Razork: Fnatic’s Rock
After faltering near the final hurdle in the spring, Fnatic are in the midst of a mission that has had its fair share of ups and downs in the summer. If the semi-final loss to G2 in the spring playoffs was a blow, they have endured a fair few hiccups in the summer too. But their taking down of MAD Lions 3-1 in the summer playoffs of the League of Legends European Championship means they continue their run of playoffs series wins. Fnatic will now play Rogue in Malmo in Sweden.
The win over MAD was yet another win where they were pushed, shoved and twisted. In a game that resembled an intense fistfight, they broke MAD’s domination over five games. Anything less than a win would’ve been embarrassing, for they were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in the organisation’s history.
That they were on the rocks despite coming into the game on a six-game winning streak told you how important a win was. That it came on the back of their reverse sweeping Excel to kick off a stunning rear guard right from the bottom of the lower bracket holds out plenty of hope and promise of them being able to reprise not just the spirit of the spring split, but also go one better.
What augurs well for them is their confidence levels are currently peaking, and wins over Excel and Misfits by a 3-0 margin can’t have happened by fluke. The hiccups and full-blown meltdown that denied them the upper bracket berth led to some serious soul-searching and they’ve returned reinvigorated. In the middle of the split, it can be hard to make too many changes to your game or strategies since matches come thick and fast, but that they’ve so far overcome some of their biggest hurdles is a promising sign.
Fnatic Proving Its Critics Wrong
“As I said before, we don’t really deserve being where we are,” Martin “Wunder” Nordahl Hansen said in an exclusive interview with Jaxon. “We’re not in a good place or anything, but we don’t deserve to be even here. So, personally, I’m not satisfied with how this year has gone so far. Of course, we can turn it around. We might as well have gotten 3-0’d and the year would be over, and I would obviously not be satisfied. But even that it has gone to this point, where this was a possibility, I’m already not satisfied with how it has gone so far.
“Going into it, in the split itself, we lost twice to XL. And we got kind of stomped for the most part when we played against them. And of course: in scrims, I’d say they had a period, in the beginning, where they were really good in scrims. And then they had a period where they were really bad in scrims—coincidentally the time where they went on a loss streak. They were kind of like just getting rolled in scrims.
“But in general, they have been pretty good in practice at least, and also when we played against them on stage. So, for sure, I don’t think any game is a game that you can just roll over or think it’s a free win. Except if you’re G2 playing against Misfits. But even that series was kind of competitive for the most part.”
It must have been a sense of deja vu for the MAD Lions, who must have some not-so-fond memories of being jolted by Fnatic in their debut split in 2020. Fnatic have had a history of late dashes, like they did last year when they made an inspiring dash through the lower bracket by winning four of the five games there, before MAD Lions, who until then had been at the receiving end, rose in style to hand Fnatic a 3-1 pounding. This gave birth to what has since become an intense and engaging rivalry.
Fnatic’s manner of proving critics wrong, and banishing talks of them being on a downward spiral has been the most refreshing. Players who’ve either been out of form or have succumbed under key moments earlier have delivered under pressure at the playoffs.
“Every game was, in a sense, winnable and lose-able,” Wunder said. “A lot of the games we won, we could have lost. And it was like a lot of small nuances that kind of brought it together, and some clutch plays or some ints from them or from us, or something like this, you know?”
One of the reasons why they couldn’t close out key moments was perhaps the presence of big-game nerves. But they haven’t keeled over. Last summer split, Fnatic finished fifth and pushed their way through to the lower bracket before eventually claiming G2, Europe’s second seed, at the world championship. Will history repeat itself?
Unfazed by Expectations
We spoke of key players delivering, none more impactful than Iván “Razork” Martín Díaz. There was a fair bit of expectation riding on him as he headed over at the end of last year after a storied stint with Misfits Gaming. That Fnatic straightaway offered him a three-year deal told you of the confidence they had in him. The rookie of the split award winner in 2020 hasn’t yet been able to lay his hands on the LEC crown, but this could be a massive opportunity.
In a way, Razork had to pick up the pieces immediately, as he was replacing jungler Gabriël “Bwipo” Rau. So he needed to hit the ground running. That Fnatic had a tumultuous 2021 in many ways also meant expectations from their new signings were somewhat guarded.
That they had lost Martin “Rekkles” Larsson to arch-rivals G2 had actually led to Bwipo playing out of position. So there was a proper churn they had to overcome as Razork came into the side. In 19 games, at the time of writing, Razork had averaged 2.63 kills, 3.16 deaths and 5.26 assists, along with a KDA of 2.5 and creep score of 169.05.
Razork’s win percentage on Viego has been the best, where he’s averaged four wins in five. Whereas his kill participation on Xin Zhao, Diana and Lee Sin have been significantly higher than on other champions. One of the key factors that is almost understated when we talk of Razork is his persona. He’s almost always never in the limelight, but quietly does his work. He wasn’t fazed even when there were reports swirling of Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen, a Fnatic legend who played between 2017 and 2019, coming back in to take over the jungler’s position.
Social media can often be a barometer for a player’s mindset, it can give you a peek into their thought process. What you did notice with Razork was he was an oasis of calm, almost zen-like. Where there were several mentions and self-motivational posts aimed at firing himself to perform and keep rising, rumour mongering or reacting to criticism isn’t his way.
This comes with innate confidence in his abilities, being fully secure of his position and knowing where his priorities are. That he was absolutely undeterred by the several rumours swirling when the team went back to one of their players who had been instrumental in their success over a three-year period give you a peek into his thought process. Razork’s presence has been like a calming influence for the entire group at large.
In any case, Razork’s signing has added more teeth to Fnatic. When they ran into trouble during the Worlds in 2021 when Elias “Upset” Lipp left for personal reasons and issues with Bwipo threatened to derail them, they needed to lock down a key position. Enter Razork, and there seems to have been a concerted effort to give him responsibilities and make him feel important.
On his part, Razork had only embraced everything that had come his way. Having such massive shoes to fill can be overwhelming for the most experienced players. For a 21-year-old to have not just embraced it but deliver telling performances quietly and in an uncomplicated manner points to this being a partnership for the ages.