The Rising SEA: Southeast Asian squad Fnatic looks to ascend to the ranks of the Dota 2 world’s elite with a strong run in Vancouver to claim the region’s first TI title.
Another year of Dota 2 action has come and gone, and the stage is now set for the Dota 2 world to once again come together to enjoy and celebrate the game on the biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. With The International 2018 fast approaching, it seems appropriate to offer fans both new and old some information on the squads that will be fighting in Vancouver for a chance to lay claim to the Aegis of Champions and cement themselves a place in Dota 2 history. Each post in this series will provide a brief profile of one of the 18 teams that have earned a place in the field at TI8, including a small overview of the team/organization’s history, a breakdown of its 2017-2018 season, a look at the players on the team’s roster, and expectations entering TI itself. Whether you’re deep into the pro Dota scene already or just looking to get your feet wet in preparation for TI8, the hope is that these profiles will give you a bit more insight or a refresher course for the teams that will be playing in Vancouver in August. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at 1 of the 3 Southeast Asian teams that will be competing in Vancouver, and a squad that has drastically reinvented itself on the Pro Circuit stage: Fnatic.
Region: Southeast Asia (SEA)
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Rank: 12th (1265 Qualifying Points)
Qualification Method: TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier (1st Place)
2017-2018 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 11 (6 Top 4 Finishes)
Previous TI Appearances: TI3 (7th-8th), TI4 (13th-14th), TI5 (13th-16th), TI6 (4th). TI7 (17th-18th)
2017-2018 Season Notable Achievements:
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Majors
4th – ESL One Katowice 2018
4th – ESL One Birmingham 2018
Dota 2 Pro Circuit Minors
2nd – DOTA Summit 8
2nd – DreamLeague Season 9
3rd-4th – StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5
3rd-4th – GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor
Non- Pro Circuit Events
3rd – The Major League
Fnatic stands as one of the most popular and well known organizations within the esports world, having played a large part across the scenes of multiple games since its founding in 2004. While the organization is most likely best known for its significant success within the Counter Strike scene, the last few years have seen the Fnatic brand commit to maintaining a presence within the Dota 2 world. The organization’s time with Dota 2 began just a few months after the first iteration of The International back in 2011, with the acquisition of the all-Serbian squad Team Gamersleasgue in November. Within weeks of its signing, the new Fnatic lineup managed to earn a 2nd place finish at DreamHack Winter 2011, but struggled to maintain any momentum heading into 2012. By March, the organization dropped its lineup and transferred the roster of its Heroes of Newerth team to a new Dota 2 team. Though the roster underwent 1 or 2 more roster changes before the end of the year, Fnatic managed to find a small level of success for its in 2012 with 1st place finishes at StarLadder ProSeries Season, DreamHack Valencia 2012, and the Thor Open 2012. At the same time that Fnatic’s European lineup was beginning to find its footing, the organization attempted to branch out into the North American scene as well with the creation of Fnatic.NA. The team’s initial roster was announced in August, but underwent an overhaul in October, followed by another restructuring in January of 2013. By May, the squad had disbanded without a single finish above the 5th place position in any of its appearances under the Fnatic name. While the North American side of the organization may have foundered in 2013, its European lineup was establishing itself as a potential contender on the international level. The team took part in a ridiculous number of events that year, with 37 tournaments or qualifiers under its belt before the end of July. The squad was not always successful in those event appearances, but its numerous opportunities to play in high profile events drew it enough attention to earn an invite to TI3. A finish in the top half of the standings in the 7th-8th place position helped put Fnatic on the map in the Dota 2 world, and the team closed out 2013 in strong fashion with a slew of impressive finishes, including 2nd place finishes in the DreamLeague Kick-Off Season, the RaidCall EMS One Fall Season, and the Fragbit Masters.
The team appeared to be in good shape over the first half of 2014, as the team’s roster remained intact and the European squad was able to put together an impressive list of performances on the international level. The squad managed to earn itself an invite to TI4, but that’s when things started to go bad for the team and the organization. Fnatic struggled significantly at the event, and failed to advance out of the Group Stage in Seattle for a 13th-14th place finish overall in Seattle. Just 1 months after that poor performance, the roster imploded as 3 of the team’s 5 players left the organization. In December, a fourth member of the team left and the organization felt it best to officially disband its roster and look to acquire a new lineup rather than attempt to rebuild from scratch. Fnatic was out of the game in the Dota 2 world for nearly 6 months before it made its return by acquiring the lineup of Team Malaysia in June and officially shifting itself into the Southeast Asian region. The roster’s impressive performance prior to its signing by Fnatic earned it an invite to TI5, marking the organization’s third straight appearance on the TI stage. Unfortunately, the team did not perform as well in Seattle as it may have been hoping for, as it was 1 of the first 4 teams to be eliminated from the event with a 13th-16th place finish overall. In the wake of its defeat at TI, Fnatic underwent a significant alteration to its roster that saw over half of its team changed in preparation for the Dota 2 Majors. The changes did little to help the team turn things around, as Fnatic and its new lineup finished in the 13th-16th place position at The Frankfurt Major in November. The team closed out the year with 1 last change to its roster in the hopes of revitalizing its standing within the Southeast Asian region and the international scene in 2016.
Fnatic would prove incredibly successful on that front in the new year, as the Southeast Asian squad began 2016 by qualifying for The Shanghai Major and claiming a 5th-6th place finish in its first appearance on the international level with its new roster. The next few months saw the squad dominate its regional rivals, as Fnatic won 7 straight qualifiers or tournaments within Southeast Asia. That success continued to carry over onto the international level as well, with Fnatic placing 3rd-4th at ESL One Manila 2016 in April alongside another 5th-6th place finish at The Manila Major in June. Despite those strong performances, the team still needed to go through the TI6 qualifiers in order to secure itself a place at the event. However, Fnatic quickly proved itself a force to be reckoned with on the international level with a 4th place finish overall. The team looked to be in a strong position heading into the final months of 2016 and the start of 2017, put the post-TI roster shuffle would hit Fnatic particularly hard that year. 3 of the team’s 5 players left the organization, and the players brought in to replace them remained with the team for just 2 months before returning to their prior organization. The move left Fnatic with an incomplete roster and an uncertain future heading into the new year that sapped away any remaining momentum from its runt at TI6. The squad announced moves in January in an effort to rebuild its roster, but just 1 month later Fnatic was back down to just 2 players in its lineup. April and May brought another round of roster changes and a slew of new players, but by the end of that 2 months period Fnatic’s lineup finally appeared to have stabilized. Throughout the roster shuffles in the first few months of the season, Fnatic’s performance had taken a bit of a downturn, but the new lineup managed to fight its way through the TI7 Southeast Asia Qualifier to earn itself a place in Seattle. That place ended up being last place, as the Southeast Asian team finished in the 17th-18th place position at TI7, and looked to enter the upcoming Pro Circuit season with a new look and another new roster.
Season in Review
Fnatic began the season with the announcement of a new roster, with TI7 holdovers Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin and Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti being joined by a trio of new teammates. That team struggled significantly to begin the season though, earning Top 4 finishes in just 3 of its first 5 qualifier runs and failing to directly earn any Pro Circuit appearances. The team’s first 2 Pro Circuit events only ended up coming their way because the teams that had actually won the Southeast Asia Qualifiers ended up being unable to attend. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t able to take advantage of those opportunities, failing to earn Qualifying Points at either of those first 2 events. In November, the team announced a change to its lineup, with midlaner Steve “Xcalibur” Ye being replaced by 17 year old phenom and dormer Digital Chaos members Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop. The new addition immediately raised Fnatic into a position as a contender within its home region, as the team claimed Top 4 finishes across its final 4 qualifier runs in 2017 and qualified for both the DreamLeague Season 8 Major and the DOTA Summit 8 Minor. The team ended up finishing at the bottom of the standings at the former, but claimed its first Top 4 finish at the latter with a 2nd place run at the Minor that finally put the team on the board in the Pro Circuit standings.
The team appeared to be getting back on track on the Pro Circuit, and in January it looked to make another roster move in the hopes of improving its lineup further. Offlaner Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin was removed from the team in order to make space for Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora, who had recently been released from the roster of North American squad Evil Geniuses. The change to the team’s roster did little to diminish its presence within the Southeast Asian region, as Fnatic earned Top 4 finishes in 13 straight Pro Circuit qualifiers over the second half of the season. It’s on the Pro Circuit stage itself where the team’s newest additions had their greatest impact, as the team bounced back from a rough 9th-12th place finish at the ESL One Genting 2018 Minor in January to put together a 4th place run at the ESL One Katowice 2018 Major just 1 month later. After Top 4 finishes at both the DreamLeague Season 9 and StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minors in March and April, Fnatic was beginning to look like a legitimate threat to push for a Top 8 spot in the Pro Circuit standings. In May, the team finished in the 3rd-4th place position at the GESC: Thailand Dota2 Minor, and a few days later it was announced that the team would be undergoing another change to its lineup. This time, the change wasn’t coming from the active roster, as coach Adam “Adam” Shah stepped down from his coaching role for a position as an active player on the roster of North American squad compLexity Gaming. In his place, Canadian player Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling joined the organization to serve as the team’s new coach. Less than a week later, Fnatic did its new coach proud with a 4th place finish at the ESL One Birmingham 2018 Major. Those performances put the team close to the mark for a Top 8 spot, but with no more Pro Circuit events on its schedule, the Southeast Asian squad fell short of the mark to earn a direct invite to TI8. However, its strong showings on the international level combined with its near dominant performance within its home region earned the team an invite to the TI8 Southeast Asian Qualifier. After a somewhat rocky Group Stage performance, Fnatic managed to power through its regional rivals in the Playoffs to secure a place in Vancouver and a shot at claiming the Aegis of Champions.
Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao (Carry) – EternaLEnVy is one of the best known personalities within the Dota 2 world, but also stands as one of its most polarizing individuals. He has been known to speak his mind quite freely over the course of his career, with some of the Canadian carry’s statements receiving a somewhat negative reception at times. Fans of EternaLEnVy have grown used to taking the good with the bad, as his confidence both in his team and his own abilities often skirts the line with recklessness and has led to some rather famous, and infamous, plays. For EternaLEnVy, the performances at major events often lend themselves to a description along the lines of “feast of famine”, but it’s the way that Fnatic’s carry has played since the very beginning of his long career in the Dota 2 scene. EternaLEnVy entered the world of professional Dota 2 in 2012, after a number of years as a highly ranked Heroes of Newerth player. In September of 2012, he joined the roster of No Tidehuner and helped the European squad claim 1st place finishes at DreamHack Winter 2012 and StarLadder StarSeries Season 5. However, he was removed from the team in February of 2013, and soon after moved to the roster of Kaipi. Over the course of the next year, EternaLEnVy and his new teammates would shift between a number of organizations and names, being signed by RattleSnake as its new international squad (RattleSnake.int) in September before being rebranded to Speed Gaming.int 1 month later. As SpeedGaming.int, the squad managed to win the MLG Championship Columbus, but disputes with the management of the team would soon lead EternaLEnVy and his teammates to leave Speed Gaming to sign with U.S. organization Cloud 9. The team flourished under the Cloud 9 name, putting together multiple solid showings on the international level and earning EternaLEnVy’s first TI appearance with an invite to TI4. The squad fought its way to the 5th-6th place position at TI4, and closed out the year with a handful of Top 4 finishes in international events. 2015 saw EternaLEnVy help lead Cloud 9 to a 5th-6th place finish at the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2015, but the squad took a step backwards at TI5 with a 9th-12th place run that left it in the bottom half of the standings. Just days later, Cloud 9 disbanded its Dota 2 roster, and EternaLEnVy ended up joining the roster of Team Secret. The Canadian carry found his biggest success with Team Secret, appearing at all 3 Majors across 2015 and 2016 and even claiming his first Major Championship at The Shanghai Major. Unfortunately, the Major Champions fell flat at TI6, and after a 12th-16th place finish at the event, EternaLEnVy left the organization to found a team of his own. The newly formed Team NP earned a number of impressive finishes in 2016 and 2017, including a 5th-8th place run at The Boston Major. Just prior to its run at TI7, Team NP was signed by Cloud 9, but that signing did little to improve the team’s performance in Seattle. EternaLEnVy and his team once again hit a wall when it came to TI, as Cloud 9 finished in the 13th-16th place position at TI7 and disbanded soon after. Looking for a new opportunity, EternaLEnVy opted to move East, joining the roster of Fnatic and trying his hand at conquering the Southeast Asian region in the first Pro Circuit season in Dota 2 history. EternaLEnVy has helped guide Fnatic through what has been an incredibly rough season, but the Southeast Asian squad now stands as a formidable squad on the international level. His penchant for playing his signature risky style is still alive and well, but when EternalEnVy and Fnatic are riding the highs of his unique style, the Southeast Asian squad is one of the most dangerous opponents in the field in Vancouver.
Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop (Mid) – Fnatic is a team that boasts and incredible level of experience in the Dota 2 world, with multiple members of the roster having played professionally since some of the earliest days of the scene. Within that group, Abed stands out in a pretty significant way, as the 17 year old began his own career just 3 years ago. Abed may not stand as a veteran in the Dota 2 world, but he is considered to be a prodigy with a nearly unbelievable level of talent for someone so young. Even more incredible is the fact that Abed only began playing Dota 2 in 2014, quickly making a name for himself within the Southeast Asian region and climbing up the MMR leaderboard. He joined the roster of Trackmate.Tric in March of 2015, remaining with the squad through the end of June before preparing to return to school. In February of 2016, Abed returned to the Dota 2 scene as a member of Execration, helping the team put together a few solid performances in regional qualifiers and tournaments. Unfortunately, Abed and his squad missed out on a spot at TI6, both in the TI6 Southeast Asia Qualifier and the TI6 Wild Card stage. Spurred on by those missed opportunities, Abed continued to play with Execration and helped the team close out the year with a victory at the MPGL Southeast Asian Championship as well as a 2nd place finish at the ROG MASTERS 2016. At the start of 2017, Abed opted to move to the North America region by joining the roster of Team Onyx. The team began making a name for itself within the region, as did Abed himself. In March of 2017, he achieved significant fame by reaching the 9k MMR mark, and just 1 month later made his debut at a Valve event at The Kiev Major, with his team now playing under the banner of the Digital Chaos organization. In June, Abed became the first ever player to reach 10k MMR, and just days later Digital Chaos qualified for TI7, though it finished in the 9th-12th place position at the event. Abed remained with his team through the post-TI shuffle and entered the Pro Circuit season as a member of Digital Chaos, but parted ways with the organization in October in order to join Fnatic. Abed is a fantastically talented player, and his addition to the Fnatic roster immediately improved the team’s level of play. His ability to play heroes that are often considered to be mechanically complicated makes him a nightmare for opponents to prepare for or draft against, and gives Fnatic a powerful advantage. With a lineup of experienced players to provide guidance and insight, Abed is in a position to lead Fnatic to success in Vancouver and build upon what is already becoming an impressive professional career.
Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora (Offlane) – We’ve mentioned veteran presences when talking about the Fnatic lineup, and perhaps none of the team’s players embody that veteran experience more than UNiVeRsE. Not only is the U.S. offlaner a former TI Champion, he is also 1 of just 4 players in the history of Dota 2 to have appeared at every single iteration of The International (including TI8). That sort of resume is hard to argue with, and one of the main reasons why UNiVeRsE has been a part of so many TI teams is that he is one of the most reliable and consistent players at his position in the entire Dota 2 world. He is a player that is not particularly known for stepping outside of the meta at the offlane position, but his incredible talent and steady contributions make that sort of experimental style largely unnecessary for his team to find success. The veteran’s experience in the Dota 2 scene stretches back to the very origins of the game, as he transitioned from the original DotA in 2011 as a member of the Online Kingdom squad that attended TI1 as OK.Nirvana.int. He essentially served as a substitute for the team, as he was listed as an active player but didn’t actually participate in an official match at the event. Following that first iteration of The International, UNiVeRsE spent 1 month on the roster of EZ Style before ending 2011 and beginning 2012 with It’s Gosu eSports. After limited success with that squad, the offlaner joined Evil Geniuses in May and made his second TI appearance with a 9th-12th place finish at TI2. Just days after the event, UNiVeRsE moved to the roster of Quantic Gaming, but remained there for just 1 month before leaving to end the year as a free agent. UNiVeRsE started 2013 on the roster of Team Dignitas, and helped the squad claim a 2nd place finish at the DreamHack Invitational 2013 as well as a 3rd-4th place finish at DreamHack Summer 2013. Those performances earned the team an invite to TI3, but after a 9th-12th place finish at the event, UNiVeRsE left the team to rejoin Evil Geniuses. The back end of 2013 proved to be a struggle for EG, but in 2014 the team’s new lineup put together one of the most impressive runs of the year and bulldozed its way to TI4 where it claimed a 3rd place finish overall. UNiVeRsE and his teammates would improve upon its impressive showing in 2014 with an even better stretch in 2015. The year began with the team winning the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2015, and was headlined by the squad claiming the first ever TI win for North America with a 1st place finish at TI5. The team followed up those performances with back to back 3rd place finishes at The Frankfurt and Shandhai Majors, but things were about to change for UNiVeRsE. In March of 2016, he left the team to join Team Secret, but remaining with the team for just under 3 months before returning to Evil Geniuses. Back with his old squad, UNiVeRsE helped Evil Geniuses finish 3rd at TI6 in its title defense, and also played a significant role in the team putting together back to back 3rd-4th place runs at The Boston and Kiev Majors. However, a tough 9th-12th place finish at TI7 marked the start of a decline for the team as the Pro Circuit season got underway. The team struggled with inconsistent play over the first half of the season, and in December of 2017 the organization opted to make a change. UNiVerSe was removed from the lineup, which freed the veteran up to move to the Southeast Asian region to join the lineup of Fnatic. Fnatic’s myriad of roster changes through the season have seen the squad improve significantly, but it seems that UNiVeRsE joining the team was the final piece of the puzzle that it needed to become a threat on the international level. UNiVeRsE is no stranger to the TI stage, and his well earned reputation for stable and consistent production in the offlane role will likely serve as the anchor for Fnatic as it looks to complete its ascension to the ranks of the Dota 2 world’s elite squads with a successful run in Vancouver.
Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti (Support) – DJ may not be quite as famous a player as some of his teammates on the Fnatic roster, but the Filipino support has been able to build up something of a reputation for himself. As the position 4 support on Fnatic, he is able to employ a style and heroes that emphasize a more aggressive and proactive approach to matches. With experience both as a support player and in a core role, DJ finds himself enjoying a particular affinity for the role of the roaming, rotating support. His career in the world of professional Dota 2 goes back to 2013, when he played for the South Korean organization Eyes of Tiger as the midlaner for its EoT Hammer lineup. He played a large role in helping the team finish 1st in both the Korean Dota League Tier 2, and the subsequent Korean Dota League Relegation that saw the team promoted to Tier 1. In May of 2014, the EoT Hammer lineup was signed by Rave, and DJ found himself shifting into the offlane role. The change in organization did little to change the team’s results, as the new Rave lineup continued to put together impressive results within the Southeast Asian region and never finished any lower than 4th across all of its even appearances in 2014. DJ and the Rave lineup made its first appearance at a major international tournament at the start of 2015, as the team was invited to the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2015 and finished in the 5th-6th place position at the event. That performance put the team on the map in the Dota 2 world, but DJ and his teammate began suffering from a bit of a decline as 2015 carried on. After failing to qualify for TI5, the team officially disbanded and DJ found himself joining the roster of MSI-Evolution Gaming Team (MSI-EvoGT). Just 2 months later though, DJ left that team as well to join the roster of Fnatic, shifting to the support position and helping to turn the team into a major power within the Southeast Asian team. With DJ on the roster, Fnatic made 3 straight appearances at Majors, including back to back 5th-6th place runs at The Shanghai and Manila Majors. All of that culminated in a 4th place finish at TI6, but the collapse of the roster soon after the event took much of the attention away from the performance of DJ and the rest of the Fnatic roster. DJ himself left the Fnatic organization in August, and 1 month later accepted a position as the offlaner for Execration. With DJ’s help, Execration closed out 2016 with a string of strong performances that including 1st place finishes at the MPGL Southeast Asian Championship and the ASUS ROG SEA Cup, along with 2nd place runs at the ROG MASTERS 2016 and SEA Kappa Invitational Season 3. 2017 began fairly poorly for the team, as Execration’s results within its home region took a sharp decline. In April of 2017, DJ opted to leave Execration in order to rejoin the Fnatic organization, where he was remained to this day. DJ has seen both sides of the spectrum in his most recent run with Fnatic, as he is not the only remaining player from the team’s disastrous 17th-18th place finish at TI7. However, his patience and determination to succeed with this organization has finally paid off, as the current Fnatic roster stands as perhaps the strongest one that Fnatic has fielded over the last few years. With DJ’s aggressive support play helping to establish the team’s desired pace of play, Fnatic stands as a formidable foe and something of a dark horse candidate for success at TI8.
Johan “pieliedie” Åström (Support, Captain) – pieliedie isn’t always a name that is heard often when talking about Fnatic considering the other big names on the roster, but the Swedish support has been a big part of the team’s success this season. Known for a self-sacrificing support style, pieliedie’s gameplay often involves dying fairly frequently. However, nearly every death serves a purpose for his team, either through gaining vision, taking a more valuable trade, or saving a teammate. It’s a style that not many players are very enthusiastic about playing, but pieliedie has managed to find success this way since the very beginning of his career. His time in the professional Dota world actually stretches back to the original DotA, as pieliedie spent a couple of years on a pro team from 2007 to 2009. In 2012 the Swedish support transitioned into Dota 2 as a member of the Kaipi roster. He remained with the team through its transition to RattleSnakes.int and its subsequent rebranding as Speed Gaming.int, and helped the squad earn its famous victory at The MLG Championships Columbus in November of 2013. In February of 2014, pieliedie and the rest of the Speed Gaming.int squad left the organization and signed with Cloud 9. With Cloud 9, pieliedie made his first appearance on the TI stage, with the team earning a 5th-6th place finish at TI4. After closing out the year with the team, pieliedie was replaced in the Cloud 9 roster, but remained signed with the organization. During this time, he made multiple appearances with European squads MeePwn’d and Team Tinker, helping the latter win the America qualifier for StarLadder StarSeries Season 12 and earning a 4th place finish at the event itself. In May, the Team Tinker lineup was signed by mousesports, which officially ended pieliedie’s affiliation with Cloud 9. Unfortunately, the new mousesports roster failed to qualify for TI5, and just 2 months after being signed by the organization, pieliedie left to join the roster of Team Secret and return to the European region. The Swedish support spent nearly 2 years as a member of the Team Secret lineup, helping the team earn appearances at 4 Major Championships, including its 1st place finish at The Shanghai Major in March of 2016. That success at the Major did not translate into much at TI, as Team Secret finished in the 13th-16th place position at TI6. After the team’s 9th-16th place finish at The Kiev Major in 2017, pieliedie opted to leave the team in order to join the roster of Team NP and helped the squad put together a pre-TI run and win the North America Qualifier for TI7. Prior to participating at the event, Team NP was signed by Cloud 9, marking pieliedie’s second stint with the organization. It would be a short lived one, as the team finished near the bottom of the TI7 standings in the 13th-16th place position and disbanded soon after. Left without a team and with the Pro Circuit season fast approaching, pieliedie opted to move to the Southeast Asian region and accepted a position in the newly rebuilt roster of Fnatic. His tenure with the team has been somewhat rocky at times, but pieliedie has continued to play his signature style throughout the team’s struggles and roster changes. That perseverance appears to be paying off now, as Fnatic boasts a lineup of experienced and talented players that are more than capable of taking advantage of the opportunities created by his sacrificial play style. The team may not have been at the top of the Pro Circuit standings during the regular season, but with its improved lineup and pieliedie at the helm as captain, Fnatic present a formidable threat in the field at TI8.
Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling (Coach) – Aui_2000 is a rather late addition to the Fnatic organization, as the Canadian support and now coach only joined in late May when former coach Adam “Adam” Shah left to join the roster of compLexity Gaming. By the time he joined the team as coach, Fnatic was already in the midst of an impressive late-season push on the Pro Circuit. However, Aui_2000’s veteran experience and knowledge still played a part in the team’s ability to reach the TI stage, as he helped guide the squad to a 1st place finish in the TI8 Southeast Asia Qualifier. His valuable experience at the highest level of professional Dota 2 stems from a long career in the game, stretching back to 2012 when he entered the scene as a carry for North American squad PotM Bottom. His penchant for unorthodox builds on his heroes helped the squad make a name for itself with 4 straight Top 2 tournament finishes. In September, the squad was signed by Team Dignitas, and made its debut on the TI stage nearly a year later with a 9th-12th place run at TI3. Just months after that performance, Team Dignitas disbanded and Aui_2000 found himself joining the roster of Kaipi as a support player. He stayed with the team through its transitions to RattleSnake.int and Speed Gaming.int, as well as its later signing by the Cloud 9 organization. Aui_2000 helped those teams earn a name for themselves on the international level, particularly with a strong 5th-6th place run at TI4. However, the Canadian support would not get the chance to improve upon that performance with the team, as he was removed from the Cloud 9 roster at the end of 2014. In January of 2015, he was announced as a member of the Evil Geniuses lineup, and helped the North American squad win both the Dota 2 Asia Championships 2015 and TI5 within a 6 month span. Winning the Aegis of Champions wasn’t enough for Aui_2000 to keep his spot on the team though, and soon after being removed from the EG lineup he joined rival North American squad Digital Chaos. After 7 somewhat inconsistent months with Digital Chaos, Aui_2000 returned to the Evil Geniuses lineup just in time for its rather unimpressive run at The Manila Major. Just 3 months after his return, Aui_2000 left EG again to begin his first stint as a coach with Team Secret at TI6, though the team ended up finishing in the 13th-16th place position at the event. In September of 2016, he returned to active play as a member of the Team NP roster, helping the squad rise to a relatively strong position within the North American region. After a 5th-8th place finish at The Boston Major in December, Team NP looked to be on the rise heading into TI7, and the squad was picked up by Cloud 9 just prior to the start of the event. However, a 13th-16th place finish in Seattle derailed the team’s progress entirely, and the squad quickly disbanded. Aui_2000 found himself inactive for the first half of the Pro Circuit season, but returned in January of 2018 as a member of the Animal Planet roster. That roster would bounce between organizations in the months that followed, being signed by Iceberg Esports only to leave the organization after just over a month. The team was then picked up by Digital Chaos in March, but remained with the team for just 1 month as well before disbanding. With the season drawing to a close and the prospect of forming or joining a squad for the TI8 Open Qualifiers being unappealing, Aui_2000 opted to take the recently vacated coaching position for Fnatic to help the squad prepare for its TI8 run. While he hasn’t been the team’s coach for long, Aui_2000’s extensive experience and previous success on the TI stage will be a valuable resource for Fnatic in Vancouver. The team’s roster is already full of both incredible talent and experience in the professional Dota 2 scene, and Aui_2000’s guidance might be just enough to push Fnatic over the line and transform it into a legitimate threat at TI8.
Expectations at TI8
Fnatic spent the first half of the Pro Circuit season as something of a disappointment in terms of its performance, but the organization’s overhauled roster has been hitting all the right marks in its run up to TI8. The squad has a dangerous mix of experience and young talent, and with 2 TI winners on the roster (1 player & 1 coach) it appears to have all of the pieces it would need to find success in Vancouver. However, there is one significant concern for the squad as it prepares for TI8, as Fnatic has earned a bit of a reputation for inconsistent play on the Pro Circuit this season. A large part of that likely comes down to the trademark risky style of carry Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, and it does not appear like there will be any sort of sudden or drastic change in the way he plays. On the other hand, the team’s performance over the last few months has shown that the rest of the team’s lineup has the capability to adjust to that style. When EternaLEnVy’s risky maneuvers pay off, Fnatic is a formidable force that has been able to compete with even the best teams on the Pro Circuit. When those risks end up having negative consequences, the consistent contributions from the rest of the team’s roster have served to largely mitigate any potential damage to the team. Having that kind of stability and consistency to fall back on with other play makers on the team is something that Fnatic sorely lacked at the beginning of the season, and it makes the squad incredibly difficult to contend with. The team may not have been able to work its way into the Top 8 in the Pro Circuit standings during the regular season, but the impressive and dramatic improvement to its overall standing over the final half of the season should have many of the other squads in the field at TI8 on alert. The Southeast Asian squad will not be a favorite to claim the Aegis of Champions in Vancouver, as squads like Virtus.pro, Team Liquid, and PSG.LGD all enter the event playing at a higher level than anyone else in the field. However, if the team can play at or above the level that it has shown over the last few months, then Fnatic stand as a dark horse candidate to make a deeper run at TI8 than many may be expecting.