Fnatic head coach Jacob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi took time out of his busy day at the 2021 World Championship to chat patches, dream matches, roster moves, and vocal exercises.
Fnatic lost its first game of the Worlds 2021 tournament to Hanwha Life Esports, but YamatoCannon remains in high spirits. He gives us an optimistic and insightful glimpse into Fnatic’s mindset at the 2021 World Championship.
WIN.gg: Patch 11.18 brought a lot of new changes to the meta. How do you approach large game changes like that?
Jacob “YamatoCannon” Mebdi: Even just playing against the other teams, everybody is just testing new things out, and eventually, you find what sticks. We played in Germany before we got to Iceland. Even the champions we played in Germany, everything changed coming into boot camping in Iceland, where we were beginning to mesh together with some of the Eastern teams that we didn’t scrim with before. So it’s a process that continues evolving.
It’s always interesting how one change can bring one champion and that champion could have maybe five counters that have never been played before. Like, we’re in a world where we’re seeing Tryndamere versus Fiora mid lane matchups, we see Graves in lane as well. It’s definitely where we’ve been forced to make a lot of changes.
Force is a bad word because those types of changes always excite me. That’s why I’m in love with the game. We’ve been testing a lot of new stuff. Today we were quite vanilla. We stuck to what’s worked in the past, but we’ve got a lot of crazy-looking bullets still in our chamber that we are looking to unleash tomorrow.
Riot Games has had approaches in previous years where they’ve been less ready to make these big changes. Do you prefer large changes going into international tournaments, or is it easier to just stick with what got you there?
YamatoCannon: Well, in my mind, it’s always strange because some metas can highlight a different form of strength. I know this analogy’s always being used, it’s like you qualify playing basketball for a tournament to play football. It’s a bit wild, right? You get tested on many different levels.
As a person that watches the teams from the outside, it’s tough to predict how teams will digest it. That’s why, for example, last year everybody was hyping up JDG and Top Esports as the top competitors. Then it turned out what Damwon Gaming had been doing the entire time, in the summer, was the recipe for success and everyone else was just playing catch up. From my point of view, I’m very pragmatic so I don’t really have a preference. I just see what I need to do and I do it.
On a personal note, I do love the changes. I love chasing the next thing. I love trying to be ahead of the curve instead of just being in a spot where you feel like “Oh, this is going to happen, all drafts are very predictable.” I like to explore what the next layer of the game is because it’s not necessarily tied to patches. You need to be open-minded.
Tryndamere didn’t get changed and people just started playing it. I think that open-mindedness is a mix with the patches. Sometimes it’s placebo buffs and nerfs that make champions disappear and come back. I’m always interested in looking at patches because I’ve been playing this game since the first season. If the game was still the same way it was back then, I’d probably be studying something else. It’d be boring. So I love changes personally, but on the competitive side it depends what kind of team you are.
We’ve seen Fnatic lose to Hanwha Life Esports today, so looking forward to your next matches, what do you feel best suits Fnatic in this meta?
YamatoCannon: We’ve only shown one game so far, and I think it was fairly standard. In terms of Fnatic’s identity, we like to go in, we like to go hard, we like to set up dives. We like to put pressure on the enemy from minute one. We tried to do it in this game [versus HLE]. We had a huge advantage on our Graves and we were looking good. We made a couple of mistakes, and HLE capitalized on them. I think if we cleaned this up we can show an even better performance. I am so certain we are going to gain so much from this game.
You know, my boys don’t feel down at all after this match. They are just looking to review it, get better. This is just the nature of my group, we’re just going to improve. Tomorrow is another opportunity to show even more of what we are capable of. One game is very little, even 18 games are very little, if you think it. Coming into playoffs we played 22 games straight, and that’s where we showed what we were really capable of. That’s a large difference in volume. So one game is nothing, we’ve dipped our toe in the water in terms of showing what we can do.”
Louis “Bean” Schmitz’s arrival on your starting roster was big news. For fans who aren’t familiar with his play at Fnatic Rising, what can you say about Bean as a player?
YamatoCannon: I know that Fnatic Rising, and Bean specifically, have been studying [Fnatic’s] scrim games. He was with us this entire boot camp. He was giving nuggets of feedback and just soaking it in. I know Fnatic Rising has taken a lot of inspiration from how we play the game. So it fits like a glove. We are very blessed to have Bean with us.
When I told him this is what’s going to happen, he just stood up tall. I could see in his eyes he was ready for the task. Again, just one game and he’ll show so much more in the coming days. He has the full support of the team. We are really blessed to have Bean with us.
Is there team in particular you’re looking forwards to facing, or hoping to face, at the 2021 World Championship?
As silly as it sounds, I just want to play against Mad Lions. I still don’t feel good about how the [LEC] finals went down. Before I can think of anyone else, I kind of just want to beat them if I think ahead.
I want to face Damwon, I want to stand across from [coach] KkOma on the stage, and I want to face FPX. Any team that’s globally renowned is exciting.
I’d also like to break my NA curse. Because the last time I was at the World Championship and we played an NA team we went 0-2 against them. We went 2-0 against Gen.G, 1-1 against RNG, and dropped games when we were 10k gold ahead to Cloud9. So I have some personal beef that doesn’t really matter, but to lend some spice to this answer, I’ll share it.
In the grand scheme of things, I don’t really give a damn [who we play]. I just want to show that whoever our opponent is, we’re going to prepare as best we can, and we’ll show the best version of ourselves. Whoever is in the way, they’re just NPCs on our journey, you know? We just smack them, go next.
Some people are wondering if you have a vocal warm-up for your smooth voice. Is there a secret ginger tea?
It’s honestly absolutely nothing. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but in my earlier years, I was smoking a lot. I’ve quit, cold turkey, because it’s awful for you. So instead let me say, I eat my vegetables, I stayed in school, I studied well, I made my parents proud. That’s my vocal warm-up, it’s a lifelong process of doing the right thing. So do the right thing, guys.