It’s impossible to tell in the moment when a successful run is going to come to a screeching stop.
There’s a reason words like “Enjoy the ride,” and “Live for today,” as trite and cliche as they are, resonate in many aspects of life. When things are going good, there’s no way to know how long life will last like that, so why waste the time worrying about what might happen in the future?
The swiftness with which the world changed for Fnatic’s Counter-Strike team is staggering. It was unfathomable to think a little more than four months ago, entering the first major of the year on a streak that had solidified Fnatic as the undisputed best team in CS:GO history, that three-fifths of the roster would be gone without another tournament victory to its name. And yet that’s exactly what happened Monday, when the team announced Jesper “JW” Wecksell, Robin “flusha” Ronnquist and Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson were leaving the team to join GODSENT, a team started by their former teammate Markus “pronax” Wallsten.
Fnatic ruled professional Counter-Strike for much of 2015 leading into the beginning of this year (a run that included the November switch of pronax and Dennis “Dennis” Edman). Fnatic entered the MLG Columbus Major having won its previous six tournaments during an incredible path of dominance. Olof “Olofmeister” Kajbjer had established himself as the clear-cut best player in the world and was reaching the ranks of the all-timers.
It all started to change that fateful weekend in Ohio at the end of March. Fnatic lost to Team Liquid in the group stage of MLG Columbus and again to Astralis in the quarterfinals, ending its four month streak without a loss. It was later revealed olofmeister would be taking time off because of a wrist injury he suffered in the lead-up to Columbus. There might have been a little worry at the time, but the general sentiment was that when Olofmeister came back, Fnatic would regain its seat on the Counter-Strike throne. Luminosity (now SK Gaming), the Brazilian darlings that stole Fnatic’s crown, the community’s attention and the No. 1 world ranking, was seemingly a temporary placeholder.
As it turned out, Fnatic would never be the same.
Olofmeister returned in June, just in time for Fnatic’s week in ELEAGUE. Fnatic won Group D to qualify for the playoffs, but it came after dropping maps to FaZe Clan in group play and Team SoloMid in the playoffs. It was reasonable to expect some rust, but the next month showed Fnatic was not where it wanted to be. After losing in the semifinals of the ECS Season 1 LAN finals to G2, a loss to Team Liquid in the semifinals of ESL One Cologne a few weeks later posed the question: Maybe something was off?
“It was easy to blame Olof’s injury and say we only lost because of that,” Fnatic coach Viktor “Vuggo” Jendeby said during the ELEAGUE championship weekend. “I think that was easier for us to move on if we had something to have an excuse for, but when weeks went by and we felt it wasn’t Olof’s injury, we had something else we had to work on.”
Fnatic attended the ELEAGUE playoffs amid rumors of an upcoming roster shuffle and dominated Natus Vincere in the semifinals. After reaching its first final since March (IEM Katowice), Fnatic needed one more win to perhaps wash away all the problems. But Virtus.pro swept the Swedes, including a win on Cobblestone, Fnatic’s best map.
Fnatic prepared for the ELEAGUE playoffs by relaxing (and even playing Overwatch). Olofmeister said it was more about trying to maintain a fresh mindset after some troublesome results. It became clear the drop in form weighed on the team.
“It’s actually quite hard,” Dennis, the remaining holdover with Olofmeister, said at ELEAGUE. “Because if you’ve been winning all the time and then you lose, you try to find what the problem is but you can’t find it. So it’s hard.”
Maybe the internal strife mentioned in Monday’s announcement was a bigger deal than we realize. Maybe Olofmeister’s wrist still isn’t 100 percent (which he admitted to Slingshot during the ELEAGUE finals). Maybe this lineup simply ran its course, which happens in Counter-Strike, an esport in which flux seems to be constant. Regardless, it’s as astonishing to see the massive shakeup of the Swedish powerhouse as it was to see them dominate for so long in the first place.
The players coming from GODSENT, Simon “twist” Eliasson and Jonas “Lekro” Olofsson, are intriguing, and the lineup will be completed by John “wenton” Eriksson, who filled in during Olofmeister’s injury. They’ll probably be fine, because Fnatic always tends to be fine. But the loss of three players so meaningful to the best CS:GO lineup ever formed will be felt throughout the community. For it to happen barely four months after being on top of the world is even more jarring.
In the end, it’s all a reminder just how fast things can change.
Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com