Only three days after Universe joined Fnatic they faced their first challenge as a team, the SEA qualifier for GESC: Indonesia. It would be the first glimpse the world would get of the new Fnatic and would tell us what we might expect from the team moving forward. Things started off on the wrong foot as Fnatic lost their first series to Geek Fam and many began to speculate on how much longer the team would last. They faced Mineski next, the top dogs of SEA at the time with Mushi and Iceiceice reunited. Yet instead of letting their earlier loss demoralize them they focused on the task at hand. Fnatic would go on to 2-1 Mineski, 2-0 Execration, and 3-0 Geek Fam in the finals to win the first qualifier they took part in as a team.
This would be the start to Fnatic’s long 2018 season which would eventually lead them to The International. A little over a month after Universe joined they were playing in their first Major, ESL One Katowice, it would be the second international LAN the team was taking part in, but the first in which they had time to prepare for their opponents. No one was sure how they would do against the likes of the top teams in the world but we got the answer quickly. Fnatic Beat Na`Vi, Kinguin, Team Secret, and took a game off Team Liquid while finishing 4th to earn their first DPC points of the season. The victory over Team Secret silenced critics as Team Secret had won the last Major and was considered one of the top teams in the world. Better yet, they took a game off the TI7 champions.
Fnatic would go on to win more qualifiers and claim multiple top 4 finishes at DPC events, including another 4th place finish at the ESL One Birmingham Major near the end of the season. Rather than the story unfolding at the tournaments themselves though, a story was emerging in the SEA qualifiers. Fnatic and TNC had ended up trading wins on eight different occasions. The unbelievable battle between the two teams culminated in both teams taking part in three best of fives against each other in a single weekend, two of which were on the same day. When the dust settled Fnatic would be missing out on MDL Changsha but had secured their invite to GESC: Thailand and ESL One Birmingham.
It was only fitting that, after facing each other so often during the regular season, Fnatic would end up fighting against them in the upper bracket finals for a TI8 invite. After 100 minutes of playtime Fnatic alone stood as the victor, defeating TNC Predator 2-0 and earning their spot at TI8 as the first seed through the SEA qualifiers. The roster moves earlier in the season had paid off and Fnatic looked strong despite not being favourites to win the whole thing. No one doubted that Fnatic could win against the top teams if they could make them play their game.
As a player EternalEnvy is one of the best farmers in Dota 2. His farming routes are heavily optimized and his large hero pool lends itself to being very difficult to completely shut down during the draft. He has claimed in the past that he always tries to find the path with the least amount of risk for his team to take to win a game and this has led Fnatic to some impressive wins, although sometimes being too safe can allow the opponent to catch up due to playing too passively. No one can doubt Envy’s abilities though as he has been on multiple top teams in the past and continues to blaze new trails for himself in new regions as he continues to grow as a player.
Abed on the other hand is almost the exact opposite of EternalEnvy. The 18 year old is one of the youngest competitive players and uses his immense mechanical skill to make up for the lack of experience. He became the first player to hit 10,000 MMR and is feared in the competitive scene for his Meepo, a hero that is almost completely ignored bar a few very talented players. Abed is the perfect match for Envy’s withdrawn style of carry as he enjoys farming himself until he has a few items and is ready to push down towers. While Abed still struggles if he has an unfavourable matchup in lane, the experience he is gaining under Envy’s leadership should help him grow into an even stronger player in the future.
Universe will also help Abed in this regard. Universe is one of the oldest veterans in Dota 2, starting back in 2011. He got his name on the Aegis back in 2015 when he won The International with EG in a moment that was immortalized as the 6-million-dollar Echo Slam. His Dark Seer and Enigma are both well known to be among the best in Dota 2 and his outwardly calm and collected appearance is what every offlaner should attempt to emulate in-game as panic and hesitation can break an offlaner. Given the amount of time Universe has been playing competitive Dota 2 there is almost no offlaner he isn’t familiar with but that doesn’t stop him from stepping outside his comfort zone as we saw at The Summit 9 as he played Tiny in many of their wins.
Alongside Universe in the offlane is DJ, whose wide array of supports is meant to help the offlaner and the team as a whole secure their lanes. DJ’s name first started to circulate back in 2015 on Rave, a team that had one particularly surprising result at the first DAC. That was all it took to put DJ on the map and now it is not an exaggeration to say he is the backbone of the team. If DJ has an off game the team struggles but when he is playing at 100% they look nearly unbeatable. DJ’s Sand King and Windranger have been exceptionally good lately, always being in the right place at the right time, even finding solo pick offs on enemy cores and turning into a 4th core himself in many of Fnatic’s games. DJ has been one of the stand out players of the year and regardless of what happens at TI, DJ will be remembered for his breakout season.
Lastly we have Pieliedie, the sacrificial support that has played with Envy on and off for the last four years. During the C9 era, both Envy and Pieliedie were among the best duos in the world and their coordination has not dulled since those times. Pie rarely receives credit for the role he plays on his teams but everyone acknowledges that he’s very good at what he does. While his deaths may look bad on paper, during the game you can see the impact he has regardless of what his final KDA might say. Pieliedie also has the potential to take everyone by surprise in the early game on heroes like Witch Doctor and Skywrath Mage, often finding kills seemingly out of nowhere and securing his team farm around the map while doing so.