fnatic has recently decided to do yet another rebuild of their one-time successful CS team, and it’s safe to say we’re not impressed.
That’s not to say we dislike all the pieces of the team, because that isn’t true, but the team could have been so, so much more. But before we get into that, who are the new pieces? And are there at least some positives to be found in the new roster?
fnatic rebuild… again
Following the benching of Christopher "dexter" Nong, the departures of Fredrik "roeJ" Christensen to Preasy and William "mezii" Merriman to Vitality, fnatic needed three new players. They looked towards Alexandre “"bodyy" Pianaro, Matus "MATYS" Simko and Can "kyuubii" Ali.
However, let’s first talk about the players remaining from the last squad, Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson and Aurelien "afro" Drapier.
At this point in his career, KRIMZ is one of the most experienced players in tier-one CS, and might as well be named Mr. fnatic at this point. He is an incredibly solid support player; his best days may now be behind him, but it would have been an unnecessary step to look elsewhere for the role he fills.
As for afro, while he may have struggled to step up to tier-one from what was an impressive form beforehand in the French scene in the past few years, we’re willing to let him off in that regard. The fnatic lineup he joined wasn’t exactly performing at a standard where he could shine, and more importantly, transitioning from teams that speak your native tongue to English-speaking teams is never easy for anyone; just look at this quote from Kenny "kennyS" Schrub in response to Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut’s struggles to adapt last year:
"ZywOo had a change that is really significant. Going from a native team to an international. Believe me: I’m very comfortable in English, but it was too difficult for me." - kennyS, via Jaxon
afro hasn’t yet had a fair crack at tier one, and although he might not be the guarantee KRIMZ is, we’re glad he hasn’t also departed from the team, even if we would have taken a different route in rebuilding it.
So what about the new players?
Starting with the new in-game leader, bodyy, he brings with him the same wealth of experience as KRIMZ. A player who has written himself into Counter-Strike history thanks to his infamous wallbang, he’s enjoyed a career renaissance in the past couple of years.
Having spent time with LDLC, DBL PONEY, HEET and Falcons since his departure from his last tier one team, bodyy has reinvented himself as an IGL, and although he may be without much big tournament experience in the role, he did recently win a CCT event while standing in at the helm of Into the Breach.
The most reassuring part of bodyy’s signing is that he has previously played with afro, and more importantly than that, gotten the best out of him too. bodyy is a player that can make fnatic’s AWPer comfortable and enable him to succeed, and if this new roster is to succeed, that will be of the utmost importance.
The final two players, MATYS and kyuubii, raise more questions, and it’s with their inclusions that we begin to find our problems with this team.
At a reported fee of $150,000, MATYS represents an investment from fnatic, but not one as significant as the reported $600,000 Liquid is shelling out for Felipe "skullz" Medeiros.
It’s hard to say that his call up to tier one isn’t warranted, the Slovakian was in fine form in 2023, and his 1.35 impact rating and 89.5 ADR are indicative of that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without risk.
How many times in the past couple of years have we seen players shine in tier two only to struggle when promoted to tier one? Adam "NEOFRAG" Zouhar and Dion "FASHR" Derksen both did, and there’s already reason to believe MATYS may struggle too.
MATYS maintains his impressive level when taking on top 50 teams, although that level drops drastically when placed against opponents ranked within the top 30. Of course, there is a far lower sample size for matches against higher-ranked teams, and he was always likely to struggle more while playing for Sampi, but that drop-off should not be ignored.
In the case of kyuubii, his form in the last three months is respectable, but not as impressive as MATYS’ form. 1.19 impact rating and 81.3 ADR is solid, sure, but it’s at an even lower level than MATYS recorded his stats, and when he faces higher-level opposition, the drop-off is even more significant.
The most concerning part about these two names is whether or not they can handle the step up. If they can, then great, but as Rasmus "Zyphon" Nordfoss told BLAST.tv when talking about instability in Sprout, it’s not always that simple:
"You're left with unknown talents and you have to take a chance on someone and maybe it doesn't pan out, then you're stuck going back and forth between two or three different lineups and you have to switch out players all the time because the unknown talent wasn't good enough, someone else wasn't good enough, and then the mentality of the team goes down." - Zyphon, via BLAST.tv
If these names don’t work out, then there’s a very real chance that this fnatic lineup ends up with the same embarrassing results as someone like OG, or even worse, Evil Geniuses. Even if they do, what’s the best-case scenario? Someone further up the food chain signs them and fnatic are back to square one? Great, that’s exactly the type of ambition we like to see from one of the most historic names in Counter-Strike.
So, what should they have done instead?
When you think of fnatic, you don’t think of mediocrity, or you never used to anyway. Instead, you think of Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer and the stranglehold he had over the pro scene, Robin "flusha" Ronnquist and his impossible clutches, Jesper "JW" Wecksell and his unique AWPing style, even Markus "pronax" Wallsten and his incredible in-game leading in CS:GO’s formative years.
You think of Majors wins, you think of Sweden and that’s where fnatic has gone wrong.
With NIP benching Hampus "hampus" Poser and Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin, despite the Swedish scene seemingly being back on its feet, it has left tier one without a majority Swedish team, and that gave fnatic a golden opportunity to regain their identity.
With KRIMZ already part of the team, adding those two names could have made fnatic have a Swedish core again, and with that change, they could have taken all the fans that now feel abandoned by NIP. Not only that, but they would also have an identity, they wouldn’t just feel like another hopeless international team in a sea of mediocrity.
Beyond that, they could have even gone full Swedish. The talent is out there. Tim "nawwk" Jonasson has proved that NIP were wrong to move on from him, and Isak "isak" Fahlen has shown that the BLAST.tv Paris Major wasn’t just a flash in the pan with GamerLegion.
Further down the chain, there’s also Nicolas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora and Arvid "avid" Arberg, who are both currently impressing with GODSENT and Alliance, respectively.
Sure, making all of those changes would likely cost more than the team they have put together, but it would also be likely to have more success in the long run. National teams are capable of punching above their weight in ways international teams always struggle to, just look at the performances of 9INE, Movistar Riders and even Heroic before their changes for evidence of that.
Almost all of the players also have tier-one experience and some have even starred at this level. nawwk was a key reason as to why Apeks made the semi-finals in Paris, Brollan and hampus had similar levels of achievement together with NIP, so why couldn’t these players do it together?
As we head into a new era with CS2, the international team doesn’t seem to be changing, and that’s a shame. They might be cheaper and easier to put together, but they’re also creating tiers within tiers that never used to exist. Counter-Strike is crying out for more national teams, and fnatic’s failure to build one will prove to be a mistake.