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SK’s path back to greatness

Over the last three months, SK have experimented with
their system in an attempt to find the best structure and João
“felps” Vasconcellos’ role, hitting a few bumps in the road
before succeeding again, with trophies at cs_summit and IEM
Sydney. Read on as we delve deep and explore SK’s path back to
greatness with the help of Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and
felps.

The system. That is
Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo
‘s ideology on how to
play Counter-Strike as a team, a system in which every piece
has its place and role, as well as boundaries which should
never be overstepped unless it’s required. That system had
never failed SK for nearly the entirety of 2016, when the
Brazilian giants broke out and won four trophies, including two
prestigious Majors, placed second five times, and made top four
at five more tournaments, only failing to advance from the
groups once.

After SK brought in
João “felps” Vasconcellos
, the vast difference
between his and
Lincoln “fnx” Lau
‘s playstyle, and the
youngster’s own special skillset called for a different
approach from
FalleN
, who found himself compelled to disrupt the system
to empower the talented newcomer.

FalleN’s leadership was put to the task
when felps came in

The acquisition of
felps
raised questions as to how the team would change
their style after packing another highly aggressive player to
go alongside
Fernando “fer” Alvarenga
. During
SK
‘s incredible showing at their first event with the
20-year-old, DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, where they took
Virtus.pro to their limit in the grand final, we got a few
answers.


FalleN
took a step back and gave
felps
a lot of room to find sneaky plays and open up rounds
in return. The AWPer was involved in the fewest opening duels
from his team in Las Vegas (0.11 opening kills + opening deaths
per round vs. the 0.21 he had averaged on LAN in 2016), while

felps
‘ aggression put him in second place in his team (0.27
opening kills + opening deaths per round).

“I knew it would work by the first tournament for sure,
especially because nobody was able to even do research on
us.”


FalleN
told HLTV.org when asked why SK’s first event went
so much better than the one that followed, IEM
Katowice.


FalleN
wasn’t the only one to give up ground to accommodate

SK
‘s new member, however. Others, most importantly
fer
, had to work around
felps
and concede some spots where the
youngster really shined, 
such as
pop dog on Train. The 25-year-old seems to have profited
from having a player to work in tandem with, though, as shown
by
his
incredible form
from DreamHack Masters on.

A second place in Las Vegas promised a bright future for
the Brazilians, yet their story took a nasty turn at the next
big tournament.
SK
opened Katowice with a crushing loss to
Cloud9
on Nuke, a map
FalleN
thought the Americans were not beenprepared for, and
followed that up with another defeat to
Natus Vincere
on Overpass. As they fell short to
Virtus.pro
on Inferno, which they played for the first time
on LAN, their triumphs against the two Danish squads in their
group,
Heroic
and
North
, weren’t enough to earn them a place in the playoffs,
and
SK
exited the tournament in groups for the first time since
DreamHack Masters Malmö.

“Not making out of the groups in Poland wasn’t as bad
as it sounds. If you take like Astralis, who won the
tournament, their run was like a lot of OT (NiP and fnatic),
like nine clutches against OpTic, lost to Immortals. That
just proves how competitive CS:GO is nowadays. We made a lot
of mistakes during the matches and in the vetoes, I feel we
could have gone a little deeper in Katowice. But it was a
lesson and a step we needed to take to grow as a
team.”


FalleN


FalleN
‘s impact continued to deteriorate in Poland, and he
decided that it was time to reevaluate their play, especially

felps
‘ freedom, and brought more of
SK
‘s old structure back into their arsenal.

“We knew from the very beginning felps was a very
explosive player and I tried to explore this as much as I
could, but it didn’t pay off the way we thought and kinda
broke our structure. We got players that are probably the
best or among the best players in their roles. We found out
in the hard way that we are a very strong team when the
system is working.

“We talked and showed felps that that wouldn’t work
with us, and in order to achieve bigger things, we needed to
change and start all over again, in a better way.”


FalleN

“My transition has been smooth because I knew of my
potential and that I would be able to make the most of it. At
the beginning, it was very hard, even though we almost won
DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. We were making too many mistakes
and I had to readapt my game completely for us to play as a
team, and that is what we have done! I have learned to play
in a way in which we can all play for one another, and I
believe I am a much better player now than I was back
then!”


felps

Nonetheless,
FalleN
doesn’t regret letting
felps
run riot at the beginning:

“I don’t regret it at all, it was something we needed
to do back then. Maybe it is the reason why today we value
the structure even more.”


FalleN

“I was just playing for myself and not for the team. I
believe it was important for me to learn how to play as the
team did.”


felps

Prior to SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals,
SK
seemed to have realized their strength on Mirage, which
they often vetoed in groups at both of their first two events.
That map ended up being the only one they could win in Kiev,
while they struggled to find success on Train and Overpass,
resulting in another group stage exit.

With more tournaments, felps learned how
to play for the team

In spite of the disappointing finish, some of the changes

SK
had made ahead of the event showed;
felps
‘ turned into an extreme entry-fragger who fearlessly
kept running in first, and played the role of an aggressive
lurker whenever needed.

“We went back and changed after Poland, and StarLadder
was the first tournament, so it takes time to get everything
going. We felt that we were on the right track and we talked
that there would be some bumps in the road, but we needed to
be strong and work even harder.”


FalleN

On the other hand,
FalleN
still wasn’t able to find his feet, which he sees as
a combination of poor form and getting used to the new
structure.

“Yes, [my individual level] suffered a lot. It was a
mix of everything, I was not used to playing without a
structure, with a new style and everything, and I missed some
shots I normally hit. 
I look at it as just
a phase, and I’m just happy I’m getting back to my normal
form and I can help my team even more.”

After three big events,
SK
then attended cs_summit in Los Angeles, their hometown.
Despite their struggles beforehand, the Brazilians were favored
against teams such as
NiP
,
Cloud9
, and
Gambit
.


Marcelo “coldzera” David
and company proceeded
to confirm their dominance on their three best maps, Mirage,
Cache, and Cobblestone, but their issues on Inferno and Train
continued, as they conceded one game on both maps and barely
survived on the former 
in a
tough Cloud9 
best-of-three
match. Nevertheless, the title did go
SK
‘s way in the end after two series versus
Gambit
, with
FalleN
stepping up and getting closer to his usual
individual level.

“I think cs_summit showed us that things were working,
I was hitting the shots I usually hit, the team was getting
the confidence again. From a personal and team perspective I
was very happy that everything was starting to work
again.”


FalleN
said on the topic of cs_summit and his individual
showing there.

Interestingly,
felps
didn’t stick to his StarSeries approach at cs_summit
and was more on the lurky side of things rather than being the
team’s bull on the offence, particularly on their two
questionable maps, Inferno and Train.

“[The first few months] was an adaption phase in which
I had to learn a lot of things and deal with the terrible
results, knowing that we would soon grow as we were changing
my role a little bit.”


felps

A little over a week later,
SK
were put to the test at a bigger event. They got off at
IEM Sydney on the right foot, getting to play Cobblestone twice
in a row in groups.
Astralis
made sure that wouldn’t happen again, banning all
three of
SK
‘s world-class maps and forcing Inferno, only to meet
their demise once
FalleN
put up a fantastic performance to ensure a place in
the semis for his team.

Having moved past
OpTic
with flying colors, the Brazilians made their way to
the grand final, where they would meet
FaZe
, who had taken out
Astralis
in the previous round. As it was a best-of-five,

SK
were forced to play three of their least successful
maps.

However, out of those three,
Finn “karrigan” Andersen
‘s team could only
grab Inferno with a forceful T side.
felps
stepped up on Train, where his aggression near pop
dog as CT played a pivotal part in his team’s win, and also on
Overpass, where he and
coldzera
led the way with 29 kills apiece.
FaZe
had little to show on Cache, which
SK
 showed once more that ranks among their best maps
alongside Mirage (which would have been the
decider). 

The Brazilian flag flew high as SK won a
big-stage tournament for the first time in almost a year

In the triumphant grand final in Sydney,
FalleN
 didn’t bring back his 2016 level, but he had
just enough impact to go along with his well-performing stars,
putting his struggling period since the beginning of the year
behind him for good.
felps
finished the event with a tournament-high 30% of
traded deaths, which speaks volumes about his ability to learn
how to use his aggression for the benefit of the team.

“I have grown as a person and mainly as a player. I
have learned how to play for the team. FalleN was essential,
he always yelled at me whenever I made a mistake, but every
time it happened I improved my game. I have so much to thank
him and the team for.”


felps
on his improvement in SK and FalleN’s impact on it
as the leader.

With
FalleN
back in the picture and their structure well
defined,
SK
are now most definitely back after spending months
searching for their identity with the new player. At the
moment, the iconic in-game leader himself puts his team at 85%
of their true potential, which he’s aiming to reach at the PGL
Major:

“I don’t believe in a perfect playstyle, I believe that
we found the system and we will adapt to the other team
inside our system. I think it can work, but we will need to
work harder to always recycle what we do within the same
system.

“Comparing the SK last year to this one is kind of
unfair, last year we won back-to-back majors, it will be hard
not just for us but for any team to achieve this. So we are
just focusing on winning the first major and the tournaments
yet to come. But I think our fans and haters can expect a
strong team that can face any team in the world.

“Our plan and schedule is to reach the peak at the
major, I would say we are at like 85% from what I think this
team can do, and that’s one of the reasons we planned to
attend every tournament possible form here to the major (the
schedule worked well for us, since after EPL we just have
tournaments in EU, so we will “bootcamp” in EU for 2 months),
so we can  speed up the process playing in a tournament
environment and hopefully reach the peak at the
major.”


FalleN
on whether he has found the perfect playstyle for
SK and if they’re back to their former level.

One question remains: How will
SK
fare in a series against the other elite team,
Astralis
? We have yet to see the two meet in a playoff
match, and we’ll have to wait at least another month, if not
two, which gives
FalleN
‘s five a chance to hit that peak.

In the meantime, the No.3 team in the world will be
looking to add more trophies to their cabinet as they head into
a busy period with several big tournaments — ESL Pro
League Season 5 Finals (May 31-June 4), ECS Season 3 Finals
(June 23-25), if they qualify, and ESL One Cologne (beginning
of July) — before the PGL Major rolls around.

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