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Fnatic have cemented their status as the best team in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. The team took a dominant 3-0 victory over FunPlus Phoenix in the VALORANT Champions Tour EMEA Stage 2 Challengers playoffs grand final.
“Right now, in this moment, I think we are the best team in EMEA,” Fnatic’s James “Mistic” Orfila said in an interview after the win. “Even though we still feel like there’s a lot of mistakes happening and stuff like that, we’re looking hot. And we’re going to try to keep it up because it’s easy to get to the top, but hard to stay there.”
The bout between FPX, who reached the grand final by sweeping Guild Esports in the lower bracket, and Fnatic was deceptively close for a 3-0. Maps 1 and 3 — Split and Haven — both went into overtime. Mistic said that the long games were mentally taxing and often led to silly mistakes when the team lost their cool.
“In these moments, we might get carried away a little bit or make micro-mistakes that cost us the round,” he said. “So we try to minimize that in our timeouts.”
Fnatic topple FPX
The star of the series for Fnatic was Emir Ali “Alfajer” Beder, who continues to show that he is one of the most explosive and impactful duelists in the EMEA region. He finished the series with 306 Average Combat Score and a +26 Kill/Death. The 17-year-old Turk was picked up by Fnatic in May 2022 alongside Enzo “Enzo” Mestari.
“Perfect pick-ups in my opinion,” Mistic said. “We brought in more firepower and more discipline.”
Now, Alfajer forms one half of EMEA’s deadliest fragging duo alongside Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev.
“It makes everything a lot simpler being able to set up these great players,” Mistic, who typically plays more supportive agents, said.
The new pick-ups, alongside the steady consistency of Fnatic’s heart and brain, Jake “Boaster” Howlett, have created a winning formula that’s propelled the team to the top of their region. Now, they’ve booked their ticket to Masters Copenhagen in July as the top seed and a serious contender to win the whole event.
Fnatic, the Kings of EMEA
Copenhagen will be Fnatic’s fourth international VALORANT event, making them one of the most experienced teams in attendance. Nevertheless, the team has failed to make a deep run since their loss to Sentinels in the grand final of VCT 2021’s Stage 2 Masters Reykjavík.
Masters Copenhagen could be Fnatic’s chance to re-write that narrative this year.
“We just need to make sure that we’re working as hard as we are now because, at the end of the day, the run isn’t over,” Mistic said.
Hard work is the name of the game for Fnatic, who have made a name for themselves by always staying at the cutting edge of the strategic meta, often leading the charge for EMEA teams. That’s in large part thanks to their in-game leader Boaster.
“[Boaster] probably is the most hardworking player in the world right now,” Mistic said. “He’s constantly studying the game and looking at how he can improve individually as well as help the team.”
It also doesn’t hurt to have tried and true strategies like “Derke, go kill” and “Alfajer, go kill” at your disposal.
Fnatic at Copenhagen
So far, nine teams have qualified for Masters Copenhagen. Many, like Fnatic, OpTic Gaming and DRX, are familiar faces on the international scene.
VALORANT fans are already anticipating the battle between OpTic and Fnatic as two of the strongest teams in the world representing opposite sides of the NA versus EMEA rivalry. Mistic, for one, is eager to face the top NA teams and dethrone OpTic, the winners of the previous Masters event.
“We definitely want to put [OpTic and XSET] down and show ’em that EMEA is back on top now,” he said.
Still, Mistic’s most anticipated game is a rematch with DRX, who just notched their ticket to Copenhagen out of the Korean VCT.
“The way [DRX] think about the game, it’s a similar thought process to how we look at it as well,” Mistic said.
Above all else, Fnatic are looking forward to the live audience at Copenhagen; it will mean a chance to play in front of the fans, to bring friends and family to an event, to hear the roar of the crowd after every kill.
However, a mass of screaming fans can also lead to nerves, especially for a team as young as Fnatic. Copenhagen will be the first international LAN for 17-year-old Alfajer.
“I think [Alfajer will] settle in quite nicely,” Mistic said. “I think his raw skill and aim can just drag him across… And if not, we have the rest of the team to back him up.”
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.