From all 18 teams ready to enter the battle for the Aegis of Champions, Fnatic is among the only six squads to have played in all of the Majors this season. Yet, they are the team that is heading to Shanghai, China for The International 2019 as one of the biggest enigmas.
Fnatic started the season with what it looked to be the strongest roster they’ve ever had. They were by far the favorites in the SEA region and had all the potential for a brilliant season. However, what looked strong on paper, turned out to be a line-up that lacked synergy between the players and drafting vision. Their performance was good enough to get them through all the Major regional qualifiers, but on LAN, more often than not, Fnatic seemed a tad behind the bigger competitors. Their results improved with every Dota Pro Circuit tournament: top 8 in Kuala Lumpur, top 6 in Chongqing and top 3 in Stockholm were clear signs that they are constantly learning and adapting. However, the last two Majors in the season were, simply put, abysmal for the SEA leaders. Given the results early in the season, they were already qualified for TI9, but bottom four placement at MDL Disneyland® Paris Major and EPICENTER Major raised serious concerns for their chances in Shanghai.
As soon as they were knocked out from the EPICENTER Major, Fnatic announced a roster change, citing play-style issues within the team and lack of synergy between the cores. Pyo “MP” No-a was thanked for his contribution to qualify the team to TI9 and, while he would continue to receive a monthly salary and a share of the TI winnings, his carry role was taken up by Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong.
The swap was made just before the rosters would be become locked and without taking further risks by bringing someone completely new to the team, Fnatic put their coach Kim “DuBu” Doo-young in the position five support. Although they’ve never officially announced it, Fnatic will travel to TI9 with Park “March” Tae-won as coach.
Fnatic roster for TI9:
- Anucha “Jabz” Jirawong
- Abed Azel L. “Abed” Yusop
- Daryl Koh “iceiceice” Pei Xiang
- Djardel Jicko B. “DJ” Mampusti
- Kim “DuBu” Doo-young
- coach: Park “March” Tae-won
Theoretically, Fnatic still has some of the best players in their roles. iceiceice needs no introduction, he is one of the most iconic players, one of the best offlaners and a feared force who knows how to bully any TI calibre carry out of his lane. As someone who enjoys to troll the media and entertain his fans with his unpredictable answers, iceiceice is quite the same in the game. Through his outstanding career, he mastered heroes that at first didn’t even belong in the offlane. He features 93 unique heroes played in official games, a feat not many can boast and those who have a higher number than him are mostly players who made role swaps through their careers, such as Fear, KuroKy, or N0tail. With TI hosted in China, Fnatic might have in iceiceice the best weapon against the Chinese teams. Nobody should know and understand better the Chinese mentality when it comes down to events as The international. In the end, iceiceice’s best placements at previous TIs were achieved when he was playing for Chinese teams. At TI4 he placed fourth with Team DK, at TI5 he placed again fourth, but with Vici Gaming, at Ti6 he finished sixth with EHOME. So, his experience on the Chinese soil could be the ace that Fnatic holds in their sleeve this year.
All Fnatic players have been on the TI stage before, so there shouldn’t be any stage fright issues with them in Shanghai. However, Jabz, although a true talented player, has never actually embraced the carry role until now. Back in the 2016-2017, he played mid for Team Faceless, but he has never been an active carry player. It was a team decision to put him the carry role, which should only tell us that all the players on the roster knew exactly what they were signing for when they let MP go. It’s hard to predict how Jabz will perform after nearly one month of practice. One thing is certain though, he has SEA’s best support player to create the space for him. DJ has literally carried Fnatic from position 4 before. Often times the Fnatic games were decided due to his unmatched talent and power to turn games around with a late-game initiation. At the same time, DuBu has always been the constant in the old MVP and Immortal times. His calm and analytical mind can keep the team composed through a rough game. He is an experienced captain and he is now given the best chance he has ever had to improve his top 6 finish from TI6.
Nobody has seen the new Fnatic roster at work. TI9 group stage matches will be the first occasion for their fans to evaluate where their team stands and what are the major changes brought by Jabz’s swap to the carry position.