The past few weeks have been difficult for Fnatic dealign with many roster changes, stand-ins and COVID. But they made it through the groups and are now in the top 12 at ESL Pro League 15.
The ESL Pro League Season 15 has already thrown a few surprises. Teams like Vitality, G2 esports have not made it through to the playoffs. One of biggest surprises has been Fnatic’s impressive showing despite fielding three stand-ins. The team has had a turbulent few months with several roster changes and rumors afloat. But they made it through a relatively tough Group A and will now face ENCE in the playoffs. We caught up with the Fnatic players in the press conference after the group stage as they shed some light on their current expectations and team synergy.
Days before the start of the ESL Pro League Season 15, Fnatic announced the addition of Poizon on a trial basis. Peppzor also joined the main lineup following the departure of Brollan. Brollan was a part of Fnatic for more than three years and had developed a strong bond with some of the players on the roster.
However, Fnatic's decision to go international was a reason for his departure. When asked about his reaction to Brollan (his long-time teammate) leaving Fnatic, Krimz said expressed his understanding although he was sad.
“Kind of sad actually. But understandable. I don't think he really felt comfortable going international. I dont think he was down with it 100%. It's also like he's old friends with Hampus. We're still friends with him so I understand his decision.”
Brollan joined the Ninjas last month, a step forwards for NiP building a ‘fluid roster’.
The Smooya situation
Fnatic played IEM Katowice with Smooya as a stand-in. They finished 9-12th losing to Astralis in the group stage. Despite a promising start, for what was still a new roster, Smooya was let go. The decision came as a surprise to the Brit, but there were differences in playstyles and expectations.
I think with us, he [Smooya] just couldn't perform as he wanted and we also couldn’t. I think it was just that we weren't all on the same page.
“To be honest, it was just a clash of playstyles and with Owen, he's shown that he's a really good player. He's shown that on multiple teams," said Fnatic mezii. "But I think with us, he just couldn't perform as he wanted and we also couldn’t. I think it was just that we weren't all on the same page."
"And sometimes that happens in CS and there's no bad blood there. We're still friends and sometimes things just don't work out. It's just one of those times where Owen couldn't do what he wanted to and we also couldn't accommodate that at all times.”
He goes on to detail the clash of playstyles between the two players. When asked if Poizon is a better fit for the team right now, he had some good words to say about the former Complexity player.
“Yes, so far it's been good. I think they do have a similar style in terms of aggression, him and Smooya. I think with Poison so far, it's going really well. He's fitting the team well. I think his experience playing in Complexity and playing in International teams has helped him as well.
I think playing with Poizon so far, it's been really good. Like he says, always getting onboard with the team, I think we just need more time and just see where it goes. At the moment, playing we're having a lot of fun and trying to get the best results we can.” - Mezzii.
Roster Stability and Expectations at ESL Pro League
The hardest part is not knowing what to expect when you don't have a stable roster.
But amidst all of this, there has been a vivid lack of stability on the Fnatic roster. The constant changes to the roster, bringing in new players obviously impacts the way the team can form strategies and prepare for a big event such as ESL Pro League.
“It's been hard with every problems and such. With external factors like transfers and playing with different rosters, it's been hard for us. Every player in CS just wants a stable roster. It's out of our hands and I think we're just trying to do the best with what we have," Fnatic Mezii said.
"Our main focus is to do our best on the server and get the best results we can and after that just focus on trying to get a stable roster. If we can, then perfect. But I think obviously, it's a rough period at the moment but we're just trying to do the best we can.”
Fnatic were in Group A of the ESL Pro League. With G2 esports, NiP, Mouz, Entropiq amongst the other teams, it was a tough group for Fnatic, Several last-minute roster changes later, Fnatic’s chances didn’t look too bright. The players themselves didn’t expect to make playoffs, but they are very happy with their progress so far.
“Obviously, with the group stage situation, having last-minute stand-ins with Banjo coming cause Freddie [Krimz] had COVID, [we] definitely didn't expect to make playoffs. But coming into this we haven't had much time to play. Even after coming home, we've had some issues with COVID we can't practice. So just take it game by game and we'll see,” ALEX said about Fnatic's expectations coming into ESL Pro League.
The frequent roster changes also mean it’s difficult for the players to stay motivated. Despite the roster changes and fielding multiple stand-ins for ESL Pro League, Fnatic have managed a top 12 finish at the very minimum. With a match against ENCE and later Movistar Riders, there is a good chance that Fnatic finds itself in the top four.
“The hardest part is not knowing what to expect when you don't have a stable roster. I feel bad for Cape and Alex, they're handling all of the strats and it's kind of hard when you bring in new guys. Shit happens here and we have to pick up a stand-in. We can't do the set strats and we have to change roles in the team. It's kind of hard in that way but I've always been eager to compete. Ofcourse it hurts a bit when you don't know really what to expect” said Krimz.
We're unpredictable and I think that's kind of how we made it and obviously, we have Poizon, Peppzor and everyone popping off as well.
On why they have performed above expectations (even their own), it’s all about staying focused, says Alex.
“I think we really focused on having a really good team atmosphere and obviously we didn't have time to build a deep playbook. I think us concentrating on really having fun and being on the same page out of the server and my team in-game and just get us good synergy and we trusted each other. It helped me to make calls as I see as an IGL. We're unpredictable and I think that's kind of how we made it and obviously, we have Poizon, Peppe and everyone popping off as well. So that always helps.”
The Road ahead
The playoff bracket features teams like FaZe Clan, Players, NAVI, Atralis and Entropiq on one patch. The other path is, one would say, slightly easier although there are quite a few in-form teams such as Movistar Riders, NiP and Heroic.
“I wouldn't look at it like it's an easier path. Ofcourse, there are a lot of difficult teams to play and other side of the bracket. Every time that have been to the playoffs are good at Counter-Strike. It's never going to be an easier path. I think we're pumped either way. I'm just happy to be here because the boys made it to play here. I'm pumped at least," said KRIMZ.
Fnatic face ENCE in their first match of the playoffs. The two teams faced each other in the Fantasyexpo EU Champions tournament. ENCE defeated Fnatic in the BO1 online match. However, the Fnatic roster has had a few days to practice and the experience of going through the group stage of ESL Pro League Season 15. They are definitely playing much better than before and are a formidable challenge for ENCE.
"I think ENCE are a pretty strong team. They always come in strong at these big events against some of these better teams. I think sometimes they struggle online. They beat us, but it was obviously a BO1 and we've had some problems with COVID, online and not being able to practice that much," says Fnatic mezii.
ENCE have definitely had an upgrade to their firepower, adding Madden", Fnatic mezii continued. "They're really strong individually. Like we already said, first, we're just focusing as much as we can on ourselves. Kind of replicating what we had in the group stage, having fun and just building that team chemistry because we are obviously a new lineup and we got tons to work on in the server. But I think it's good to focus a lot on the outside stuff, building that good team chemistry and having Fnatic playing teams like ENCE, we can definitely beat cause we've done it before. Even if this roster, I think we can beat them, cause I think our firepower can easily match them."