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Photos of Fnatic's Dota 2 team at ESL Birmingham in England

Fnatic - A Smorgasbord of Talents

Aug 102018

Every tournament has at least one: a dark horse capable of upsetting the established favourites. For The International 8, that would be Fnatic. In a sense it’s similar to Fnatic’s TI6 run where, after the group stage, no one expected them to make it much further in the lower bracket. They had gone 5-9 with some unconvincing wins among the few they managed to secure, but then the team tore up the lower bracket, beating Team Liquid and MVP Phoenix on the way to their eventual 4th place finish. DJ is the lone member remaining from Fnatic’s that roster as the team has reached to other regions outside of SEA to strengthen itself. EternalEnvy, Pieliedie, and Xcalibur joined the team together in late August of 2017, adding to DJ and Ohaiyo. This roster would be short lived as Xcalibur became a substitute player and Abed joined the team as the new mid in November. The roster moves were not done with that however as Ohaiyo would be removed from the team for EG’s superstar offlaner Universe early in 2018. This move would finalize the roster with a mixture of NA, EU, and SEA talent.

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.

The Breakdown


So what is Fnatic’s game then? It’s a little difficult to describe, which benefits them greatly as it makes it very difficult to predict how they are going to try to play. Fnatic is among the teams with the most varied playstyles and they have the hero pool to support their unorthodox play. If you can think of a carry, EternalEnvy has probably played it. He played 13 different heroes at The Summit 9 in 19 games alone! This versatility extends to their playstyle, where the team can play from ahead or behind. They can even extend games when any other team would be considered down and out, which they are notorious for.


Pieliedie has the moniker “diediedie” due to how often he dies during the game but his deaths are almost never without reason. While he gets chased around in the enemy woods his cores are usually farming with impunity on the other side of the map, enjoying the space he is buying for them at the cost of his own life. DJ on the other hand is one of the most active 4 positions still left in the game, playing heroes like Pudge, Clockwerk, Sand King, and Rubick to find kills on unsuspecting victims throughout the early stages of the game. In the finals of The Summit 9 DJ had one of, if not the single best, Shadow Demon performance anyone has ever seen on the hero, saving his allies from countless initiations and even stopping Necrophos’ Reaper Scythe nearly every time the spell was cast. 


DJ stands out as the hero Fnatic needs when a clutch initiation or counter initiation is crucial to turning the tides of battle but he is far from the only one performing those duties on the team. Universe is often placed on heroes that are centered around big team fight abilities and utility items such as Enigma, Dark Seer, or Beastmaster. He fits into Fnatic’s lineups as a stable laning presence and as a heavier farmer if you compare him to most offlaners. DJ is usually paired with Universe in the offlane to ensure he can get farm and experience in relative safety but also usually to try to pick apart the enemy safelane. Even before the meta evolved to the dual-lane setup it is today, DJ would often rotate to Universe’s lane early and help him battle the safelane to secure him space to farm. The waveclear that one of their heroes usually has also opens up the enemy safelane to tower dives which Fnatic are likely to go for when Pieliedie makes his way to their lanec


All of this is before even mentioning Abed, the young pubstar known for his Meepo and Tinker in the midlane. Abed is a heavy farmer who often takes priority away from EternalEnvy which tends to work well given Abed’s penchant for late-game carries like Phantom Lancer and Storm Spirit. Even his mid-game centric heroes like Templar Assassin and Dragon Knight often end up on the top of the networth chart early in the game as he snowballs his team towards victory. As with most mid players his heroes are drafted quite late, but Fnatic aren’t afraid of picking up his hero 3rd or 4th, trusting that he’ll be able to get the farm he needs to have impact in the game regardless of what the enemy picks to counter him.


This leaves us with EternalEnvy’s role, which morphs depending on the needs of his team and situation of the draft. Envy will sometimes take a hard farmer like Medusa, Luna, or Terrorblade, but can also abandon any plans of late game altogether with Viper, Leshrac, and Drow. As mentioned earlier Envy plays a wide array of heroes and it allows Fnatic to have a similarly large number of strategies prepared for nearly any situation. Fnatic can be considered a very ‘smart’ team in that sense, not only relying on outplaying their opponents in fights, but also in map movement and when to take those fights. While we can’t know exactly what happens in-game, as the captain we can assume a large amount of that responsibility falls on EE. He is a unique player in that sense, taking the mantle of Captain while being the carry player for his team, a duty usually reserved for one of the support players on most other teams. His supports make full use of the extra awareness they are awarded to themselves though. Moreover, it may also be because of Envy’s role as captain that we see Abed take a more active role as the primary farmer, giving Envy more time to think about what the team has to do as opposed to making absolutely sure that he won't get caught farming.


When all else fails Fnatic is also capable of tossing everything they’ve prepared out the window which has turned into some of the most entertaining games in Dota 2 where neither the viewers or the players quite understand what is going to happen next. Fnatic is a team made up of many different regions, and the individual ways of playing from all of those regions melded into one. Their unique approach to Dota is something no one else can imitate and when you add the skill and tenacity of the players on top of that they become a serious threat to every team who will be in Vancouver. It’s for these reasons that Fnatic is considered a dark horse capable of beating the best teams in the world.