Can anybody stop Fnatic?

Fnatic is in the middle of a hot streak that’s not been seen in some time in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene.

Well, at least not by any other team.

The European powerhouse and obvious choice for best team in the world hasn’t lost a tournament since last October. A stretch of five premier event championships started with the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals in late November and has included Fragbite Masters, the ESL ESEA Pro League Finals, the StarLadder i-League Season XIV Finals and, most recently, the ESL Barcelona Expo from Feb. 19-21.

March will contain two of the biggest tests for the world’s best, though, starting with this week’s IEM Katowice.

“We never settle for anything,” Fnatic coach Viktor “Vuggo” Jendeby said last week. “We never feel complete or done with a map or a tactic that we play. We always renew our play and always come up with new stuff, individually as well as a team.”

IEM Katowice is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, and Fnatic — the defending champion — will see a field filled with teams eager to be the one to end Fnatic’s run. Natus Vincere, which lost to Fnatic in the finals of the ESL ESEA Pro League, is in Fnatic’s group, as is Luminosity, a team many — including Jendeby — think is rising. Team EnVyUs is in the other group but was another team Jendeby mentioned.

“Luminosity keeps getting better and better for each time we face them so they will for sure put up a big fight for us,” Jendeby said. “EnVyUs will always be a threat as well. EnVyUs for sure will have a good run at Katowice.”

Luminosity made a run to the finals of the StarLadder i-League — losing to Fnatic, of course. EnVyUs, after winning the Global Esports Cup to begin the month, mustered only a fifth place finish in Barcelona.

That disappointing result came after beating Fnatic earlier in the event, though, which could lead to a confidence boost for the French club.

That was, however, was the last one Fnatic has suffered. Fnatic enters IEM Katowice having won 11 matches in a row between Barcelona and the ESL ESEA Pro League, in which it sits atop the standings at 7-1.

Four wins in this current streak are over EnVyUs, and another three came against Astralis, which will also be in Katowice this weekend.

“I think Astralis have been having trouble with consistency for a long time,” Jendeby said.  “At some periods they could claim to be a top-two team whereas at other times they can really struggle.”

In the past two months, Fnatic has gone 9-4 against the opponents in its Katowice group (Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Luminosity, mousesports), though it’s never faced the Mongolz. Against opponents from Group B, Fnatic is 16-3 in the same time period.

“Fnatic heavily relies on the individual performance of their players,” EnVyUs coach Mathieu “Maniac” Quiquerez said in an interview two weeks ago. “Lucky for them, they’ve got five of the very best players out there, which allows them to play that way. If players like olof, flusha or krimz get on fire, they are extremely complicated to handle. To beat them I think you need to be able to accept those individual actions and get the better of them on their own territory.”

Fnatic has been on streaks like this before, having won 12 premier tournaments in the last calendar year. In 2014, Fnatic had six premier wins in the final half of the year, including a four-of-five stretch from August through November.

Certainly it has been innovation and style keeping Fnatic on top for so long, and coming into Katowice, it looks to stay there.

“All players show improvement all the time, but flusha with his new role as IGL, I must say he has progressed the most as a player,” Jendeby said.

After IEM Katowice, Fnatic will be tested again later in the month at the MLG Columbus Major. The field for that is set after last weekend’s LAN qualifier and includes Natus Vincere, EnVyUs, Astralis, and Luminosity among others.

If Fnatic’s run continues through March, with two tournaments filled with talented teams, there really might not be a limit for its dominance.

Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com

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