Fnatic might just be back at the top of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive scene.
The overhauled Swedish squad is headed to the grand finals of DreamHack Masters Malmo. The team punched its ticket there with a stunning 2-0 upset win over Astralis in the semifinals.
On paper, the series was looking like it should be an ugly one for Fnatic, as the team was set to face Astralis on Overpass and Nuke. Overpass has been one of Astralis’ best maps of late, most notably running over Team Liquid in the StarLadder Berlin Major quarterfinals, while Astralis famously had a 31-game winning streak on Nuke earlier this year.
But right away, Fnatic showed that they were ready for Astralis. The team jumped to an early lead thanks to big plays from Jesper “JW” Wecksell and the returning Robin “flusha” Rönnquist. When Astralis denied Fnatic the conversion on its successful second pistol round, it seemed as though the Danes were ready to make a comeback.
Instead, Fnatic stepped up to seal the deal. Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin played lockdown defense against Astralis to close out the game with a 16-9 win.
Brollan and JW stayed hot into the second game on Nuke. Things started off with Brollan pulling off a clutch ninja defuse, which was followed by JW dicing up Astralis with a scout to score the conversion. Fnatic capitalized on that strong start and quickly advanced to match point, but Astralis remained resilient. With a 15-11 score, Astralis managed to deny Fnatic the win despite possessing just pistols and SMGs. From there, they managed to settle in and force overtime.
While Astralis is still riding high at the moment, the team has repeatedly struggled to close out overtime periods of late. That continued here as the game went to triple overtime.
Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz went wild for Astralis along the way and notched 49 kills by the end of the game, but Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson came out strong in the final set to help Fnatic lock up the series-ending 25-23 victory.
Fnatic has had a rough 2019 to this point. The organization hasn’t won a live event all year, and while they have found some successes at events such as StarSeries Season 7 and Intel Extreme Masters XIV Sydney, its year has been better defined by its disastrously bad performance at the IEM Katowice Major and a failure to even qualify for the StarLadder Berlin Major.
Those struggles called for major changes to Fnatic, but that went in a surprising direction. Andreas Samuelsson, team director at Fnatic, stated in a Reddit AMA in August that the organization was looking to recruit young, hungry players to complement veterans JW and KRIMZ.
A few weeks later, the organization instead announced the returns of flusha and Maikil “Golden” Kunda Selim.
Though that turn of events raised some eyebrows, it’s impossible to downplay the results. The returning lineup survived a treacherous trip through the DreamHack Masters Malmo group stage that included wins over TYLOO, G2 Esports, and Furia Esports. This was followed by a win over longtime rivals Ninjas in Pyjamas in the playoffs.
While there is cause to brush off these wins based on how many of the teams were dealing with late roster changes, there is no way to shrug over a victory over the reigning major champions. Fnatic will look to notch their biggest victory in 18 months by taking on the winner of Natus Vincere vs. Team Vitality.