On July 10, 2016, the boys from Brazil — Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer“ Alvarenga, Marcelo “coldzera” David, Lincoln “fnx” Lau, Epitácio “TACO“ de Melo and Wilton “zews“Prado — raised their second major trophy and joined a small elite club of teams like Ninjas in Pyjamas and Fnatic to have ever dominated Counter-Strike: Global Offensive for a prolonged period of time. This was it; this was the start of an era.
On Nov. 26, 2014, over one year and eight months ago, Major League Gaming announced qualifiers for MLG X Games Aspen. It was a rare event, as very few international events had Brazilian qualifiers. For fer and FalleN this was their chance; this was their moment. They had to make this shot count. Along with Ricardo “boltz“ Prass, Caio “zqk“ Fonseca and Lucas “steel” Lopes they played in the Brazilian qualifiers beating their eventual future teammates TACO and coldzera to make it to MLG X Games Aspen. There they made a shocking upset against Cloud 9.
When the ESL One Cologne major started last week, there was only one goal: To prove to the world that their last major victory wasn’t a fluke. There was an asterisk left behind as both Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer Gustafsson and Ladislav “GuardiaN“ Kovács had injuries at MLG Columbus. There was still argument as to whether or not they were “interim” champions or the real ones. This time, both olofmeister and GuardiaN were healthy. This time there would be no excuses.
When the major qualifiers for ESL One: Katowice 2015 began, there was only one goal: get there by any means possible. The problem was they didn’t have an organization and they didn’t have the money. Fer cried tears of blood at the situation. They were helpless. They had no support, they had no money and they had no sponsors. “If we couldn’t play there, then why compete at all?” To pay for the costs, they ran a donation stream. Their efforts did not go unnoticed, as Robin “flusha“ Rönnquist donated his Pantamera winnings in hopes they would get noticed. They did, and again with one shot to prove themselves, they qualified and made it to their first major.
At MLG Columbus 2016, Luminosity was down 11-4 on its signature map Mirage. It was the finals of the tournament and the match that would decide who would become major champions, LG or Natus Vincere. Even down 11-4, it wasn’t enough. LG showed its mental fortitude and forced its way back into the game, eventually going into overtime and winning 19-17. The second map was a stomp on Overpass, and that secured the first major victory. After the game, fer cried tears of joy overcome with emotion.
Before the Cologne Major in 2016, FalleN and the team had made plans for all of their families to attend so they could witness firsthand the game and competition that had shaped all of their lives. That had been the driving force behind all of their hard work, sacrifices and dedication. And a testament to how far they had gotten when this all began.
Before ESL ESEA Proleague Season 1 in 2015, FalleN was determined to get his team a spot and would do whatever it took to get them there. For them, there was only one thing they could do: Move to America, leave behind their friends, their families, their girlfriends and pursue their dream. No amount of sacrifice was too much to fulfill their dreams.
Dreams, dedication, hard work: those are all fine qualities that have powered this SK team to the top. But the real beauty of it all is in the game. Their Counter-strike is beautiful to witness. The SK squad has skill, team play, tactics. They can vary with both fast plays and slow plays, rushes and map control setups. They adapt to everything that is thrown at them. They play the best power play situations of any team in the world when they’re up in numbers 5-v-4, 4-v-3, 3-v-2 and 2-v-1. In flusha’s words, they are: “ avery adaptable and diverse team. They can play either a defensive or an aggressive style depending on their opponents. The most dedicated and hardworking team for sure, and Luminosity (now SK) has the best leader in the world in my opinion. Their weakness would probably be their inexperience which can make them stressed and make stupid mistakes, and I think it would be easy to get into their heads.”
They can beat anyone in the world, Na`Vi, G2, Liquid, Astralis, NiP. The only one they’ve missed is Fnatic as they’ve kept missing each other after olofmeister’s injury. A few months into 2016, SK has an answer to every team, and if not then they make one.
By the end of 2015, FalleN had no more answers. When there were no more leaders in Brazil, he became one. When his team needed an AWP, he took it up again. When his team needed tactics, he could make them. When they needed more firepower, they added coldzera. But he had hit a roadblock. On Kabum, KeyD Stars and Luminosity he had always found a way to make the team a great one-map upset team that could make the majors. But they couldn’t win. His team gave him the answer, and FalleN made the hard call and agreed. On Nov. 23, 2015, LG kicked boltz and steel and acquired TACO and fnx. Zews was added as coach.
And that is where the story of all of this truly began. On Nov. 29, 2015 the Faceit Stage 3 Finals were about to begin. There was no time to practice, no time to build and integrate the new players in the system. They had to go in completely unprepared. That tournament was a revelation for the world and FalleN. The world got to witness the birth of a team that would conquer the CS:GO scene only a few months later. For FalleN, he had a revelation about his leadership and calling which has led to the incredibly versatile style of SK we see today.
In under 8 months from then to now, they’ve accumulated one of the most impressive resumes of any CS:GO lineup:
The only weak tournament victory was DreamHack Austin. The rest have had most of the strongest teams in attendance, and in the case of the two majors all of the best teams in attendance. In total they have four victories, four second place finishes and one top four. They’ve only had two tournaments since formation where they fell out before playoffs, which were ESL Pro League Season 2 where Na`Vi eliminated them in groups and at DreamHack Malmo where TyLoo beat them.
Flusha’s earlier remark mentioned the only weakness he could find was SK’s experience. Well that’s something this team is quickly attaining, as it continues a triumphant march against the best teams in the world in the highest-stake matches. The SK players do not have any other weaknesses. They won’t get arrogant and be lazy, as they all understand that it is hard work that got them there and only hard work can keep them there. In pure firepower, they have the best player in the world in coldzera, the best AWP in FalleN and three great role players that can take over a game at any time in fer, fnx and TACO. If any or all of them fall off and have a bad day, they can still find ways to grind out a match and win off their team play and tactics.
From nothing, this Brazilian squad has risen to the very top of CS:GO. They took what little chances they had and made them work. For them, there were almost no opportunities, so the ones they got they made work. When they had no money, they started a donation stream to get them there. When they had no orgs, they found them. When they had to make the choice between comfort of home or moving to America to further their careers, they chose the latter. Every step of the way has been sacrifice, hard work, dedication, skill.
Their achievements are a culmination of everything they’ve done from sleeping on the floor, to studying and playing CS:GO late at night. And now they walk among the greats. They pen their names in hallowed halls where only the greatest have ever stood. And from now on, every result and every victory will add on to their legacy.
Welcome to the SK Era.
Cover photo: Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com