Road to Masters Reykjavik — Fnatic
Welcome to Run It Back’s Road to Reykjavik Masters series where we highlight each team at the event and show their journey. Today we’ll be focusing on the former organization-less SUMN FC roster which signed with Fnatic soon after their phenomenal Grand Final entry at the European First Strike event.
Though Fnatic entered the VCT Stage 2: Masters event in the end, their journey was strenuous to say the least. Join us on this journey that showcases how Fnatic decided to pull a last-second major roster change to get themselves back into the driver’s seat in Europe and VCT EMEA Regional Finals.
Make sure to check out Team Liquid’s Road to Masters Reykjavik to see how ScreaM and co. fared on their own journey.
The very first VCT Stage 2 Challengers event in Europe guaranteed 2 spots in the EMEA Regional Finals event, where two tickets two Reykjavik awaited. To do that, all teams had to go through an Open Qualifier followed by a playoffs stage. Fnatic kicked things off on the right foot, beating Honk with a 2-0 score in the best-of-three (BO3) in the round of 32.
At that point, Fnatic needed just one more win to enter the playoffs. Alliance was the side that stood in their way. Fnatic was defeated on the opening map, Haven, in the matchup. An enormous overtime ensued on the triple-bombsite map. It was Alliance that finally closed it out at a rarely seen score in Valorant of 18:16. Nevertheless, Fnatic looked forward to the second map, Icebox, but to no avail. Alliance closed it out on the second map with a comfortable 13:6 victory, effectively knocking Fnatic out of Challengers 1 Open Qualifier – something not many expected from Jake “Boaster” Howlett’s Fnatic side. Alliance was the team that qualified instead.
Despite being out of Challengers 1, Fnatic had one more shot at entering the EMEA Regional Finals, and that was Challengers 2. Though this time, Boaster‘s side would return as a reformed Fnatic side. A much, much scarier one.
On April 2 Fnatic abruptly benched Kostas “tsack” Theodoropoulos. Just a day later, on April 3, Muhammad “Moe40” Hariff saw a similar fate, as he was also moved to Fnatic’s bench. At that very moment the original SUMN FC roster was no more, as new members to the Fnatic roster were imminent.
Just two days before the Open Qualifiers at the Stage 2: Challengers 2, Fnatic welcomed two new additions to the roster. Following rumours of Fnatic conducting player trials, the powerhouse finally settled on two new players that would see Fnatic rise to the top in European Valorant. Those two players were Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev and Martin “MAGNUM” Peňkov.
With just two days left until Challengers 2, it was questionable whether the new Fnatic had enough time to acclimate the new players. As we now know, it was the best move that they could have done.
“I kind of slotted Derke and MAGNUM in. MAGNUM was this Sentinel player, Derke was this Jett and he could play Sova and Sage as well. I guess they just slotted in. I said, ‘These are the strats we have, just get a notebook and start learning boys,'” Boaster commented following the acquirement.
Fnatic saw a much more confident start to Challengers 2 at the Round of 32. The refurbished roster went on to sweep Ovation eSports and SAW. Though they were eventually bested by Acend in the Round of 8, the Masters 1 Europe champions, the match was purely for seeding at the Main Event.
The Main Event saw the new Fnatic face their very first major opponent. In the quarterfinals, Fnatic was put up against the ever so hungry G2 Esports side. Both Valorant teams had much to prove as neither team found success in 2021 up until then, including the lack of qualification to Stage 1: Masters.
The BO3 saw Fnatic easily take their map pick, Bind, after showcasing a masterful defensive side, leading up to a 13:5 scoreline. Ascent followed with a much tighter matchup. After Fnatic pulled ahead to 12:6, G2 mounted a comeback, bringing it all the way to 12:11. Fnatic denied the overtime after a class display by Derke, MAGNUM, and Boaster, to close it all out at 13:11.
Fnatic’s additions truly shined, especially Derke, who received the MVP award for the match and was the most impactful player for his side on both maps.
Fnatic then faced Team Vitality. Vitality upset one of the favorites, Acend, in the quarterfinals and looked stronger than ever. Despite that, Fnatic managed to out-edge the international medley with yet another 2-0 sweep. This meant that Fnatic were joining FunPlus Phoenix and Guild Esports in the VCT EMEA Regional Finals.
What’s more, Fnatic faced Team Liquid in the grand final of the event for seeding and prize money purposes. Both sides looked more than potent enough to shake things up at EMEA. Team Liquid also saw a revitalized roster following the addition of Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen. Nevertheless, it was Fnatic that overcame Liquid with a 3-1 scoreline, granting them the better seed in the following event.
This was it, the big event that held two tickets to the Reykjavik Masters. In addition to facing the other European teams, Fnatic now had to also worry about the two Turkish sides, Oxygen Esports and Futbolist, as well as the CIS team, Gambit Esports.
Boaster and co. were put into Group B alongside Futbolist, Guild, and Oxygen Esports. Their first matchup came out to be against Oxygen. The explosive Turkish style of playing Valorant revolved around agent Jett. It was something Fnatic had to take into account when going into this matchup. Fnatic’s Derke went head to head with Oxygen’s own Jett main, Erdem “toronto” Soğukpınar.
Even though Oxygen put up a solid fight, especially following a great showing by toronto on the second map, Icebox, Fnatic scored yet another 2-0 to advance to the Winners’ Match against Guild Esports. Derke once more put up a phenomenal performance and was granted another MVP award.
Guild Esports was the team that stood in the way of Fnatic advancing to the semifinal of VCT EMEA Regional Finals. Formerly known as Bonk, the all-Swedish lineup featuring William “draken” Sundin, went on an extremely solid run at Stage 2: Challengers 1. The Swedish medley most notably defeated Team Liquid, Alliance, and NIP on their road to EMEA. After having defeated Futbolist in their opening matchup with a 2-0 score, Guild proved they were not messing around.
The matchup between Guild and Fnatic was highly anticipated. Both sides have become formidable forces to be dealt with. Despite that, Fnatic yet again prevailed. A phenomenal performance by Leo “Leo” Jannesson from Guild went to waste as Fnatic overcame Guild 13:10 on Ascent. On Bind, a hectic matchup emerged which led to a double overtime. In the end, it was Fnatic that simply showed the higher resilience after Boaster showed a masterclass on Brimstone. Fnatic took Bind with a close 15:13 score, extending their streak of clean 2-0 victories even further.
Fnatic at that point have entered the semifinals and sent Guild Esports to their slaughterhouse, the Decider Match, where they’d get knocked out by Oxygen Esports.
Four teams remained in the run for Masters Reykjavik — Fnatic, Gambit Esports, Team Liquid, and Oxygen Esports. Fnatic was matched against the CIS side Gambit. The sole CIS team in the event had just knocked out one of the favorites of the tourney, Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow’s FunPlus Phoenix. Perhaps being the biggest upset at the event, Gambit achieved great success by overcoming arguably one of the best strategically-potent teams in Europe.
The matchup kicked off on Icebox. MAGNUM‘s side swiftly established dominance on the icy Valorant map. The battle was mostly one-sided as Fnatic ended things rather quickly, at 13:6. The next map, Bind, was a whole other story, however. Both teams found the defense side to be their home. Fnatic was trailing 9:3 at the half as many were thinking we were going to the third map.
That was not in Fnatic’s plans. A stride of energy on defense made Fnatic bring it all the way back to 9:9. Gambit retaliated with two rounds of their own to attempt to deny the comeback. Their efforts were countered with four straight rounds from Fnatic to take the victory. Those four rounds guaranteed Fnatic an entry to the Reykjavik Masters.
It’s an understatement to say that Boaster was happy to have made it into Reykjavik. “I’m so hyped man. I’ve been working so hard. All the boys have been working so hard. Ever since we qualified, firstly it was the anti-stratting, and then I’d get home and prepare our maps as well to make sure they’re up to scratch and up to date and mini (Fnatic’s coach) has been helping with that too. It’s just nice we got rewarded for all the hard work. It just feels so good” he commented.
Fnatic’s captain was also excited about them and Team Liquid making it to the Reykjavik Masters. “I’m really happy that us and Liquid made it. The UK lads and I know them. It’s going to be a fun event outside of gaming as well, I know they’re a good bunch of lads. Then when it comes to playing against them, I think it’s fine too”, he said, “I’m just super excited about playing and no hard feelings.”
Team Liquid this time around got revenge on Fnatic for their previous loss in the final in Challengers 2. Naturally, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom was a force to be dealt with. The final served the purpose of seeding and prize money distribution. Having qualified for Masters, the final did not matter much in the end. Both teams are going to the first ever international Valorant LAN event and will be the sole representatives of Europe. The prestige and honor could not have been higher.
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