After a disappointing stint with eUnited in the NAL, Leo "Alphama" Robine had surprised many when he had signed with Fnatic in the APAC North Division for the 2021 season. Immediately, however, he had faced difficulties due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Fnatic, set to move to Japan in May 2020, was still effectively stuck in Australia. Alphama, on the other hand, was a whole continent away -- but he could neither go to Japan, nor Australia. As a result, Fnatic had arranged for him to move to Taiwan, where he would eventually play Stage 1 from.
But after returning to France to meet friends and family during the break, the spread of the Delta variant in Taiwan meant his return was impossible. As a result, Patrick "MentalistC" Fan moved back into the playing roster after Alphama had assumed his place for Stage 1.
Now, with Alphama having announced his return to an Asian country, Thailand, Fnatic has decided that Jason "Lusty" Chen will be making way in the playing roster for Stage 3. Lusty will still stay on the team as a sixth man, however.
"[Bringing Alphama to] Thailand was actually not too difficult at all," said Fnatic head coach Jayden "Dizzle" Saunders in direct messages on Twitter. "There have been a lot more difficult ones, even pre-COVID."
But Alphama's return meant that either someone had to step aside. And to make the decision tougher, MentalistC had "[come] back exceptionally strong after his hiatus" in Stage 1.
The Chinese player had recorded the fifth-highest SiegeGG Rating in the league, a 1.18 primarily on Iana and Mute, and had been the only non-CYCLOPS athlete gaming player in the Top 5. He had also secured a fourth-best +23 K-D and joint-best +7 Entry split.
"Alphama is a dedicated support player, in terms of IGL-ing, droning etcetera," explained Dizzle. "Whilst [Etienne "Mag" Rousseau] has filled this role on occasion and still done well, it is not quite as harmonious as with Alphama. It also frees Mag up to be able to play in his flex role."
MentalistC, said Dizzle, will be shifting to a more entry-focused role from Stage 3 onwards, meaning that he will be participating more in early engagements. The decision, revealed Dizzle, had been taken in the "post-season debrief" despite the player not having had "explored" the role before.
"He has demonstrated that he is capable of taking initial engagements and early map control without hesitation, whether that is on his own judgment or of the intel provided by the support," said Dizzle of the decision.
But his shift there, and Lusty stepping away from the playing roster, was also necessitated by a gap "in a few metrics" that Fnatic had identified after failing to qualify to the Mexico Major in the Stage 2 APAC Playoffs.
"One of the defining statistics was the overall engagements that were being taken by Lusty," said Dizzle. Lusty had been lowest-rated on Fnatic in Stage 2 of the APAC North Division with a 0.90 Rating. Of his 15 entry engagements during the season, he had only managed a 7-8 Entry K-D despite playing Zofia and Alibi. His other teammates had 20, 19, and 13 entry engagements with -4, +7, +3, and +1 Entry K-D splits.
"It was overall the lowest engagement rate on the team in official matches and considering his roles, it was something that needed to be addressed," continued Dizzle, also noting how it contrasted Lusty's own performances in scrims where he took and won far more engagements.
After discussions with Lusty, it had been identified that Lusty's confidence and comfort in taking these gunfights in official games had taken a hit. Now, like MentalistC in Stage 1, Lusty will be "referred to and [work] with [Fnatic's] in-house performance team". Further decisions on the playing roster, said Dizzle, will be taken only in the "off-season".
Fnatic will open its Stage 3 campaign with a game against T1 on the 8th of September at 6:45 PM SGT (UTC+8).