A Return to Form?: Southeast Asian squad Fnatic looks to bounce back from some late-season struggles to claim the region’s first ever TI title in Shanghai
With the conclusion of the second even Dota 2 Pro Circuit campaign, the attention of the Dota 2 world now shifts to the game’s biggest and most prestigious of stages: The International. The 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season set the stage, but now the time has come for 18 of the world’s best teams to take their shot at earning immortality as they look to cement their place in Dota 2 history with a victorious run at The International 2019 in Shanghai, China. For the first time in its history, TI moves away from the western world into the waiting arms of the Chinese scene, with TI9 set to be hosted in the Mercedes-Benz Arena as the venue will transform into the crucible from which one squad will emerge with the Aegis of Champions in hand. With the even itself fast approaching, this series will serve to highlight each of the 18 participating squads that will be making their way to Shanghai in the hopes of becoming TI9 Champion. Each post will focus upon a specific team in the field for this event, with a small overview of the organization’s history, a review of its 2018-2019 season, a run down of the members of its roster, keys to success entering TI9, and expectations for the squad at the event itself. Whether one is a newcomer to the pro scene or an avid Pro Circuit spectator, these posts will hopefully serve as a useful source of information or a refresher course on the teams that will be battling it out in Shanghai in August. With that in mind, we will take a look at 1 of the 3 Southeast Asian squads in the field in Shanghai, and an organization that will be making its seventh straight TI appearance at TI9: Fnatic.
Region: Southeast Asia
Pro Circuit Rank: 7th (2,880 Pro Circuit Points)
Qualification Method: Direct Invite (Pro Circuit Top 12)
2018-2019 Pro Circuit Event Appearances: 5 (1 Top 4 Finish)
Previous TI Appearances: TI3 (7th-8th), TI4 (13th-14th), TI5 (13th-16th), TI6 (4th), TI7 (17th-18th), TI8 (13th-16th)
2018-2019 Season Notable Achievements:
Pro Circuit Majors:
3rd – DreamLeague Season 11 Major
5th-6th – The Chongqing Major
7th-8th – The Kuala Lumpur Major
13th-16th – MDL Disneyland Paris Major
13th-16th – EPICENTER Major
Pro Circuit Qualifiers:
1st – The Kuala Lumpur Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
1st – The Chongqing Major Southeast Asia Qualifier
1st – DreamLeague Season 11 Southeast Asia Qualifier
1st – MDL Disneyland Paris Major SEA Closed Qualifier
2nd – EPICENTER Major 2019 Southeast Asia Closed Qualifier
Non-Pro Circuit Events:
2nd – PVP Esports Championship
4th – ESL One Katowice 2019
1st – King’s Cup 2: Southeast Asia
Fnatic stands as one of the biggest organizations in the esports world, and the team has been a part of the Dota 2 scene from the nearly the beginning. The organization first fielded a Dota 2 roster in 2011, but that lineup was quickly released by the organization as it transferred its Heroes of Newerth team over to Dota 2. The squad got off to a slow start in 2012 as its roster fully adjusted to a new game, but by the final months of the year the new Fnatic lineup appeared to be picking up steam with 4 Top 4 finishes across its final 6 appearances. The squad would carry most of that momentum over into 2013, as Fnatic began to make a name for itself both within the European region and on the international level. The team’s incredible number of even appearances in the first half of 2013 earned the team a fair bit of attention, as Fnatic was able to earn itself a direct invite to TI3, where it put together a 7th-8th place performance in its TI debut. With the squad beginning to emerge as a power on the international level, Fnatic opted to keep its lineup intact through the end of 2013. The stability certainly paid off for the squad, as Fnatic closed out the year with 8 straight Top 4 finishes. As 2013 ended and 2014 began, Fnatic still appeared to be riding high in the Dota 2 world as the squad maintained its position as one of the top teams and earned another direct invite to TI with its appearance at TI4. Unfortunately, the event itself proved disastrous for the team, as Fnatic failed to advance out of the Group Stage to finish in the 13th-14th place position. In the wake of that poor showing, the Fnatic roster that had remained consistent for nearly 2 years fell apart, with all 5 of the team’s players parting ways with the organization before the end of the year.
It would take nearly 6 months for Fnatic to make its return to the Dota 2 world after the collapse of its previous roster, and when the team did return it did so in an entirely new region. In June of 2015, Fnatic announced the signing of Team Malaysia to officially move the organization’s Dota 2 Division to the Southeast Asian region. Since Team Malaysia had already been directly invited to TI5, the signing also allowed Fnatic to make a return to the TI stage, but that return would not go particularly well for the team. The new Fnatic roster finished in the 13th-16th place position at the event, and in the post-TI roster shuffle, Fnatic saw 3 of its player leave the organization. With the first ever Dota 2 Majors fast approaching though, Fnatic wasted no time rebuilding its roster, putting the new trio of Black^, Net, and DJ around its returning duo of Mushi and Ohaiyo. That first Major proved to be a struggle for Fnatic though, as the team finished in the 13th-16th place position at The Frankfurt Major 2015. After replacing Black^ with MidOne though, the squad managed to turn things around in 2016, earning a 5th-6th place finish at The Shanghai Major 2016 before rattling off 10 straight Top 4 finishes and another 5th-6th place performance at The Manila Major 2016. With some considerable momentum on its side, Fnatic marched into TI6 with confidence, coming away from the event with a 4th place finish. However, the impressive performance on the TI stage could not save the squad from the roster changes that would follow. Over the final months of the year, Fnatic would see 6 different players leave its roster.
The start of 2017 would not bring an end to the roster drama for Fnatic, as the organization continued its attempts to rebuild its lineup. The roster instability resulted in some poor performance for the squad, but by May it appeared that the organization had finally managed to right the ship and complete its roster. By that time, only 1 member of the team’s TI6 roster remained, but the team’s new lineup managed to fight its way through the TI7 Southeast Asia Qualifier to earn itself a return trip to the TI stage. That return went very poorly for the squad, with Fnatic finishing in the 17th-18th place position to spark yet another collapse of its roster. With yet another new iteration of its roster coming together for the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season, Fnatic managed to put together a relatively impressive campaign. The team attended 4 Majors and 7 Minors, and won its regional qualifier to earn a place at TI8 in Vancouver. Once again though, the team fell short of expectations, with Fnatic putting together a 13th-16th place performance at TI8 before having 3 players and its coach leave the organization is what was fast becoming an annual roster collapse. Even with the team’s disappointing performance, Fnatic was determined to press on, as the organization once again announced a new roster for the start of the 2018-2019 season.
Season in Review
After suffering through roster changes and instability for much of the previous few years, the 2018-2019 Pro Circuit season saw a remarkable level of consistency from the Fnatic lineup. The stability resulted in an incredibly strong start to the season for the team, as Fnatic earned 1st place finishes across all 3 of its regional appearances in the 2018 section of the season. On the international level, the squad claimed a 2nd place finish at the PVP Esports Championship, and a 7th-8th place performance at The Kuala Lumpur Major set the squad up in fairly favorable position both within its regional hierarchy and in the Pro Circuit Rankings.
The 2019 section of the season would begin with Fnatic putting together its best stretch of the campaign, as the squad elevated itself from a regional power into a real contender on the international level. The team continued to dominate at home, earning Top 4 finishes across all of its regional appearances through the end of the season. Away from home though, the squad truly impressive over the first few months of 2019, earning a 5th-6th place finish at The Chongqing Major in January before putting together a 4th place performance at ESL One Katowice in February and a 3rd place showing at the DreamLeague Season 11 Major in March. The team’s final 2 Pro Circuit appearances saw that considerable momentum dry up rather abruptly though, as Fnatic finished in the 13th-16th place position at both the MDL Disneyland Paris Major and the EPICENTER Major. Despite the team’s stumbles in the final months of the season, Fnatic was still able to earn itself enough Pro Circuit points to earn a direct invite to TI9. However, the end of the regular season was not the final development for Fnatic in this 2018-2019 campaign, as the team announced a change to its roster just days after its final Pro Circuit appearance. The team announced that MP was being removed from the team’s active roster, with Support player Jabz set to shift into the Carry role while coach DuBu would become the team’s new Support and Captain.
Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong (Carry) (Played Support throughout regular season)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 3.06 kills, 14.62 assists, 7.20 deaths per game (95 matches)
Jabz comes into TI9 as Fnatic’s new Carry player, but the Thai player had spent the entirety of the regular season as the squad’s Position 5 Support. While the shift introduces a degree of uncertainty for the squad, it should be noted that this isn’t the first time in his career that Jabz has shifted between a Support and Core role for a team. While Jabz’s career began as a Support back in 2014 with Everlast.GameFilling, he would remain with the squad for less than a month before moving to the roster of Signature.Trust in January of 2015. With that squad, Jabz served as a Midlaner, though the change in position did not help the squad find much success within the Southeast Asian region. In September of 2016, Jabz left Signature.Trust to join Team Faceless, returning to the Support position in the process. With Team Faceless, Jabz was able to make 2 Major appearances, playing as a Support in the first while shifting to the Midlaner role for the second. When Team Faceless disbanded in July of 2017, Jabz found himself moving to the roster of Mineski for the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season. With Mineski, Jabz attended 6 Minors and 7 Majors, and helped contribute to Mineski earning the Southeast Asian region’s first ever Major Championship title with a 1st place performance at DAC 2018. After a 9th-12th place performance at 2018 though, Jabz parted ways with Mineski to join the new Fnatic roster for the 2018-2019 season. Throughout this season, Jabz had focused upon defensive and team fight oriented supports, but it is unclear exactly what his style will be in the Carry role. The meta has changed significantly since the last time Jabz played a Core role at the professional level, and it is hard to predict which heroes or strategies he will prefer. The good news for Fnatic is that its opponents will likely have similar issues predicting how Jabz will play, which could give the squad a small advantage over other squads in terms of drafting and strategy.
Abed “Abed” Azel L. Yusop (Mid)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 6.76 kills, 11.39 assists, 3.13 deaths per game (95 matches)
In just a handful of years, Abed has emerged as one of the most skilled and dynamic players in the Southeast Asian region, and perhaps the Dota 2 world as a whole. He has done so despite still being incredibly young, with the Midlaner set to attend TI9 at just 19 years of age. His career began back in 2015 with a pair of relatively minor regional squads, but it wasn’t long before his talent was noticed by other organizations in Southeast Asia. In 2016, Abed was picked up by Execration, remaining with the team for a period of around 10 months and building up a solid reputation within his home region. In 2017 though, Abed left Execration and the Southeast Asian region, joining the roster of North American squad Team Onyx, which would be signed by Digital Chaos in April of 2017. With Digital Chaos, Abed attended his first Major and his first TI, though the team would finish no higher than 9th in either event. Abed would begin the 2017-2018 on the Digital Chaos roster, but in October the player parted ways with the Digital Chaos organization in order to move to the roster of Fnatic, where he has remained ever since. With Fnatic, Abed has largely favored high damage dealing heroes, with the likes of Invoker, Templar Assassin, Medusa, and Outworld Devourer being his most played in this 2018-2019 campaign. His ability to have such a significant impact on team fights has been something that Fnatic has come to rely upon in its matches this season, and Abed has very rarely failed to deliver for his squad. Coming into this event, Abed’s average deaths per game sits a 2.93, which is tied for the 9th lowest average among all players attending TI9 and the second lowest average among Midlaners at TI9. In addition to having the second lowest deaths per game among Midlaners, Abed also holds the highest assist per game average (10.93) and the second highest KDA (7.12) at his position. It is clear that Abed’s abilities stand at an elite level, and Fnatic will be leaning heavily on that ability and skill as it heads into this event.
Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang (Offlane)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 4.62 kills, 13.05 assists, 4.44 deaths per game (95 matches)
iceiceice stands as one of the most experienced players in the Dota 2 world, with the Offlaner holding a combined 14 years of professional experience between DotA and Dota 2. The Singaporean Offlaner’s Dota 2 career began back in 2011 as a member of Scythe Gaming, with which he attended the very first iteration of The International and earned a 3rd place finish at the event. In 2012, he moved to the roster of Team Zenith, helping the squad claim a position as one of the leading teams in Southeast Asia while making another 2 TI appearances. In September of 2013, iceiceice moved to China as part of the legendary Team DK roster, dominating the region and the international level as well before earning a 4th place finish at TI4. In the aftermath of TI 4 though, Team DK fell apart, with iceiceice moving to the roster of Vici Gaming. In a 2 years stint with the organization, iceiceice earned a slew of Top 4 finishes both at home and on the international level, attended 2 Major Championships, and earned a 4th place finish at TI5 to cement Vici Gaming’s position as one of the leading teams in China. In March of 2016 though, iceiceice was acquired by EHOME, finishing out the season with the squad and putting together a 5th-6th place performance at TI6 before returning to Southeast Asia as a member of Team Faceless. He would attend a further 2 Majors with Team Faceless, before jumping to Mineski in 2017 following the collapse of the Team Faceless roster. As a member of Mineski, iceiceice attended 6 Minors and 7 Majors, and claimed the first ever Major Championship title in Southeast Asian history before putting together a 9th-12th place run at TI8. In the aftermath of TI8 though, iceiceice left the Mineski organization, taking up a position with Fnatic for the 2018-2019 campaign. With the Fnatic roster, iceiceice has employed a mix of high damage dealers and team fight controllers. Heroes like Pangolier, Necrophos, and Timbersaw have provided Fnatic with heavy damage and control, while Brewmaster, Centaur Warrunner, and Sand King have given iceiceice the tools to control team fights and engagements as well. While iceiceice’s play style isn’t always flashy, he knows when and where to strike and what role he needs to play to help his squad succeed. And when his style has drifted towards a more flashy, “big play” oriented approach, it has often been to exceptional results.
Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti (Support)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): 4.14 kills, 13.81 assists, 4.28 deaths per game (95 matches)
Throughout his time with Fnatic, DJ has earned himself a reputation as a dynamic, play making Support, and some of that style likely stems from the fact that DJ has not always played the Support role. His career began back in 2013 with Eyes of Tiger Hammer as a hybrid Midlaner/Offlaner. In 2014, his squad was signed by the Rave organization, quickly establishing itself as a premier squad in Southeast Asia and even earning a 5th-6th place finish at DAC 2015. After failing to qualify for TI5 though, DJ and the majority of the Rave roster left the organization, signing on with MSI Evolution Gaming Team. After just 2 months with the squad though, DJ left the team to join the roster of Fnatic in 2015, marking his first stint with the organization. As a member of Fnatic, DJ attended all 3 of the first Dota 2 Majors, and played a large role in Fnatic’s 4th place showing at TI6. In the aftermath of that event though, DJ left Fnatic for the roster of Execration, though he would remain with the team for just over 6 months before returning to Fnatic in April of 2017. While the roster of Fnatic has undergone significant changes since his return, DJ has remained a constant for the organization, remaining with the squad for a period of over 2 years now. His aggressive style of play has consistently generated opportunities for the rest of the squad to succeed, averaging 13.72 assists per game across the 2018-2019 season. He has excelled with aggressive, lock down oriented heroes in this season, with Shadow Shaman, Rubick, Earth Spirit, and Earthshaker being his most played heroes. However, DJ has also built up a reputation as a player capable of shifting into a kind of fourth core role for the squad, picking up heroes like Tiny, Dark Willow, and Enigma on occasion. No matter what hero he has been put on, DJ has managed to consistently find openings for himself and his teammates, and that aggressive style will hopefully continue to serve Fnatic well as it prepares for another TI run in Shanghai.
Kim “DuBu” Doo-young (Support, Captain)
Season averages (Pro Circuit events and Closed Qualifiers only): N/A. Joined Fnatic after the conclusion of the regular season.
Throughout the 2018-2019 season, DuBu had been serving as the coach for this Fnatic roster, having only recently been shifted into an active position within the organization. Prior to this season, he had spent the majority of his career in the Southeast Asian and North American regions. DuBu’s professional career began back in 2014 as a member of MVP Phoenix, and the Korean player would spent his first 3 years at the professional level moving back and forth between the organization’s two squads, MVP Phoenix and MVP HOT6ix, while attending 3 Majors and 1 TI with the organization. In 2017, DuBu moved away from the Southeast Asian region, joining the Team Onyx lineup that would go on to be signed by Digital Chaos and attend The Kiev Major 2017 and TI7. In the aftermath of TI7, DuBu remained in North America but teamed up with a squad of fellow Korean players on the roster of Immortals. The squad would attend 3 Minors in the 2017-2018 Pro Circuit season, but could not generate much momentum for itself in the North American region and disbanded after failing to qualify for TI8. In the off season period before the start of this 2018-2019 season, DuBu joined the Fnatic organization as its new coach, and he would remain in that coaching role until the end of June when he was shifted into the team’s active lineup. DuBu will come into TI9 having not played any official matches for Fnatic, but from his previous experiences at the professional level we can likely make some guesses as to his style with the team. In previous lineups, DuBu has favored the defensive, lock down oriented heroes that have come to exemplify the Position 5 Support, and it is likely that he will continue to favor those kinds of heroes with Fnatic as its new lineup prepares to take on the best squads in the Dota 2 world in Shanghai.
Park “March” Tae-won (Coach)
With DuBu being shifted into a role as an active player for Fnatic, the organization found itself in need of a new coach for its TI9 run. After being moved to an inactive role with North American squad J.Storm and failing to qualify for TI9 as a member of Team Jinesbrus, March has joined up with Fnatic to serve as its coach for the event. The veteran comes to Fnatic with experience both as a player and as a coach, having played for MVP Phoenix from 2013 to 2016 before taking a leave of absence to complete his military service. He returned in 2018 as a coach for Echo International and Wind and Rain, before shifting back into active play in September of 2018 as a member of the marchoutofarmy roster that would go on to be signed by J.Storm. While his experience as both a player and a coach may not be quite as extensive as some of the more notable coaches in the scene, March’s insight will hopefully serve as an asset for Fnatic as it looks to adjust to its late-season positional change.
Keys to Success at TI9
Coming into this event, the term “success” has a number different meanings depending on which team one is discussing. Obviously, the ultimate measure of success for any of the squads attending this event would be to walk away from Shanghai with the Aegis of Champions in hand and the title of TI9 Champion. Considering the fact that only 1 of the 18 participants at TI9 will be able to do that though, and also considering that not all of these teams are regarded as being on an equal footing in terms of skill and experience, a “TI Champions or bust” mentality won’t fit for every squad in the field. With that in mind, this section is not a “do these things and win TI” sort of list in terms of keys to success. Instead, success in this section will be marked in a team’s ability to play its best level of Dota and put itself in the best possible position to push as far up the event standings as it reasonably can.
Be as active as possible with Abed
Abed is one of the most talented Midlaners that we have in the Dota 2 world, as he has displayed time and time again that he has the ability to single-handedly affect the outcome of a match. One of the more impressive aspects of his performance this season though has been Abed’s ability to contribute to his team outside of simply finding kills for himself. Of course, the fact that he averaged 7.18 kills per game this season is still fairly impressive, but the stronger part of Abed’s game in the 2018-2019 campaign was his ability to set up kills for his entire squad, and to do so while largely avoiding putting himself in dangerous situations. His 10.93 assist per game average is the highest among all Midlaners at TI9, and his average KDA ratio of 7.12 is the second highest at the position. In terms of mitigating dangerous situations for himself, Abed has averaged just 2.93 deaths per game across the 2018-2019 season, which comes in as the second lowest death per game average among Midlaners at TI9, and the ninth lowest average among all players at TI9 in general. To be able to consistently make plays and contribute kills and assists to a team is already a valuable skill set, but to do so while nearly eliminating the possibility to trading your own life in the process gives a team an incredible advantage against its opponents. Abed has proven that he can be trusted to contribute significantly without overextending himself, and Fnatic would be wise to utilize that aspect of his game to the fullest possible extent if it wants to find success in Shanghai.
Don’t be afraid to be greedy with iceiceice
iceiceice is one of the most experienced players in the entirety of the Dota 2 world, and with that impressive level of experience comes a certain degree of confidence that we have seen on display across the majority of Fnatic’s strong 2018-2019 Pro Circuit campaign. While iceiceice has proven himself more than capable of putting together strong performances with the traditional initiating and team fight oriented Offlane heroes, he has also excelled in the more damage based, third core role that has regained prominence in the current meta. Heroes like Brewmaster, Centaur Warrunner, and Tidehunter are certainly serviceable in iceiceice’s hands, but the the Offlaner has seemed a bit more effective when given more active and aggressive heroes. Among his most played in this 2018-2019 season are heroes like Pangolier, Necrophos, and Timbersaw, with whom he holds an incredibly impressive 81.40% win rate in 43 total matches. iceiceice has appeared to be at his best when he has been given the green light to pursue a more aggressive style of play, and his ability to handle heavy hitting, high damage cores should be seen as a sizable advantage for Fnatic coming into this event. Even with the uncertainty surrounding Jabz’s shift to the Carry role, the aggressive play between the duo of Abed and iceiceice should be more than enough to generate opportunities for this Fnatic lineup to put its opponents on the back foot and establish a favorable pace in its matches at TI9. Of course, putting iceiceice on greedier heroes on a frequent basis does run the risk of back firing on the squad in certain scenarios. However, the results from the regular season would indicate that the potential rewards for empowering that style of play for iceiceice far outweigh the potential downsides.
Make sure Jabz is comfortable in his new role
Any time a player ends up changing positions, there is a certain degree of concern about well well and how quickly that player will adjust to the change. Add in the fact that said player has not played any official matches since changing to the Carry position, and those concerns get a bit more significant. And on top of all of that, the squad is heading into the single biggest event in the Dota 2 world, in which it will face off against a field of some of the game’s elite squads. In this scenario, Jabz and Fnatic do have a bit of a silver lining to look at, as this will not be the first time in his career that Jabz has been put into a core position. Furthermore, it seems highly unlikely for Fnatic to have made such a drastic shift in the position of one of its players if it was not fully confident that said player would be able to adjust to that change and produce at a level worthy of the team’s expectations. Even so, the uncertainty of its late-season roster change will leave some questions lingering over the heads of this Fnatic lineup, and coming into TI9 it seems as though one of the best things that the squad can do is to ensure that Jabz is fully comfortable in his new role as Carry. The team’s bootcamping efforts in the build up to TI9 will almost certainly focus in upon adjusting drafting and strategies to the team’s new lineup, but until we see the squad in action in Shanghai, it won’t be clear just how effective those efforts will be. Whatever the case, Fnatic’s focus should be on making sure that it doesn’t push Jabz into a position in which he is not comfortable, especially with a pair of reliable cores in Abed and iceiceice to shift some of the burden onto.
Expectations at TI9
Fnatic comes into this event as one of the strongest teams in the Southeast Asian region, as the squad put together an absolutely dominant 2018-2019 campaign on the home front. While the team has been a leader within its home region ever since it made the move to Southeast Asia, this season saw the squad step things up to an even greater level, as Fnatic did not finish any lower than 2nd across 6 regional appearances. Perhaps even more impressive than the squad’s domination on the home front though was its improvements on the international level over the course of this 2018-2019 campaign. Over the team’s first 5 international appearances this season, Fnatic finished in the Top 4 in 3 events and claimed a place in the top half of the event standings across all 4 appearances. If one were to take the team’s record and results from the start of the season through the end of April, it would be hard to argue against the conclusion that Fnatic is one of the elite teams on the Pro Circuit and a powerful contender in the field for TI9.
Unfortunately for Fnatic though, the season didn’t actually end in April, and the final 2 months of the squad’s Pro Circuit campaign introduced a fair bit of doubt, confusion, and change for the Southeast Asian squad. While the team continued to hold strong within its home region, its performance on the international level slid to an alarming degree, with the squad turning in disappointing 13th-16th place performances at both the MDL Disneyland Paris Major and the EPICENTER Major. Across those two events, Fnatic put together a 4-11 record that could be cause for some concern heading into TI9 itself, especially when one looks at the team’s record against its fellow TI9 participants. At first glance, the team’s numbers look good, with Fnatic holding a 39-34 record against the other TI9 participants in the 2018-2019 season. However, when that record is broken up between its matches in Southeast Asia and those on the international level, it reveals a somewhat sharp divide for Fnatic. On the home front, Fnatic’s record against other Southeast Asian squads at TI9 stands at 17-6, which leaves its record against international opponents at a solid, but somewhat less intimidating 22-28. Considering the fact that 15 of its possible 17 opponents in Shanghai will not be Southeast Asian squads, Fnatic’s overall strength is slightly weaker than what its record might suggest. Add that to the team’s late-season stumbles on the international level, and the uncertainty from its recent roster and positional changes, and Fnatic is in a bit of an uncomfortable position heading into TI9.
The question here is just how much those concerns will affect Fnatic in terms of the team’s expectations on the TI stage in Shanghai. In this scenario, it is incredibly important to draw a fine line between the team’s expectations and its potential, especially seeing as how those two things may vary significantly coming into this event. Fnatic was an elite squad throughout most of the regular season, but its overall record against its fellow TI9 participants has been somewhat inflated by its dominance within its home region. The squad’s near collapse in the final 2 months of the season in terms of its play on the international level has still not been fully addressed, as the squad has not played any official matches since the end of the 2018-2019 campaign. And on top of that, we have yet to see Jabz at the Carry position for Fnatic and have yet to see DuBu in any capacity as a member of the Fnatic roster. All of those factors come together to dramatically reduce the expectations for this Fnatic squad, as it seems hard to reasonably expect the squad to push out of the lower half of the event standings considering all of those lingering doubts and issues. This is where the potential for Fnatic comes into play though, as there are quite a few scenarios for the Southeast Asian squad that could lead to success in Shanghai. If the team can get off to a hot start at TI9 and prove that its late-season struggles have been done away with, then the team is likely to bounce back to its previous position as a leading squad in the field. If Jabz shows a high level of comfort and skill in his new role as Carry and puts together strong performance in the team’s Group Stage run, or if someone like Abed or iceiceice can put together some stellar showings to grab Fnatic some extra wins, then the team will likely end up in the top half of the event standings. However, just because the squad is capable of these things doesn’t mean that we can expect them to happen, and until Fnatic shows us where it stands after its late struggles and roster changes, the expectations will have to remain lowered for the Southeast Asian leader heading into TI9.