Finding Mushi: How Fnatic Found Themselves in the Wake of Mushi’s Absence
Prior to their current 21-game win-streak, it was easy to point to Chai “Mushi” Yee Fung as not only the catalyst to Fnatic Dota’s success, but to regard him as the very soul of the team.
As a team, Fnatic’s identity has been closely associated with that of their leader, Mushi. The mercurial Southeast Asian (SEA) Dota veteran is known for his unconventional drafting style, his on the fly role-switching decisions and the terrifying performances he puts on when he gets going.
But with their recent successes done in the absence of their leader, fans of Fnatic have cried, “No Mushi, No Problem!” Has the absence of Mushi given Fnatic a newfound stability? Is Fnatic sans Mushi a team with a different identity?
Fnatic: A team who figured out how to be a team
As a team, Fnatic’s current incarnation under Mushi has held similar qualities with their unpredictable leader. Before their current streak, Fnatic has experimented with their players in all sorts of roles and assignments.
In his time with this iteration of Fnatic, Mushi himself has switched between playing midlane, safelane position 1 carry or even support.
Their roster includes Mushi’s long-time compatriots back from their days in Orange eSports: Wai “Net” Pern Lim at the support OR position 1 core role and Chong “Ohaiyo” Xin Khoo on the offlane OR position 4 jungling support role. Rave-vet, Djardel Jicko “DJ” Mampusti has alternated between position 4 jungling support and offlane as well.
Their drafts have similarly been chaotic and unforeseeable, both to fans and opponents alike. Mushi’s penchant for strange pick-ban phases have confounded casters since his days in Team DK, where he would occasionally conduct the opening strategy phase together with Zhang “LaNm” Zhicheng.
As the leader of Team Malaysia, Mushi famously said that he doesn’t think about the opponent’s comfort picks, nor does he consider the strongest heroes in the metagame when confronted with the pick and ban phase. He prefers being unpredictable in an effort to confuse enemy teams.
It would seem like Mushi has had the singular say on what happens to his teams, but the truth is that Mushi has also been effective at listening to input from other sources.
This was recently demonstrated at Shanghai, where Fnatic displayed a growing maturity to their pre-planning stages. Eric “Reinn” Khor, the team’s manager, said that Malaysian Dota 2 icon and former Mineski pro Kenchi Yap worked closely with the team and Mushi in terms of drafting.
“Every team does analysis and most teams do a good job of it,” says Reinn, “but at Shanghai, Kenchi helped us with our drafting. We identified which heroes were good in the patch, which heroes we were good at and which heroes we needed to take away from some teams.”
While Mushi would still pick up exotic heroes relative to the patch (including a Medusa for himself against OG in the lower bracket), Fnatic did adapt their picks and bans to account for the metagame of the tournament.
The team increased their equity by picking up strong junglers for DJ and Ohaiyo. In games where they could only secure on tier jungler for the team, Fnatic made an effort to secure high-impact tempo controllers for Zheng “Miduan” Yeik Nai.
“I think what the team learned the most from Shanghai was mostly about themselves,” says Reinn. “They learned about what each player needs to do personally and what positions they excel at. More importantly, they learned how to play as a team.”
Unleashing their players
Adam “343” Shah, the team’s current position 5 support and drafter is substituting for Mushi. Originally from Taring, 343 stood-in when DJ returned to the Philippines for a short vacation.
According to Reinn, 343 stood-in for a few times with Fnatic since the WePlay tournament. At the time, Mushi was still active and posting monstrous performances for the team. As he understood how Fnatic’s subtle shifts were working beneath the surface, it became clear that continuing Fnatic’s good fortune meant consistently drafting with one goal in mind: unleash the talents of their players.
Their losses to MVP Phoenix at Shanghai highlighted a key weakness: While Fnatic can teamfight, their allocation of gold to their position 1 players have made their stars in DJ and Miduan experience famine when they needed the resources to carry the game.
DJ, in particular, has had a career as a well-resourced, teamfighting position 1 core player, owing to his days in Rave. While Mushi would draft strong junglers for DJ in Shanghai, he would serve more as a ganker who rushed a Mekansm through farming the jungle.
Their fortunes changed sharply when they gave DJ the leeway to pick more carry-oriented junglers. In their second and third outings against MVP Phoenix, DJ posted insane numbers on Doom and Enchantress, including a beast-like 30 KDA in the Epicenter qualifier finals where they wiped MVP, 3-0.
Net, Miduan and Ohaiyo are also embracing their roles. Miduan, in particular, has fully shifted into the team’s point guard. His recent performances on Invoker have become the pivot on which Fnatic shapes engagements. Where Miduan sets the battle, Fnatic will engage with gusto. Where Miduan disengages, Fnatic withdraw with haste.
This new Fnatic team has been characterized by their jungle-based carries and their teamfight positioning — a far cry from the generally anarchic nature of their past. And it’s working.
Exactly where is Mushi? According to their manager, Mushi has taken a break to recoup his health.
The break was supposedly to start at the conclusion of the Shanghai Major, but Mushi decided to post-pone to give way for DJ’s time off.
While Mushi’s absence may have given Fnatic, at the very least, a modicum of stability and success, it is important to remember that he started their upswing in the first place.
Fans may regard his decision to take a break as a blessing, but in truth it was Mushi’s monstrous performances after Shanghai that have brought momentum on the side of the Malaysian team.
Since WePlay, Mushi has consistently broken his KDA averages of 3.8 by leaps and bounds, scoring KDA ratios of 9.0 or higher before he went inactive.
It cannot be understated that while 343 has had objectively better drafts for Fnatic, it was the influence of Mushi before he went on hiatus that 343 absorbed. Much of the team and Mushi’s own reflections from their time in Shanghai have been incorporated by 343 into a galvanized and hungry Fnatic.
According to Reinn, it is only a matter time until Mushi returns to the team. Though the team is undecided, there is however, a small chance that 343 will remain as the drafter for the team.
When that happens, the team will experience a minor upheaval. The question of who will go inactive, given their recent successes, is a fair point to raise.
However, given the process of learning that has lead to their upwelling, it seems that Fnatic have equipped themselves with the tools necessary to sustain their charge even as Mushi’s return will trigger another change in the team.
We are seeing a team in the process of actualization. Unpredictability and cleverness will be inextricably linked to Fnatic and Mushi’s DNA, but Fnatic’s new-found stability will ensure that their strengths are always presented, best foot forward.
Mushi’s hiatus from the team only highlighted the team’s inner contemplations. Above everything else, Fnatic Dota is shaping up to be more than Mushi; it is a team that has found its identity.
Banner photo from Eric Khor
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