On Wednesday, Oct. 26 SK Gaming were able to secure a best-of-3 series victory at the expense of the current #1 CS:GO team in the world, FaZe Clan. As such, the Brazilians have secured a placement in the semi-finals of the tournament, scheduled to face Astralis on Oct 28.
Cybersport.com sat down with In-Game Leader and Captain of SK Gaming, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo to discuss their recent roster adjustments, confidence going into EPICENTER, the series against FaZe Clan and Epitácio "TACO" de Melo's new role within the team.
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This match-up was very important to assert who would be leading and taking the charge.
Gabriel, hello. Congratulations on your victory against FaZe! The first two maps were quite polarised, where Inferno went in their favour, then you came back on Overpass, smashed, and proceeded to close out on Mirage. What was the mentality of the team throughout?
Hello everyone! We knew that this first series against them was very important, they created this super-team to conquer the world and be the best team in CS:GO, and they managed to do that — they're the best in the world right now, based on the last couple results they had in recent months. Despite this, they haven't beaten us yet, so we knew that this match-up was very important to assert who would be leading and taking the charge. It was just one best-of-3, and with our heads focused on the fact that we had to win this series our team did great work.
Moving on to more general questions — as we all know, SK hasn't had the best of results in recent times. Could you give your perspective on the reasons behind this?
It's hard to say, I think it's a little bit of everything. We won a couple tournaments with felps in the line-up, but after these victories we were losing matches and letting victories slip away from us. We were unable to get back from it. I think the fact that felps asked to leave the team, and that we now have boltz, gave the team a little bit of energy and we're starting to feel great playing.
We knew that felps was sacrificing himself a lot to play with us, he was doing his best and we're very proud of him.
Team chemistry is very important in CS, and we knew that felps was sacrificing himself a lot to play with us, he was doing his best and we're very proud of him. In the end, some of the roles he had to take weren't his prime game, so he had to adjust a lot. With boltz it’s kind of different. Boltz is a way more passive player, he kind of fits us more and creates space for me to make more aggressive plays. I think the team just sums up a little better now.
Would you go as far as to say the team is confident and strong going into this tournament despite have boltz as a substitute and recent results not being the best?
So, the core of the SK line-up — me, coldzera, TACO and fer — have been together for so long that it's very easy to play with us, because we already know what it takes and what we want to do in a round. With a couple words, with a couple maps and sometimes even talking about what we want to do it's easier for someone who is playing for us to do stuff on the T side, for example.
It makes it easier that boltz is kind of anchoring the bombsite, so it's all about his play-style sometimes. When I'm trying to call strategies, most of the time I'm just focusing on what he should do right now, because it's very important to align him with the team as well, mainly for the end of the rounds, when you're going to execute. At about 30/25 seconds when we get some map space we need to have an idea on how we're going to take the end of the round. So that's what I tell him most of the time at the beginning of the round, and then the rest he's by himself.
Regarding the recent announcement of felps stepping back and bringing in boltz, could you give us an idea as to what the thinking behind that decision was?
The change was a sum up of felps being a little bit burned out from playing roles he didn't even like, requiring a lot of adjustment. Small problems that we had to deal with outside the game eventually became more difficult for felps to deal with, more so than other players.
This is normal, teams will always have stuff they need to deal with outside of the game, and with felps there was some stuff that he just couldn't get over. He wasn't feeling very happy playing for us and it was pretty much his decision to ask us to leave.
Back to boltz — did you have much time to align with him before the tournament? Or was it very much a last minute decision?
Basically, boltz was one of our first options. There were also some players from ex-Immortals who would be options for us, but we thought that boltz would fit pretty well, so we tried asking if he'd be interested. We know that he's not in the best of moments with Immortals right now, his ex-teammates just left the team, he's trying to build something new, so of course he wanted to take the opportunity, because we've played together in the past. We like each other a lot, every time we're at tournaments we’re hanging out together and it was also an opportunity for him to grow his career.
This is not the first time you're playing with boltz — from what I recall you had a short stint when you played with steel and boltz on Luminosity Gaming, way back when. How has he changed over the years?
This is something we already told him. The boltz we played with in the past was someone who was a bit lazy when it came to evolving in-game and learning. During that period, mainly when we were trying to progress and achieve something bigger, you really had to pay attention to why you were losing and try to fix that stuff and learn something from it.
If you take a look at boltz's game lately with the ex-Immortals line-up and how he has been progressing, he is one of the best players in the world right now.
Back in the days boltz wasn't very worried about it, and even with some of us telling him "Hey boltz, you gotta fix this thing", he wasn't really focused on fixing issues, and he became someone who didn’t evolve. If you take a look at boltz's game lately with the ex-Immortals line-up and how he has been progressing, he is one of the best players in the world right now and he was doing an insane job while calling for Immortals as well, so he stepped up in a big way and his mentality changed a lot as well.
He even told us, before he had any chance of joining the team, "I realise how stupid I was in the past, being lazy and how I lost an opportunity in my life, but I really learned from it". He is showing that now and he is a very different person from boltz in the past.
Could you provide any comment as to whether boltz will stay with the roster after the tournament?
Boltz is definitely our first option, but of course Counter-Strike nowadays is a business, and it's very difficult to manage roster changes. For now he's an Immortals player, and it's up to the SK and Immortals organisations to fix it up. This team has synergy and we always chose players that we actually want to play with. Sometimes it's hard because people are contractually obliged, but we prefer to think that this will happen because we already consider him part of the team.
Last question on boltz — has he ever shotcalled at EPICENTER or is it strictly you *laughter*?
I think it's too early for him to try to say something, and you have to understand that on his previous team the way they played was very, very different from the way we play. We are very organised, very structured, even if it looks like we have a lot of freedom in some rounds and a lot of mid-round calling. We know how to adapt to many situations that can happen during rounds, so it makes it difficult for someone to come from the outside and apply these ideas. For now I think it's more about him absorbing everything he can.
Coldzera is the one who always helps me call. There was one round on Mirage where we had some SMGs during the first rounds and I told the team "We need to do something different here, I don't have a very good idea, so let's talk about it" and coldzera came up with a very good strategy, sorting all the details and it worked perfectly.
In an interview, you described that boltz is going to site anchor, allowing TACO to be a bit more loose and explore different play-style options. Do you feel he will be a more explosive player now that you've given him that freedom?
Basically TACO gave up some of his positions and some of the things he was doing prior because he was really tired of them. He said: "I've been doing this for so much time. I want to do something different." Additionally, boltz needs to do something that he likes as well, so it's convenient to mix both things. TACO is trying out a new atmosphere, trying to do something different to see if that helps him become a better player. When you fulfil different roles you always learn something, and I think this is going to be a very important step for TACO.
If the team is doing well, if the team has what it takes, [coldzera] will step up and he will do big damage.
Concluding the interview, a question regarding coldzera. In this event it seems like he's stepped up, he's showing form, but prior he didn't have the best of performances. Is this down to team adjustments or is this a personal slump?
Coldzera is the kind of player who really needs a structured team. I don't think he would fit in a team like FaZe, for example. From the outside you can see that they play a more loose style.
I personally don't think he would be the best in the world in a team like that, because coldzera needs to understand what his teammates are doing, in order to be able to position himself in the best way possible to help them. If his team doesn't have synergy, he can't be the best player in the world. If the team is doing well, if the team has what it takes, he will step up and he will do big damage. I think when our team has good chemistry and we are playing our best game, he is the best player in the world, by far.
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