Greatness is not manifested by the moving of names on-paper. You can assemble a great line-up, have a clear rational and logical structure of talent, and still fall flat. To become one of those sides whose name is used as ammunition in the skirmish-like discussions of ‘who was the best ‘then’?’ you have to rise. This does not necessarily mean in the sense of elevating trophies above your head, although that does help. Rather, you have to rise and overcome adversity. It’s one thing to collect a slew of light silverware, and another to claim the weighty scalps of legendary opposition in LAN series.
MIBR have their adversity, but they are yet to claim the heavy scalp.
The barrier to greatness comes in a specific colour; red. Astralis are the apex predator in an ecosystem defined by its relentlessness. They are, in fact, the adversary for many teams outside of just the Brazilian/American mix. MIBR, however, are the side most in-opposition to the Danes. Liquid had their chance to transcend more than most, but served only as the platform for which Astralis established their rule. FaZe, and Na`Vi have both had their moments of glory over the indomitable red star, but have suffered inconsistency elsewhere and the atrophy of hype around quickly aging line-ups. MIBR though, are fresh enough a team with untapped enough potential to warrant the hype around their position as potential king slayers.
At ECS S6 they managed to beat Astralis in-groups in epic fashion over a three map series. The two they won were both extraordinarily close at 22:20 on Train and 16:14 on Inferno. This was followed-up by a far more one-side 2-1 victory over North in the semi finals before facing Astralis in a grand final rematch. Astralis would be the ones who lifted the trophy in Arlington, but MIBR showed evidence they are steadily paving the road towards becoming a great side.
MIBR seems to be one of those teams who are stacked with a drive to win, but pulled in many directions as a result. Their match-up with Astralis gives them a clear route. While they lost in the grand finals, it was only barely so, with the 22:20 and 16:14 scorelines being flipped in the way of Astralis for a close 2:0 victory. It’s one thing to beat Astralis in groups, and another to take them so close to the brink in the highest pressure moment of a tournament.
The way MIBR did this was promising as well. Astralis not only gave them a clear barrier to overcome - a route to channel their drive - but also seemed to spark an identity in the Brazilians game to do so. The largest criticism levied at MIBR since their formation and addition of YNk has been the blurred lines of their win conditions. As Stuchiu outlined, “With MIBR, I can’t find their specialty. When I watch the team, I don’t think they are bad, but they lack whatever it is that makes teams great.”
MIBR seemingly were a side that played ‘properly’ but never impactfully. FalleN had looked good at various points throughout the new roster, but nothing clicked in a way that would suggest he was ‘back’. The same could be said for every member on MIBR, in fact.
Against Astralis though, we started to get that after-taste of a closely contested MIBR match. Coldzera and FalleN were clutching relentlessly. Their T-side showed a welcome lack of fear or respect against Astralis’s tight defence. Duels were calculated but not locked into a textbook or system for a full round. Their game, in-general felt more free and punishing than it was constrained and reactionary. MIBR clearly had a plan to beat Astralis and apart of it involved the re-ignition of what once made them great. The two newest players in Stewie2k and tarik both had their moments despite being at odds linguistically and stylistically with the team writ large.
The map pool situation isn’t as bad as it seems with Cache being ruled out as Astralis’s perma-ban. Astralis have looked more than mortal on Mirage which seems to be a decent-enough map for MIBR, as well as Train which, a strong FalleN and Stewie2k performance pending, can be a potentially stronger map as well. Inferno seems to be where the series will be decided, as it often is, and with both instances of it being so tight at ECS, who knows which way it will go in the future?
It’s clear though, that the pathway towards greatness for MIBR will be paved in red bricks. To have a challenge so great before them seems to drive direction, identity and individual performances. They still lack a meaningful trophy, but have the one Astralis series scalp under their belt. If they can find the two of these things together - beating Astralis in a series to claim a trophy - they will suddenly be catapulted into a historical conversation that for months has seemed impossible to access.
The EPL S8 Finals will feature both sides, in separate groups, but a lot has to fall in-place to grant us such a historical match-up again. If it does though, the chance is their for both sides; one to suppress, the other to transcend; to reaffirm greatness or to attain it.