I wrote yesterday about how even though Giants have not beaten any strong opponents, their 4-2 record could be an indication of a turnaround from last split’s miserable showing. At the very least, even if the Giants are worse than their record suggests, they have already set themselves up well for their first ever playoff run. Predictably, Fnatic then annihilated them in Giants’ most one-sided game of the season, taking advantage of a bizarre Giants role-swap and generally making the upstart Giants seem totally unprepared. But it is hard for me to care very much about analyzing the actual game, which was a stinker start to finish. Rather, what I found most fascinating was how Fnatic used their three bans to disrupt nearly everything that has made Giants successful this season. So without further ado, here is the ban-by-ban story of how Fnatic beat the Giants.
First ban – Jax
A Jax ban. Get used to it Giants; Jax may never be open for you again. Werlyb has been somewhere between acceptable and decent on other champions, but his Jax has been an out of this world carry. Twice this split teams have challenged Werlyb to beat them on Jax, and twice Jax has turned into an unstoppable killing machine. Especially with Huni a clear step above his Giants counterpart on every other champion, it is elementary for Fnatic to ban Jax away and let their star naturally win his matchup. The key here is that Fnatic is not afraid of any priority top lane picks. Not only is their top champion pool extremely varied, courtesy of the six-toplaner bans from many previous opponents, but they also are willing to challenge Giants to beat them with Hecarim or Gnar or Fizz or any other champion currently favored in competitive play. In a split that has so far been largely dictated by which of a dozen or so unbeatable champions are left open in the pick/ban phase, it is a refreshing change for Fnatic to give their opponent the pick of those champions and target their opponent’s actual strength. In this case, it resulted in an underwhelming Renekton for Giants, vindicating the Jax ban and ultimately contributing to a huge Fnatic advantage.
Second ban – Morgana
Another great target ban for Fnatic. Unlike Jax, Morgana is strong enough to generally be worthy of a ban, and her win rate in 12 games so far in EU is an outstanding 83%, with a 20% ban rate. The Giants themselves are responsible for four of those wins, with 0 losses. For Giants, Morgana is a crucial part of their ability to disengage after attempting plays. Time and again in their victories, Giants have tried a gank or a dive, and survived due to black shields and dark bindings while teammates push towers or secure other objectives. Further, LCS rookie G0DFRED has so far only had success on that champion, and it is a bit surprising how long it has taken LCS teams to attempt to take advantage of his champion pool and inexperience. The end result is that Fnatic once again prioritizes disrupting their opponent’s specific plans over keeping them off of the strongest overall champions, thereby limiting Giants’ ability to control the pace and flow of the game.
Third ban -Thresh
This ban is significant as much for who was not banned as for who was. Sure, Thresh would have filled the same hybrid engage/disengage function of Morgana in Giants’ team composition, and in the only game so far in which G0DFRED did not play Morgana, he played Thresh, meaning that Fnatic’s Thresh ban functions similarly to the previous ban of Morgana. However, just as crucial as the fact that Fnatic bans Thresh is the fact they leave Rek’Sai and Gragas open. Fnatic has yet to ban either of the top two junglers this split, even when their opponent challenges them by banning one. On the flip side, until Fnatic, Giants had only played a single game without both Gragas and Rek’Sai removed, and even in that game Rek’Sai was banned. Fnatic challenged Giants to abandon their recently favored Evelynn in order to play the top jungle matchup, something that had not happened in a single Giants game so far. Giants’ excellent play in tier-two jungle matchups was thus neutralized by Fnatic’s leaving open the first tier junglers. Once again, Fnatic’s ban disrupts Giants’ specific style and forces them out of their comfort zone. For a Giants team that has struggled a bit in teamfight coordination, but excelled in dictating the overall flow of the game with lane control and objectives, Fnatic’s bans are devastating. From the start, Giants are reacting to their opponent’s choices, not forcing their opponent to react to theirs.
Overall, reducing Fnatic-Giants to just three bans is a serious oversimplification. Fnatic is clearly a stronger organization and LoL team, and they would probably win a blind pick game just as easily. Who can say if Fnatic’s banning style would work against Giants if it was attempted by a weaker team? Leaving open so many top tier champions in favor of target bans can backfire terribly against a well-prepared opponent. In fact, it is hard for me to say if these bans would work as well if Fnatic themselves tried them again tomorrow. On the one hand, it is possible that Fnatic found and exploited the pathological weaknesses in Giants’ new style, permanently ending their Cinderella story. Then again, Giants have showed a resilience in their play this split that was previously lacking, and if they really are the contenders they have seemed so far, they will identify and eliminate their weaknesses going forward. Either way, Fnatic’s brilliant banning phase in this game demonstrates yet another reason why Fnatic is the premier western League of Legends team, and how far even promising teams like Giants have to go to catch them.