Fnatic has punched their ticket to The International 2021 by reverse sweeping TNC Predator. The Southeast Asian team clawed out a well-deserved victory in a 3-2 series over TNC that went the distance.
In a series that saw neutral creeps land four hero stuns, the best Terrorblade play in SEA, and 40+ minute games that have become typical of SEA, Fnatic faced TNC for a single slot to TI10.
Their eventual victory marks eight-straight TI appearances in a row for Fnatic, who have firmly cemented their legacy of one of the best performing teams in SEA, if not the world. Fnatic head to TI10 as just the second SEA representative, along side T1.
In a rematch of yesterday’s (July 2nd) Upper Bracket Final, Fnatic and TNC Predator looked to close out this TI10 qualifier with a win. However, the sheer closeness of their previous series had to be on both team’s minds. Despite their previous series ending 2-0 in Fnatic's favor, anyone watching could testify that TNC made the fight a tough one. The two SEA titans had their fated rematch, and to start things off TNC decided to switch things up...
Game 1 - Too Fast for SEA Dota
TNC kicked off the first game by banning out Nyx, Timber, two heroes that could potentially mute their aggression. Meanwhile, Fnatic focused on popular heroes that have blighted them in this bracket, in Luna and Phoenix. Ultimately, the draft wrapped up with a surprising Monkey King pick for Fnatic Marc Polo Luis “Raven” Fausto and Legion Commander for Yang “Deth” Wu Heng, two comfort picks for players.
But even with these comfort picks, Fnatic gave up first blood on their Legion Commander. From there, things went from bad to worse, with Armel Paul “Armel” Tabios’s Templar Assassin bullying Ng “ChYuan” Kee Chyuan Dragon Knight early. Punishing the fact Fnatic didn’t have great jungle clear, TNC’s supports stacked jungle camps repeatedly, further increasing the lead. This was compounded by rotations punishing the struggling Legion Commander. On top of all that, Fnatic simply couldn't push - with Mirana's arrows instantly killing ranged and siege creeps.
TNC continued looking for fights, finding a perfect one-off a smoke towards Roshan. Popping three members of Fnatic, the team looked to capitalize by stealing as much farm as possible from Fnatic’s jungle and taking Roshan.
Fnatic was unable to find the fights they wanted to but managed to slow down TNC towards the 20-minute mark. But this was too little too late, as Armel had hit his stride on TA. Unfortunately, there was little Fnatic could do at this point. Confined to their high ground with no where to farm, all they could do was watch TNC secure the second and third Roshan. In a rapid match compared to most of this qualifier, TNC Predator took game one in a more one-sided game than we saw during the entire series yesterday. One thing was clear - TNC were determined not to let their 2-0 defeat repeat again.
Game 2 - Neutral Centaur Creep Steals The Show
Fnatic, not keen on another Armel TA performance, decided to first-phase ban it and steal away the Luna. To support their fast farming Moon Rider, they picked up DK and Shadow Demon - providing a tanky frontline and save. However, TNC instead looked to win lanes with their draft that seemed to require perfect execution capped with a Gabbi signature Phantom Assassin.
Shadow Demon immediately made his presence known with first blood, making the offlane DK even stronger by proxy. By five minutes, the DK could essentially solo so that Shadow Demon could roam and create problems across the map for Fnatic. TNC attempted to counter this by being aggressive in Fnatic’s jungle, stealing neutrals.
TNC continued their relenting aggression in hopes of stifling Fnatic's draft before they could scale up. Despite this, Fnatic could still win some of the early fights, forcing TNC to use sneakier tactics. A stealthy Roshan take gave TNC the lead and put them in a position to succeed.
While this aegis boosted TNC's strength, Fnatic's insane teamfighting power was still overwhelming. Gabbi almost instantly got caught out and killed just shortly after taking Roshan, burning the freshly earned aegis. From there, TNC resolved to avoid the fights Fnatic wanted to take, dodging a pair of smoke plays and slowly gathering farm. Finally, a huge back-and-forth fight at second Roshan went in TNC’s favor, thanks mainly to Gabbi’s incredible Phantom Assassin play.
At this point, it felt like the game had fallen entirely out of Fnatic’s hands. Only the surprising intervention of a neutral centaur creep gave Fnatic a flash of hope.
But even the intervention of a not-so-neutral creep couldn’t slow down TNC, who began pushing high ground. Only Fnatic’s patient defense kept them alive, with Shadow Demon sitting invisible waiting to pounce on an enemy carry. With their pieces set-up perfectly, TNC had immense trouble breaking the Fnatic high ground. Just like the many games in this qualifier that had come before this - the game dragged on.
As the game veered into the super late game, it became a matter of who could drain the most buybacks in each fight rather than any other advantage. And ultimately, a bad decision by Fnatic would lead to the end. A big fight at the steps of TNC’s base allowed Gabbit to clean up.
TNC’s lackluster draft ultimately didn’t matter, as Gabbi hard carried on Phantom Assassin, snatching the 2-0 lead for his team.
Game 3 - Fnatic turns the predators to prey
After two straight losses, Fnatic went with Terrorblade and Pango to stop TNC Predator’s aggression. Meanwhile, TNC’s draft took away most of Fnatic’s annoying picks from the last game, including the Abaddon and Leshrac. It was clear that Fnatic desperately wanted to have an excellent start to the game and began by forcing fights in the bottom lane for first blood.
Continuing on that trend, Fnatic constantly engaged across the mid-lane with their supports. But TNC proved far better at executing these fights, preventing Fnatic from getting the big lead they wanted. Though, after two games of it, TNC’s aggression finally started to fall flat, as Fnatic could punish their dives.
With this, Fnatic could push out and take towers and racks, with TNC never able to get the fight they wanted. Every engagement saw the Leshrac blown up too quickly for his Abaddon to help. TNC also had no answer to Pangolier and Terrorblade. This forced TNC Predator back into a slow farming position, as they were barely able to push Fnatic off their high ground. Pushing in and deleting Leshrac, Fnatic proved they were the dominant force in this game.
However, the team was cautious, not wanting to throw the game again on a bad push. It took 2 games, but Fnatic's meticulously crafted drafts finally paid off. With methodical play to match, they firmly slammed the door shut at TNC's hopes at a 3-0 sweep and secured game 3 for themselves.
Game 4 - TNC lets Raven's Terrorblade in (again)
Looking to close things out, TNC gave up the Lion and Terrorblade to Fnatic again despite their struggles last game. Instead, they opted to pick up the now unbanned Puck and Mirana, looking to be able to delete heroes again and Medusa for late game insurance. However, Fnatic’s draft, now augmented with an Abaddon, Bloodseeker, and an Ember Spirit, looked incredibly strong.
Sure enough, while Fnatic was bullied out of the top lane early by TNC, they quickly struck back. The team had gotten completely wise to the aggression of the TNC Predator. Playing the lanes relatively safe, they instead counter-ganked, punishing the aggression. Fnatic continually forced kills and bad trades from TNC, leaving their opponent on the back foot.
A long Roshan at the 28-minute mark fight was typical of the issues TNC faced. Despite the excellent execution, their heroes didn’t have enough tools to finish off Fnatic for good. The turnaround and Roshan take was just one of the nails in the coffin.
Ultimately, TNC wasn't unable to do anything, getting picked off across the map. Meanwhile, Fnatic biding their time were happy to wait until the perfect moment for to push in and end. Overall, Raven looked super comfortable on Terrorblade this game, and it was definitely the difference-maker in game four.
Game 5 - The Match to End One Team's Dreams, and Fulfil The Other's
With the trip to TI10 still on the line in the final game, TNC Predator banned away the Terrorblade that had wreaked havoc in two straight games. Then, picking up the Earth Spirit and Spectre, TNC looked like they were ready to try something new. Fnatic on the other hand seemed to take a leaf out of TNC’s book, with their Mirana/Puck/Phoenix combo.
As the game started, Fnatic was punished early for trying to harass too aggressively. This resulted in them giving up first blood and gold advantage to the TNC. But even with this good start, the momentum seemed far more in Fnatic’s favor, and as the teams started trading towers, Fnatic slowly built towards a significant lead.
With this lead, Fnatic could choose their fights. And doing so they found an ideal pick near the Dire middle lane. Baiting out TNC’s spells, and layering on damage perfectly, the squad dominated their opponent’s and perhaps broke their spirit.
From there, Fnatic's cores had free farm, with Axe in particular able to firmly cement himself at the top of the net-worth. At this point it would take a miracle for TNC. The team forced fights, but there was nothing left for them to do. Fnatic pushed in and wrapped things up, securing their final victory.
A Fitting End to the Most Thrilling Qualifier So Far
With their win here, Fnatic head to TI10, to take a share of the over $40 million prize pool. TNC Predator head home, with a particularly bitter pill to swallow. Poised to head to TI during the 2019-2020 season, now forced to watch the event from home.