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TI5 Preview: Fnatic

by Dennis Gonzales Jul 20 2015

theScore eSports is taking a look at all of the teams taking part in The International 5, two a day leading up to the beginning of the tournament. Today’s team is Fnatic. This will be both a history of the team as well as a look at the individual players that make up the roster headed to Seattle.

The team formerly known as Team Malaysia have only been with Fnatic for just over a month, but the team has largely been in the scene as early as 2011, when the team’s star player and captain, Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung, was a part of Orange Esports.

Mushi and company performed well enough through the season and were directly invited to The International 2, but only finished in 7-8th place. The team saw solid performances in the post-TI2 season, but in early 2013, Orange dropped three of their players. Chong Xin "Ohaiyo" Khoo was brought in, while Lee "kYxY" Kong Yang was promoted from being a backup player to the team’s carry. The team also picked up Fadil "Kecik Imba" Bin Mohd Raziff not long after, but he took up kYxY’s spot as the 6th member, as part of the organization’s player development program.

This reinvigorated Orange roster went on a tear and quickly established themselves as a force in Southeast Asia. And during the team’s first international LAN at the G-1 Champions League 5, the Malaysians finished third and shared a podium with LGD-Gaming and Alliance, when they were at their prime.

Orange were subsequently invited to the Dota 2 Super League, which featured a $160,000 prize pool, second only to The International at the time. After another solid performance and a 4th place finish, they were unsurprisingly invited to TI3; Mushi earned another shot at the Aegis.

My kingdom for an Aegis

At TI3, Orange lost their first playoff match, but they fought for their tournament lives through the loser’s bracket. They made it into the top six, beating their TI2 run, and were the last SEA team in the tournament. They found themselves facing the remaining Chinese giants, but Orange shocked the Dota world. They took down DK, then TongFu; Mushi was putting on a show. His kill on DK’s renowned carry player, BurNing, was one of the flashiest plays of the tournament.

Orange were suddenly top three in the tournament, rubbing shoulders with two of the most dominant teams in the scene, Alliance and Natus Vincere. The idea of an SEA team winning The International hasn’t been this close to reality since TI1, when Scythe Gaming came in third, but Orange would have to get through the TI1 champions, Na`Vi. The Malaysians took the series to it’s full three game potential. In the final game Orange were ahead and earned an uncontested Roshan kill, but kYxY made a grave misplay and accidentally denied the Aegis.

Undoubtedly demoralized and down a key advantage, Orange couldn’t win any fights. They inadvertently gave an inch, then ended up giving Na’Vi a mile and were served one of the most devastating losses of the tournament. Orange finished in 3rd place, took home ~$280,000, the largest pot the team has ever won, then disbanded a month later.

Among giants

Four members of Orange were picked up by the Singaporean organization, Titan, while Mushi was invited to China to join BurNing in rebuilding Team DK. All the ex-Orange members found their fair share of success in the post-TI3 season, as Titan quickly established themselves as the top team in SEA. DK however, took a slew of podium finishes internationally and were one of the most feared teams in the scene. Both teams earned their invites to TI4.

DK seeded third in the round robin and found themselves in the upper bracket, but Titan struggled and were eliminated by the Chinese all-stars, Newbee. Malaysia’s hopes rested on Mushi’s shoulders once again, but Team DK lost their first match in the playoffs and were immediately knocked into the lower bracket. They fought past LGD-Gaming, but got swept by Vici Gaming’s infamous deathball strategy. Despite the backing of a Chinese organization and being flanked by Dota legends, Mushi only achieved 4th place.

The post-TI4 season saw a dizzying amount of transitions for the Malaysians. They all left their respective organizations and formed Team Malaysia. But not long after, Mushi returned to China, bringing Ohaiyo with him, and joined LV Gaming. The rest of the players splintered off.

After winning Dota 2 League Season 5, LV Gaming were chosen to represent the revived, legendary Dota 2 brand, EHOME. But after a disappointing 9-12th finish at the Dota 2 Asia Championships, the team restructured, splitting up their Chinese and Malaysian players into two squads, EHOME and EHOME.my.

This marked the beginning of the roster we know today: Mushi, kYxY, Ohaiyo, Kecik Imba and Siong Tait "JoHnNy" Lee, Arrow Gaming’s offlaner. But all was still not well; less than a month later, for reasons that weren’t made entirely clear, EHOME released their Malaysian roster.

Home again

Mushi and company were not phased. They stayed together, playing under the Team Malaysia banner they established not long ago. Like before, on Orange and Titan, the Malaysians tore up SEA. They went on a 16-game winning streak and dominated every regional qualifier they participated in, beating the SEA teams and the rising Korean teams alike. Their dominance was rewarded with a direct invite to TI5.

All was well for the Malaysians. Following decent finishes at the Red Bull Battle Grounds and i-League 3, Team Malaysia was picked up by the premier organization, Fnatic, and earned another podium finish at MLG Pro League 2. They’ve had an incredibly strong season, but their most recent performance also happens to be their weakest one.

At ESL One Frankfurt 2015, Fnatic had a poor run in the seeding bracket and were chosen by Team Secret as their opponents in the playoffs. What proceeded was one of the most explosive shutouts of tournaments, with Fnatic on the receiving end.

It was a performance that didn’t put Fnatic in high favor going into TI5, but a lot can change in the time between Frankfurt and Seattle. Now that they have a proper sponsor, the team has the support staff, training facilities and financial backing to focus on their boot camp in Sweden. The team will practice to their full potential and show the strength of SEA Dota.

Strengths: One man army

It’s been clear since The International 3 that Mushi is one of the most dominant mid laners in the world and it’s a reputation he’s maintained even during his tenure on Team DK; among the Chinese giants, Mushi stood tall.

His domination partly stems from his hero pool, playing lane bullies such as Outworld Devourer and Viper, but the player made his name on Shadow Fiend and continues to utilize the hero often.

In 6.84c, Shadow Fiend is by far Mushi’s most drafted hero, with a 60 percent win rate over 10 games. His next most drafted heroes were only picked up two times, but this emphasis on Shadow Fiend in the patch belies his versatility. He’s able to play every standard mid lane hero, as well as more unorthodox ones, such as Weaver. As the mid playmaker, captain and drafter, Mushi is the backbone of Fnatic, but he would be nothing without the rest of his team.

A lot of credit is rightly given to Mushi, but it’s his team that gives him the space and support he needs. They pulled off one of the most dramatic comebacks in recent history, against the former mousesports squad, during MLG Pro League 2.

Like most teams in 6.84c, Fnatic have adapted a fight-heavy, mid-game oriented playstyle and this is reflected in their drafts. Playmakers like Beastmaster are prioritized for Ohaiyo, while Gyrocopter and Leshrac have been kYxY’s mainstays. And between JoHnNy and Kecik Imba, they play a lot of Rubick games and almost never pick up a jungler, instead they prioritize the farm for kYxY and especially Mushi.

This 1.5-core setup is not unlike how Evil Geniuses were set up when Arteezy was on the roster, but in the case of Fnatic, even more emphasis is put on the mid laner. Mushi’s able to do a lot when given farm priority, more than any of member of Fnatic, but this introduces problems should things go awry.

Weaknesses: Growing pains

Mushi very rarely loses the laning phase, it’s part of why he’s such a strong player. But on the rare occasion where he does lose the laning phase, either due to ganks or a poor hero match up, the rest of the team tends to struggle. They rely a bit too much on Mushi to set the pace of the game, but a bigger problem for them may be mentality and experience.

kYxY’s Aegis deny is still seen as one of the biggest blunders in Dota history. The player has taken the mistake to heart and he’s even changed the way he plays. The pressure got to him on the main stage and a simple misclick potentially cost his team the game, and potentially a lot more. It’s unlikely to happen to him again seeing as how this is his third International, but this will be a first for both Kecik Imba and JoHnNy.

The team has shown growing pains in 6.84c, with only a 50 percent win rate over 24 games, a massive drop from their 76.7 percent win rate from 6.83c. This is largely because most of their games in that patch were in the SEA region, while all of their games in 6.84c have been at international LAN events, against much stronger teams. But it also seems like the team hasn’t fully grasped the patch.

In the few times that Fnatic have experimented with their item builds, it hasn’t gone over too well. Some examples include Octarine Core on Outworld Devourer, Refresher Orb on Gyrocopter or Blink Daggers on heroes like Dragon Knight and Bristleback; they get credit for thinking outside of the box, but nobody remembers failed inventions, only the ones that succeed.

What the team lacks in experience or concrete ideas can be made up with refinement. This could mean their one month boot camp in Sweden, but it likely means much longer. The team has been together for just under four months, a win at TI would be extraordinary to say least. Newbee are the exceptions, since they were a team of Dota 1 veterans; even Mushi doesn’t have the same pedigree.

They go into the tournament as the emotional favorites for people who followed the players since their breakout performance at TI3, but a betting man would steer clear of them. They can hold their own against the best and are capable of upsets, but they lack consistency. The best they can hope for is a top 8 finish.

Dennis Gonzales is a Toronto eSports writer who enjoys whiskey, Dungeon & Dragons and first-picking Timbersaw Windranger Abaddon Slardar. You can follow him on Twitter.

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