While it might have looked like a great year for FNATIC to most of you - having attending every LAN and placing very high - for us as a team it was a very frustrating year. Four times throughout the year, we managed to get to the finals before losing to teams with whom we had previously statistically never struggled.
Although getting second place is always a great achievement, when practicing, aspiring and eventually shooting to get first place, falling just short eats away at you bit by bit.
These feelings of irritation would rise and fall depending on the LAN, but the frustration reached new heights after our terrible performance in the latest Masters LAN (Summer 2018). It became patently clear to us in the aftermath that we had to change something up. So, we did; we tried role-swaps, in-game leader swaps, draft swaps, mental attitude changes and, eventually, we exhausted every option, except for one: a new player.
We didn't even need a player that was necessarily better than any of us. But a good, new player - the operative word being ‘new’ - would bring in fresh air and hopefully refresh everyone's mindset in the team; it would “break the curse” that had been lingering in our minds.
In light of that, I personally offered the team to try playing without me, if they liked it. Great! In this case I'm happier seeing my team win without me than losing with me. And if they didn't like playing without me, I'd be ready and waiting on the sidelines.
There are several facets to why I offered up myself to fall on the sword. Some practical: going from any high-end role (whether DPS, healer or aggro-tank) into a tank role is the smoothest and easiest transition of all, meaning there would be more possible players to try out and fit into our lineup.
Other more conceptual reasons: I have had inconsistent performances at recent LANs, making it clear to me that I could be seen as a liability. Secondly, I felt comfortable doing this, I just felt I was most able of stepping down without any hard feelings towards my team or feeling lost in life.
On top of these reason, I also probably needed a break to re-evaluate myself and what I want to do moving forward in my life. Pro-gaming has always been a dream of mine and I am lucky to have achieved that. But I have many more dreams in life that I wish to achieve. That said, I'm not sure yet whether I'll be retiring or not. I hope to find that out by attending upcoming LANs and seeing my team win.
For Fnatic going forward, Unbelivable (Kevin Rahu) is a great fit for this team, because he's had top-tier tank experience, played on numerous big stages before and proved he can perform under pressure. Please give him time to adapt to the team and I'm sure he'll make you all, including myself, proud. I've always liked the dude and consider him a friend so I wish him all the best - I hope you do too.
That's it for now!
Thijs ‘Thiel’ Smit