Fnatic always manage to surprise the world when they make it to main stage every Six Invitational, but for Etienne “Magnet” Rousseau and Jayden “Dizzle” Saunders, anything less would be considered a failure.
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone now. Fnatic have made it to the main stage at every Six Invitational ?— one of the only teams in the world to do so ?— every year climbing through a harder bracket than the year gone by.
Everyone thought they’d fall to Team Liquid in 2018. Pundits only gave them a 0.7% chance of making it through 2019’s group of death. Similar odds were on the line for 2020, especially given they were up against Raleigh Major winners Team Empire right off the bat, and had a finals run that included two-time world champions G2 Esports.
However, APAC top dogs pulled through to once again hit their benchmark of playing on main stage in the top six of the Six Invitational in 2020. Magnet and Dizzle have been there the whole way through ?— well, almost. Dizzle has been at all four, while Magnet missed out in 2017.
“You know, he queue dodges me in ranked,” said Dizzle, laughing at the prospect of even being considered better than Magnet. “He missed the first one on Xbox. It would have been nice to have him in hindsight, but wisdom and hindsight are only good after you need them.”
Wisdom and hindsight are only good after you need them. That’s something teams like Empire, FaZe, and G2 learned on their run through the Six Invitational 2020 ?— don’t sleep on Fnatic. Every year, the APAC squad manages to show even on game day in Montreal, even if it takes them a few tries to get there in the first place.
“People on a brief, high-level overview, will be like ‘well you’re APAC, of course you’ll get easy runs on the qualifier on the way to the Six Invitational,’ and for the first year on Xbox, the main stage was given to everyone,” said Dizzle.
“This year, we had Darkzero, Faze, Empire, so in terms we’ve made main stage, and what we’ve had to do to get there, it’s a pretty significant achievement to follow the journey and being like ?— coming out of the group, as an APAC team, for a couple of years in a row, it’s a really big achievement for these guys.”
“At the same time, people now expect us to make it onto main stage, but we shouldn’t be.”
The goal for Fnatic is never lower than being able to play in front of their fans in Montreal, however, on the stats alone, it should be almost impossible. They herald from the weakest, most isolated region in the world, and rarely get the same opportunities as the top dogs in North America and Europe. But somehow, they manage to pull out something magical.
“Technically an APAC team shouldn’t be doing all of this and getting to main stage every single time against these other strong regions and teams,” said Magnet.
“Looking at the analytics and the quantifiable data, we shouldn’t have the performances we do, but for ourselves that’s the base level of expectation of what we should be achieving,” added Dizzle.
“We’re not coming here to not make it out of groups, and while for some it might not seem overly ambitious to make it out of groups, considering the region we’re from, and the groups that we’re given, getting out of groups is often the first hurdle.”
They managed to overcome that hurdle after running it through the lower bracket to upset tournament favourites Team Empire to qualify for groups, before being matched up against defending world champions G2 Esports in their initial quarter final draw.
The daunting task of topping Pengu and company didn’t stop Fnatic though, as they swept through the reigning champions to book a semi finals berth against Team SoloMid. While they didn’t progress much further than that, bowing out to BDS Esport in 5-6th, it didn’t hit the team as hard as 2019’s loss against Nora Rengo.
“Obviously it really sucks to lose, especially given how well they played, but it’s more frustration at ourselves that we didn’t play at the same level as we did against Faze, Empire, G2,” said Magnet.
That doesn’t mean they had a losers mentality though. The perennial underdogs of the Six Invitational had a new fire in their belly with Tex “Tex” Thompson and Patrick “MentalistC” Fan in their line-up, and their ever-so-slightly-jaded view of playing on stage helped the team push forward.
“Even before the game [against BDS], Mentalist was like ‘guys, I’m going to sound really cheesy and cringe but I’m proud of what we’ve done so far in this tournament, and if we go out here aw well,’” laughed Magnet. “I think that sums it up.”
“We had the conversation a few times while getting seated and prepped for matches ?— we’re used to having everything on the line, we’ve come out of groups in elimination matches,” added Dizzle.
“We’re in that mindset that when teams come into matches against us, we’re happy to come out swinging and they’re very much like ‘oh shit guys, if we lose we’re going home.’ We have the same mindset of ‘if you guys lose to us, you’re going home.’
“I think we’re happy to play in those situations.”
The team’s newest recruits have done a good job meshing into a new structure in such a short time. The jump from your run-of-the-mill Pro League team to Fnatic is extraordinary, but they’ve shown the signs of improving that has the team hopeful of being not just underdogs, but contenders for future international events.
“Both Tex and Mentalist are very young players which for me is super promising,” said Dizzle. “They both have exceptionally good game sense for their age. They’re both very talented players. Their mentality ?— especially Tex ?— is really strong. His focus, his understanding of the theory of the game is really sound.
“Mentalist is an absolute prodigy from the APAC region, he’s been known in the region since he was like 15, so he was someone I was really excited to work with. He still have a bit of maturing to do as a person and a player, but you’ve already seen the foundation that he has, so I’m super excited to work with him even further.”
For a team with 2 new members I’m proud of the run we made through the legendary teams FaZe, Empire and G2
We made historic memories, gained valuable experience & played main stage but it isn’t enough
We have a young team full of potential
We can be better
We must be#forAPAC
— Jayden Saunders – Dizzle ? FNATIC (@DizzlewithaJ) February 14, 2020
In-game, for Magnet, it’s even better. He feels more freed up to do his own thing, rather than trying to micromanage a team from a leadership perspective. Given the current meta of Siege, this extra bit of free thinking allows him to truly focus on his own game and help Fnatic hit the next level.
“From an IGL standpoint, they just do so well on their own in-game that I can kind of sit back and focus on my own job more. In the past I’ve had to really micromanage the team, but Mentalist has been a real leader in the game and called things that make everyone’s job easier.”
While they “didn’t think [they] would gel as well as [they] have” before the Invitational, according to Dizzle, there’s still a long way to finally hit their peak.
“I think we were [playing] around 70-80% [at the Six Invitational],” said Dizzle. “The biggest thing is keeping the consistency, and that comes from the practice environment. Being that consistent comes from consistent practice and discipline ?— the one percenters ?— and that mostly comes with time.
“We played some average games against TSM and BDS and they played a very similar playstyle to each other, so we played very well for our group and our tournament, but we were a bit found out against different playstyles.”
However, as Fnatic heads back to play in Pro League, it’s going to become harder to keep the quality of practice up. Getting the three weeks in London before the Invitational was good, but trying to keep that same level up against local teams is more difficult.
“It’s a constant game of catch-up. As we go home, we’ve had decent results, they’re all going to make the changes and the preparation for the next step while we have to go back to our practice regime,” said Dizzle.
But, as the Six Invitational blends into history, there’s a very likely chance people will forget about Fnatic’s performance and start underrating them again. They’re not relying on being the underdogs always ?— and the best way to do that is to try and elevate APAC Siege to a new level.
“We want to lay the foundations for APAC to start investing and supporting itself to become a stronger region so that it’ll enable APAC to compete globally and allow us to become stronger through APAC instead of relying on bootcamping in other regions,” said Dizzle.
Magnet’s goals were set at a much more personal level: “I want to make it to every Major.”
And if Fnatic can keep up their Six Invitational form, making every major might be setting the bar a bit low.
Fnatic continue their Pro League Season 11 run against the former Mindfreak lineup at 9pm AEDT on March 23. You can catch the action on the Rainbow Six Twitch channel.