Piecing together the puzzle: How Kyno’s rapid rise led to Oxygen R6’s NAL surge

Three-and-a-half years ago, he was learning English. Now, he leads the NAL.

Photo by Joao Ferreira via Ubisoft

Before his first official round in the NAL, Leonardo “Kyno” Figueiredo questioned if he belonged in the premier North American Rainbow Six Siege league. After it was completed, however, he knew he could run with the big dogs. 

A strong opening round would get any new player’s confidence up. But that has to be especially true for Kyno, who notched an ace during his first round against XSET in March.

To start the round, Oxygen lost two players to XSET roamers. With the man count at three-vs-five, Kyno found his first victim, who knocked him down to around 25 percent HP in the process. A pair of nifty angles cut XSET down to size and the round was all of a sudden in a two-vs-two scenario.

Kyno shouldn’t have been able to win any gunfight after his initial one. Most defender guns hit for above 25 damage. A sneeze or a particularly strong gust of digital wind would’ve killed him. But in the end, he didn’t need his teammate who was left alive, Gabriel “LaXInG” Mirelez. He finished the final pair of XSET players off with relative ease. 

“I wasn’t expecting anything, like, really good from myself,” Kyno said of that seemingly fateful first round. “After that first round, my confidence went through the roof. I was like ‘yeah, I’m capable of doing this.'”

Oxygen went on to beat XSET 7-5 and fought their way to a first-place finish in Stage One of the NAL. In a tumultuous stage where the other perennial powers of the NAL failed to stick in the top four, Oxygen achieved one of their best results ever. 

For the youngster from Brazil, it was a tangible step forward in a young, budding career. 

Kyno only learned English three and a half years ago, after he moved to the U.S. He got his Challenger League spot at 18 after a friend offered it to him, he says. 

“It was tough stuff in the beginning but I was going to school, so I had no option but to learn English one way or another,” Kyno told Dot Esports. “After like a couple months I could understand everything, but I could like barely talk, but it’s getting better.”

Kyno claims he was the shy kid in school, but his play on the server is the opposite. While playing traditional support roles, he achieved a +19 in K/D plus-minus in the stage. Despite his shy status, he’s a bit of a joker. He claims his catchphrase of sorts, “life is a puzzle,” doesn’t mean anything and was concocted to annoy his friends. “So, what most people don’t know is that I don’t even know the meaning behind that,” Kyno said. “I honestly started saying that just to piss my old teammates off, for no reason at all.”

He began his career with Challenger League team The Favelas, where he played a puzzling combination of Ash on attack in aggressive roles and Smoke on defense in more passive roles. There might not be a more bizarre combination of operators.

“So when [Oxygen] offered me the spot, and that had to play support I was nervous. I thought it wasn’t gonna work,” Kyno said. “I never played it before, I had no idea what to do. But they were really supportive, and are trying to mold me into a natural support player.”

Oxygen snapped up Kyno before the 2021 season of the NAL, but he originally wasn’t set to be on the roster. The player they were going to pick up but couldn’t because of visa issues recommended Kyno as a replacement to Oxygen, according to assistant coach Taylor “Redeemer” Mayeur.

“I believe that in Kyno’s mind, he felt like joining our team could be temporary… So, unsure of where his career would be in six months, Kyno had a choice,” Redeemer said. “He could either coast during this time or he could put on the show of a lifetime. I think we all know the direction he chose.”

Heading into the Six Invitational 2021, Kyno was in an unenviable situation. He was the best-performing player on what had suddenly become NA’s best-performing team at only 18 years old. The pressures of the Six Invitational are immense and it’s easy for younger players to get lost in the moment, like a deer staring into the headlights of an oncoming pickup truck. 

Similar to his opening NAL game, Kyno didn’t deny he had nerves heading into SI. “I was playing ranked a year ago, and now I’m going to Invite,” he said.

While there’s the existential pressure of performing in France at Rainbow Six Siege’s largest event, the lack of a crowd likely helped calm the nerves of younger players. Exactly which teams received a clear advantage from a lack of a crowd isn’t entirely clear, but it stands to reason that newer players got a little weight off their shoulders and teams that feed off the energy of a crowd wouldn’t perform as well. 

Another bonus for Kyno? He had been playing on LAN for an entire stage, something the rest of the world hasn’t done. The 2021 season of the NAL is being played at the Esports Arena in Las Vegas in an offline environment. 

“Coming out of the NAL split, we had a good amount of time to practice quick match turn-arounds and preparing for a ton of teams in a short amount of time,” Redeemer said. 

Oxygen started the Six Invitational slowly but fought their way into the upper bracket. Over the first two playdays, Oxygen only scraped together a single win as opposed to three losses. They went a perfect 3-0 over the final day of the group stage and were set for an upper bracket date with Team Empire. 

Oxygen upset Empire 2-0 but were eventually eliminated by fellow NA team TSM.

“Clearly we went from top four to placing first, we were able to push through that barrier that we couldn’t with the old roster,” LaXInG said of Kyno and Yoggah’s addition to the team in an interview after Oxygen exited SI. “It’s an accomplishment in of itself, with two brand new guys with zero pro league experience. We won NAL, we placed fifth-sixth at SI, the biggest event of the year.”

Before Stage One of the NAL, TSM, Spacestation, and DarkZero were favored by most over Oxygen, especially given Oxygen’s 2020 NAL run. Now, Oxygen are on top of the NAL heading into the second stage with a solid SI performance to boot—and they’re a bit tired of being misrepresented by fans who claim they’re unstructured. 

“We still have the aggressive playstyle, but we’re focusing more on the structured side, for sure,” Kyno said. 

The NAL will return on June 14 and Oxygen will begin their first-place defense against beastcoast.