Valorant Champions Tour Stage 2 Masters Copenhagen is the first international event in 2022 where fans have seen a full-strength Fnatic. In their first real international appearance, they are rattling off firsts and breaking barriers as they look to claim a Masters trophy.
Fnatic competed in the first Valorant Masters of the year in Iceland, but the squad was hampered due to travel restrictions amid the global health crisis. The team fielded two stand-ins, Joona ‘H1ber’ Parviainen and Enzo ‘Enzo’ Mestari, and one player, Martin ‘Magnum’ Peňkov, who would be replaced before Stage 2.
Fnatic’s star player, Nikita ‘Derke’ Sirmitev, wasn’t able to leave his room in Reykjavík due to the tournament’s health protocols and did not play a single match for the team.
At Masters Copenhagen, the Finnish player has brought the explosive firepower that Fnatic were missing in their Icelandic campaign. He was a big reason why the team was able to beat FunPlus Phoenix 2-0 in their first match.
“Our strategy is built differently than other teams, Derek is able to do things that other players aren’t, and he’s able to make our strategy a little bit easier for the rest of the team,” Fnatic head coach Jacob ‘mini’ Harris said after their win over FPX.
“We’re able to give him fewer resources, and the rest of the team gets more resources.”
Fnatic player debuts
Two players are also making their first official appearance for Fnatic at VCT Masters Copenhagen: Emir Ali ‘Alfajer’ Beder, a teenage Turkish talent traveling abroad for the first time in his life, and Enzo, a stand-in in Fnatic’s previous international outing.
Both players expressed excitement at taking on Masters competition with their new teammates, with Alfajer experiencing some nerves before his first match. The team’s IGL, Jake ‘Boaster’ Howlett, said he gave the teenager a pep talk before he went out on stage.
“I kind of got the vibe similar to trials when Alfajer was a bit flustered, a bit nervous, and I was just like, ‘We know how good you are, bro. You don’t need to be flustered here. Just go and do your thing,’” the Fnatic IGL said after their first match.
For Enzo, it’s a different feeling coming to Denmark with Fnatic this time around. He has had more time to get immersed in the team and to prepare when compared to Stage 1 Masters, where he was thrust into the squad late in the process.
“It’s a great feeling. Because for the last time, in Iceland, I was a stand-in. So, we did what we could, right? Now, we finally had the time to prepare, we had a lot of weeks online to prepare for this tournament. We know what we have to do… we are teammates,” Enzo said in a Masters press conference.
“So I mean, it’s lovely.”
What it would take to win a Masters trophy
Fnatic are now through to the lower bracket VCT Masters semi-finals, where they will face off against FPX for the fourth time in about a month.
After cruising through the VCT EMEA Challengers, Fnatic saw their unbeaten streak ended by Paper Rex. In a way, Boaster believes that a weight has been lifted off the team’s back, now that the honeymoon period is over.
“Streaks are made to be broken. It’s dangerous having streaks because you get sloppy,” he said after the loss.
The entire team will get to compete in front of a crowd for the first time in their Valorant careers, adding another milestone for this lineup.
Fnatic are no strangers to deep Masters runs, having reached the finals of the first VCT Masters event and the quarter-finals of Valorant Champions. But experience isn’t everything at this level of play.
Championship runs are also made on luck and bravery, which this team seems to have in spades.
In their match against Leviatán, Fnatic all but proved that with multiple clutches and bold plays against the Latin American top seed. They will need that and more to keep up their form in front of hundreds of people.
“When it comes to a crowd, I don’t care how many people I’m playing in front of, I’m just going to enjoy it. Kind of as a performer, you really bounce off the energy that the audience gives you when they react to what you do and when you’re performing. So when it comes to these stage games, I feel like the crowd is going to be on our side, potentially, unless we are doing bad things in-game,” Boaster said with a laugh.