Swedish powerhouse fnatic upset many Pick ‘Em players and shocked many fans by falling 1-3 at the IEM Katowice New Challengers’ Stage. Favourites for advancement and top seed, fnatic now find themselves in a dire situation following this travesty. An abhorrent, abrupt exit by losing to two lower-tier teams and a struggling French roster in G2 is below fnatic. The team is in tatters and needs pulling back from the brink.
A Shocking Exit
Fully understanding fnatic’s exit is thrice as difficult when considering their prior performances. The team won the PLG Grand Slam 2019, following a top-four placing at IEM Chicago, where they choked against Astralis in the semi-finals. Fnatic started the year with another top-four placing, this time at the iBUYPOWER Masters 2019, falling to Liquid who eventually won the trophy.
Then came the IEM Katowice 2019 Main Qualifier. Fnatic, NRG and ENCE were the three favourites to advance into the Legends’ Stage. The Swedes did not match their counterparts, bowing out 1-3. The tournament opened with a 16-9 defeat to the Chinese team ViCi, then a 16-11 loss vs Winstrike on Train put them into the elimination best-of-threes. Facing G2, fnatic won their legendary Mirage 16-8 before bowing out on Dust2 to the same scoreline. Then, G2 closed it out with a dominant 16-5 performance on Overpass. All three matches were sub-par from fnatic, and the team should change going forward.
A Possible Shuffle
Fnatic’s manager, Andreas Samuelsson, has claimed in a TwitLonger that no roster moves will happen, but that would be a mistake, and could well be a PR move. Apart from a couple of decent performances towards the end of the year, the roster never clicked for an extended period. Cohesion in the server is still missing, and role clashes between Jesper “JW” Wecksell and Simon “twist” Eliasson are causing many issues. Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin, the young Swedish prodigy who is the hope of fnatic, seems restricted in a weak in-game system. It is this system that needs mass change as the team’s best players Brollan and Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson need platforms to perform.
Lions Led By Donkeys?
Fnatic’s in-game leader is Xizt, and the team finds itself coached by Jimmy “Jumpy” Berndtsson. The team picked up the veteran from a meandering NiP in May 2018, to a fair amount of confusion. Xizt was not always an in-game leader, with NiP often rotating the role around the team. Xizt is thus not a veteran in-game leader; he is an older, experienced figure with the ability to take it up. Despite this, his veto skills are heavily flawed and in-game he cannot frag well to support his team.
The system itself, namely a lack of a comprehensive and strong one, can also blame much of its limitations upon Jumpy. In Astralis, we have seen how Danny “zonic” Sorensen has evolved the Danish team’s game with Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander and their latest roster. Their rigid, focussed practice routines to embed a Counter-Strike philosophy have been integral to the team. In fnatic, it is different. Joining in 2016, towards the end of their fabled era, Jumpy has had little to no impact. The team has struggled since he joined and only in 2018 did they lift trophies, at WESG and IEM Katowice.
Fnatic lacks a great coach and a truly great in-game leader. Like mousesports, they should opt for a complete shakeup of the system. Why not add Jonatan “Devilwalk” Lundberg as the new coach who after a stint coaching in North America is back coaching NoChance in Europe? Formerly coach in 2014 and 2015, Devilwalk is an experienced fit and the man to bring back the fnatic style that saw them dominant in their era. He only left to pick up the mouse again, and now that is off-limits, so there is no reason for fnatic not to reunite with their former coach.
The in-game leader, Xizt, has been underwhelming while arguably one of the best Swedish leaders is a free agent. The young Hampus “hampus” Poser has turned many heads in the past year after a successful stint for Red Reserve. One of Xizt’s big issues is his individual performances in-game. And hampus is yet to have a sub 1.00 HLTV rating on LAN since the Play2Live CryptoMasters a year ago. The man is levels ahead of Xizt individually, and at the young age of twenty has the hunger and energy needed to revitalise fnatic. Hampus’ free agency removes any buyout prospects, and his experience playing with twist and Brollan would be helpful. He is a highly rated young in-game leader who would bring a fresh face and new ideas into fnatic. Blended with Devilwalk’s philosophy of a ‘classic fnatic,’ this would completely revitalise the team.
The Sniping Question
Leadership debacle aside, a role clash between JW and twist has caused schisms within fnatic. Both are AWPers, and regularly play tug-of-war to wield the sniper. The pair are in lacklustre individual form, and the AWPing role needs proper delegation. Owen “smooya” Butterfield’s own AWP tug-of-war with Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz resulted in him parting ways with BIG. One of twist and JW must leave their team too as neither are strong enough riflers to pull their weight without AWPing full-time.
Despite only being recently added in October, twist should make way. This is because JW has a culture that matches fnatic’s past, has experience and desire, and is a better AWP player. While Wecksell suffered from the sniper’s nerf, his recovery would be well-placed under the fnatic banner. His understanding of the organisation and general experience at a top-tier level would be invaluable. Led by the younger hampus, and with the freshness of Brollan in the roster, JW would reach his ceiling once more, as the community clamours for. For a replacement, there is only one realistic candidate. Another 16-year-old, who like Brollan is lighting up the Swedish scene, is the rifler Lucas “Plopski” Zamora. Playing for x6tence Galaxy, he was the main cog in the team’s top-four placing at DreamHack Winter 2018. Zamora earned a 1.14 HLTV rating and the attention of many CS:GO fans for his impressive individual performance. In the current climate Plopski is the only realistic option fnatic have, and with sky-high potential, he could be well worth the risk.
Fnatic’s abrupt exit at IEM Katowice 2019 resulted from a lacklustre roster having a poor event. The outcome was well below par for such a legendary team and organisation. To right the wrongs, hampus, Plopski, and Devilwalk should replace Xizt, twist, and Jumpy on the team. Problems lie deeper than the roster, with burdens on the incoming leadership duo to rebuild the broken philosophy of fnatic. The team needs reinvention from the bottom up. No more should fnatic be an experienced roster of old hands, but a lineup of unproven talents desperate for success.