Even with the many previous downturns for MIBR in mind, their embarrassing defeat against Chaos in FLASHPOINT last weekend was the nadir of the once-titanic core. Despite the non-stop turmoil, FalleN remained the constant of this squad, and at some point one has to ask whether he still has what it takes to turn things around after such a prolonged period in the wilderness.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how quickly esports ballooned into a big-money phenomenon. This means we likely still don’t know what a fully dedicated professional can achieve throughout a whole career with a strong support network and top-tier facilities, let alone the age bracket where such an athlete can no longer compete at the top despite their best efforts. Nowadays, it’s burnout, declining motivation and family concerns which lead to cliff-like drops in performances instead of a physical necessity – but perhaps there is an exception to this when it comes to in-game leaders in CS:GO.
Maybe not winning DreamHack Anaheim should immediately disqualify you from the big brain conversation.
There’s a good argument to be made that IGLs are much more susceptible to falling behind than anyone else in a squad. You can adapt and overcome if you no longer win all the aim duels, find new roles and focus more on positioning, but there is no help ifor an open playbook. This is part of why why managerial comebacks are so rare in traditional sports, and why in a weird way newcomers even have an edge over the veterans. As previously successful coaches and in-game leaders have deeply ingrained principles to work around, often the very same ones which brought them glory so many years ago, that are no longer revolutionary or even relevant, it becomes all the harder to learn new tricks as an old dog – not to mention any further potential to innovate.
One has to wonder whether FalleN’s fallen into the same sort of vicious cycle which consumed the career of the likes of Happy and pronax. He’s often referred to as the Godfather of Brazilian CS – with good reason – and it feels like his grip is slipping on his empire. The rapid growth of esports means that not even the most legendary of in-game leaders are afforded the sort of complete control which made him one of the greats. You had to be a coldzera-level talent to warrant any exception to his myriad of rules, an arrangement which fell apart completely in 2019, too.
In fact, just consider the last few years of his tenure as a whole. The many contractual disputes at the tail end of their time with SK Gaming, the way the entire industry has been rapidly upscaled industry during his MIBR stint: a sign of waning influence and a downturn in results. No longer can he chop and change his squad on a whim and pick any local talent as their replacement, and the downturn in results doubtless makes it tougher to get the sort of complete dedication to his tactics as he used to in the past. Even when the deals are technically agreed, they can still fall through: ultimately, Na’Vi didn’t sell even though they were willing to cough up the humungous buyout clause for the s1mple+flamie package deal. The game is now bigger than any one of us, and the only place left to strive for full control is the servers.
Though FURIA hasn’t turned into the powerhouse we hoped them to be last summer, the squad’s resounding rejections of FalleN’s overtures truly feels like a passing of the torch nine months down the line. Of course, this is quite ironic considering how much labour and resources he dedicated to Brazilian grassroots. Still, the facts are facts: FalleN’s last tournament win was ZOTAC Cup Masters in August 2018, his only LAN title under the MIBR banner to date, with wins over Flash Gaming, MVP PK and Taz’s Team Kinguin in the grand final. If you want to find his last S-Tier event win, Season 6 of ESL’s Pro League is where you have to look – all the way back in December 2017. With so many comeback stories over the last few months in CS, it would be truly sad to see the game leave behind one of its brightest minds. And yet, it has to be treated as a realistic possibility at this point.
Photo credit: HLTV