Marking the start of the Dota shuffle season, Fnatic offlaner Khoo Chong Xin, or “Ohaiyo,” was removed from the team’s roster in favor of Saahil “Universe” Arora, ending Xin’s two-and-a-half-year tenure at the organization.
The swap comes literally moments after the offlane player helped the squad earn a spot at the upcoming ESL One Katowice, a Dota Pro Circuit Major worth $1 million and a large number of Qualifying Points.
According to Xin, he was left in the dark, while other players knew about the swap in the days leading to the reveal. He was informed of his departure in the post-qualifier pizza party celebration, and Arora had already arrived in the area to acclimate. Fnatic later confirmed Arora’s quiet signing and arrival, claiming the secrecy was due to negotiation issues, as Arora’s former team Evil Geniuses still had to close out their current contract.
Due to the concerns created by the situation, Fnatic have promised Xin a percentage of prize money won by Fnatic at ESL One Katowice. Xin does not appear to have another team lined up at the time of writing.
The sequence of decisions made by the organization and roster have come under fire by fans, who point out Xin’s recent successes and long-time loyalty to the organization.
Fnatic’s captain and carry, Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao, has especially drawn ire from the community, as the player has a history of being present in or spearheading controversial team changes.
Words from the offlane
Soon after the change was announced, Xin himself responded in a public Facebook post. In short, he shares that he was informed during the post-qualifier celebration about his replacement.
Xin expresses that he’s “not upset about being replaced,” but rather “being used by my teammates for their own benefit.” He claims that his teammates knew, but he didn’t, and he believes that the team shouldn’t qualify for the event on the premises of the situation.
His full post below is included for preservation purposes:
After thinking for these few days, I would like to talk about my feeling about how I got replaced by Universe. It is so sad and cruel, after winning TNC and qualified to ESL One Katowice Major Main Event. We had a pizza dinner to celebrate but after we finished, I was informed by Adam Shah ( Fnatic coach ) and Eric Khor ( Fnatic Manager ) that I’ve been replaced by Universe and they told me that Universe arrived Malaysia just the day before Fnatic vs TnC Grand final EslOne Katowice which was last Thursday. Universe stayed in EE sama rental house after he arrived Malaysia. (EE sama stays in another personal house due to his personal living.) This is how cruel they are, no matter the tournament win or lose, I will be replaced. Im not upset about being replaced , Im disappointed on being used by my teammates for their own benefit. They could just replace me once Universe is here, but not after we got the slot to Esl One Katowice. Perhaps they worry about losing the slot to a major event, so they choose not to change Universe on that day. I sense that everyone know Major is very important to each team and player. As I know, some players got informed just two three days ago before I got the news on last Friday night. Actually they should not be qualified for this major event by using those gimmick. Im writing this because I’m too disappointed on the decision maker and accomplice that use someone effort just for their own benefit. A lie with a purpose is one of the worst kinds, and the most profitable.
Xin, hailing from Malaysia, had been a loyal staple of Fnatic for two and a half years, joining before The International 5. He was present during the filming of Valve documentary True Sight in late 2016, when his team was followed for the Boston Major but failed to make it under the leadership of Jimmy “DeMoN” Ho and Chai Yee “Mushi” Fung.
The team also made the top four at The International 6, defying expectations for a squad from this region.
Previously, he attended TI3 under Orange Esports and lost to then-runner-up Natus Vincere. Orange then became Team Malaysia, which temporarily played as EHOME.Malaysia during their run at the Dota Asia Championships 2015.
Fnatic speaks out
In the comments of the announcement post on Facebook, the CEO of Fnatic, Patrik “cArn” Sättermon, discussed the move. He also shared that Ohaiyo will take home a portion of any winnings from the ESL One Katowice Major.
The comment is included in full for preservation purposes:
We want to emphasize that this decision was not taken lightly, and even that the timing of the change may look off given our team’s recent progress, it’s the only real option we have with the approaching roster lock(which only recently was communicated) to secure a player which we think can further accelerate our development, and with that taking us closer to winning our first international tournament.
Ohaiyo has been a cornerstone of our DOTA team since we returned to the title in 2015, and we have nothing but respect and appreciation for his loyalty, hard work, and contributions to the squad and Fnatic as a whole. I personally cherish many great memories from working with Ohaiyo and I will never forget the amazing run him and the team had at TI6 where we made it to top 4.
We are now helping Ohaiyo seek other options as a player, but we are equally open to continue working with him in other capacities as few come close to his experience and professional attitude. Due to Ohaiyo’s attendance at the recent Katowice Major he will also be given a share of any prize money winnings from the LAN finals.
For our squad the grind and aspiration to be the best at what we do continues with full force and you will already tomorrow see us battling out in the Bucharest Major qualifier, where Universe will make his debut as a Black and Orange. I want to use this opportunity to thank all the Fnatic fans for your support and we will do our utmost to make 2018 another memorable year.
On Wednesday, January 17, he released a formal press statement about the situation, explaining the timeline of the situation.
He claims Fnatic had received information about the upcoming registration period, and so the negotiations to sign Arora began accordingly. Due to contract issues, they allegedly couldn’t discuss such signings until everything had come through, but Arora was quietly allowed to travel in the meantime.
Sättermon claims in both statements that Fnatic will do their best to assist Xin in finding another team, and they’ll keep avenues open for Xin to work with the organization on other opportunities.
Fnatic had a season of mixed success. While the organization is based out of Europe, their Dota 2 squad lives and trains in Southeast Asia. The region has become increasingly competitive due to the popularity of Dota 2 and competitive gaming in general. It’s been an uphill climb for most SEA teams, especially Fnatic, which only directly qualified for two Pro Circuit events before this incident—and qualified by proxy for two more due to other teams’ travel issues or conflicts.
No calm in the Eternal storm
While team kicks and shuffles are actually strikingly common in Dota 2, Jacky Mao himself is known for being frequently present in the midst of turbulent roster changes. Fans and some pros took notice in this case and pointed their criticisms at the Fnatic captain.
In the 2013-14 competitive season, he was part of Speed Gaming International when their manager, Marco ‘Thyton’ Fernandez, was accused of improperly handling the team and its finances. The roster was then taken in by Cloud9. Here, the shuffles were frequent, but Mao stayed at the center of the team’s strategy. He was also part of the “2nd place” meme as a result of their frequent near-win placements.
After The International 5, Mao joined Team Secret at a controversial point for the team in which the rosters owned well-known talent, such as Aliwi “w33” Omar, Sam “BuLba” Sosale and eventually Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Arora, who had won TI5 months prior with Evil Geniuses. However, due to the frequency and impact of the squad’s shuffling, they fell under scrutiny from fans.
Upon departure from Secret in 2016, Mao released a blog, which has since been deleted, explaining he had never been given certain payments or gifts by Team Secret. He also released a private video of captain and founder Clement “Puppey” Ivanov smashing a screen during a scrim.
When he left, he formed Team NP, which saw some success, including qualifying for the Valve-sponsored Boston Major. The player suddenly dropped two players in the middle of the Spring 2017 season after not qualifying for the Kiev Major, though they picked up new players for TI7 qualifiers. Although they qualified for TI7 and gained a sponsorship from Cloud9, they fizzled out after TI, and the squad, in all its iterations, lasted less than a year. From here, EE departed to Fnatic.
For this history as being a decision-maker in some of the roster-related issues, fans in the case of Xin have focused their frustrations at Mao. It was also noted by Xin that the rental house for Arora was arranged by Mao himself, fueling the critical fire.
Mao will speak on Thursday on the HotCox podcast, likely giving his perspective about the situation.