Right Time, Right Place, Right Team: The Rise and Fall of the 2016 Brazilian CS:GO Era Part 2
FalleN had, through intelligent cultivation of his domestic scene, been dealt an incredible hand. He unknowingly showed the world his proverbial two aces at the FACEIT Stage 3 finals, but following a poor finish to 2015 at the ESL ESEA Season 2 Finals, everyone quickly forgot the capabilities of the roster. The New Year would bring about a slew of new international LAN's for FalleN and his side to play in though, the first of which was at StarLadder XIV Finals.
It was here that we would see the gradient of improvement take form. They had suffered two Bo3 losses to Na`Vi in their previous LAN, but Minsk FalleN showed a more refined element of his old system: Anti-stratting.
Historically, the Luminosity roster had been famous for being a highly-tuned machine when it came to watching and analysing their opponents. Always prepared and ready, even if they couldn't out aim their enemies, at least they could accurately predict where they would be. However, with this iteration of the roster not only did they now have those original tactics, but also the firepower and team play to back it up. Na`Vi, along with the rest of the world, also quickly learned following their 2-0 loss to Luminosity at StarLadder that Mirage meant that there was no safe haven from the Brazilians. Luminosity went on to finish top four, losing again to Fnatic who went on to win the tournament.
FalleN had, through intelligent cultivation of his domestic scene, been dealt an incredible hand.
The personnel in the squad was starting to shape-up into contenders for the top spot, with a solid map-pool to boot. Coldzera had been the stand-out player for the side by averaging over 20 kills a game, even in losses. His will was undeniable and when paired with the ceiling for improvement, he was the burgeoning superstar for the Brazilian side. Alongside Coldzera's young aim was the veteran hand of FalleN - who over the last few tournaments had blossomed into a dueling AWP star for the side. Behind these forces-of-nature was a team still laddened with skill. Fer hadn't taken a break from improving since his days as the stars early in the roster. Fnx and TACO filled opposite ends of the spectrum - one an aggressive entry fragger, the other a passive lurker.
The tools were in place for the Brazilian side. They had a workable map pool, the right players and more importantly than that, they were working together in the right fashion. The only thing missing to take them to the level beyond the fourth best team in the world where they currently resided, were the intangibles. With some help from forces outside of their control and a tournament-to-tournament snowball of momentum building, they could potentially do what no non-European team had done before.
IEM Katowice was the most stacked event of the year before the Major - MLG Columbus. The top ten teams in the world were all out in full force, and with a vintage group stage format that had teams playing five Bo1's each to see who would advance, there was little wriggle room for excuses. The Na`Vi/Luminosity rivalry once again manifested in the Semi-Finals. Although on the other side of the fence, Egor "flamie" Vasilyev was having the tournament of his life, FalleN's will was undeniable. Dropping 36 frags in regulation time on Inferno, and out-dueling Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács at every corner, it was undeniable that FalleN now had one of the most powerful AWP presences in the game. The Bo5 Grand Final against Fnatic was too tall of an order for Luminosity though, as although two overtime losses bought them painfully close to a full five game series, they were once again denied their first international LAN win.
MLG Columbus would be the first Major this iteration of the roster would attend together, and would also be the first time in the rosters history they were marked as favourites to go past their traditional playoff finish. They were ranked as the third best team in the world, with only Na`Vi and Fnatic standing above them.
Their heart was weighed against the feather of Polish might in the quarterfinals, with Virtus.pro looking to eat the desires and expectations of the Brazilians with a close Bo3 series. But, Luminosity prevailed. The same story would again appear in the semis, driven to the brink of defeat at every opportunity by Team Liquid with the addition of Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. But again, they prevailed. In the Grand Final they would face off against Na`Vi, their traditional rivals. This time around though, it would seem fate was on their side. Guardian's wrist had been subjugated to an injury and his presence in-game greatly diminished. Luminosity, on the biggest stage of their lives, was now looking to secure what just months ago no-one had thought possible. So, just as they had in the two hardest series of the tournament against Virtus.pro and Liquid, the Brazilians prevailed.
In the Grand Final they would face off against Na`Vi, their traditional rivals. This time around though, it would seem fate was on their side.
They were in the right place, at the right time, and as such became the right team to do the job. Had Astralis not surprisingly eliminated Fnatic in the round-of-eight, this foundation for the Brazilian CS:GO era could be non-existent at all. Had Guardian been playing as his old self and taken over the game with his superstar AWP'ing presence, maybe the foundation would disappear also. However, regardless of any extraneous forces, Luminosity were a killer team, that had worked through barriers that most other teams would collide with and fall. Even if elements of their first Major win was diminished, no other team had a harder road to that point and no other team was more deserving of the apex of Counter-Strike glory.
Their Major win meant they were now the second best team in the world, with their only superior being Fnatic with their trophy ridden resume of wins. The tournament immediately following Columbus, Dreamhack Masters Malmo was quickly blamed on fatigue as the Brazilians punctuated their first LAN win with a last place finish in Sweden. This, in hindsight, was not a driving factor in the narrative of their era, rather just an anomaly that can be quickly forgotten. The real story in Malmo was that Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer revealed a serious problem with his wrist. No longer could he play with Fnatic, as he needed time off for it to heal, and in his place a stand-in would be used. Whether it be through the will of the Gods, or a dam of built up good karma washing over them, the most stable player of the biggest contenders to their era was now out.
With the two biggest names for the two biggest teams most likely to beat them gone, the time for their takeover was nigh; the Brazilian era of CS:GO could begin.
They quickly cemented themselves as the number one team in the world with wins at Dreamhack Austin, the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals and a second place finish at the ECS Finals. The only team that could seemingly play upset to Luminosity was the French side - G2 Esports. G2 had both Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom and Richard "shox" Papillon returning to vintage levels of form, and their two-man combo proved to be a difficult hurdle to overcome for the Brazilians. However, once again it would seem fate was on their side. Despite being disqualified from the biggest non-Major LAN of the year - ELEAGUE - due to organisational controversy, they were still the favourites headed into ESL One: Cologne 2016. This was, in part, due to their biggest problem in G2 being placed in what was called the 'group of death.'
The seeding of this group would be pivotal for securing 2016 as the Brazilians undisputed year. Luminosity, now playing as SK Gaming due to the aforementioned organisational controversy, was placed alongside G2, Fnatic and Faze. Three potential Finalists in one group. Due to the way the matches played out, and the Brazilians beating G2 in the opening game, they never had to face their French kryptonite in a Bo3, as they were eliminated by Fnatic. With G2 down, the road to the Finals was a relatively clear one. The only speed bumps they could face would be Virtus.pro who had recently won ELEAGUE, and Fnatic, who with olofmeister back in the roster, was volatile contenders. Fnatic were eliminated in shocking fashion by Team Liquid in the semi-finals, and although Virtus.pro once again tested SK Gaming's hearts in a close Bo3, they once again prevailed. Although Liquid were in-form, SK Gaming were still the best team in the world and the Grand Final ended in relatively underwhelming fashion with the Brazilians winning another Major title in back-to-back fashion.
With two Major wins under their belt, 2016 was undeniably the Brazilian era of CS:GO. Coldzera had transformed from a rookie talent to burgeoning superstar, to the best player in the world. He challenged the most talented individuals to ever grace CS:GO in Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and s1mple, for the title constantly. FalleN also found himself regularly in the conversation of the top five players in the world, or if not that, at least as the best AWPer.
Unfortunately for SK, the intangible aspects that were outside of their control that had been crucial in bringing them to the point of creating an era for themselves, was also their downfall. Fer had to go into surgery and the Brazilians refused to use a stand-in in his place, and as such didn't attend any tournaments following their win at Cologne. When they came back, it was clear that the weight of their results no longer meant as much, and form didn't transfer well over the break. Failure to make the Grand Finals at both ESL One: New York, and EPICENTER, losing to Virtus.pro on both occasions, cemented the end of their time on top.
Unfortunately for SK, the intangible aspects that were outside of their control that had been crucial in bringing them to the point of creating an era for themselves, was also their downfall.
Although the narrative of the Luminosity/SK era will continue until a roster swap happens, it is undeniable that their period of dominance is now over. Although they could go on to win more tournaments, or make finals appearances, this is just an extension of their story, rather than an extension of their era. The time has passed, but in saying that, what a time it had been.
The short-lived 2016 Brazilian era from MLG Columbus until a month after ESL One: Cologne, is one that is very fitting of a team who started from nothing. Their time on top can be defined just as their journey to get their, as a well-round team that capitalises on opportunity through a carefully cultivated system of play. Although you can call their ascension to the top a reliance on luck and forces beyond their control, there are many teams who if presented with the same series of fortunate circumstances would not be able to capitalise. There are even more teams who presented with the same series of unfortunate circumstances that they had to face, would crumble rather than preserve.
So, don't look on the Brazilian era of CS:GO as one that had the five best players of all-time forcing their will onto teams that stand no chance in their unwavering domination of a scene. No, we have the 2014/15 Fnatic era for that. Look at the Brazilians time on top as the result of what a lifetime of dedication to a cause can achieve, and the penultimate end to an inspiring rags, to riches story.
What are your thoughts on the Luminosity/SK Gaming's era of dominance? let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @GAMURScom.
If you made it all the way through both parts, that's an admirable effort! Thank you for taking the time to read it all, is much appreciated on my end. If you liked this piece, you'd probably enjoy a similar two-part series that I wrote on Fnatic's Dynasty which you can read here. Easiest way to get into touch would be on Twitter @max_melit