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Fnatic vs SANDBOX Gaming preview: In-form Fnatic have SANDBOX in their sights in hunt for Jönköping Major

Will SANDBOX fall from second place?

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Four games have been played and three remain in APAC North, as Japan are looking to bounce back with possibly two teams at the upcoming November Six Major. Here’s a rundown on what to expect this week:

  • 6:30PM JST -- Fnatic vs SANDBOX Gaming
  • 7:45PM JST -- FAV gaming vs DWG
  • 9:00PM JST -- Talon Esports vs REJECT
  • 10:15PM JST -- CYCLOPS athlete gaming vs Spear Gaming

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This week, we have a full lineup of Japan versus Korea games, which includes some key matchups.

DWG KIA have had a very rough start to the stage as they sit in fifth place after losses to CAG and REJECT. Now, they’ll try to begin their trek back up the table with a game against last placed FAV who are yet to get a win this stage.

CYCLOPS will almost certainly add to their tally at the top of the table as they face seventh placed Spear Gaming. With a 3-1-0-0 record, CAG look set to make it to the Six Major after missing out on Berlin, but will have no wait until the penultimate play day next week to lock it in no matter this week’s results.

REJECT will face Talon, as both teams hope to jump up to become the second best team in theri nation this stage. REJECT already have had a very good start to the stage and could go all the way up into second place this week, while Talon need a win to keep their top half dreams alive.

Finally, the game of the day will see a promising looking Fnatic roster face SANDBOX in second place. With CAG still on their schedule, Fnatic need a win in this game to keep their unexpected Major hopes alive, while SBXG look to be South Korea’s only real challengers for a Major spot in Stage 3.

Here’s a deeper look at the week’s pivotal matchup.

Head-to-head

During prior meetings over the last two years, SANDBOX have won every time in which they were at full strength. During Fnatic’s only win and during the Koreans’ only overtime win, SBXG were forced to play with a stand-in player.

While Fnatic did get to play a weakened DWG KIA who had PJH lined up instead of yass earlier this stage, it will be the full SANDBOX roster they’re facing tomorrow.

  • Stage 1 2021 -- 7-3 to Cloud9 on Consulate
  • Stage 2 2021 -- 8-7 to Cloud9 on Coastline (playing with OniChan for Nova)
  • Stage 3 2021 -- 7-4 to mantis on Bank
  • Stage 1 2022 -- 7-5 to Fnatic on Skyscraper (playing with Nova for GoodBoy)
  • Stage 2 2022 -- 7-3 to SANDBOX on Border

As well as the head-to-head advantage, SANDBOX also have a lot more experience, having attended four global events -- the Berlin and Sweden Majors, as well as the 2021 and 2022 Six Invitationals. Fnatic has not attended any since SI 2020 and only Ramu and Mag have any international experience on the team.

Last time these two teams met, it was a masterclass performance from Arukaze that won the game, as he earnt a 2.07 SiegeGG Rating with 17 kills to four deaths. This level of performance is unlikely to repeat itself this stage and definitely not for Arukaze.

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Arukaze’s slow start

At the moment, SANDBOX’s newest pickup has slumped down to a 0.87 SiegeGG Rating and a 0.56 kills-per-round figure, which is lower than any member of Fnatic. He also has the eighth-lowest KOST figure in the league.

This is in a massive contrast to Stage 2, where Arukaze was the top rated player in his debut stage with SANDBOX, sporting a 1.34 SiegeGG Rating.

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There have been no outward facing role changes, no map pool changes, no personnel changes since Arukaze joined, and the new operator addition has made next to no impact on the game to have caused such a massive drop. This means it’s an internal issue that can’t be measured or judged from the outside.

The good news for SANDBOX fans is that a return to form could come very suddenly if any chemistry issues are solved. The bad news is even if we do see a return, this shows inconsistency that SANDBOX cannot afford in stages so short and with so few games remaining.

Fnatic’s roster changes

Ramu and Tyopi joined Fnatic last month and have had mixed success, at least statistically. The entire team has had kill differentials of between plus six and minus six, while no opening differential goes above plus two. Nevertheless, they’ve won three of their four games already.

While this sounds impressive, Fnatic are at a crossroads now, as two of their wins have come against FAV and Spear -- two relatively easy teams -- they lost to DWG, and have yet to play Talon, SANDBOX, and CYCLOPS.

It’s possible they had an easier start to the stage and will now suffer three losses as they face tougher opposition. Their low statistics against “easier” opponents do imply they may struggle, even against a weakened SANDBOX lineup. They’ll need to win tomorrow to prove this isn’t the case.

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The Japan League

An argument against this is that we have already seen the impressive side of this new Fnatic. The Japanese team sits in first place in Season 3 of the ongoing Japan League. A pair of 8-7 wins over REJECT and CAG, as well as a 7-2 over FAV, are results Fnatic have been looking for since first attempting their move to Japan in 2020.

Also of note is that Fnatic’s statistics are drastically different in the national league, as Tyopi is the second best player in the tournament, while Lily and Chibisu also sit in the top seven. Mag is the team’s lowest rated player there.

While this does include games against lower tied opposition, this shows a level of flexibility that prior Fnatic iterations and arguably the current SANDBOX roster have lacked. They may not have a single player hitting Ratings such as 2.07, carrying the team, but they are challenging at the top together and consistently just six weeks after three players were abruptly dropped.

Now, they need to beat SANDBOX to prove they can do it at the top level as well.

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Japan vs Korea

It does look likely that CYCLOPS will win one of the Six Major qualification spots. That leaves a four-way fight for the second spot between Korea’s SBXG and DWG and Japan’s Fnatic and REJECT.

Both the Korean and Japanese teams’ points add up to 15 and Fnatic vs SANDBOX is one of two final matches between these four teams left, alongside DWG vs SANDBOX. This is a key matchup in deciding how this APAC North stage plays out.

Korea had no representatives at the Charlotte Major, while they had two in Berlin. For Japan, meanwhile, they’ve not had two representatives at an event since the Raleigh Major, when CAG attended alongside a Nora-Rengo that included current Fnatic player Ramu and an Australian Fnatic roster led by Mag.

Finally, while SANDBOX have become a regular name on the global scene, we are nearing three years since Fnatic last competed there. While only one player remains from that roster, this is Fnatic’s best chance since and one the whole team would know they can’t afford to squander.

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