Fnatic finally win international VALORANT title at VCT LOCK//IN

Fnatic have been on the cusp of winning an international VALORANT tournament ever since they finished second to Sentinels at Masters: Reykjavík 2021. Nearly two years later, Fnatic are finally champions after beating the defending international champs, LOUD, in their own home country of Brazil.

Fnatic beat LOUD 3-2 in the LOCK//IN grand final in front of thousands of raucous Brazilian fans cheering on LOUD and over 1.4 million viewers online.

After going up 2-0 in the series, Fnatic’s win looked all but assured. However, LOUD came back to tie it 2-2 and took a commanding 11-3 lead on Map 3. With the home crowd roaring, LOUD were just two round wins away from completing a reverse sweep and becoming the first VALORANT team to win back-to-back international titles.

Photo credit: Riot Games

In a postmatch press conference, in-game leader Jake “Boaster” Howlett reflected on the moment where it seemed a championship would elude him and Fnatic yet again.

“I just remember thinking this is sick. We might have been 11-2 down at that time, but I was like, this is kind of unreal. Even if we lose, I’m still really happy and really appreciative to be in this situation,” he said.

After Fnatic’s improbable comeback on Map 3 to win LOCK//IN, Boaster was overcome by the significance of the moment.

“The emotions were from just kind of remembering all my previous losses and all of them kind of built up to today with this roster and with my previous rosters as well and the idea of just people that I love are watching and I just thought they might be proud, so then I just started crying for some reason,” Boaster said.

Only two players remain on Fnatic since that Reykjavík 2021 runner-up finish -- Boaster and star duelist Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev as well as their coach Jacob "mini" Harris.

After over two years of trying to reach the top of the mountain in VALORANT, the trio are finally champions. For 27-year-old Boaster, the win was the culmination of a journey in esports that started nearly a decade ago.

Photo credit: Riot Games

“When I was 18 was when I joined my first Counter-Strike team, and I was pretty serious, I told my mum, I was like ‘hey mum, I’m gonna be pro in the next year,” he said “And then I told her the next year, and the next year, and the next year, so I was working part-time jobs as a waiter or for my uncle’s business as a store man …”

Boaster recalled that he never really felt like he had a chance to go pro in Counter-Strike, so he eventually started vlogging. When VALORANT released in 2020, however, he was back on the esports grind.

“I thought my pro career was over, but then VALORANT came out and I was like I really don’t want to do these sort of jobs,” he said. “I want to play.”

And he played well as part of the unsigned team SUMN FC who eventually got signed by Fnatic. Yet, despite being consistently excellent, Fnatic couldn’t quite win the ultimate prize, an international title.

Fnatic assemble a superteam for VCT 2023

Fast forward to 2022 which saw the biggest changes in the VALORANT esports ecosystem since the game was released. Most teams made multiple roster changes as the best talent consolidated on the 30 teams spread across Riot Games’ three international leagues that would be part of the VALORANT Champions Tour.

Fnatic were one of these 30 teams, and they assembled a roster that many dubbed a superteam. They held on to Boaster and Derke as well as Emir "Alfajer" Beder, and Fnatic brought in Leo "Leo" Jannesson and Timofey "Chronicle" Khromov to round out the five-man starting roster.

Chronicle became the first player in the young history of VALORANT to win two international VCT events. Chronicle had previously won Masters: Berlin with Gambit Esports in 2021.

Photo credit: Riot Games

“The feeling of being the only one player in this whole game who actually holds the trophy two times more than everyone is obviously great,” Chronicle told reporters after the final. “I will not say that I feel I am the greatest of the world of all time or something else. No, I even played this grand final not very well.”

Chronicle actually was the only player on the team who finished the series with a negative plus/minus as he died more times than he got kills. However, it’s a testament to his versatility that he was the only player in the series who played a different agent in each of the five maps. He credited his teammates for ultimately helping him achieve the distinguished accomplishment of being the first player to win two international VALORANT tournaments.

“It’s still great I can rely on my team when I have maybe some off day or maybe I can't play really well because of my nerves or something else,” he said. “And I’m really glad that I’m playing right now with Fnatic because we just proved that right now we are the best team.”

Fnatic didn’t drop a map at the tournament until the final, and their run was even more impressive in light of all the opponents they beat. Fittingly, they beat Sentinels in the first-round of the 32-team bracket. Sentinels’ roster includes not only Tyson “TenZ” Ngo who beat Fnatic at Reykjavík in 2021, but this year’s version of that team also has Gustavo "Sacy" Rossi and Bryan "pANcada" Luna, who won Champions with LOUD last year.

Photo credit: Riot Games

Going up against Brazilian crowd favorites and former international champions defined Fnatic’s tournament run at LOCK//IN. In addition to beating the two Brazilian players on Sentinels and LOUD, Fnatic also beat Brazilian team FURIA in São Paolo. Across five matches, Fnatic beat 11 former international VALORANT champions.

In addition to TenZ, Sacy and pANcada on Sentinels, three of LOUD’s current players were on last year’s championship team. Fnatic’s toughest challenge prior to the final was Natus Vincere, a team filled with nothing but former champions and which had looked just as strong as Fnatic heading into their semifinal matchup. Four members of NAVI won Masters: Copenhagen last year with FunPlus Phoenix, and Mehmet "cNed" İpek won Champions 2021 with Acend.

Now that LOCK//IN is over, Fnatic will fly back to their home region of Europe to kick off the inaugural season of the VCT EMEA league in Berlin. By winning LOCK//IN, Fnatic have given the EMEA league an extra slot at the next international VCT tournament, Masters: Tokyo, which will take place in June. Four EMEA teams will qualify for that tournament alongside three from the Americas league, three from the Pacific league and two from China.