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Photos of Fnatic playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive at DreamHack Masters in Marseille, France
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Fnatic CounterStrike Legends

Sep 122018

Fnatic has never had to qualify for a Major. Since the early days with the beginning of the prestigious circuit at DreamHack Winter 2013, to the latest one run by a TV company in Boston, Fnatic have remained Legends. Once again the continuation of this legendary feat is at stake with the Legends stage kicking off, and Fnatic will be eager to continue that trend.

Suffice to say that it will be a challenging task. The New Legends stage is packed with formidable teams; from the current powerhouses like Na’Vi, Astralis or Team Liquid, to the hungry and dangerous challengers like TyLoo, compLexity or Vega Squadron. Other teams have been picking up steam in the past months as well; one can think of MIBR, who finally found some of their groove back after the signing of Janko “YNk” Paunovic, or Fnatic’s swedish compatriots, Ninjas in Pyjamas, who surprised many with their form at DreamHack Masters Stockholm just two weeks ago.

Incidentally, that same tournament did not go so well for Fnatic in comparison. Right after the player break, there was a question mark as to what kind of improvements and form the different teams would bring to the table. NiP and North surprised everyone with their results, whereas teams like Astralis looked less impressive than usual. For Fnatic, this looked like a tournament where the team was unable to make everything work together right off the bat after the break. At the same time, this iteration of the team, who now fields Richard “Xizt” Landström and William “Draken” Sundin in place of Jonas “Lekr0” Olofson and Maikil “Golden” Selim, just had the time to stabilize and find their footing. While the break was a good opportunity to train and work on finding the style that suits them, DreamHack Masters Stockholm still had a taste of unfinished business.

But this may have been exactly what the team needed going into the Major, some sort of shock to help them realize what mistakes they should fix. If the work they put in during the break was the opportunity to establish their playbook and see how they would fit the pieces together, DreamHack Masters Stockholm gave them chances to iron out the issues that remained after their game plan was put to the test. This was also a opportunity for the team to develop how they could use draken in a way that makes him shine; he was a key element to NiP’s success during his tenure on their roster. Now it just becomes a matter of figuring out how to utilize him in the best way possible, to unlock the same potential that landed him on Fnatic in the first place.

 

While this may seem accessory, there’s still a particularity of Fnatic that would seem to be their biggest strengths at times, but also a weakness at others; their reliance on their veterans to show up when the going gets rough. JW, flusha and kRIMZ were pivotal in the runs that saw Fnatic grab both the IEM Katowice trophy and the WESG 2018 title. They were able to surmount a FaZe in fantastic form thanks to the firepower of the “Fnatic trio” and especially a monstrous kRIMZ. Having draken hold the AWP and perform, while helping Fnatic to find welcome picks, also enables JW’s aggressive playstyle which helps the squad find its opening picks, and give Fnatic the option to go for a powerful double AWP setup as well. It also strengthens the team by making it less reliant on specific players going off and more about a balanced, teamplay based unit. This has been key in recent times, and made sides even more powerful than simply by having extremely skilled superstars.

 

As such, Fnatic can head into the Major with assurance. With a full week of matches to observe before they step into the ring, they will also add to their current assets some precious knowledge about half of their opponents’ current style and form. While some challengers could come in and surprise with their playstyle, such as Vega Squadron and their twice-a-year appearance at Majors, in the Legends stage this effect will be depleted. Combined with the lessons from Stockholm, and Fnatic should be well equipped to go up serenely against underdogs, not underestimating them but also knowing that they are superior.

 

They can also rely on one of their biggest weapons, experience. Combined there are four Major champions on this team, spanning four Major titles, three for Fnatic and one for NiP back when Xizt led them to a victory at ESL One Cologne 2014. This is a staggering resume for all of these players, and if one thing is certain it’s that they can handle the pressure and find solutions to even the most complex situations they find themselves in. This will be the first Major for draken, but with such teammates, he can rest assured that he only has to focus on himself, and that there will be no additional burden from the rest of the squad. 

 

It only helps that Xizt is a calm leader, praised by everyone for his skills when it comes down to handling a potentially infuriating, tilting situation. Soothing teammates and helping them recover from negative emotions like frustration and anger may be the perfect element to make draken’s first Major a smooth experience. The same may not be said of the opposition. Some teams made it to their first Legends stage, and will endure the highest pressure they’ve ever felt. This is something that can crush teams, teams that otherwise look very good on paper. If anything, Fnatic will thrive in the high pressure environment, something nearly all of its players have been used to for a very long time.

 

Finally, when everything’s gone awry, you may never count them out. Every player on that team is a potential clutcher, with maybe the exception of a less seasoned draken. Every player on that team can be a powerful engine to propel Fnatic forward. We’ve seen it from kRIMZ and flusha, yielding trophies. While more volatile, JW has also been able to drag Fnatic out of dire situations. Even as an in-game leader, Xizt remains a dangerous player, as he showcased while standing-in for FaZe in the shoes of Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer, contributing to the international squad’s deep runs and even IEM Sydney trophy in April and May of this year. Most of these players have shined at pretty much every single Major, and nothing indicates that this one would be an exception.

 

Going into the Legends stage, Fnatic must still prove that they can take down the top dogs. However, and as has become perennial over the years, maintaining their Legends status is something we should expect from them, no matter the circumstances. Opening against compLexity, they have the ability to defeat the lesser teams, and to challenge the biggest. While it is optimistic to see them go through with a clean 3-0 scoreline, they remain one of the likely eight to go past the New Legends stage. 

 

Fnatic has won in the past, won in recent times, and they know the recipes for victory. There is no other logical way than for them to retain their Legends status, and everything is there for them to extend that legacy. They are, after all, true legends themselves.

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