IEM Rio Major profile: fnatic
fnatic are set to return to a Major for the first time since IEM Katowice 2019, aiming to get the legendary organisation back on course to the glory days of times gone by.
fnatic are an organisation with a rich and deep history within Counter-Strike. They were the first team to take home a Major trophy at CS:GO's inaugural Valve-sponsored event — DreamHack Winter 2013. This wasn't a flash in the pan either, their all-Swedish lineups continued to dominate the Counter-Strike scene in the years following that initial win, adding a further two Major trophies to their cabinet while peaking at No. 1 in the world ranking for a total of 23 weeks.
The side has truly been a dominant force for much of their ten-year history, winning 22 LAN trophies at a multitude of Big Events during their time in CS:GO — from their rise in 2014 to a six-tournament winning streak during their renowned late 2015-early 2016 reign to other notable wins later down the line at events like the $1,500,000 WESG 2017 World Finals, the star-studded events of IEM Katowice 2016 and 2018, as well as their most-recent trophy at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019.
While that all-Swedish legacy around Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, Jesper "JW" Wecksell, and Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer is long gone, a new international roster has risen up in its place, carrying the fnatic torch to their first Major since IEM Katowice 2019.
From three-time world champions to watching from the sidelines
fnatic's legacy within Counter-Strike is one of the most storied of any organisation that has invested in Valve's shooter. The London-based organisation is now set to attend its 15th Major throughout their ten-year history in CS:GO, boasting the second-most appearances out of any organization, tied with Ninjas in Pyjamas and just behind Natus Vincere with 18. They won three of them towards the start of their entry with first-place finishes at DreamHack Winter 2013, ESL One Katowice 2015, and ESL One Cologne 2015 — a feat only bested in the years since by Astralis with four Major titles to their name.
Alas, the past few years have been a turbulent time for an organisation as esteemed as fnatic. They have notably missed out on the past three Majors, with their last appearance being at IEM Katowice 2019. This absence from the biggest stages of the calendar year came in spite of numerous overhauls, from the all-Swedish lineup featuring Maikil "Golden" Selim at the helm to their first international pivot around Alex "ALEX" McMeekin — little could seemingly be done to return the black-and-orange to their former heights.
fnatic organization's Major record
PGL Major Antwerp 2022 - did not qualify
PGL Major Stockholm 2021 - did not qualify
StarLadder Major Berlin 2019 - did not qualify
IEM Katowice 2019 - 20th-22nd
FACEIT Major 2018 - 9th-11th
ELEAGUE Major 2018 - 5th-8th
PGL Major Krakow 2017 - 5th-8th
ELEAGUE Major 2017 - 3rd-4th
ESL One Cologne 2016 - 3rd-4th
MLG Columbus 2016 - 5th-8th
DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 - 5th-8th
ESL One Cologne 2015 - 1st
ESL One Katowice 2015 - 1st
DreamHack Winter 2014 - 5th-8th
ESL One Cologne 2014 - 2nd
EMS One Katowice 2014 - 5th-8th
DreamHack Winter 2013 - 1st
Keeping the old Swedish flame alive in this new-look fnatic is Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson. The 28-year-old is as storied as the organisation he has represented for the best part of eight years, with the past 11 of his 13 Majors appearances being with his long-time home. The legendary Swede clinched first place at two of them — ESL One Katowice and ESL One Cologne in 2015 — whilst being one of few players to reach the playoffs of each of the first 12 Majors. Furthermore, the old guard has been a staple of fnatic's presence in CS:GO since his addition to the roster in 2014, taking home 22 trophies across two stints with the British organisation. As the sole member remaining from the glory days of years gone by, KRIMZ has the unique task of keeping this team from feeling completely anew, allowing long-time fans to hold on to the old times when fnatic ruled the Counter-Strike world.
This new fnatic iteration is relatively inexperienced when compared to some of their peers at the $1,250,000 event in Brazil; both William "mezii" Merriman and Dion "FASHR" Derksen are yet to make their Major debuts, while Fredrik "roeJ" Jørgensen and Nico "nicoodoz" Tamjidi only have two Major appearances to their name. Regardless, this new-look fnatic is hungry for success, looking to prove to their new home that they're the squad that can return their famed organisation to the heights seen last decade. mezii admitted to HLTV that there is no better place to make his Major debut than in Rio de Janeiro, whilst the Danish duo will be aiming to continue their strong Major appearances seen in their previous stint with Copenhagen Flames — the pair securing a top-eight finish in Antwerp back in May before departing the Danish organisation in search of a future with fnatic.
A fresh start around a newly-minted in-game leader
Following their inability to qualify for PGL Major Antwerp, fnatic went back to the drawing board. The roster was completely gutted, building their future project around the veteran Swede of KRIMZ and the up-and-coming Briton of mezii. The latter used this new-found opportunity to make a leap of faith into a role he had previously considered, but one he wasn't confident in committing to — the in-game leader. It was a step that few saw coming, especially given how much of a star player the Briton had become in his own right with a solid 1.11 rating since joining the squad the summer prior. Nonetheless, the Englishman made the step up and became the captain of this new venture for fnatic, and it didn't take long for the rest of the lineup to take shape around him.
The first of the three signings came in the form of package duo roeJ and nicoodoz, their stock being at an all-time high after recently securing a top-eight finish at the Major in Belgium five months ago with Copenhagen Flames. The Danes had proven their worth in their old squad, with roeJ in particular impressing as he put up a resounding 1.19 rating in his yearlong stint. What's more, the roster were usually considered to be a tier two team, but still one that would find show up at these high-value Major tournaments. fnatic saw potential in their new Danish duo, before rounding out this new European experiment with the late bloomer of FASHR. The Dutchman is due to make his first break with a tier-one organisation at 26 years of age — something unusual in the current Counter-Strike climate where younger prodigies are sought after early to provide a bigger return on investment in the years following their signing. In the same vein, roeJ has only played at seven HLTV-featured LAN events despite being 28 years old. Despite being the third-oldest team at the Major with an average age of 26.1 years, the fnatic side lacks combat experience compared to the other senior rosters, namely ENCE (26.5) and Imperial (27.1); something that could prove to be deadly in the face of determined and battle-hardened opposition.
The Regional Major Ranking event itself was the most important event of all for mezii's troops, with fnatic's previous squads notably falling short at the past two Major-qualifying events. The European side got off to a strong start with a comfortable victory over Aurora before pushing the world's No. 1 team, FaZe, to the limit in a 17-19 overtime loss. The squad did suffer another loss to B8 in the third round to be dangerously close to elimination, but rebounded in style with comfortable 2-0 wins over Eternal Fire and 1WIN to qualify for their first Major since 2019. It was a moment of immense relief for an organisation that had been absent from Majors for far too long.
The Major in Brazil isn't just a first for both mezii and FASHR, but also a first for their respective countries in over three years; neither a Briton nor a Dutchman has attended a Valve-sponsored event as a player since 2019 when ALEX and Chris "chrisJ" de Jong carried their respective flags to the StarLadder Major in Berlin. Similarly, whilst the renowned all-Swedish lineup is officially dissolved, KRIMZ still flies the blue-and-yellow flag high heading into Brazil, with the Swede continuing to keep the organisation's dominant legacy from far ago barely alive.
mezii also has his own chance at leaving his own personal mark during his time in South America. The Briton has had a rapid rise through the ranks; going from deep within the UK scene on teams like London and Vexed, to securing his first big break with the mighty Cloud9 organisation, where the team was put under intense scrutiny given the transparent nature of the Colossus project. While ultimately unsuccessful, it was a climbing of the Counter-Strike ladder that few expected — with his new role as head of this European mix being a testament to the speed at which he has grown in just one year with fnatic. With this in mind, mezii's explosion onto the tier one scene, where he hasn't skipped a beat performance-wise, has been more than admirable. Coupling this with his embracing of the in-game leadership role as opposed to passing it on to the more experienced KRIMZ gifts the British captain a chance at truly becoming one of fnatic's most valuable players, one who has grabbed the bull by the horns and achieved feats that many of the more household names like ALEX failed to accomplish.
Those who are long-term fans of fnatic will also revel in seeing the team back at a Major once again. While the glory days of flusha, JW, and olofmeister lifting back-to-back Major trophies in front of sold-out crowds are long gone, it's a new era for this squad. The three-year Major drought that has plagued several rosters old and new has finally passed, with people now looking ahead to see just how well this European combine can do.
IEM Rio Major expectations
Whilst this European fnatic is certainly in better shape than any of the other rosters under the same banner in the past few years, it's hard to put the squad as a true contender for the title when teams like FaZe, Natus Vincere, and Vitality are also in attendance. mezii and company lack the critical experience necessary to go toe-to-toe with their tier-one counterparts, and while they successfully made it to the playoffs of ESL Pro League Season 16, they still bowed out in the first round of the knockout stage; the squad still need more time to reach their peak and to be able to challenge for these coveted trophies.
What's more, the event in Brazil marks the first time that each stage of the Major will have a crowd in attendance, offering a new layer of pressure on already nerve-wracking matchups. While some teams and players, like Finn "karrigan" Andersen, relish in having the atmosphere that a crowd brings, the mostly inexperienced roster that is fnatic could falter given the team's overall lack of game time in these scenarios.
"Qualifying for the Major again means the world to the team, fnatic, and our fans," commented fnatic's team director, Andreas "Samuelsson" Samuelsson, when asked about how it feels to be back at a Major after three years away.
"We have been out of the Major cycle for way too long now. We have been playing very well on a consistent level with this lineup; our expectations for the Major are not just to participate, we are there to have a deep run — our fans can expect a lot of good games from us!"
The chances of a deep run by fnatic are unlikely, with several things needing to go their way to get them far into the knockout stage. However, with mezii's fragging output on the server still being as potent as ever in spite of the role change, and with his teammates continuing to be menacing in the server, fnatic have it in their arsenal to make their trip to South America worthwhile; past results have shown that the squad is able to go toe-to-toe with the world's best, it's just a case of seeing how far the European combine can go before the heat gets too much to handle.
Other IEM Rio Major team profiles
IEM Rio Major profile: 9z
IEM Rio Major profile: Bad News eagles
IEM Rio Major profile: Outsiders
IEM Rio Major profile: Vitality
IEM Rio Major profile: Imperial
IEM Rio Major profile: FURIA
IEM Rio Major profile: IHC
IEM Rio Major profile: BIG
IEM Rio Major profile: Ninjas in Pyjamas
IEM Rio Major profile: MOUZ
IEM Rio Major profile: Sprout
IEM Rio Major profile: Spirit
IEM Rio Major profile: 00NATION
IEM Rio Major profile: GamerLegion
IEM Rio major profile: ENCE
IEM Rio Major profile: Liquid
IEM Rio Major profile: Grayhound
IEM Rio Major profile: Heroic
IEM Rio Major profile: OG
IEM Rio Major profile: Natus Vincere
IEM Rio Major profile: Evil Geniuses
IEM Rio Major profile: Cloud9
IEM Rio Major profile: FaZe
Check out HLTV.org's IEM Rio Major hub