Though the the Brazilians and the Poles peaked at very different times, the two legendary cores with a historic fall from grace have similar stories to tell. It’s a path riddled with upvoted match threads about upset losses, Twitter dramas, wasted invite slots and outstaying your welcome. It seems there’s still a sting in the tale of the MIBR saga as FalleN shocked the world by stepping down – but whether there’s a pathway back to the top is a very different question at this point.
Luís Mira wasn’t kidding when he classified the trigger of MIBR’s triple kick as “a disastrous run of results”: the Brazilians followed up the chain of crushing defeats at ESL One Cologne with embarrassing losses in smaller online cups which were no doubt expected to be a lay-up for a team with their tenure. Instead, a quarter-final finish and a group stage exit followed at Eden Arena Malta Vibes Cup 9 and 10, both embarrassing for different reasons. The loss to a neutered MAD Lions was notable because of the insane scoreline (1-16 Train, 6-16 Vertigo) and the direct contrast it served to the Flashpoint Season 1 final, but the back-to-back losses to PACT and Galaxy Racer which led to a group stage elimination a few days later were arguably even worse. Can you name a single player from either roster without looking them up?
Next up, another loss to a husk of a tier three Danish side: even a severely weakened Copenhagen Flames managed to get one over them in the opener of the Vie.gg Legend Series, with another 2-1 victory in the group stage decider. They would go on to lose to Heretics in the quarter-finals. That is the level of opposition MIBR was struggling against nowadays, and the roster moves were long overdue for the side.
TACO and fer are gone from the roster alongside their disgraced coach, and now it seems FalleN is pining for the arch-lemming role in following his mates down the cliff. It seems the man who made his career by ruthlessly cutting players and finding the best up-and-coming talent has lost his touch. Meanwhile, newly crowned IGL kNg did an oopsie on Twitter once again, though it remains to be seen whether his spat with gaules was just regular-level stupid or career-jeopardizing-level stupid this time around. No doubt the soap opera will continue for a while, but one has to wonder whether there’s any precedent to such a complete implosion in CS:GO history. VP’s slow-motion fall from grace is immediately what comes to mind to most, so does the comparison make sense? Let’s wind back the clock and remember the good times while the dumpster fire rages on.
To think it’s been almost three years since FalleN’s last big tournament win. It was the final of ESL Pro League Season 6, a 3-1 win over a FaZe Clan side in its prime. Still under the SK Gaming banner, they decimated FaZe after an opening map loss (13-16 Inferno, 16-11 Overpass, 16-9 Mirage, 19-16 Train). A semi-final loss to Cloud9 at the infamous Boston Major followed, the event where they notoriously opted against practicing with felps, their fifth squad member in the Valve-sponsored event instead of boltz at the time. It turned out to be the beginning of the end for that side, and the only trophy in their cabinet as MIBR still remains that early ZOTAC Cup Masters win from August 2018 thanks to triumphs over minnows like Flash Gaming, MVP PK and Team Kinguin.
It’s a far cry from the team that shocked the world, the plucky Brazilians so far from home and with so little money they needed help to even make it to the big European LANs. Though it’s the 2016-2017 run we tend to remember about the team, let’s not forget about the year that came before either, with a string of near misses and devastating turnarounds in their opponents’ favor which would have no doubt cracked a lesser side. It was art from adversity that formed FalleN’s best teams: now, it’s arT who’s the adversary in Brazil, and it seems the Godfather of Brazilian CS no longer has the stranglehold on the region he used to.
Every top team begins as an underdog, and VP was no exception to this rule. Though the CS:GO-era side is often mistakenly referred to as “the Golden Five” (when in fact that was the ’06-’08 roster featuring LUq, Loord and kuben alongside TaZ and NEO), the quintet that was such a force of nature in CS:GO only came together under the Universal Soldiers banner in 2013. – They didn’t even make the playoffs at DreamHack Winter 2013, losing to NiP 16-4 on Inferno in their group. After a few twists and turns, they were eventually picked up in early 2014 by Virtus.pro – and less than two months later they scored the biggest possible upset by beating out the Ninjas on home soil in the grand finals of the second CS:GO Major in history. It remains their only such title to this day – and likely forever.
From that point on, they remained a force to be reckoned with in the scene for years, and they were renowned for surviving slumps without resorting to roster changes, adjusting roles over and over again to reinvigorate their existing synergies. First it was in 2016 that the vultures began circling, early eliminations in many tournaments, albeit often to the eventual winners, but they closed the year out strong, with their victory in ELEAGUE Season 1 perhaps the high point of that period.
A notoriously long contract extension followed, with a runner-up finish at the next Major and an emphatic win in DreamHack Masters Las Vegas after, but nothing was the same after that, as embarrassing exits to hitherto unknown teams kept piling up, stinking up the place on LAN with invite slots earned from past glories rather than recent accomplishments, with eventual knee-jerk roster moves which couldn’t remove the rot which set in at the heart of the project.
Sounds familiar? At least Immortals Gaming Club was willing to pull the plug proper.
So to recap, Virtus.Pro’s tale is a rise out of nowhere followed by a string of near-misses and resurrections until an eventual complete collapse, with relevant competitive performances for over five years in the CS:GO era. You’d be hard-pressed to say the same about the Brazilians of FalleN, who had a higher ceiling, a bigger mouth and an infinitely lower soil. They were also denied the chance to upset the odds on home soil, not just because of the cancellation of the Rio Major but the wipeout of their RMR points due to their (now former) coach’s involvement with the spectator bug controversy.
Also, say what you will about VP, their coach didn’t get banned for cheating, they didn’t get embarrassingly upstaged by a domestic rival and they didn’t conduct themselves in the way FalleN and co. do on social media as their project continues to spin out of control. Both of these legendary squads are now consigned to the history books of CS, even if a plurality of the players are still around in zombie form, shredding their respective legacies at every turn. FalleN promised a new chapter, but history is not on his side. It’s a testament to your greatness when everyone else adapts your innovation, but it also makes it very difficult to stay on the top from that point on – the Napoleonic fate, if you will.
You could argue they served up their last great performance against each other in the epic best-of-five final of EPICENTER 2017, a competition where no one expected the Poles to even make it out of the groups who have long ago faded into the twilight by then. It’s an exciting series that stood the test of time (even if Cobblestone was involved in the affair), and if you want to get a glimpse of why these squads retained such loyalty from their fans for such a long time, you could do worse than watching it again. For fans of VP and then-SK, those were much happier times.