Until this past weekend, the last time Fnatic celebrated victory was at the Intel Extreme Masters X in March 2016. Then, they took home a $104,000 prize for defeating Luminosity Gaming in the final.
Sure, the team notched up a second place in the ELEAGUE Season 1, but for all of 2017, the Fnatic trophy cupboard was bare. Indeed, the team’s performance in many events was disappointing.
Cellar finishes in the DreamHack Masters in Malmo, Las Vegas, and at the ESL One Cologne gave rise to reports that the team was in terminal decline. Fueling that fire, olofmeister jumped ship to FaZe Clan last year too.
The new year brought little sign that things would improve for Fnatic. They finished 5th-8th at the ELEAGUE Major Boston 2018, losing to SK Gaming in the quarterfinals. Then, in the StarLadder & i-League StarSeries Season 4, they were one of the first teams eliminated with a 0-3 record. The team’s financial return for that competition was a paltry $2,500.
So it was little wonder, then, that Betway had Fnatic at a best price of 12/1 heading into the Intel Extreme Masters XII World Championship last week.
But in the wonderful world of esports, anything can happen. What followed was a surprise and delight to many CS:GO followers and experts. Let’s recap.
The new look for the groups stages of the IEM Season XII proved a success. Group A saw both Astralis and Team Liquid qualify from the winners bracket. In the losers bracket, Cloud9 came through as the No. 3 seed with wins over Renegades and, perhaps more surprisingly, SK Gaming in the Round 3 matchup.
If Group A went to the form, the first rumblings of a surprise tournament winner occurred in Group B. One of the big favorites for the event, FaZe Clan, duly progressed into the final. But opposing them, after defeating G2 Esports in a shock win in the upper bracket’s second round, was Fnatic.
The team of Swedes then pulled off another big upset by claiming the top seed in Group B. They defeated FaZe Clan 2-0 in the Round 3 match. In the lower bracket, Ninjas in Pyjamas came through as the third and final qualifier after defeating North 2-1 in a competitive Round 3 match.
With big names such as G2 Esports, Virtus.pro, Gambit Esports, and SK Gaming already eliminated, the playoffs proved an exciting contest among six well-matched teams.
Things got off to a superb start in the opening match: a classic between FaZe Clan and Cloud9. The former broke a 1-1 tie thanks to an overtime 22-20 victory on the third and final map. It was a truly epic encounter that could have gone either way.
The other quarterfinal also went to a third and deciding map. Team Liquid emerged victorious with a 2-1 win over Ninjas in Pyjamas. That set up an enticing clash between the two favourites left in the tournament, Astralis and FaZe Clan. Fnatic and Team Liquid would meet in the other semi.
FaZe Clan triumphed in the opening semi, a surprisingly comprehensive 2-0 win over Astralis. Fnatic continued their excellent form as well, defeating Team Liquid 2-0.
The tournament finale was one of the most epic CS:GO contests of the young year. FaZe Clan started the tournament as the favourites, especially since they had procured Fnatic’s best player, olofmeister, last year. Fnatic’s impressive form won them plenty of fans, but in the eyes of the bookmakers, they were still the clear underdogs.
That feeling seemed acccurate when FaZe Clan inflicted a 16-5 defeat on Fnatic on the first map, Cache, to take a 1-0 lead in this best-of-five final. However, in an epic second game on Inferno, inspired play by flusha, KRIMZ, and Lekr0 edged Fnatic level with a 22-20 victory in overtime.
Overpass was up next, and with confidence surging through their veins, Fnatic took the map 16-7 to leave themselves just one win away. However, FaZe Clan bounced back on Mirage. Their 16-11 scoreline tied the final up at 2-2.
Befitting a final that ebbed and flowed and produced lots of drama, Game 5 proved climactic. FaZe Clan started hot, but Fnatic clawed back into the match. After the teams finished level, overtime decided the winner. Here, Fnatic held their nerve to clinch a stunning 19-17 victory and with it, their first big tournament win in two years.
MVP award for flusha
Unsurprisingly, given his performance throughout the event Robin “flusha” Ronnquist earned MVP honors. He gave an insightful interview with HLTV, which perhaps explained why it took two years for Fnatic to claim a major tournament victory.
When asked how his less experienced teammates coped with playing in a big final, Ronnquist addressed past shortfallings.
“We always go into those matches feeling like we’re a big underdog,” explained Ronnquist, “Just overcoming FaZe in the group stage was big for us and big for them as well, showing ourselves that we can do it.”
Now $253,000 richer, Fnatic’s next task is to show this win was not a flash in the pan. For FaZe Clan, this second-place finish tallies as their fourth in their last five Premier events. They’re in search of a true win as the spring rolls on.
The new Intel Extreme Masters Season XIII gets underway in Sydney on May 1, but before that, FaZe Clan will be in action at the V4 Future Sports Festival in Budapest later in March. Meanwhile, Fnatic are in action a week earlier at the World Electronic Sports Games tournament in Haikou, China.