Photo Credit: (Nathan Wentworth)
Rising from the Ashes
SK Gaming won the Adrenaline Cyber League last week over AVANGAR 3-1 and while winning the four team invitational is a far cry from impressive, it was an important statement win for the majority Brazilian side. Post CS_Summit 2 the team had a string of bad results that recently turned positive with a quarterfinal placing at ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals, but for a team with this pedigree that is abnormal.
The lows definitely have taken a toll on the team's structure and more importantly their identity. SK Gaming were famous for their individual players having very identifiable but consistently good styles. Fernando "fer" Alvarenga rose to a career high #3 HLTV ranking as an individual player in 2017 as his penchant for aggressive flanks frequently rewarded the team with a man or two man advantage early in a round. Marcelo "coldzera" David the ranked #1 HLTV player for the past two years has been a superstar on both the T and CT sides with strong rifle and secondary AWP play. Gabriel "Fallen" Toledo also known as the "Godfather of Brazillian CS" was a noted tactician that used some of the greatest players in CS:GO to great utility efficiency and prepared inventive T-sides unless the map was Nuke.
The issue was outside of the core three, players such as Epitaco "TACO" de Melo, Ricardo "boltz" Brass, and Jake "Stewie2k" Yip have had mixed results that find them toward the end of the score board. The maps have been extremely inconsistent in terms of results and the team has often been at the end of upsets to teams that are toward the bottom of the top 30 in the world rankings.
So for the team to win a best of three against Gambit and a best of five against AVANGAR on LAN in Russia, the ACL was a major success.
The LAN victory on foreign soil was a good sign that the team did not let a foreign crowd get to them in clutch moments especially in a reverse sweep, but the future schedule is a little more stacked in terms of events. The team is currently competing at Starladder season 5 and as of writing are 1-0 after a closer than expected best of three win over VG.Flash.
The CS:GO landscape has been in flux with another French shuffle on the way, international projects with average levels of success (FaZe Clan and Mousesports), and the American scene having a bit of an implosion outside of Team Liquid. The era of dominant teams could be in order as we have seen Astralis rise to the top of the ladder, but SK Gaming will see a slightly less imposing field at an event that will give them and Brazillian rivals Nao Tem Como a homefield advantage.
While Nao Tem Como is a largely unknown quantity, teams such as Space Soldiers, BIG, and Torqued have proven to be unreliable against tier 1 teams on LAN and have dissapointed internationally. FaZe, Liquid, and Mouz are three teams currently considered in the top five, but they all have weaknesses that SK Gaming can exploit.
The real importance of Belo Horizonte is finally having success when the field of opponents does not include Astralis, Cloud9, Fnatic, Natus Vincere, and whatever French team decides to become the best in the region. SK Gaming are 0-1 on homesoil in recent memory with their loss coming to Cloud9 at the ESL Pro League Season 4 finals, but the team have many things to be happy about.
The AVANGAR team that SK Gaming beat were not entirely awful as their ranking on HLTV might suggest. For what it is worth they defeated Virtus.Pro relatively easy and are bursting with sick aimers that would likely do better on a team with a real IGL and more experienced players. The most exciting thing to take from the grand final if you are an SK Gaming fan is Coldzera reaching godlike form once again as he went 82-52 across four maps and was followed closely behind by Fer with a 77-59 ratio and averaged 99.2 damage per round.
Teams that are successful rely on their stars to frag out and for their performances to be repeatable. Coldzera and fer showed this level of success a lot last year and if the scoreboard is how the team will perform in the future than the team will be able to maintain success in the fuure.
The most important part in the age of the seven map pool Astralis is having a very smart pick ban for best of three success. Early this year, WallabeeBeatle wrote about the, "Map Power Rule" which detailed the levels from playoff contender to world class in terms of map pool and what a team should focus on improving and what maps a team should permaban.
While Fallen might not be full time IGLing anymore, the team needs to find tactical success again as the meta seems to be shifting towards a team play oriented version of CS:GO that has overtaken the individual based CS that saw players such as Coldzera and fer flourish.
Will SK Gaming take this opportunity to go on a comeback tour? Comment your thoughts below! Also join our Discord to talk all things CS:GO and talk with fellow fans during matches. https://discord.gg/a5k62AY