Coming off of a strong season which saw Fnatic go undefeated in the Asia-Pacific region, Etienne “Magnet” Rousseau has a larger goal in mind. For years, APAC has been considered the weakest of the four regions, often ignored by NA, EU, and LATAM fans.
Despite the strong showing by NORA-Rengo at the Six Invitational earlier this year, which saw them bow out in the semi-finals to Team Empire, the APAC region is still largely underestimated by a large number of Pro League fans. For Magnet and Fnatic though, this is about more than showing what APAC can do. It is about showing what Fnatic can do.
Magnet’s journey began in Season 6 with Mindfreak in APAC, where the team placed second in the region. While their performance at the APAC LAN was mediocre at best, their sudden leap in skill after swapping out Nicholas "Punisher" Stefanou for Ethan "RizRaz" Wombwell saw them later qualify for the Six Invitational 2018 with ease. Coming from a region which was not expected to progress out of the group stages, this was a success. These were the humble beginnings of the team we know today.
On April 12th, 2018, Fnatic took over the roster of Mindfreak after the Australians had stunned everybody by progressing to the main stage at the Invitational after beating Team Liquid and Room Factory (now Team Empire). With the backing of a larger organisation, the team was able to begin to truly hone their craft and progress on the world stage. The team has come as close as the semi-finals in an international LAN event, losing to eventual champions G2 Esports at the Season 8 Finals.
Some would say that the most recent event, the Six Invitational 2019, was somewhat of a disappointment for the Aussies, where Fnatic lost 0-2 to NORA-Rengo in the quarter-finals. While that tournament did much to show the progress APAC has made as a region, Fnatic themselves were simply unable to improve upon their semi-finals finish at the Season 8 Finals.
Now, the chance has arisen for Magnet and his teammates to once again prove themselves in front of a global audience. The competition has shown their vulnerabilities, and Fnatic have the chance to prove that they are a force to be reckoned with on the world stage by progressing to the Grand Final. Facing NORA-Rengo in the first round, there will only be one APAC team to make it to the semi-finals, and Fnatic will be looking to turn the tables at this event, with the loss against NR at the Six Invitational still in their minds.
Before the two most dominant teams in APAC face off at the Season 9 Finals, SiegeGG had the opportunity to speak with Magnet about his thoughts on the upcoming event:
Fnatic vs NORA-Rengo yet again. How disappointed were you when the draw happened?
It really sucks to have to face NR first after we were both so motivated to try and see each other in the S9 Grand Finals. From the beginning of our first few 'worlds' appearances, it seems that it has always been us and NR versus the world. So, it was very truly disappointing to see that we will have to face them a seventh time in our career.
This is the seventh time you will be meeting each other, including the Invitational Quarter-Finals and the Season 9 APAC Finals. How much is the familiarity going to be a boon for you?
As this will be the seventh time we face NR, we don't think as a team there will be much Nora can bring to take us by surprise. Also, because we are so familiar with each other, it means we will have more time to prepare for the other teams in our bracket, but by no means should we allow ourselves to drop the ball against NORA-Rengo.
NORA-Rengo will be playing with YoshiNNGO at Milan. Does this affect your preparation for them with their anticipated new dynamic?
NR with or without YoshiNNGO will have no changes on our preparation. This will change NR from an aggressive team to a super aggressive team, with now another mechanically skilled player. In saying this though, NORA-Rengo's biggest weakness will be that they no longer have the flair that Wokka brought to the team. YoshiNNGO may or may not prove me wrong in Milan.
Aerowolf gave all of us a surprise pushing you as hard as they did after cleaning up Cloud9. Were you expecting that tough a challenge from them after their online season?
We always expect a series to go all the way against Aerowolf, even if they had only just scraped through the online season. We scrim each other frequently so each team knew how one another played. In addition, Aerowolf are a team that always prepare really well for LAN tournaments, and they should never be compared to how they did during the online season. The winner of the series would be the ones that were the most flexible, and won more gunfights, and at the end of the day, that was us.
Is your team bootcamping in London in preparation for the event this time, or is it a return to Japan?
We will be boot camping in London at FNATIC HQ before this event as Milan is only a short flight away. Getting some good practice against EU and NA teams in a boot camp environment gives us the maximum amount of quality practice we need before major tournaments.
What is the one team you think is worth watching out for this event?
I think LeStream Esport is the team to be watching out for. With a lot of preparation before games, they are able to change how maps are played and do so with great teamwork. In saying this though, I think they struggle with pressure when they get to these events, so I'm hoping they are able to conquer their nerves. If they are successful, they will be a scary team to play against.
Team Empire weakened, DarkZero’s first Pro League Finals in two years, NORA-Rengo a familiar foe, G2 Esports not present. Could this be the season where your team gets to the grand final, or wins outright?
To be honest, we couldn't have asked for a better bracket. In saying this, by no means should any team here be underestimated, however we believe we have been given the opportunity to play in a Pro League Grand Finals. We will be working tooth and nail in order to achieve our goal of playing in a Pro League final. The win would be the icing on the cake.
Who do you think is going to be winning the other three quarter-final games (and the upper half semi-final)?
Evil Geniuses will beat Immortals but it'll be very close, LeStream Esport will beat FaZe Clan, Team Empire will beat DarkZero Esports and we will beat NORA-Rengo.
The Milan finals are taking place on the 18th and 19th of May, and Fnatic are itching to show that they have what it takes to be the pride of APAC. To keep up to date on Milan coverage before, during and after the event, be sure to check back here at SiegeGG.