Fnatic wins the LOCK//IN against LOUD
The grand final of the LOCK//IN São Paulo offered us one of the most beautiful matches of Valorant ever seen. And it was in front of a crowd that was very supportive of their opponents that Fnatic managed to win this match. By beating LOUD in this BO5, they allow Europe to get one more slot for the Tokyo Masters.
This match was a perfect representation of the expected opposition of style. On the one hand, we have LOUD, the ultra-aggressive reigning world champions who have only lost one game in the last nine months. On the other, we have Fnatic, the perennial runners-up whose game is all about strategy and teamwork. Both teams have fought their way to the final and both have the best reasons to win. LOUD wanted to shine on home soil, in front of a Brazilian crowd that supported them and screamed their names. Fnatic wanted to finally get their hands on a major international trophy.
Maps and scores of the match
LOUD 8 - 13 FNC
LOUD 7 - 13 FNC
LOUD 13 - 9 FNC
LOUD 13 - 8 FNC
LOUD 12 - 14 FNC
Fnatic, stronger than LOUD
From the very first confrontations on Ascent, it is clear that Fnatic came well prepared to face LOUD. Rather than defending the various venues in a conventional manner, they rely on both retakes and rotations to prevent the Brazilians from exploiting their greatest quality: pure offense. Often caught off guard, LOUD's players are faced with a Boaster of the great days. The Fnatic captain regularly performs triples and even had the nerve to attempt numerous knife kills when his team was on the power play. While LOUD managed to score a few points, Fnatic clearly came out on top by controlling the economy throughout the game. Fnatic then won the first map by a score of 13-8.
The scenario seemed to repeat itself on Fracture, with Fnatic dominating and LOUD constantly reacting and panicking. This time, the problem was not so much Boaster, but Leo, absolutely imperial in every round. Only cauanzin was able to get away with it on the LOUD side. The World Champions then asked for a time-out to recover and review their strategy. After that, they managed to play with more cohesion and win their first set of 4 rounds to close the Defence side. But it was a little too late, as the change of side reshuffled the deck once again and Fnatic won 7 of the 8 rounds of the second part of the map, closing Fracture on a score of 13-7.
The takeover of LOUD
On Split, the trend started to reverse. The two teams were finally evenly matched and the rounds were being won by the skin of their teeth. For every round that Fnatic won, LOUD won two right after. The Europeans seemed to have doubts for the first time and played much less loose than on the two previous maps. A time-out on the part of Fnatic was not enough to overcome the formidable defence of Less on his Viper and regain control. They only managed to get into LOUD's rhythm by winning every other round in the first side. But the European cracks became evident in the second side, when Fnatic lost their first pistol round of the match, as did the eco and bonus round that followed. LOUD now had a clear scoring advantage and was able to quietly win their first map by a score of 13-9.
Fourth map of this final, Lotus was marked by a strong start from Boaster, making 8 kills for 0 deaths in the first three rounds. The Europeans seemed to be back on track, but it didn't really last. LOUD won the fourth round and retained control of the map for the next six rounds. Lotus being a map that favours Attackers and aggressiveness, it is not so surprising to see LOUD in such good shape. But the Brazilians, and in particular Saadhak, proved that they were also capable of defending well on this new terrain. LOUD was then able to close with a score of 13-8 and equalise the final.
Icebox, the unexpected fight
Everything was going to be decided on the fifth and last map of the LOCK//IN: Icebox. And this map had many surprises in store, including an unexpected comeback.
LOUD started the match in Attack, a position that naturally gives them confidence, especially on Icebox. Although the battles were quite close, the score was clearly in LOUD's favour in the first side. Aspas on Jett was absolutely unstoppable and Fnatic never really adapted to the offensives. The Brazilian made no less than 21 kills for only 7 deaths in the first 12 rounds. Only Derke, also on Jett, seemed to be holding his own as Alfajer and Chronicle were trailing well behind. LOUD won the Attack side by a score of 9-3 and the crowd now seemed convinced that they would win this final.
Especially since at the change of sides, LOUD won the pistol round and the eco, which put them two short rounds away from victory with a score of 11-3. Unfortunately for them, it was time for Fnatic to turn the tables and do to LOUD what they have done so far by winning nine consecutive rounds. Once again, the final score is not very representative of what actually happened, as each fight was actually extremely close. If Fnatic won so many rounds, it was often in pain, following clutches or after forced escapes. But despite LOUD's pressure, they held on and completely prevented LOUD from scoring the last few rounds they were missing. The score was 11-11 when Alfajer pulls off an unexpected clutch for Fnatic. Now trailing for the first time on the map, LOUD desperately managed to hold off the win at the very last moment.
However, the reprieve was short-lived and the overtime did not last long. The team was determined not to let the game slip away, as has happened in the past, Derke takes charge with an Operator and allows Fnatic to win the first round of the overtime. But in the end it was Chronicles, rather discreet until then, who allowed his team to win the ultimate round thanks to a triple kill. Fnatic then won Icebox by a score of 14-12, after an absolutely unexpected comeback.
By winning the LOCK//IN even though everyone was predicting that they would lose to both NaVi and LOUD, the Fnatic players proved that they were not there to make up the numbers and that the changes in the team paid off.
The VCT regular season is about to get underway and the EMEA circuit can take comfort in the knowledge that there is one more place reserved for it in the Masters Tokyo.