Building an Empire: The Fallen System
Be the change that you wish to see in the World. - Mahatma Gandhi
In the past few months, Luminosity has become the best team in the world and Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo has earned recognition as the world’s best in-game leader. There are some caveats to that, as Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer Gustafsson and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács had injuries, but Luminosity can’t do anything about that. They simply beat the best teams they face. They are still an incredible team and those quibbles only mean something when used in the context of comparing the all-time greatest lineups in the history of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. And the foundations of that success is the FalleN system.
Back during CS 1.6, FalleN was a star AWP player for his team. Once CS:GO started, the popularity of the game declined in Brazil and there were few players or leaders left. Left with no recourse, FalleN founded the Games Academy in January 2012. The academy became the cornerstone on which FalleN built the Brazilian scene. Through it, he taught CS:GO to new players to raise the overall level of the region.
The two best examples of this I could find were his VOD review of VP vs Tempo Storm and in-game roles on Mirage. Both videos can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/user/FalleNINSIDER/videos.
The biggest lessons I took from the in-game roles video is the concept of space and the concept of roles. The entire map is a siege; a battle for space and information where Ts and CTs jockey for and try to take favorable positions. This concept of space and fighting for space is emphasized in the various CS:GO roles he defines as: Entry, Support/IGL, AWP, and Lurker. Each role has specific actions they must fulfill in order for the team to function. However, the biggest aspect to FalleN’s system is that all players should know how all of the other roles function within the team. While every player has a specialty role, they can take over a different role depending on the circumstances of the game, whether it be nade count, positioning or down players. This allows for a fluidity of action that lets every player understand the overall plan and strategy of the round in any situation.
This thought process has disseminated through all of the variations of FalleN’s teams from Kabum to KeyD to Luminosity. However, there was one key difference between the current iteration of Luminosity compared to the previous versions. In the previous iterations, FalleN took a lot more direct control and did more anti-strating. Neither was possible going into The FACEIT Stage 3 finals as Luminosity swapped for Lincoln "fnx" Lau and Epitacio "TACO" Pessoa six days before the event. With no choice, FalleN was forced to take on a more loose captaining style. This was a watershed moment as Luminosity made their largest tournament result ever. FalleN had ceded some of his authority to give every player on his team more chances to act individually.
The difference between Luminosity and a team like FaZe however was that the entire Luminosity squad understood the team concept and how their actions affected the team. This meant that every individual action of each player had a purpose. When other players peek a corner, it is so they can take out an enemy. When Luminosity do it, it is to find information or create space. At the same time, they can depend on another player to support them with a flash or a nade and give them cover. When it comes to power play situations, such as situations where Luminosity are in a 5v4 or 4v3, they are the best team in the world at closing them out because of their understanding of the team concept.
The philosophical difference between what FalleN does compared to something like what Sean "sgares" Gares did on Cloud9 can be likened to giving a man a fish and teaching a man how to fish. Sgares could bring his team to the heights of CS briefly, but he could never make them understand why or how they fit into the system. This eventually broke them apart and Cloud9 has not been able to recover since. In FalleN’s case, his entire team seem to understand where and what to do without comprehensive instruction.
It has become a symbiotic relationship. FalleN has a large impact on the way his team plays and how they think. They, in turn, have a large impact on the way he plays and the way he directs the game. FalleN had gone out of his way to state how his teammates have made him a better player and leader. He has pointed out how players like Marcelo "coldzera" David gives him ideas for tactics mid game and gave him control in an Overtime against Na`Vi. In essence, other teams only have a leader or coach deciding everything, but Luminosity has everyone involved and this raises them to a higher level without losing the unity a team needs.
This thought process has spread not only through FalleN’s team, but through his sister team in Tempo Storm and all of the players that have taken up his Games Academy class. Even the way he handles the social situations of teams has spread. Players like fnx and João "felps" Vasconcellos were criticized before for having a bad attitude when it came to teams despite being great players. Fnx, upon joining Games Academy and then later Luminosity, completely reversed that as he became a strong team player that people wanted to play with rather than a player his teammates had to play with. Felps had a reputation for being a great player but blamed others for his mistakes and constantly booted players from his teams. This changed upon his arrival on Tempo Storm and he has become a key part to that team’s success.
However, if you were to ask me what Luminosity’s biggest strength is, it is the constant effort to become better than they were a day before. The squad from Kabum to KeyD to Luminosity was always finding a way to improve. They first became specialists on certain maps like Mirage so they could upset better teams. They then slowly expanded their map pool and when they hit a cap on their abilities, they would make the hard choice and swap players. Eventually, they became one of the best teams in the world, but had problems closing games against the best teams in the world like Fnatic and Na`Vi. They got past that problem too as they continued to change and tweak roles and improve their maps. By the end of the MLG Major, they took the title that used to belong to Fnatic.
There is a Japanese proverb that goes, “After victory tighten your helmet strap.” It is a saying that after you become the greatest is when you are likely to fall, as you let your guard down and become complacent. We need only look to the case of the previous winners of the Major in EnVyUs to see how true this is. They believed they had cracked the code of CS:GO and that their way of playing was the answer to the competition. Months after their Major victory, they spiraled to the bottom and have been unable to find any solution as they see team after team pass them by.
When Luminosity won the Major, they looked ahead. They tried to build on their momentum and boot camped in Europe to get even better and try to expand their map pool with the addition of cache. This backfired as they had burned out and lost to Tyloo in the group stages of the next event. Yet that failure taught them to be wary of burnout and made them switch to expanding their map pool to Dust 2 instead.
The way Luminosity approach CS:GO is similar to the way Japanese swordsmiths forge steel. They constantly fold the steel and weld it over and over again. With each turn, the impurities are removed as they continue to refine the steel until there is a sharp edge. Luminosity do the same thing and know that in the modern CS:GO world, their hold as the world’s best team is tenuous. Any team below them can win and the only way to stay ahead of the pack is to constantly improve step by step, to be better than you were a day before and failing that to try again and again.
In under two years, FalleN and the Brazilian team had nothing. No LANs, no players, no teams, no sponsors, no infrastructure, no coaches. Today, they have it all; the best team in the world and another team in the top ten. New stars, teams, salaries, and coaches are constantly rising up, and even as Luminosity pushes forward, FalleN still focuses on spreading the foundations on which he founded his success in Games Academy. The first English CS:GO lessons of Games Academy were released along with 26 different language subtitles. An empire can only be as strong as the foundations it is laid upon and FalleN is already looking to the next step, to raise the basic level of CS:GO to as many people as he can reach, and to give a chance to players that were stuck in the situation he was in back in 2012.
FalleN has already made it, but he sees how much more the CS:GO community can be by spreading the game and helping players from smaller countries to improve the scene. Just like in 2012, FalleN is not waiting around for tournament organizers or teams to do the work. He has gone ahead of them to teach CS to as many people as he can reach. He will improve the scene with his own two hands and lead the way. This attitude, foresight and dedication to improve is why FalleN is revered around the world as CS:GO’s best in-game leader and one of it’s biggest community leaders.