Photo: Adela Sznajder for DreamHack
The first reaction I had when I was reading the news of the potential reunion of the MIBR squad was a flashback to the television show Lost. The famous clip where the character Jack yells, “We have to go back!” That was what played in my mind as he lineup of: Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Epitacio “TACO” de Melo, Wilton “zews” Prado, and Joao “felps” Vasconcellos reunited once again. It was a shocking move in the moment and in many ways still shocking even now. After all, we have had historical precedent of such a reunions not working in CS:GO. The Fnatic lineup that disbanded in the middle of 2016 reunited again in 2017 with lackluster results. NiP and Virtus.Pro tried to keep the same lineup together for as long as possible, but to no avail. For the Brazilians though, I do see the logic in what they are trying to recreate. For them, the success of the reunion will come down to three factors: the reimplementation of their GMing system, how they’ve matured as players since their separation, and if that combination can surpass their past selves.
In terms of the GMing, I think the MIBR squad are already on the right path. After TACO and zews had rejoined MIBR, the team set out to find a fifth. The ordering of the players they tried to recruit went as follows: Vito “kNgV-” Guiseppe, Kaike “kscerato” Cerato, and then felps. In the case of the firse, kNg posted an apology for his actions for when he was on Immortals, however it seemed unlikely given the potential visa issues. In the case of kscerato, the buyout was too high for a completely unknown player. In the end they accepted felps. This sequence of events tells us multiple things about where MIBR’s heads are at in terms of the structure of the system. They’ve come to the conclusion that the old style of recruiting all Brazilian players was the better fit for the players. From 2015-2017, the team essentially recruited based on role, cultural fit, and an ability to identify when they had hit their ceilings. On top of that, they’ve also brought zews back into the lineup and he will likely work well with FalleN given their past history.
With the system in place, it’s time we looked to the histories of the individuals since they’ve departed. Zews was the first to depart the squad back in 2016 when he tried his hand at being a player. Afterwards, he joined Liquid as a coach and is hailed as one of the best coaches in CS:GO. The reason for that was because Liquid was a hotbed of personalities who were in need of both tactical and emotional leadership. Under his leadership and multiple roster changes, the team eventually came together to become the second best team in the world in 2018.
In 2017, Felps was the one to be removed. From April to June, the SK lineup with felps was the best team in the world. At the PGL Krakow Major, they lost to an Astralis that played an incredible series in the quarterfinals. After that however, the team struggled as they started to dip down in results. They lost to G2 at DreamHack Malmo, who went on to be the eventual champions of the tournament. At ESG Mykonos and ESL New York, they lost to Liquid in resurgent form. Their worst result came at ELeague 2017, where they were eliminated in the group stages. That was their worst result and their last in the lineup as Felps was removed.
Felps was removed for internal issues. The role clash between felps and fer was never resolved and on top of that, the felps lineup had serious map pool issues at the end. It would have taken a lot of revamping to make it work at the end. Coldzera described the problems with Felps in an interview with HLTV,
“We have a system that works really well, so when boltz joined, we have this system again that is step-by-step and gives more freedom for fer and especially for me. When felps joined, I stopped doing a lot of good things I used to like to do so that he could try it. But he didn’t play inside the system, a lot of the time it was random. He tried to do it, but it was random.”
In terms of outside the game, Fallen mentioned it as one of the factors in his interview he did with cybersport,
“The change was a sum up of felps being a little bit burned out from playing roles he didn’t even like, requiring a lot of adjustment. Small problems that we had to deal with outside the game eventually became more difficult for felps to deal with, more so than other players.”
As for Felps, he’d eventually end on playing for a much smaller team on INTZ. During that period, he was forced to learn new lessons about himself and about his career. The team wasn’t nearly as successful as his previous ones on Immortals or SK. At the same time, the team lacked leadership and so he took it upon himself to become the leader as he had the most knowledge and experience among his teammates at playing against the NA teams. This may have helped him mature as a player as he says in his HLTV interview that,
“Not having an organisation was good, it made us grow and work thrice as hard…Today I understand that this is a job, that this is a rare opportunity and that you have to give your best every time.”
The third member to depart from the MIBR squad was TACO in 2018. During that period, the team had slumped and hit disastrous results. It had gotten to the point that the team had tried to acquire Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev and Egor “flamie” Vasilyev in place of TACO and Ricardo “boltz” Prass. The move didn’t go through, but the message was clear that the old all Brazilian lineup was gone and that the team was planning to go international. At that moment in time, MIBR were at a strange crossroads. They could have either stuck together to try to rebuild what they had or split apart. In the end they split apart. TACO left the team as he was no longer happy and as he explains in his farewell twitlonger,
“During all this time, every second in the team I felt the outside pressure on me was always HEAVY and maybe this is one of the reasons why I came to this closure.”
Soon after, TACO left to join Liquid where he fit into their system. One month into the roster, the Liquid squad was able to make it to the finals of ESL Proleague Season 7 Finals. As the year went on, Liquid continued to be one of the best teams in the world as they continually made it to the finals of tournaments, to only fall short to the end. The backbreakers were at ESL New York where they lost to Mouz in a bo5 and the last stand against Astralis at ESL Proleague Season 8 Finals where they lost to them in their fifth grand finals encounter. For TACO, this must have been extremely frustrating as it was a hurdle that didn’t seem fixable. In an interview with HLTV, he explained that,
“When it comes to that moment that we are close to winning the tournament, we just shut down. I don’t know how to explain it, if I knew how to explain it I would just fix it “
As for the remaining MIBR squad, they teamed up with Jacky “Stewie2K” Yip. During this period, there was a lot of turmoil in the team. Boltz seemed to have lost all confidence in his play and that affected his in-game performance. Stewie2k was a good player, but was in some weird middle-ground between being a star and a role player. The in-game leader role was swapped around as Coldzera took in-game leadership from FalleN, before eventually giving it back. After four months of disappointing performances, the team got Tarik “tarik” Celik to become their fifth. His didn’t turn around the ship, and as a last resort they got Janko “YNk” Paunovic as a coach.
YNk was able to get the team to a better place than it started. He implemented a culture that FalleN believes helped them improve, “For me particularly, it was important to have him enter the team because it’s not that he taught me anything new, but he at least made me realize things I wasn’t doing anymore, the pace of the game that I wasn’t putting into it, and some particular stuff inside the game, he helped me a lot with my individual style, as well.”
Inside the server, the team looked to be a better cohesive whole after YNk joined. They started to get better results and even had very close series against Astralis throughout the rest of 2018. However outside of those peak moments, the team was never able to find a polarizing identity that could make them the best in the world. Thus, by the end of 2018, the Brazilian players decided that a change needed to be made, a change to go back to the way things were.
Thus we come back to the present. Each of the player have gone through trials that have made them different people or players as a result. In the case of zews, he left LG as a kind of unknown quantity. He was the coach of a two-time Major winning team, but it was hard to gauge how much impact he had. On Liquid, he proved to the world that he was one of the best coaches and this move back to MIBR will be different from the last time he was here. He’s now built his own clout outside of FalleN’s shadow and should MIBR become world contenders once again, his own legacy will grow even further as a legendary coach in the space.
In the case of felps, he had to be removed to understand the opportunity he had lost the first time around in SK. He had gone from one of the best orgs, traveling through the world, and battling for premier titles, to trying to survive in online leagues. That transition may have helped him grow both as a person and as a player as he also became an in-game leader and with that experience, it could make him more accepting of the roles he may have to play in MIBR.
As for TACO, he was one of the most openly criticized players back during the crumbling of MIBR in the beginning of 2018. However he was tired of bearing the burden of pressure that came with playing for the top Brazilian scene and while he was wildly successful on Liquid, he was never able to get the championships he wanted. So even though playing for MIBR came with immense pressure, it also gave him the titles that he was yearning for. While TACO has always been certain of his own worth, the time away from his old squad will have solidified how useful he was to his past teammates as well.
As for FalleN, Coldzera, and fer, they’ve tried all manner of action to try to get back to the top. They went with the international lineup. They changed in-game leaders. They got a coach to implement a culture. At the end of the day though, they were never able to get to the heights that they wanted and have come to appreciate what they once had before when they were an all Brazilian lineup, and thus the reunion was formed.
However, as I’ve pointed out earlier, reunions such as this haven’t had much success in CS:GO, so what makes this different? I think it will come down to the experiences they’ve had through their time apart. In the case of Coldzera, he likely has come to appreciate what players like FalleN and TACO have done in terms of leadership and support as he tried his hand at being the in-game leader for a bit in 2018 and spent a year without TACO.
As for FalleN, he seemed to be losing confidence in himself throughout the year as he was no longer the infallible god leader of the past. Back in 2017, he was a man who could go into the heart of Denmark and tell the Danish crowd that he was going to turn the place into a library by beating Astralis. In 2018, he lost that swagger and confidence that only came back after he led his squad to beating them at ECS Season 6 Finals Groups Stage. FalleN’s weakness was an inability to rely on others, but this year he’s had other help him with leading the team and a coach. WIth Zews reuniting with him, the two of them could make magic happen once again.
As for Zews, he was given a lot more freedom outside of FalleN’s system as he was the de-facto leader of Liquid when he was the coach. Liquid before he arrived was a minefield of personalities and egos, but they eventually became a coherent team. With zews now joining the squad, he can bring that expertise and become the glue guy and extra man MIBR need to hold it all together for this particular set of Brazilian players. This is critical when we consider the felps situation, both in the past and the preset.
Consider the fall of the original felps lineup in 2017. During that period, zews wasn’t part of the lineup. The SK squad reached the top of the scene by having Felps sacrifice his playstyle to enable the likes of Coldzera and fer. That solution no longer worked as Felps didn’t enjoy playing that role. That could no longer be the case as Felps has matured as a player and may have a bigger appreciation for the sacrifices that are needed at the top level. In addition to that, zews can be the missing link that gets Felps to buy into the system and become a critical element that MIBR need to come back to the top, whether that’s as a star or support player.
All of this will be predicated on the assumption that their natural synergy will come back. After all, when we think of the different lineups from SK to MIBR, from Lincoln “fnx” Lau to the temporary stand-in with Ricardo “fox” Pacheco to felps to boltz. All of them had the same core identity, incredible team and an ascendant clutch factor that made them one of the most exciting teams to watch. That special identity went away after TACO left the lineup, but his return to the team could be the catalyst to make that special identity come back to the Brazilians.
While it is impossible to know the future, if we look to the past, there is some level of historical precedent. We’ve seen the Brazilians have moments of turmoil that forced them to go back to the drawing board and then come back stronger for it. When the fnx lineup started to fail, they played the same style, but with fox in the lineup as a stand-in. After that, they tried a duel aggressive style using fer and felps as the primary weapons, but after that experiment failed, once again we saw the Brazilians iron out their style of play and come back stronger in 2017 with Felps. Once the felps lineup stopped working, we saw them make it work again with Boltz.
While some are doubtful of the reunion, I am optimistic. The style of play the LG/SK squad used from 2015-2017 is one of the best we’ve seen. It’s a style that gave them incredible strength in teamplay, that allowed them to close power play situations, that allowed them to have supernatural teamwork, and one that allowed them to be one of the clutchest teams we’ve seen in the game. While the game has evolved, that style of play should still be relevant today. On top of that, historical precedent has told us that time and time again, the Brazilian core have proven that they can rebuild and retool their style of play for each year they’ve played CS:GO. The only time it failed was in 2018 when the team parted ways with TACO. That time apart though may have given them the perspective they needed to see what made them so special in the first place. Should that style of play still remain intact in this reunion, the additional elements of Felps maturing and zews coaching could be the catalyst needed to become greater than they were before. For MIBR, that is the point of this reunion. Not just to go back to a lineup that was great, but to go back and make it even greater. To create a system, team, and culture that has the potential to topple the Danish Dynasty of Astralis.