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Hero photo of Fnatic's Valorant roster
NEWS

Fnatic's long road to Reykjavík

May 202021

After a long time in lockdown, Valorant will have its first international tournament in Reykjavík, Iceland. For EU teams especially the road to Reykjavík has been a long one.

Each EU team had to play through massive single-elimination qualifiers. The top 8 of these qualifiers then dumped into a Challenger’s tournaments filled to the brim with top esports teams and squads full of hidden talent. Making it to the finals of one of the two stacked Challenger brackets then earned you a spot at one final regional tournament: the EMEA Finals.

The EMEA Finals featured the top EU, CIS, and Turkish teams in one bracket - making it one of the most competitive Valorant tournaments in history. Reach the Finals of this bracket, and you finally make it to Reykjavík.

The path to the top is brutal and unforgiving but for Fnatic, it’s one of the best stories the org has seen in the past two years. Before they signed with Fnatic, this team was SUMN FC. Under that name, the squad became renowned for their tactical brilliance. In particular, they pushed the early round more than most teams in Europe. On defense especially, they racked up rounds by stepping forward and seizing space when the enemy least expected it.

Their trademark tactics brought them consistently to the top, where they’d bring the best European teams to the brink on repeat. They made Finals in First Strike Europe, breaking down a powerful FPX squad and very nearly bringing a red hot Team Heretics to game 5 in the Finals. At Homeground, they reached the Semifinals and took a resurgent Team Liquid to the final map.

Though SUMN FC kept falling just shy of the top, they still regularly out-placed major organizations as an un-sponsored squad. They weren’t the best in EU but they weren’t far from it.

Particularly, Boaster and Doma began to stand out. Brilliant with utility and one of the best IGLs in the nascent game, Boaster became well-known for his calls, clutches, and energetic personality. Brimming with raw FPS talent and always capable of pulling off insane duels and hitting hard shots, Doma is a classic young gun. He’s the team’s main fragger and carry. Mistic too became known for his insane skill with Viper, an agent who’s recently been buffed to near must-pick power. He remains a major support and utility-expert on the team.

When Fnatic signed SUMN in February 2021, the team looked poised to break into the top rung they’d constantly circled around. Boaster’s brain, Doma’s firepower, the entire squad’s cohesiveness - it should all have been enhanced by the resources that come with sponsors and salaries.

But Fnatic wasn’t quite ready to be a top team in one of the best regions in the competitive FPS.

 

Understand Fnatic’s plans, meet their early aggression with the right tempo, and they were far from invincible. As the meta advanced, they were not advancing with it, stuck perpetually at the 5th to 8th spot. Two back-to-back losses brutalized the morale on the lineup, one coming in overtime to a dark horse Polish team named Ballista and another in double overtime to an ascending Alliance squad.

 

 

Something needed changing and in the world of the FPS, “something” is usually the roster. Moe40 and tsack had been with the team since near the very beginning and though parting was bitter, it was necessary. Only one Challenger tournament left, Fnatic had to make the finals for any chance to make it to Reykjavík

 

 

Their strategy feeling sound, Fnatic focused on firepower. Enter Derke and Magnum, two talented young players, one a carry and the other an anchor.

 

 

Derke had such sharp aim that Doma, the team’s longtime star, was willing to step off his preferred agents to make space for the team’s new carry. The switch paid dividends as in the last 30 days, Derke scored nearly a kill a round and got the opening kill in nearly a quarter of rounds he played. That 24% entry kill stat is the third highest in EU this last month, beating out powerhouses like Yacine, M1xwell, and Jamppi. In the world of the FPS, those entries secure a man advantage and bring in info that wins rounds.

 

 

Magnum holds the ship steady when things get dicey. Over the last month, he reached the second-highest clutch success percentage in EU at 33%. Calm, collected, and strong with information in hand, Magnum is Fnatic’s closer when rounds get close. 

 

Bringing the two in, Fnatic’s looked considerably better but their success felt far from guaranteed. They lost a set to Acend, getting smoked on the last match, 13-1. The loss didn’t knock them out of the tournament but it lowered their seed and forced them into a bout against Europe’s historic superteam: G2.

 

Fnatic showed a new level by beating them 2-0, including a stomp on Bind. As the tournament went on, Fnatic shaped an argument for playing the best Bind in the world. On their massive run, they’ve won Bind against G2, Acend, Guild, Gambit, and twice versus Team Liquid.

 

After clearing out Vitality in another 2-0, Fnatic qualified for the EMEA Finals and for one more shot to make it to Reykjavík. Going into the EMEA Finals, Fnatic had patched up the mid-round flaws that made them fall off even after getting a man-advantage. With more raw shooting power, their attack looked improved too. Those improvements clinched them a 4-0 score in the Group Stage.

 

But the real challenge would come against Gambit. This organization is a lynchpin in the CIS, which is one of the absolute best regions in FPS history. To top it off, Gambit came in hot off a huge win against FPX (a team touted to be the best in Europe for months).

 

In Gambit, Fnatic found something of a stylistic foil as well. Traditional to the CIS, Gambit liked to slow-play rounds, applying a gradual pressure that forces the enemy to spend utility and fall into a resource deficit by the round’s last minutes. That was in stark contrast to a Fnatic chock full of aggressive strategies and potent aimers. 

 

Fnatic overwhelmed Gambit on Icebox in map 1, forcing the CIS team onto a FNC-favored Bind. Here, the duel reached its zenith. Both teams dominated on defense by playing more balanced than before. Gambit and Fnatic both alternated between giving space to set up a strong defensive hold and pushing forward to catch the attacker flat-footed. Gambit went up 9-3 only for Fnatic to come back and win 13-11, qualifying for Valorant’s first international major.

Though the qualification was done, they still had one last duel with Team Liquid. This grand final was a battle of the second winds: two teams that routinely fell off in the mid-season qualifiers only to find their form again when it mattered most. The series was a beautiful duel, going the full 5 games.

 

After winning 6 straight sets in a row against some of the very best in the world, Fnatic finally fell to Team Liquid. Only this time, the journey was over. This squad of upstarts and strategists had already mounted one of the best turnarounds in competitive Valorant’s young history and completed their long road to Reykjavík. 

 

They’ve earned a small rest before then, though much of that time will be spent preparing. IGL Boaster and coach mini will have their work set out for them, readying up against the very best teams in the world. Buf it there’s any team that knows how to rise to a challenge, it’s Fnatic.

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