Fnatic - Frankenstein's Hounds
TI 6. A small SEA team headed up by Mushi and Midone was seeded into the lower bracket after a disappointing group stage. Their name was Fnatic, and as it turned out, they were one hell of a scrappy team. In the lower bracket, they punched straight through Escape, Alliance, Liquid, and MVP Phoenix without dropping a map. They would eventually fall to DC, but it was a performance that would earn them a fourth place finish and 1.4 million dollars.
The post TI roster shuffle was unkind to Fnatic. They lost Mushi, Midone, and 343 to Execration and Secret. Only Ohaiyo and DJ remained. The organization was faced with a difficult task—how does one replace Mushi and Midone? Fortunately, Their answer came in MVP Phoenix. The Korean squad had placed just behind Fnatic but also suffering from the post TI roster shuffle. Recognizing their mutual need, Fnatic picked up QO and Febby, grafting the remains of MVP onto the bones of Fnatic. The end result was a Frankensteinian creation: The skeleton of Fnatic, the heart and flesh of MVP, and the whole thing stitched together with a Malaysian carry named Ahjit. Fnatic was now ready to take on the world.
Or so they thought. In reality, surgery on that level takes time to recover from. Teammates have to learn to work together, to trust each other, to function as a unit. Fnatic's results from this past year tell the whole story. Since January, their most notable achievements are a 7-8th place finish at ESL Genting, and a 3-4th place finish at the ZOTAC Cup. Qualifying for TI is easily their most impressive result of the year.
Entering TI7, it is difficult to say that Fnatic is anything but an underdog. They didn't even top their region's qualifier as they placed behind TNC. And speaking of their region, the Southeast Asian scene is considered by many to be one of the weaker ones. Sure, there have been some great players from SEA. Sure, there have been some heroic runs, but that's about all that can be said on the topic. In short, Fnatic is an underdog team from an underdog region and they are half starved on mediocre tournament placements.
Half starved and hungry for blood.
One of the biggest differences between professional Dota matches and mid-tier pub games is discipline. Player's roles are clear cut, there is no bickering about how to lane heroes. Supports and offlaners generally try to create space for their cores, and carries are prone to disappearing for extended periods of time while they farm up their next big item. Pushes are conducted in orderly fashion, and there are no such things as wild tower dives. Only calculated tower dives.
Fnatic is full of wild tower dives. They are also full of wild 80+ kill games, of safe lane Pucks and mid PAs In fact, pretty much everything Fnatic does is wild. They care nothing for disciplined and orderly games. They will face rush you endlessly with all the maniacal glee of a 2K pub stomp. As soon as the horn blows they are looking for fight. Sometimes even before then.
This isn't to say that Fnatic has poor or sloppy play; it's just that they are happiest when their opponents can't stick to a game plan. With this in mind, they pile on wave after wave of aggression. It is not uncommon for Fnatic's games to average two kills a minute. Even in longer matches when death timers increase and players do their best to proceed cautiously, Fnatic still finds ways to turn games into bloodbaths.
Fnatic's strategy hinges on a strong laning phase. Playing hyper aggressively when behind is a great way to feed kills. Key to Fnatic's laning phase is their mid, QO, one of the most dynamic players to come out of Southeast Asia. QO is the tempo setter for Fnatic. He is the man the leads the charge, and he’s why Fnatic is such an aggressive team overall. When he gets off to a good start, he has an ability to completely take over a game. Even if he isn't sitting at the top of the net worth charts, he has a way of cowing opponents into thinking they are losing. If he gets a slow start...well things don't always go swimmingly. Because of this, it is quite common to see Febby babysitting him mid on an Io or ganking as Pudge or Night Stalker.
Fnatic also works hard to keep their drafts hard to read. The extensive overlap of the players' hero pools hardly seems accidental. QO plays as Bloodseeker one game, only to have Ahjit play it the next. Puck can be played offlane and mid, but Fnatic has also run it in the safe lane. This fluidity can be a nightmare for those drafting against Fnatic, and generally means that they can get at least one or two favorable lanes which will hopefully lead to a few cores snowballing their way to victory.
And snowballing is quite important for Fnatic. It is arguably one of their weaknesses that they rely on it so much. Fnatic rarely draft many pushing heroes, or heroes who are happy to farm their way back into a game they are losing. They don't crack high ground through patient illusion sieges or ratting. They crack high ground by killing their opponents over and over. It has worked well for them so far as they only dropped two games in the entire SEA qualifier. Despite this, they will likely struggle against more experienced teams who know how to avoid bad fights and hold high ground.
It is hard to tell just how far Fnatic will go this TI. They seem to lack the discipline common to powerhouses like OG, Virtus Pro and IG. It's hard to know exactly how top teams will handle their unorthodox aggression, if they will hold and make Fnatic look silly, or if Fnatic will bully even the best out of their game plans. It's hard to know if a team with no results will rise to the challenge or if they will get mowed over by more decorated organizations. What we do know, is that Fnatic is hungry. They are tired of being overlooked, of missing out on the best tournaments, of not being taken seriously. But more than that, more than fame, more than money, more than the respect of their peers, maybe even more than the Aegis, itself, Fnatic wants blood, and they are going to bring one hell of a fight to Seattle.
If Fnatic occasionally looks like a bunch of rabid toddlers running loose on the map and getting up to god knows what, then Ahjit is the sorry adult tasked with looking after them. He is the one most forced to pick up slack, and to do the dirty work the rest of the team would rather avoid. You drafted a BS for mid QO but he changed his mind? Fine give it here. Ohaiyo doesn’t feel like playing puck? Well someone has to now. I guess I can do it.
Ahjit does not typically look like an unstoppable god king carry, but that’s mostly because he infrequently looks like a carry at all. Not because he is a bad player, but because he is a worn out babysitter running after his pack of adolescents.
If QO was a dota hero, he would be Bloodseeker. He might be better known for his PA and his Ember, but he is the true embodiment of Bloodseeker. Every kill seems to give him new life, he plays with all the speed of a cocaine fuelled F1 driver, and try as you might, there is no running from him.
Back when he and Febby were in MVP Phoenix, Febby remarked that “Without [QO] our team wouldn’t be able to function. He is the glue that holds our team together. He’s brave. He just doesn’t know fear.”
Ohayo is an old timer. This year there are only four players who have made every single TI. While Ohayo isn’t one of those, it will be his fourth. That makes him a veteran, and the experience he brings to Fnatic is invaluable. Ohaiyo has been on some outstanding teams and has enjoyed a measure of success at previous Internationals. At TI3 he placed third with Orange, and last International he placed fourth with the previous Fnatic roster.
In short, Ohaiyo has put up consistently good results over the years, and his placements are somewhat reflective of him as a player. He is stable, hardly ever having a bad game. Few would his skill, but he has yet to claim a big LAN. It’s something he desperately wants. His entire career he has played second fiddle to one star or another. Whether it was Mushi, or Midone, or now QO, Ohaiyo has never been the player that stands out.
If you are one of the individuals unacquainted with magic that is Febby, then please, add a little joy to your life. But Febby is more than just a quirky, joke cracking, lovable personality. Of all the players who will attend The International this year, it is perhaps Febby who has given the most to this game we all love.
Febby spent most of his childhood living in North America, and it was on NA servers that he first made his mark, and his first professional team was an American one as well. In 2013, however, he moved to South Korea on an invitation from March to join the team FXO. While the two played well together, Febby eventually left the team due to internal issues. He found himself with no family, few friends, and next to no earnings. March described Febby’s situation in an interview, “He was basically homeless for one year. He was sleeping in empty buildings when he had no money. A lot of things were really tough for him, like, it was really hard for him to get food...the living standards for him were really terrible.”
Every player attending TI has had to make great sacrifices just to be there. Each player has had to put in countless hours, sacrifice time with friends. Most have said farewell to any sort of stable life. A life of constant travel, going from one LAN to the next. More than that, many players have only been able to pursue this game we love against the best wishes of family, of parents. So many people have given so much of themselves to this game, but none more than Febby. If this was the only thing to say of Febby, every Dota fan should celebrate him for his dedication to and love of the game. But it’s not the only thing to be said of him. He went through all that he did and came out the other side with his infectious smile still intact, still lives with relentless positivity, still brings his easy going nature to his team, and is still one of the greatest clowns to ever troll the dota servers.
DJ has spent the majority of his career playing the four position. Upon acquiring Febby, however, the Filipino player made the switch to the five position. While Febby is busy playing ganking style heroes, or heroes to babysit the mid lane, DJ plays a hero pool more typical of supports. You will usually find him on a Warlock, or a Witch Doctor, or other supports that like to brawl. You probably won’t notice DJ a lot in fights. Not unless he drops a really big death ward or golem. That said, he makes sure Febby has all the room in the world to do what he wants. Ever the true five, DJ buys the wards, the smokes, and the sentries. It means that Febby can go straight for whatever items his greedier hero needs. This helps to shift Fnatic’s power spike forward a little, and the earlier Fnatic can get aggressive, the happier they are.