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The causes and effects of Fnatic’s major failure

Photo by Robert Paul/Major League Gaming

Today we saw Fnatic exit its second consecutive major after a quarterfinal loss against Astralis, a team it had not lost against in a best-of-three series in the past 182 days. While certainly disappointing, this loss does nothing to suggest this Fnatic core of flusha, JW, KRiMZ and olofmeister would not be the greatest team in CS:GO history. But it does open the door for analysis into just how it went out of this tournament, and whether there are systematic issues Fnatic fans should be concerned about in the future.

olofmeister’s wrist injury and its unseen consequences

Once news of Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer’s wrist injury – or condition, or whatever it exactly should be called – broke out, few people knew what to think. His teammate Dennis “dennis” Edman told fragbite in an interview that it affects his play quite a bit, and olofm himself said he was not warming up prior to matches to avoid unnecessary wear on the wrist. Both sound horrible, but as long as olofm gets his kills in-game, it should not be a problem for a team like fnatic, right?

Well, no. This problem apparently started a couple of weeks ago, and olofm has played onlythirty-some hours of Counter-Strike in the past two weeks. Safe to say that is a direct result of his wrist issue. The problem with 32 hours is that Fnatic could not practice without its superstar on the server. As such, it should be safe to assume the team traveled to Columbus with less-than-ideal preparation, especially considering it was one of the teams that did not go to CounterPit Finals, and theoretically instead could spend the time practicing at home.

Photo by Robert Paul/Major League Gaming

Separately, the world’s best player also said that the biggest effect of his issue is that he has not felt confident in-game, leading to issues in duels – his bread and butter. Looking at his personal statistics in Columbus, it’s obvious something was off. Fnatic could have won without olofm’s fragging – he still had a higher KPR than pronax over his career – but his wrist also affected the team’s preparation, and in a free-wheeling team, a key player being off is likely to have compounding issues for others, as everyone rotates in a game of musical chairs to make it work.

Group stage struggles

At the previous major, DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, Fnatic lost against Luminosity in the group stage. Ultimately, it was that loss that wound up pitting them against EnVyUs – the eventual champions – who eliminated them. Similarly, a year earlier at DreamHack Winter 2014, in the now-infamous match against the same French team then playing under the LDLC banner, Fnatic was also eliminated in the quarterfinals as a result of getting upset in the group stage. Back then it was Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostylev’s HellRaisers, but the result was the same – early elimination due to facing the toughest possible first round opponent in the playoffs.

Fnatic took down SPLYCE with ease Tuesday and was more than heavily favored against Liquid on Wednesday. But the North Americans, powered by s1mple, were a much tougher opponent than expected. Unexpectedly, Fnatic had a good start to the best-of-one, gaining an early 5-1 lead as counter-terrorists on dust2, only to lose nine straight rounds to close the half out at a 10-5 deficit. In second half, Robin “flusha” Rönnquist’s team was also running away with it at a couple of points, most notably at 12-12 with Liquid low on money, but Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski’s M4A4 ace saved the North Americans then. Fnatic struggled putting away the seemingly inferior team.

Seeding in playoffs is hugely important. While group stages are basically a minefield top teams need to go through, with even second places acceptable, the fact is it is incredibly hard to win large tournaments if you put yourself in a spot where you need to go through all the hardest opponents. For Fnatic to win MLG Columbus, it would have needed to beat the world’s fourth, third and second best teams – in that order. It is doable when you happen to be the kings, but only with a near-perfect performance. With the previously mentioned issues, that simply was not in the cards for this roster at this time.

Astralis – Kryptonite to Fnatic’s style?

If you were to try to build a perfect counter to Fnatic’s play style, I am not sure if it would differ from Astralis’. Its superstar, Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, is a versatile player who can, theoretically, match up with Fnatic’s olofmeister, who can also use any weapon and play both passively and aggressively. Second star Peter “dupreeh” Rothmann is one of the 20 or so best ever riflers in the game, and as an aggressive entry fragger, he’s able to use his aim and technique to bail Astralis out of rounds it sometimes would have had no business winning. Such is the beauty of stars in any sport – the ability to make the most of bad situations.

Photo by Robert Paul/Major League Gaming
Photo by Robert Paul/Major League Gaming

The team’s leader, Finn “karrigan” Andersen, can secondary AWP if necessary, plays aggressively at times to allow his more skilled teammates to take on the favorable roles, and has implemented a good tactical system in the team. Further, the team brought in former mTw star Danny “zonic” Sørensen as a coach, and his experience and knowledge in preparing for specific opponents certainly could not have hurt when preparing for Fnatic, even if the Danes were doing most of their preparation for inferno, in anticipation of the Swedes picking it. Finally, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth has proven to be one of the game’s best clutch performers in outnumbered situations, while René “cajunb” Borg remains an underrated – and also versatile – player, who often plays the toughest bombsites as counter-terrorists.

Astralis has no glaring weakness, if it is not held back by nerves. Communication should have no issues, tactical background is solid, zonic can help with adjustments and preparation, and the players’ skill level is high enough to compete with anyone. And, most importantly, they had done it before. Last spring, before Astralis’s June break that cost them their world-beating form, Fnatic could not figure out the Danes, then playing under TSM’s banner. To me, it was only a matter of time before the Danes would break free, and start snatching up some titles from Fnatic.

Should Fnatic be worried?

Given the praise for astralis, should fans of fnatic – or the team itself – then be worried, going into the future? Not necessarily. Olofm’s issues plagued fnatic in Columbus, and it seems Astralis could be peaking at the right time. It is more likely this was the perfect storm, allowing Astralis a rare chance to realistically compete for the major trophy they so badly hope to get.

Furthermore, Fnatic has such an incredibly deep roster that when they are at the top of their game, I still cannot see any team consistently being better than them. No other team is as skilled, has shown similar ability to prevail under pressure, or has the track record they have.

When great teams go on winning streaks, it is inevitable they lose at some point. The NBA’s Warriors have lost to the Lakers this season, after all. Had Fnatic won Columbus, it would have lost one of the next couple of tournaments – as I previously predicted. When things are going smoothly, someone else out there is probably working harder than you to catch up, and when you are at the top, all the others are trying to figure out ways to dethrone you. It is the nature of the beast, and always will be. As proven here, even the greatest team of all-time will, at times, falter.

For Fnatic, the next big tournament will be DreamHack Malmo, an event on their home soil in Sweden with a prize purse of $250,000. However, at this point olofmeister’s health must be considered number one priority, and if he cannot be 100 percent back to normal. Otherwise, the all-time greats may risk long-term greatness and years of contending for titles, trying to win a forgettable event in the short-term. This is a setback, but it should merely be a new challenge for a team who for a while had none. And that cannot be bad going forward.

Cover photo by Robert Paul/Major League Gaming


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