Reborn from the ashes. Fnatic returns to Seattle in aftermath of roster implosion
With this year’s iteration of The International fast approaching, it seems appropriate to offer fans both new and old a breakdown of who it is they’re going to be watching in Seattle. This series of posts will each be dedicated to one of the 18 teams that will be participating in The International 2017, with the aim of giving readers a brief overview of the teams, their position coming into TI, and what their expectations might be. Please note that these posts will not contain a comprehensive history of the teams, nor will they go into minute detail for each of the players. There are more thorough breakdowns for teams and players available out there, a la SirActionSlacks’ “TI Down Low” series. These posts aim to provide something more akin to an “in a nutshell” level of information. Today we will cover another Southeast Asian squad, the SEA Qualifier runner-up, and one of the most well known and long standing organizations in Dota – Fnatic.
If you haven’t been closely following the roster situation with Fnatic, then strap yourself in, because this is going to be wild ride explaining it all. Following the team’s failure to qualify for the Boston Major, the team made big changes by dropping 3 of its players. The team essentially went inactive until January of 2017, when the team added support player Febby and midlaner inYourdreaM. However, Fnatic’s roster issues weren’t going to be over for quite some time. inYourdreaM left the team just 5 days after joining due to family issues, and long time team leader and captain Mushi left the team about a month later, leaving the squad with just 2 players on the roster. In April, the team rounded out its roster by adding Meracle, QO, and DJ to the team, but even then the roster changes hadn’t subsided. In May, the team made one final change, replacing Meracle with Malaysian carry Ahjit to finally complete its roster. After all of these changes, offlaner Ohaiyo is the sole member of Fnatic’s 2016 squad still on the roster. While Fnatic’s new roster contains quite a lot of talent, the string of roster inconsistency hasn’t instilled much confidence in the squad with TI7 fast approaching.
Heading into this year’s iteration of The International, expectations for Fnatic have to considerably low, as this team has only recently come together in its current form. The frequent and significant roster changes means that the squad has a limited pool of games to analyze and not a lot of time to develop the level of chemistry and teamplay needed to succeed on Dota 2’s biggest stage. Perhaps Fnatic have been bootcamping and training extensively in the months leading up to TI, and perhaps that chemistry will be in place by the time things get started in Seattle. If that were to happen, then Fnatic could potentially surprise many of the other competitors at TI. Otherwise, the team is not likely to make a splash at this year’s International, despite having a talented roster of players.
When trying to analyze Fnatic’s recent performance, one will find that there is a severe lack of matches to look at. What results do exist present mixed performances in Southeast Asia and one solid performance against international opponents. Fnatic’s first chance to perform came in the SEA Qualifier for Galaxy Battles, where the squad unfortunately got off to a bad start. The team posted a 3-4 group stage record and failed to qualify for the tournament, marking an inauspicious start for the new roster. Fnatic’s sole opportunity to face off against international opponents came soon after at the Zotac Cup Masters. The SEA squad had a 1-1 group stage record, and won a 2-1 series against Digital Chaos before being defeated in the semifinals by Newbee to finish in the 3rd/4th position. The Fnatic roster finished its pre-TI season with the TI7 Southeast Asian Qualifier, where the team was able to show its strength against its SEA rivals. Fnatic posted a 7-2 group stage record to move on the the playoff stage, and won back to back 2-0 series to win a spot at The International.
This new Fnatic roster comes into TI7 with many questions surrounding it and a whole lot to prove. The team’s tumultuous period of roster changes gave the players little time to learn to work together effectively, and a limited number of matches to showcase its talent. The results that the team have produced have been decent, though not particularly encouraging. Fnatic still have a chance to surprise its opponents at TI, as the team’s limited number of matches make planning against it somewhat more difficult. TI7 could prove to be the rock that steadies this new Fnatic lineup, or the wave that crashes against it and carries the organization back into uncertainty.