carry to accelerate his already stellar laning prowess—a pick like Caitlyn, for example, to provide early damage and automatic pushing power. TES, however, are looking for teamfighting strength for JackeyLove. While picks like Ashe have shown strength at the tournament so far, a best-of-five is the perfect time to throw a few curveballs into the draft. Although she hasn’t been picked at the tournament yet, this series may be the perfect time for JackeyLove to bring back his signature Kai’Sa—using his own world champion skin, of course.
Carry vs. support in the jungle matchup
Fnatic’s jungler Selfmade is a breed of jungler that’s been noticeably absent in competitive play for the past few years. He’s a true carry who requires resources and support from his laners. But when he has those things, he can almost single-handedly win games.
His farm numbers are high for a jungler—and for a good reason. His champion pool of Evelynn, Graves, and Hecarim is incredibly item-reliant to operate at maximum power. He has the most first-blood kills of any jungler at the tournament, according to Oracle’s Elixir. Selfmade is unafraid to sneak into the enemy jungle and steal away camps to further propel himself ahead of his opponent.
His confidence comes, in part, from the knowledge that his teammates are ready to follow on unorthodox invades. Fnatic are the most jungle-oriented team at the World Championship and Selfmade is the perfect player to rely on for a hard carry performance. Ironically enough, he fulfills a similar role to JackeyLove on TES: the core executor of his team’s win condition and a sponge for resources.
If Selfmade functions similarly to JackeyLove, then Karsa is TES’ Rekkles. He has the lowest death count of the tournament at six deaths over six games—and, as a result, the best KDA at Worlds so far. He’s an altruist who plays around his lanes, usually ending up with less gold than his opponent at 10 minutes. This deficit stems from the fact that he’ll take unorthodox and inefficient jungle routes to be wherever his team needs him on the map. With some of the best laners in the world, he doesn’t have the same pressure to carry that Selfmade does and can instead focus on setting up for major objectives while his team provides lane pressure to help him avoid being rotated on.
The dynamic in this matchup will be an explosive one. Selfmade thrives inside the jungle, brawling for early camps and getting himself a significant CS lead, whereas Karsa would much rather be orienting himself around his lanes. Karsa’s lack of attention on his own jungle camps will inevitably result in Selfmade snatching some of them away. To combat this gold deficit, Karsa will need to ensure his time spent away from farming is productive and gives his laners a clear advantage. Failed ganks will be disastrous for TES in this series. If they can’t get an advantage off a gank, chances are they’ll have lost half their jungle camps for nothing. Selfmade, in turn, will be able to obtain the gold he so desperately needs to get off the ground.
A key factor to consider heading into this matchup is game time. Fnatic have the fastest average game time of any team left at the tournament at 28.9 minutes and tend to win through snowballing laning leads into objective control, rotating their laners around the map to support Selfmade. Right now, they’re the only team left in the tournament that has a 100-percent first blood rating, indicative of this early-game dominance that can so quickly be translated into an early victory.
TES, however, are among the slowest teams at the tournament with an average game time of 32.4 minutes, relying heavily on their superior teamfighting skills to close out games. Both teams have a relatively low total death count out of their six games played at 52 and 53, respectively. But considering Fnatic have less total minutes played, the density of their deaths is higher, meaning their players die more times per minute than TES. This stems from their tendency to take unfavorable skirmishes rather than opting into all-out teamfights, losing members in side lanes due to errors in map movement and positioning.
The aim of the game for Fnatic will be snowballing a lead. If they let TES stall for the late game, evidence suggests that they’ll get completely run over in teamfights. If Fnatic can’t generate a clear, dominant advantage by around the 15 to 20-minute mark, chances are they’ll lose the game, meaning early dragons and Rift Heralds will be crucial to swinging the LEC representatives into a gold lead.
TES have a much easier win condition in this series, simply because their playstyle doesn’t put them on a timer. All they need to do is withstand Fnatic’s early-game pressure. If they’re willing to lose a few early objectives and remain content with farming and quietly generating gold while Fnatic run amok, they can get to the teamfighting stage of the game in strong shape to do what they do best. As long as JackeyLove doesn’t lose too much experience and farm in the early game due to Rekkles’s wave control, TES can coast through the early game without too much difficulty.
The onus in this matchup is on Fnatic to make the early plays happen, while TES can just take it easy and wait for the right moment to strike. For this reason, the series is inarguably in TES’ favor. A win condition based on scaling is simply easier to execute than one that relies on early-game dominance.
But not all is lost for Fnatic. If they can execute on their early advantages, there’s a possibility for them to escalate their lead out of TES’ control. It’ll require picture-perfect play in the early game, however. Fnatic can’t give TES a single usable advantage.
Fnatic and TES will face off in a best-of-five quarterfinal series on Oct. 17 at 5am CT.
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