When Jasper ‘JW’ Wecksell took to Twitter to proclaim that he and his Fnatic side had to ‘reflect’ following the side’s absolutely dismal showing at the StarLadder Minor Qualifiers, he might have been on the receiving end of a ‘biggest understatement of the year’ award.
After all, this was a team that had looked completely hopeless for the vast majority of the year. Following the messy dismissal of legendary player Robin ‘Flusha’ Rönnquist, the team embarked on a downward spiral that saw them slump to an all-time low ranking of 25th in the world. Disappointing performances at IEM Katowice in February and ESL One Cologne in July were just the tip of that was the iceberg of Fnatic’s problems however.
A Minor Catastrophe
Following Astralis’ victory at the StarLadder Berlin Major earlier this year, Fnatic are now CS:GO’s second most successful side of all time, with three major titles to their name.
However, they would also be the most successful side to have never qualified for a Counter-Strike major when they were dumped out of the EU StarLadder Berlin Major qualifiers by Mousesports and CR4ZY, losing 13–16, 8–16, 13–16, 13–16 in successive 2–0 maps.
It was an absolute humiliation for the side and the definitive rock bottom.
The dust had barely settled in the wake of the defeat before Fnatic had booted ‘Xizt’ and ‘Twist’ from their lineup, with team coach ‘Jumpy’ also departing from the side a couple of weeks later. It was clear that this was a side in desperate need of redirection.
Whilst it might not have been the best kept secret of all time, Fnatic soon announced the resigning of legendary individuals ‘Flusha’ and in-game leader Maikil “Golden” Kunda Selim just twenty days before DreamHack Malmo.
Under ‘Xizt’ and ‘Jumpy’, Fnatic had clearly lost a lot of their passion for the game. Both ‘Xizt’ and ‘JW’ spoke about how the team very rarely played and practiced together as a group, instead opting for sessions with friends, and the lack of direction in game was a testament to that.
By resigning ‘Flusha’ and ‘Golden’, Fnatic had certainly rediscovered their love for the game and, more importantly, eachother.
The Cinderella Story
To call Fnatic ‘outsiders’ going into the tournament would have been a ridiculously rank understatement. They were still ranked 23rd in the world, and the tournament was boasting the four best sides in the world in Astralis, Team Liquid, Evil Geniuses and Team Vitality. Their standings in most esports betting markets even had them as one of the nailed-on favourites for a 0–2 elimination.
To be fair, the signs looked to be pointing towards another dismal run as the Swedes were overrun in a 7–16 loss to ENCE in their first game at DreamHack.
Already finding themselves in the losers bracket and knowing that one more loss would send them home, it was a backs-against-the-wall operation for Fnatic. Whilst uninspiring and definitely nervy at times, they edged out Chinese side TyLoo before finding some much needed form against French side G2, winning impressively 16–4 and 16–5.
The match against G2 looked to reinstall a fire in Fnatic as they strode out to face Brazilian outfit FURIA in the next game. Whilst they looked good value for most of the match, it was clear they were lacking the experience in closing out a game as they were pushed all the way in a thrilling 34–32 win on Inferno.
An all-Swedish derby followed FURIA as Fnatic clashed on the stage for the first time since IEM Sydney in April against Ninjas In Pyjamas. Again, the match was tense and tight for Fnatic as they struggled to close out winning positions but eventually emerged as 16–12, 8–16 and 16–9 winners.
Fnatic’s first semi-final appearance since IEM Sydney couldn’t have been trickier, coming up against four-time Major winners Astralis, easily the best team on the planet over the past two years. To the shock of the whole world however, Fnatic found a groove no one had seen in years and romped to an amazing 16–9, 25–23 win on Overpass and Nuke respectively.
The Grand Final
Whilst they might have shocked the best team in the world in the semis, Fnatic were still relatively unfancied in their Grand Final matchup against French side Team Vitality.
Arguably possessing the best player on the planet in ZywOo, Vitality looked a solid bet in the Grand Final once they wrestled back a 14–16 win from yet another promising position for Fnatic.
Again stealing away another map-winning point from Fnatic, the French team were eventually beaten 19–16 on Inferno, Fnatic’s map pick, which took the Final to an agonising third and final map.
Fnatic had saved their best form for the final map of the competition however and, one absolutely stunning CT side later, sealed the win through an unbelievable series of frags and taking the scores to 16–13.
The message for Fnatic going forward is simple: keep doing what you’re doing. We saw with FaZe Clan before how tough it is embedding a new roster into a tournament, so having won an S-Tier competition with just twenty days preparation time is an amazing achievement for Fnatic.
It’s clear that there are things Fnatic need to work on: they went to overtime three times over the course of the competition, all from map point scenarios, missed a couple of AWP shots that you would expect a top-tier player to hit, and did have to fall back on individual brilliance rather than team excellence at times.
Make no mistake though, Fnatic have indeed turned a vital, vital corner in the Counter-Strike history and can, finally, begin to look up the tree again. This win is sure to restore a heck of a lot of confidence within themselves and it’ll be fascinating to see what the future holds for the Swedes.