Their rivalry may not quite go back to the beginning of time, but the professional tussles between Fnatic and Na’Vi were one of the constant underpinnings of the rise of competitive CS:GO. No passage of time or the myriad roster moves could separate them from each other, both either hanging on or fighting at the very top of the summit. Both sides had the honor of having the world’s best individual player on their team at some point in the game. And yet, no telling of their story would be complete without showcasing the one great gulf between the two: the Swedes had an entire era to themselves while the CIS side was cursed to be the ever-challengers, the VP-like gatekeepers for every team that would go on to become the best in the scene.
There can be no denying the fact that their meeting in the finals at Shanghai has just as much to do with the absence of Astralis and Liquid as their impressive showings over the rest of the field – and yet, you can’t help but feel that a victory like this could become the catalyst for something greater. For Fnatic, a revival, a sign that it is truly the darkest before dawn. For Na’Vi, proof that they’re more than the world’s most polished one-man act that’s there to be defeated on the way towards the top. Five maps of explosive Counter-Strike await us: arguably, these two sides are the most motivated in this field to once again win a premiere title.
Org to org, the beginning of the CS:GO era couldn’t mark a bigger contrast for Fnatic and Natus Vincere: the Swedes managed to pull off the mother of all upsets in the first major against NiP while the CIS side finished joint-last in the tournament. Of course, Astana Dragons was the region’s superteam at the time, though some of the Na’Vi players in that side would also become household names going forward: Zeus, starix and seized were already a part of their lineup. In retrospect, it’s quite incredible that their roster at the second major (adding Edward and GuardiaN) also finished at the bottom of the group.
The two teams would clash in the quarterfinals of the next major: Na’Vi fought back valiantly on the last map of the series despite dropping then T rounds on Nuke but they still fell short 16-14 to the Fnatic lineup now boosted by the addition of olofmeister and KRiMZ. This time, the Swedes would be stopped at the last hurdle by their domestic rivals as NiP picked up their only major title to date. Disappointments would continue on the major stage for the CIS side – they’ve encountered Fnatic in two different group stages in the next three such events only to lose 16-7 and 16-2 –, and it’s not actually until the middle of 2015 that they start winning a few meaningful tournaments. They took down the inaugural iteration of ESL’s Pro League in April and StarLadder StarSeries XIII in June. A win at ESWC 2015 followed in July. Then, another heartbreak at the major.
Fnatic’s six-win LAN streak marked both the crescendo and the coda of their era of dominance, and back-to-back ones came over their CIS rivals: a 3-2 nailbiter at the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 finals and a much more straightforward 2-0 affair at StarLadder i-League StarSeries XIV with 16-3 and 16-7 tonkings dished out on both maps. Fnatic’s last title win of the six in a row also featured a victory over Na’Vi, a 16-10 win in the opening group stage match of IEM Season X. The Swedes also managed to triumph over them at the semi-finals of ELEAGUE Season 1, an event which would mark the end of an era for both sides: Fnatic fell apart after the catastrophic GODSENT shuffle following their defeat to Virtus.pro in the finals while Na’Vi signed a certain young starlet known as s1mple a month after, and nothing was ever quite the same again.
Since then, the statistics are overwhelmingly on Na’Vi’s side: their recent head-to-head reads 9-1, and the Swedes didn’t even manage to get to two digits in four of those meetings. That said, the last time Fnatic made it to a best-of-five final, they’ve pulled quite the rabbit out of the hat: it remains to be seen whether they can somehow stop the s1mple show in Shanghai.