The International Dota 2 Championship 2016 has finally come and gone; providing entertainment that at times rivaled even the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. While Wings Gaming may have taken the grand prize, it was our very own Fnatic that beat the odds to prove that they fully deserve a place in the world’s most prestigious e-sports event.
Fnatic is an extremely large organisation in the world of e-sports, with teams competing in just about every competitive game. The strength of the brand is what made headlines when it decided to adopt the fledgling Team Malaysia back in June 2015.
Expectations were high at the beginning, especially for veterans Mushi, KyXy, and Ohaiyo. However, things were not meant to be as the team crashed out of TI5 during the first round. Blame for the poor showing fell on the shoulders of KecikImba, who had been pushed into the Carry role.
Critics believed that the team’s poor showing during the group stages of TI5 had shaken its confidence. Some have also said that switching KecikImba to Carry was an attempt to tinker with Fnatic’s strategy. Whatever it was, the result was a resounding loss for the team against the Russian’s Virtus.Pro.
KecikImba – along with JohnNy and KyXy – was dropped from the team two weeks later. The trio were replaced by Black^, DJ, and Net. German Black^ was the only non-Asian on the team, and had previously served as a coach for MVP HOT6ix during TI5. It was anticipated that he would bringing his experience from competing at multiple TI events. Despite this, Black^ only spent a month as part of Fnatic.
In the following months, the team settled down, peaking at a respectable third place at the World Cyber Arena 2015 – SEA Pro Qualifiers. The next two tournaments would prove to be a turning point for Fnatic as a team. The Frankfurt Major would see Fnatic unceremoniously dumped out on the first day yet again. While the loss was to eventual winners OG, it put into question the team’s ability to compete at the highest level.
Fortunately, Mushi and company responded well to the criticism by qualifying for the following Shanghai Major. After picking up MidOne, who was the first Southeast Asian player to hit 8K MMR, the team made a charge for the top in China, only being stopped by MVP Phoenix during round four of the lower bracket.
Still, the team finished within the 5th-8th range and took home $202,500 (about RM811,500) – a respectable placing considering that the team’s credentials were at stake.
Sadly, Fnatic wandered into controversy yet again in the months leading to TI6. e-sports fans will know that there is no shortage of drama when teams get reshuffled, and it wasn’t surprising when Net left the team after he was demoted to a reserve player. Net was being moved over in favour of former Team Taring captain 343; who had impressed during his stint as a stand-in for Mushi.
Three teams from Southeast Asia made it to the grand finals of TI6: Fnatic, TnC Gaming, and wildcards Execretion. Execretion failed to make it out of the wildcard stage, while both Fnatic and TnC found themselves in the lower bracket after the group stages.
Headlines were originally dominated by TnC Gaming; the team having dumped tournament favourites OG out in the second round. Despite this, Fnatic was also quietly proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The third round match against Team Liquid is currently being hailed as one of the greatest comebacks in TI history; with Fnatic taking the win despite being at a 20,000 gold disadvantage at one point.
TnC Gaming fell to Digital Chaos in the same round, leaving Fnatic as the sole Southeast Asian representative at the tournament. Fnatic eventually lost to TI6 runner up Digital Chaos; resulting in a solid fourth place finish – and a $1,453,932 (about RM5.6 million) prize.
While the fourth place is admirable, it is still only the second best finish from a Malaysian team at the Dota 2 The International tournament. Orange Esport managed third place at TI3; back when it was also lead by current Fnatic captain Mushi.
With TI6 over and done with, Southeast Asia has demonstrated that it deserves its place at the very top of competitive Dota 2. There has been talk of Fnatic deserving a direct invite to the next TI; and after this showing it would be surprising to see if the team doesn’t receive one for TI7. Either way, Fnatic is guaranteed to give Malaysians – and Southeast Asia as a whole – something to cheer about in competitive gaming.