Immediately after they returned home from Seattle with over one million dollars in winnings from their 4th place finish, Fnatic went through endless roster changes. Initially, they lost three players right from the get-go and had to rebuild a team around the two iconic SEA figures, Mushi and Ohaiyo. What seemed to be a smart move, to bring three TNC players at once, turned out disastrous. Top eight in Seattle with TNC, DeMoN, Raven and Eyyou joined Fnatic in September 2016. Given their results at TI, everyone thought that this mix will take over the region. But the reality didn’t match the expectations at all. The endless internal conflicts and debates, even during official games, eventually forced the trio to leave exactly as they came, as a group. At the end of November 2016 Fnatic were back to square one, yet again, only with Mushi and Ohaiyo on the roster.
The organization was pressed to find a quick solution as on the back of their top 4 finish at TI 6, they had been invited at ESL One Genting, the first tournament of 2017. Only two days ahead of the LAN event, on the 4th of January 2017, Fnatic officially announced the signing of MVP Phoenix’s support Febby and in the same announcement, they revealed two stand ins for ESL Genting. Rumored to be, in fact, a trial by fire roster, the ESL One Genting line-up was eliminated in the group stage and the two stand ins departed from the team.
Fnatic were not able to register for Kiev Major qualifiers as they still didn’t have a roster and things went from bad to worse at the beginning of February, when Mushi decided to leave behind Fnatic and his friend, Ohayio to join Mineski.
It was only on the 4th of April when Fnatic were ready to deliver some good news. DJ, their stand-out player at TI6 decided to return, and on top of that, Febby’s team-mate from MVP Phoenix, QO also joined Fnatic as their mid–laner, while Kang ‘Meracle’ Jian Wen was announced for position one. However, the roster lasted in this formula only one month, mainly because they failed to qualify for MDL and EPICENTER 2017. During the last shuffle window ahead of TI 7, Meracle was benched to substitute to make room for one player Fnatic had been actually hunting for a while, but couldn’t approach before his contract with his previous team ended. WG Unity’s Ahjit replaced Meracle and, with this last roster change, Fnatic’s days of sorrow were finally over.
picture courtesy of Fnatic
While recovering from such a messy year took them another two months, the results were definitely starting to improve. Ahead of the TI 7 inevitable regional qualifiers, Fnatic fought in the Zotac Cup Masters, which was far from being regarded as a tier one LAN event. However, the trip to Taipei to play in front of some live audience and the chance to test the potential of the new roster in a real tournament environment, where NP (now Cloud9 ), Newbee and Digital Chaos were also playing, was more than welcomed. They finished only on the 3rd/4th position at Zotac Cup Masters, but their simple presence at the event confirmed to everyone that knows a little bit of MVP Phoenix history that this new Fnatic lineup would display a new brand of aggressive Dota.
QO is one extremely special type of mid-laner, a source of inspiration for every respectable pro player out there. During his three years stint with MVP Phoenix, QO developed the dual core strategy we get to see now more often happening at Newbee. At first with Park ‘March’ Tae-won, and later on with Pyo ‘MP’ No-a, QO built a duo carry-mid lane core strategy that can win a game from the first 10 minutes. For those tuning into Dota only recently, it’s nearly impossible to describe in one feature what QO and MP were for MVP Phoenix. If you like imagination exercises, here’s one: imagine a way more aggressive, more active and more versatile Scc-Moogy duo of Newbee. And if you can’t do that, head over to some TI 5 or TI 6 VODS of MVP Phoenix games. Top 8 at TI 5 and Top 6 at TI 6 were not just random results for the South Korean team who took almost everyone by surprise each year and most of the times would fall victims only to their own hyper aggressive style.
Now with QO joined by AhJit and with Febby in the fourth position, Fnatic resemble a lot in play style with MVP Phoenix. Not only that, the two cores match the Korean team’s aggressiveness but they also have this extremely wide hero pools that translate into very hard to read drafts for their opponents. A Puck, Shadow Fiend, Phantom Assassin, Ember Spirit, Phantom Lancer, Juggernaut, Bloodseeker, Necrophos, even Spectre pick (shall we continue?), give no information about who will play that hero or in what lane it will appear. All the captains that will have to face Fnatic will have to rely on their instinct during drafts and hope that either the overlaps between the three cores (safe, mid and offlane) will get Fnatic in an awkward situation of over-thinking their drafts or their own super aggressive play style will inevitably lead to errors in execution.
To complement their continuous thirst for blood, Fnatic have two supports that are well-known for their individual plays. DJ has been, hands down, the most important piece in Fnatic’s success from TI 6 and while his Enigma plays from back then made his fans go insane, in the current 7.06 patch he seemed to have practiced Witch Doctor a lot. Since 4th of April, when he joined Fnatic, DJ has 9 official games on WD with an impressive 77.78% winrate (7 wins, 2 losses).
And while the Ohaiyo- DJ dynamic duo that Fnatic had at TI6 is still in place and it is expected to deliver again on the Key Arena stage this year, the MVP Phoenix Febby-QO friendship that goes far beyond the game is also an important weapon. To support QO’s explosive style, Febby mastered heroes like Io, Bounty Hunter, Ancient Apparition, and Earth Shaker. Since the 7.06 patch Febby has also turned his attention on Nyx Assassin, on which he holds a 100 % winrate (in 4 official games), and Clockwerk with which he as an 80.00% winrate ( 4 wins, 1 loss).
In the short time together, this new Fnatic line-up played only a total of 20 official matches, from which they won 70.00% (14 wins, 6 losses), mostly on the Dire side of the map which seems to be favored by them.
When drafting against Fnatic, the opposite team must decide in the first phase if they want to take the risk of playing against a Bloodseeker which in theory can be countered with a simple teleport scroll, or if they want to gamble on an attempt to break the 100% efficiency Fnatic has with this hero. Sure, everyone can try to stop Fnatic’s streak but there’s one more thing to consider. You guessed it, both Ahjit and QO can play the hero, and even more, both can play it mid or in the safelane.
Based on their stats and results last year, Fnatic should go to TI 7 from an underdog position. But stats are more of a guideline and those who don’t give a chance to this half Korean half Malaysian team with a Filipino twist, should prepare for a surprise.