With the Fnatic roster having been at every single Pro League Finals or Major since the Six Invitational 2018 (when they were under Mindfreak), it is safe to say that they're the de-facto faces of the APAC region. After a Season 9 that saw them beat Cyclops Athlete Gaming but almost get knocked out by Aerowolf at the APAC Finals, they repeated their Sydney victory against NORA-Rengo in Milan before Team Empire took three maps to beat them.
Returning back to Australia for their Season 10 APAC title defence, they were undoubtedly confident. A confident victory over Zealous kickstarted their season, and they soon made it two series wins the next week. However, they would finally meet resistance in the form of Oddity Esports in the third week -- one of two other teams that would be part of the APAC Finals fight -- when they would draw the first map, though they would smash Oddity 7-0 on the second.
It was clear, though, that Fnatic were saving strategies for the Six Major Raleigh, with team captain Etienne “Magnet” Rousseau even saying so on Twitter, and this was further reinforced when FURY got their first win of the season when they beat Fnatic 7-5 just before the Major. Raleigh, however, would see Fnatic’s worst-ever performance at a Major, as they lost 0-2 by embarrassing margins to DarkZero, and only managed one close map in their 0-2 loss against FaZe Clan to return home without even a single map win to their name.
Coming back home, a win on each map against Mindfreak got them back on track -- though they had now swapped in their sixth player, Ryan “Speca” Ausden, in place their regular mainline player, Matthew “Acez” McHenry. However, a double-draw against eventual second-seeds Wildcard Gaming would add to the uncertainty as to their qualification, but with fate still firmly in their own hands, Fnatic would take down Team SiNister to qualify to the Season 10 APAC Finals as the first seeds.
Now, placed in the so-dubbed “Upper Bracket of Death”, and facing familiar foes Aerowolf for a record-fifth time, Fnatic will face possibly the toughest fight to qualify to the Pro League Finals that they ever have. To know more about their Season 10 campaign and their approach to these APAC Finals, SiegeGG spoke to their longtime coach, Jayden “Dizzle” Saunders:
This was a very tense season in ANZ, with your qualification not mathematically guaranteed until the final day. Were there ever any doubts?
We were always confident that we would make it. When the format that we run is seeded the way it is, a lot of the top teams don't play until the end. NA and EU were also very close this season.
Your team drew both games against Wildcard Gaming this season -- is that a bit of a misstep on your side, or have they got to a point where they're virtually your equals?
I think it was mostly just an unwillingness to adapt to their game style. We wanted to keep doing our own thing and not adapt to what we had to. Draws are just opportunistic, though… they suck and I have no idea why are they still a thing -- nobody asked for them.
You open the tournament with an incredible fifth matchup against Aerowolf. Any particular about this? Positives, negatives, reasons for confidence, reasons for fear?
Yes, we unfortunately have this match once again. One should always be cautious of facing Aerowolf. We have known them for a long time and they are one of the few teams that will work on counter-strategising against a team, which makes them a formidable first match. They are always the hardest opponents we face. I believe they are one of the best APAC teams, but like you said, we have knocked them out four times... Who knows what could have happened if this wasn't always the case?
How do you fancy your chances at the APAC Finals? Your side of the bracket is incredibly difficult, featuring Cloud9, Fnatic, and Aerowolf.
I think both sides are equally hard. The other side has Cyclops Athlete Gaming and Xavier Esports, both of whom are top of their respective regions. The difference between the first and second seed is negligible, which has been shown at multiple APAC events now. We are looking to do enough to secure the next step of qualification to Tokoname, Japan, and we know we have the ability -- it is just up to us to perform.
Your team was playing with Speca in the latter part of the season. What was the motivation behind this, and who will we see at the APAC Finals? Or as Twitch chat wants to know; where is Acez?
We had Speca sitting on the bench and couldn't give him game time due to our busy international schedule, but after the Six Major we had some time to swap a few things around. The Six Major was the worst result we have had as a team -- ever -- on any platform, at any event. So it seemed like the time to make a few changes to try and see where we are lacking and envision different versions of the team and positions of players.
Raleigh was a particularly disappointing event for your team. What went wrong, and how have you been working to remedy your failings there?
Raleigh was a trainwreck. For us, but also for APAC as a whole. We are really starting to feel the constraints of our region and we are quickly falling behind. As more teams are being signed and more tournaments are held internationally, we slip further behind every day.
With teams like forZe and Team Secret in the Challenger League in EU and making top-four at the Major, it shows how far APAC has slipped. We need to be smarter and more coordinated, and that stems from a better understanding of the game, each other, and communication.
Consistency is what separates good teams from great ones, so how does your team chase that?
We are always striving to improve. We are never happy with the round, with where we are at as people, players, or as a team. But, like mentioned before, with the shallow (skill) pool in the region, it is very difficult to get decent practice in compared to the rest of the world.
Do you have anything to say to your fans at home and internationally?
Thank you for all the support, whether it is in chat, on social media, or with your team skin purchases -- it helps greatly. We will do our best to make it to Tokoname!
Catch Fnatic in action this weekend, as the Season 10 APAC Finals run from the 19th to 20th of October, with games starting at 10 AM AEDT (GMT+11) each day. With a fifth matchup against fellow APAC veterans Aerowolf coming up, it is likely that they will face stiff resistance in their very first game. However, if they are successful, they are likely to also win against NORA-Rengo or Cloud9, and continue onwards to the Pro League Finals in Tokoname, Japan -- though it remains to be seen if Speca will be the spark that they need.