Fnatic announced today that Vonethil and Hafficool would be stepping down to the bench. Replacements have not yet been officially announced, but reports from close to the team place Realzx and Talespin as current primary candidates.
“There is no doubting the quality or attitudes of either player,” the official announcement says, “but there’s been a disparity in style emerging in the team that’s hindering us from moving forward as a unit.” It’s no secret that Fnatic have been slumping since late last year, unable to keep pace with other improvements in both the North American scene and wider Overwatch. The team was at its peak in the autumn and was considered the second best team in North America, running deep in the Atlantic Showdown, the Overwatch Open and DreamHack Winter.
After being unable to compete at MSI MGA, Fnatic then competed online to qualify for the Winter Premiere. Fnatic had two players on high ping as Vonethil and Hafficool had to connect from Europe, and generally chose to avoid online competition, but qualified easily in 5th place despite suffering losses to C9, LG, and Immortals. The team then competed at MLG Vegas, where their loss to FaZe in the semifinals was a disappointment, unable to close out another tight LAN series against a top team. Despite taking a 2-1 lead in the 6-map match and almost closing it out with a draw on Volskaya, Fnatic let the win fall through their fingers. They then backed out of the Winter Premiere to chase glory in APEX.
Unfortunately for them, rather than glory they took a swift beating around the head from the Koreans. The slump in their individual play and identity coincided with the most competitive opposition they’d ever faced, leading to two quick 0-3 series against RunAway and Panthera to see them exit groups. Returning to North America, they uncharacteristically decided to compete in the online Monthly Melee with a new and untested dive composition, losing to Rogue, FaZe, and then LG Evil to finish last place alongside the only team they beat, Brazil Gaming House.
Throughout these tournaments, there were clear problems with coordinate, calling, and compositions within Fnatic, as well as individual underperformances.
For a large portion of 2016, Vonethil was the controlling shotcaller for Fnatic, calling almost every aspect of the macro game and leading them to success; according to interviews with Fnatic at MLG Vegas, he had stepped back from that position over the last 6 months, allowing others to contribute more evenly to shotcalling responsibilities. During 2017 his individual play had also been a noticeable weakness, repeatedly being picked first in fights during APEX and the OMM. Vonethil tweeted after the official announcement from Fnatic that he “requested a while back to step down from the roster”, thanking them for the experience and wishing them good luck.
Hafficool was brought into Fnatic after the team removed iddqd and were searching for a flex dps player with potential. Hafficool had shown talent on projectile dps heroes for European team NWA and played an excellent D.Va for the team during the triple tank meta, contributing to their incredible series over Ninjas in Pyjamas at DreamHack Winter. When the team moved away from that strategy though and played with less tanks, his impact was reduced. A lack of coordination with Hafficool and the team resulted in sloppy play at APEX and large underperformances, albeit with bad ping, in the Monthly Melee on Genji in particular.
Realzx and Talespin are reportedly the two primary candidates to replace these players, plugging into the roles of Lucio and flex dps respectively. Realzx is a former teammate of Hafficool, having played hitscan dps alongside him in NWA; most recently however he was seen trialling for LG Loyal in the Carbon Series after Mineral left, ending up on Misfits.
Talespin has had a long absence from tournament matches following his split with Team EnVyUs. His hero pool and individual talent is strong, complementing the rest of the team, and reports from recent Fnatic scrims indicate that the team has been experimenting with Talespin on Tracer and buds on Genji.
The final look for this Fnatic squad remains to be seen and may take a while to develop, with no confirmed tournament attendances coming up on the calendar. Should negotiations be resolved and contracts signed with these new players, Fnatic will immediately benefit from having two North American dps players in online tournaments; long-term improvements for Fnatic rely on them making larger changes to their calling and coordination however.
The new Fnatic roster is:
- Ronnie "Talespin" DuPree (Trial DPS)
- Casey "buds" McIlwaine (DPS)
- Matthew "coolmatt69" Iorio (Flex)
- Warsi Faraaz "Stoop" Waris (Tank)
- Scott "custa" Kennedy (Support)
- Marcus "Realzx" Vining (Trial Support)