IEM Cologne 2021, the biggest on-going event in Counter-Strike marks many key moments for the game and teams involved. For FNATIC, however, the only thing the 2021 edition of ESL’s yearly tournament set in Cologne will be marking is that it’s the first time since the series started back in 2014 that FNATIC’s CSGO division missed.
However, missing IEM Cologne 2021 is just one of the many negative news surrounding FNATIC lately. The organization, however, hopes to change the tides with roster moves which are already in the works. While the first semester of 2021 might be lost, there might be still hope to close the year on a high-note.
How they will be doing that, however, still is a mystery. Yet, it’s fair game to speculate and take a look at rumors. After all, the CSGO scene is eagerly looking at the organization, hoping for it to bounce back.
So, let’s do exactly that. Let’s take a look at what caused FNATIC’s downfall, what’s happening already, and who could integrate FNATIC’s roster from August onwards.
Before anything, it’s important to understand what led FNATIC to enter a rebuilding phase. When looking at FNATIC’s records, there’s a clear decline in performances once the changes caused by the pandemic settled in the Counter-Strike scene.
After April 2020, the squad would fail to impress consistently. Below is a table with FNATIC results in all non-qualifying events that started between April to October 2020 (excluding Gamers Without Borders due to its format and overall objective) that FNATIC took part of.
|Tournament (starting month)||Teams FNATIC won against||Teams FNATIC lost to||Final Placement|
|ESL One Road to Rio EU (April)||Astralis, Heretics, Complexity||ENCE, Dignitas, Vitality, NiP, Movistar Riders||12th|
|DH Masters Spring 2020 EU (May)||GODSENT, Complexity||Spirit, FaZe, MAD Lions||7th – 8th|
|cs_summit 6 Europe (June)||Mousesports, G2, NiP||G2, BIG, Heroic, GODSENT||6th|
|ESL One Cologne 2020 EU (August)||Heretics||Astralis, Heroic||9th – 12th|
|ESL PL Season 12 EU (September)||Spirit, FaZe, NiP||Mousesports, Complexity, Vitality, Astralis||11th – 12th|
FNATIC would close 2020 with small signs of improvement, though. The team managed to achieve a competent 4th placing in IEM New York EU as well as a 3rd place in Flashpoint 2.
These signs would carry on in early 2021, despite the team having lost ‘flusha’, who left the team to start his own project. In FNATIC’s first tournament of 2021, cs_summit 7, the Swedes reached 2nd place, and things were looking better, even if just then.
The hope of better days for the orange-themed brand wouldn’t last for much longer, though. FNATIC proceeded to finish last in the IEM Katowice 2021 Play-In, and finished second-to-last during EPL Season 13. The team would fail to impress in their following two events, too. ‘Snow Sweet Snow 3’ and ‘Spring Sweet Spring 1’ saw FNATIC getting eliminated by Mousesports and EPG Family respectively.
The situation kept going south for FNATIC from May onwards. The team finished last in both Flashpoint 3, a key event part of the Major circuit, and IEM Summer 2021, one of the biggest tournaments of the first semester.
Missing IEM Cologne 2021 allowed FNATIC to start working on possible roster moves before the player break. The organization has already announced that Maikil “Golden” Selim, the team’s then in-game leader, has been benched. More changes have also been confirmed to be coming.
Alongside the official announcement, it didn’t take much time before leaks related to the team’s future plans started to surface. There isn’t many rumors right now, but one caught our attention.
According to reliable individuals in the Polish CS scene, FNATIC has been one of the teams looking at AGO’s benched player Miłosz ‘mhL’ Knasiak. The 19-year-old Polish awper has been putting solid performances, achieving a 1.20 HLTV rating so far in 2021. He has shown to have immense potential, and under proper guidance, could reach an incredibly high skill ceiling. However, at the same time, it would create a role conflict, since FNATIC already has a dedicated awper – more on that later.
Whether this rumor is true or not, we already know that Golden is out, which means that FNATIC is on the lookout for a new captain. However, Golden shouldn’t be the only one leaving. There’s another player, that as legendary as he might be, needs to go too. Three-times Major winner Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell had a total of two events in 2021 in which he didn’t finish with a negative HLTV rating.
It’s definitely going to be shocking if FNATIC doesn’t bench JW during the player break. The legendary hybrid player has been underperforming consistently this year. JW’s drop in individual performance led him to an abysmal 0.50 HLTV rating during Flashpoint 3.
If we take his benching as guaranteed, there’s another spot open in the team. At this point, we can assume that the organization is willing to search for players outside Sweden. Even ignoring the mhL rumors, removing Golden and limiting themselves to look for a Swedish player to replace him would be a massive hurdle in the rebuilding process. There aren’t many high-tier IGLs available at the moment even if we consider the global player pool.
With that in mind, let’s start to speculate about who could be the players filling the spots left in FNATIC. First and foremost, who could be the team’s next in-game captain?
One of the first names to come to mind certainly is Danish IGL Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen. While the Dane is more known for his skills with the AWP, he is open to play as a rifler. That is, as long as his team have a capable awper on board – which fortunately isn’t a problem here. Another interesting pick would be UK’s ALEX. More recently, he had a fairly unremarkable stint with Cloud9, but he was also the leader of the 2019’s Vitality that won both ECS Finals Season 7 and EPICENTER 2019. ALEX is also the man behind LDLC’s quickly rise through the world rankings in late 2018.
There are other interesting options to fill the IGL role in Europe if MSL isn’t available, but not many. For example, ‘ChrisJ’, currently benched from Mousesports, definitely would be an experiment.
Removing Golden and JW from the roster open up two spots. This means that FNATIC would be looking for a new captain, as discussed above. Then, a new rifler to strengthen the existing formation with Brollan and KRIMZ would be needed.
The first option here is ‘Peppzor’, who is currently signed as FNATIC’s sixth player. The 18-year-old Swede has yet to play in an official game for the team, however. As promising as he may be, he doesn’t have a record to back him up. Whoever take over the team might ask for a more known player to fit the blank while Peppzor proves himself playing under the Fnatic Rising banner.
So, who could be this more known player? Endpoint’s ‘mezii’ and ‘Thomas’, Dignitas’ ‘Lekr0’, ex-North / Hyenas players such as ‘gade’ and ‘Fessor’ are some interesting choices. Some players in DBL Poney’s roster are interesting too, but seemingly the squad just managed to sign contracts with an organization. This makes any possible player acquisition improbable for the time being.
Particularly, mezii seems to be a fairly good pickup for FNATIC. However, he’s currently signed to a team, same for Lekr0 and Thomas. If FNATIC limits themselves to free agents only, then the team will have to take a riskier gamble. The ex-HYENAS roster, as well as the likes of ottoNd are available, as far as we know. While they have potential to fill the role, they still have to prove themselves, making this a less stable roster overall. With ‘MICHU’ and ‘flameZ’ being signed to Evil Geniuses and OG, respectively, FNATIC missed two great opportunities. This doesn’t mean that the team can’t find a suitable fifth, but it’s one result of doing changes later than what they should’ve done.
Let’s also go back to the mhL rumors. There’s a chance, after all, that FNATIC will be bringing the Polish player to the team. In that case, Jackinho could be either demoted to the planed FNATIC Rising team, benched, or maybe become the team’s secondary awper. In the first and second scenarios, FNATIC would have to consider doing three roster changes at once, causing the team’s standing on Valve’s RMR circuit to be reset. If the organization believes that this is needed, then it shall be done.
However, the team might be also considering to have both Jackinho and mhL at the same time. This is a dangerous move, as the player who becomes the secondary-awper could face difficulties adapting to his new role.
As unfortunate as it’s to say this, it has to be said. Golden and JW leaving FNATIC already should bring positive changes for the team. With a new captain, and someone who can bring more firepower to the team than JW’s, the team’s most apparent issues are solved.
This is assuming that the trio of Brollan, KRIMZ and Jackinho were being held back, which should be the case. Once the player break ends in mid-August, expect to see a reinvigorated, dangerous FNATIC that will quickly climb up the world rankings. With LANs becoming the norm once again, FNATIC won’t have many excuses to fail – and they shouldn’t fail under these circumstances.
Plus, investing on MSL (or another captain) and a new rifler will give the team some point deductions in Valve’s RMR circuit, but the team will still have hopes to qualify if they do well in the upcoming two RMR events.
As for how an MSL-led FNATIC would differ than Golden’s, for one, MSL would run the team on a stricter formation. Refined tactics, re-developing the team’s map pool, and coordinated setups that are MSL’s signature since the time when his teams used to dominate the long-gone Cobblestone.
MSL, Jackinho (or mhL, if the team is willing to reset their RMR standings), KRIMZ, Brollan and a rifler- ideally mezii. This is a possible roster that could definitely compete among the best in the second semester of 2021. However, FNATIC has room for errors while rebuilding their CSGO team.
What if the organization brings a captain alongside mhL and asks Jackinho to become a secondary-awper? That would possibly create another weak spot in the team that just removed their previous one.
Also, the mhL rumors alongside with Golden being benched points to FNATIC going international. What if they want to stay fully Swedish, though? Peppzor could become a reliable player, but Sweden doesn’t have many captains available.
Another scenario could be a nightmare-worthy one where FNATIC brings mhL but doesn’t remove JW. This roster would make for an incredible mess that, if anything, would generate very interesting reactions when confirmed.
These are only three out of the many possible wild situations that FNATIC might end with. Hopefully, these are all outlandish enough to not even be considered.
From July 19th until August 16th, Counter-Strike will take a break on the server. Players will be able to take a much-deserved rest. Many players will also be taking some time to decide what’s next for them.
FNATIC is just one team looking for roster changes, albeit their situation is direr than most. So be ready to see many teams looking different once the action returns in August.
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