The Swedes have endured a torrid year which has culminated in roster reshuffles and disappointing exits at two of the most prestigious events in the competitive CS:GO calendar. However, with their ratings and reputations at an all-time low, there could be signs of life for the legendary org on the horizon.
Online era woes
At the close of IEM Katowice in March 2020, the last official S-Tier LAN event to date, Fnatic were undeniably one of the world’s finest CS:GO sides. With the return of Robin “flusha” Rönnquist and in-game leader Maikil “Golden” Kunda Selim, Fnatic surprisingly won DreamHack Masters Malmö in October 2019, which was followed by a run of five straight top-four finishes at major tournaments.
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the esports world online, Fnatic were always going to be one of the sides hit hardest by the sudden change in circumstances. Ever since the dawn of CS:GO as a popular esport, Fnatic have been at the top of the tree when it comes to the biggest LAN events and tournaments, rarely ever having to worry themselves with facing the likes of Gambit, Heroic and Virtus.pro that have thrived in the online environment styles.
It is also this LAN environment, complete with all its crowds and spectacles, that has allowed Fnatic to breed some of the most unconventional and talismanic figures the game has ever seen. From Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and flusha to Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell, Fnatic have a rich history of pros that produce the unthinkable when they are in the mood. What is worrying for the org currently is that this current format of gaming doesn’t allow for the same kinds of environments these sorts of players rely on to thrive.
Roster reshuffles and position conflicts
After their run of five straight top-four finishes at the start of 2020, Fnatic rose to the summit of the HLTV world rankings on the back of a stellar run at ESL Pro League Season 11. It was a fitting culmination to six months’ worth of hard graft and would have almost certainly seen the Swedes in amongst the favorites for the then-planned ESL One Rio Major Championship in the spring — however, within a couple of weeks, they were on a deep and dramatic slide out of CS:GO’s top table.
Following their EPL triumph, Fnatic would lose to the likes of Movistar Riders and MAD Lions, be forced into entering Flashpoint Season 2 (which they only ended up finishing third at), fail to qualify from their BLAST Spring Showdown debut, not make it out of the group stage of ESL Pro League Seasons 12 and 13 and, arguably most embarrassing of all, fail to even qualify for the main IEM Katowice 2021 tournament.
They are currently ranked 20th in the HLTV world rankings, their lowest ranking since September 2019.
Something clearly had to give for the Swedes, and the decision was made to replace flusha with a young untested prodigy named Jack “Jackinho” Ström Mattsson.
The 22-year-old Swede was brought in with a reputation for being a strong AWPer, Fnatic initially experimented with having him as a B site anchor with only 18-year-old teammate Brollan as support. This led to sides such as Virtus.pro, MIBR and OG seriously exploiting this weak bombsite defense on maps like Dust II, Inferno and Vertigo, and in the five maps against those three opponents at cs_summit 8 and at the IEM Katowice 2021 play-ins, Jackinho failed to make over a 1.00 rating.
Why there is room for (tentative) optimism
However, the failures at IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League Season 13 brought with them the news that the side would be going through a reshuffling, with JW handing over the roles of the main AWPer to Jackinho – and the results have already been hugely encouraging. In his debut performance as the main AWPer for the side, Jackinho hit 60 kills over the course of three maps against Evil Geniuses and has posted ratings of 1.30, 1.24, 1.63 and 1.34 at Snow Sweet Snow 3.
Fnatic already have a huge amount of consistent firepower with Freddy ‘KRIMZ’ Johansson (1.08 average rating) and Ludvig “Brollan”’ Brolin (1.12), so the presence of a reliable AWPer in the form of Jackinho could be the missing piece required to bridge the gap between them and the top of competitive CS right now.
On top of the far more balanced look the side now has in terms of roles and responsibilities in the server, Fnatic are starting to look more and more committed with everything from their map picks, to their overall interest within the CS:GO scene. The team have picked into Train for five series in a row, turning it into something of a home map with a solid 60% winrate so far, and recent remarks from their leading figures should be of comfort to fans.
With the return of LAN events and a planned Major that the side will need to knuckle down and qualify for looming large on the horizon, the future should be looking much brighter than it has been for Fnatic and their fans.