Coming in at the second place of our top 20 players of 2016 list is Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo of SK Gaming. Over the course of the year, FalleN has stood out with a high level of consistency, a plethora of personal awards and brilliant AWPing displays.
Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's road to success in Counter-Strike has been a long one, with his first noted tournament appearance dating back to 2005 and that year's World Cyber Games Brazil event. FalleN attended the event with a team called crashers, playing alongside Juliano "Batistuta" Corrêa - a partnership that would be seen at WCG Brazil events and Brazil Cup's for the following few years.
crashers would achieve their first notable results toward the end of 2008, getting a second place finish at WCG Brazil 2008 and a fourth place at the Brazil Cup in December. FalleN's contributions to his team's success were noted and he was asked to join the best team in Brazil in the following year - becoming a part of FireGamers with Lincoln "fnx" Lau, Bruno "bit" Lima, Renato "nak" Nakano and Bruno "ellllll" Ono in 2009.
"My main trait has always been the ability to acknowledge my mistakes and try to improve after every defeat, try to fix my mistakes and those of my teams to be one step ahead next time. Due to the distance from our international opponents, the only way to study the best teams in the world was to look at demos and VODs." - FalleN about his qualities at the start of his career
"I have been in love with competitive Counter-Strike since I started going to LAN houses, in 2003. In 2009, when I was asked to join FireGamers, the best Brazilian team at the time, I stopped studying to focus on CS 100%."
From that point onwards, FalleN was always amongst the best players in his country, and took over the mantle as the best Brazilian AWPer from Raphael "cogu" Camargo - one of the best snipers of all time.
2010 was a prime year for FalleN and FireGamers, as they had the opportunity to attend a couple of international events. The year started with a 5-6th finish at at ESWC 2010, but picked up soon after as the Brazilians defeated Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert's Evil Geniuses for a first place finish at WCG Pan-American 2010. After winning the domestic qualifier for World Cyber Games, FireGamers finished 4th at the main WCG event of the year, but got another title at IEM V American Championship Finals just a week later - beating Evil Geniuses once again.
"Throughout my career, I have always made it so I could keep on playing. At the start, I made a pact with my parents so I could play (I had to have good grades at school, work during afternoons, etc). Then, I had to create alternatives so that I could keep playing and at the same time have some financial return to keep living off CS (with Games Academy). Then, when 1.6 started losing importance, in 2010/11, I started questioning the fact that I had stopped studying in 2009."
FalleN experimented with CS: Source in the beginning of 2011, but the FireGamers roster returned to CS 1.6 toward the end of the year under the name mandic, winning another WCG Pan American event, this time defeating Evil Geniuses in the semi-final and the Peruvian team blood in the grand final. FalleN's last international Counter-Strike 1.6 title came in 2012, from yet another WCG Pan-American event where the Brazilian's team PlayArt defeated Ultimax Gaming composed of n0thing, Braxton "swag" Pierce and the famous in-game leader Nazar "steno" Vynnytsky.
"In 2011, I started studying again for my “vestibular” exams. I studied a whole year, and in 2012 I was admitted at UTFPR to pursue a degree in Electronics Engineering. I rented a house, moved to a new city and attended classes for two weeks."
"I remember that, in one of the first classes, people asked who we were and what we were doing there. My answer was that college was a plan B if Counter-Strike did not work out. People looked at me with bewilderment and found it curious."
"And I was right. Days later, I never saw them again. I decided to bet on Counter-Strike once again, when [Global Offensive] was just taking off, and I have never gone back to college. I made that decision because I felt deep down that this was something that I needed to do and that was part of who I was. I was born to play Counter-Strike. That is what I love to do, and no other job will make me as happy as competing in Counter-Strike does."
FalleN shared some details that the average CS:GO viewer might be surprised about from his CS 1.6 days, starting off with - his hairline:
"[Back in 1.6] I was a lot thinner and had more hair, I joined the army to complete the military service (mandatory for some people) in 2010 for a year. I had a lot of energy to play at all times. I loved to play pugs and mixes, sometimes I created random teams to face other teams, etc. Many times I would stay up practicing until 4 am and then I would go to the army at 5 am, almost dying of exhaustion during the exercises."
"I no longer have the drive to stay up late into the night, but I do practice a lot during the day. From 2011 to 2014, I was in charge of Counter-Strike courses at Games Academy six hours per day, from Monday to Friday, from 3pm to 6pm and then 7pm to 10pm, teaching strategies, helping new players, casting tournaments and organising the project. Nowadays, I am much less involved due to lack of time, unfortunately."
FalleN switched to CS:GO early in 2013, but his first international showing came late in 2014 at ESWC where he played with Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, fnx, Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles and Henrique "HEN1" Teles. The tournament was a miserable showing for Brazilians though, who finished last in their group and 21-24th overall. That result prompted FalleN to make a big change in the team, bringing in Lucas "steel" Lopes, Ricardo "boltz" Prass and "" in place of his long time teammate fnx and the twin brothers HEN1 and LUCAS1.
Roster moves weren't something that characterized FalleN's teams in previous iterations of the game, but in CS:GO, the Brazilian didn't hesitate to make changes when needed. The fact that he gained such a high reputation in Brazil for his in-game skill, leadership and the work he did to improve the Brazilian scene as a whole helped him to make the moves possible - as every domestic player jumped at the opportunity to play with FalleN.
Playing under KaBuM.TD, the newly assembled roster won the Brazilian MLG X Games Aspen qualifier and got a spot at the final tournament, where they caught the eyes of the international scene by destroying Cloud9 on Mirage 16-4.
A few things came into play in the match, starting with FalleN's great history against n0thing's teams in 1.6 - that gave the Brazilians a boost in confidence going into their first big CS:GO tournament. Along with that, something that Cloud9 didn't know in the veto process was that Mirage was by far KaBuM's best map - FalleN's team practically innovated the meta with some unique set-plays that they ran in their match against Cloud9 and the North American team simply wasn't able to adapt in time.
KaBuM at MLG X Games, a crucial tournament for the Brazilians
The Brazilians were eliminated from the MLG X Games Aspen after two big losses to NiP and dignitas, however, as teams from smaller regions weren't capable of achieving much at the time, KaBuM's win over Cloud9 was enough to get them invited to the ESL One Katowice 2015 Major Qualifier - making that Mirage game a crucial part of FalleN's CS:GO career.
Thanks to the contributions of the Counter-Strike community , KaBuM was able to attend the Major Qualifier and secure a spot at the upcoming Major, where they would instantly impress with their tactical style that yielded them a top eight finish and map win over Virtus.pro.
The team then made the big leap, moving to the USA to compete in ESL Pro League and the FACEIT League, quickly making a case for them being one of the best - if not the best team playing in North America. However, after failing to make it out of the groups at ESWC 2015, FalleN would make an important roster change, adding Marcelo "coldzera" David instead of a month before the next major, ESL One Katowice.
The change would not only allow coldzera to quickly become one of the best players in the world, but would let FalleN take back the main AWP role in the team, returning to the position he excelled at in the past.
Even though his individual success came in 2016 - while wielding the big green gun - FalleN does not regret putting in the AWPing role earlier in CS:GO:
"Zqk was one of the best AWPers in Brazil and a great player when we created the Keyd Stars’ team. He had been a great CSS player and he was also very talented in CS:GO. The team needed a player to fulfill other roles, so we entrusted zqk with the AWP role."
"That period was very important for me to improve my game. I had time to learn how to think, how to position myself and how to improve other roles that are necessary to compete at a high level. Today, I consider myself a consistent player and I can play almost any role. I do not regret taking that long to pick up the AWP because that experience allowed me to improve."
With the team settled in North America, FalleN put in effort to get another Brazilian team in the United States, organizing the Golden Chance tournament that saw the core of the team that is now Immortals move to California.
On the topic of helping Brazilian CS grow and whether he thinks the project was a success, he had this to say:
"We have definitely achieved what we wanted. I remember as if it were today when we were in the United States and we decided to move to a new house that was across the street. I knew just how much Brazilian players struggled and all the talent that was being wasted. I knew that there were a lot of very good players in Brazil and I wondered what made me different from those guys, because I had been given the opportunity to play abroad and they had not."
"That is when I told Camila and Ricardo about the crazy idea to bring five more people over. They immediately accepted the challenge to look after more people, and thanks to them and Stephen Csikos (from Azubu), who bet on the project, I was able to accomplish a big project for GA and help more Brazilian players who dreamed of competing around the world. They have been playing well and have earned their spot in the international scene."
FalleN's team, playing under Keyd Stars and later Luminosity, attended two more Majors in 2015 and made top eight at both, but still couldn't make the much wanted deep tournament runs until another roster shuffle came into play. Just a couple of days before FACEIT 2015 Stage 3 finals, fnx and Epitacio "TACO" de Melo replaced steel and boltz - starting a new era for both FalleN and his team.
Luminosity finished second at FACEIT Stage 3, losing 2-1 to fnatic in the finals, and followed that with a 5-6thfinisht at ESL Pro League Season 1 final, ending the year on a high note overall.
With two new players in the roster, FalleN's expectations were to get to the next step in 2016:
"I knew fnx really well since we had been on the same team in 1.6 but I was not that close with TACO. Our goal was to go beyond what the previous lineup had achieved since we had stagnated and couldn't go past the quarterfinals at international events. Personally, I wanted to play even better and to win more things for me and my country. The team atmosphere was very good. When new players come in, you always work hard and you commit yourself as much as possible. We found the perfect players, and the adaption was a lot faster than we had thought, even though we got off on the wrong foot, losing to fnatic 16-0. We put together a very strong team for 2016."
"At the beginning, people expected way too much from TACO, he still had a lot to learn as a player. Today, I consider TACO one of the best players in the world and possibly the best in his role (entry fragger). This is something he has earned with hard work and perseverance. During the first tournament, I did not really know what to expect from him, but when he won that 1v4 against NiP on Mirage I thought: “Thank God, that guy is going to be a star!”. fnx did very well because he has a lot of experience, and when he is motivated to do his best he is a great player. He was extremely important in our path.”
2016 was a year in which FalleN's team moved away from the execute heavy approach to a more individualistic one - but still remained one of the best teams in terms of teamplay, trade fragging and utilizing man-advantage situations. That allowed certain players to shine more, with FalleN's role changing the most in the new era - he became an elite level AWPer after spending most of his CS:GO career in a supportive in-game leader position.
FalleN's rise to prominence started at SLi StarSeries XIV Finals, the first international tournament of the year for Luminosity, where the Brazilians took down G2 and Natus Vincere in the groups before going out to fnatic in the semis. The Swedes would prove a tough opponent for FalleN and co., and the two maps against them were Toledo's worst at the tournament he was otherwise brilliant at - 1.20 rating and 82.4 ADR over seven maps earned him his first EVP award of the year.
DreamHack Leipzig was another step forward for the team and another great showing for FalleN who was the best rated player for Luminosity in their second place finish. Consistent throughout the event and with a great showing in the grand final against Natus Vincere, FalleN would've probably won both the MVP award and the title if Egor "flamie" Vasilyev wasn't in peak form in the final series in Germany.
Luminosity got their revenge on Natus Vincere at the next event, IEM Katowice, when the two met in the semi-final of the tournament. The rivalry between the two most tactical top teams at the time was reaching a boiling point, but FalleN remained cool throughout the series and put up a masterclass performance to defeat the CIS side - 68-39 K-D, 1.49 rating and 90.4 ADR over the two-map series.
FalleN vs Natus Vincere at IEM Katowice 2016
The Brazilians made the grand final at Katowice only to be defeated by fnatic once again, with FalleN struggling in their tight game against the Swedes. Despite the bad finals, FalleN was still an EVP of the tournament and the second-best rated player in his team.
The big break out finally came at MLG Columbus, the first Major of the year. A few circumstances such as NiP playing with Björn "THREAT" Pers and the injuries of the two best players of 2015 Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, did go their way, but both Luminosity and FalleN earned their spot in CS:GO history by defeating NiP, Virtus.pro, Liquid and Natus Vincere in their run to the title.
"Every defeat we had before Columbus taught us something. I’m talking about strategies, controlling your nerves, anxiety. Every time we lost we felt we were closer. The last defeat was almost like we considered ourselves champions. That helped us a lot when we went through tough situations at the Major because we kept our cool and we had the ability to remain calm and turn some games around in an absurd fashion and win the title."
FalleN's influence at the Major wasn't as high as at previous tournaments (3rd best rated player of Luminosity at the event), but he still put up impressive numbers, including a 1.10 impact rating and 0.55 deaths per round.
After a series of great placings and four EVP's from four events for FalleN, Luminosity wasn't able to perform at DreamHack Malmö - going out 9th-13th and adding their name to the list of teams that had bad tournaments following Major wins.
"The team was very emotionally tired after the Major, and at the time we bootcamped trying to keep the same level of practice we had before, and it just did not work. When you don’t practice well you can’t play well."
"Besides, we were a little bit careless trying to add a new map to our pool and it ended up not working, losing on Cache to mousesports and TyLoo. We were surprised by their quality and we were not prepared enough, not even individually, for that. When I look back, I think we should have rested more before that event, even if that sounds odd. A mental reset would have helped us."
The team bounced back with a win at the mid-tier DreamHack Austin that featured only North and South American teams, where FalleN put up a masterclass 1.48 rated performance, earning him his first MVP award.
"The final against Immortals at DreamHack Austin was a huge source of pride because we had two Brazilian teams fighting for a title abroad. But of course that the best moments are those when you lift a trophy."
Luminosity played a plethora of maps at ESL Pro League Season 3 finals, with FalleN having a great contribution throughout - especially in the semi final against NiP.
The Brazilians met G2 in the best-of-five grand final and managed to edge them out after a grueling five-map series. coldzera's contribution in the match against the Frenchmen yielded him the MVP award - leaving FalleN with only an EVP despite the fact he was the best rated player on Luminosity over the course of the event.
"That was one of the most intense finals we have ever played. Best-of-five matches can push you to the edge. It was a special tournament, and I believe there were many exciting rounds from both sides. It was without a doubt one of the best CS:GO series in history."
"I remember that, in the last round on Inferno, I put all after plant rules aside in terms of positioning, I took a chance with the AWP and we took the round. I remember that round really well because I would never recommend it in one of my theory classes about CS (laughs). There was also the situation at 14-15 on Inferno where fer was very important by getting an m4a1 kill in middle to make it a 5v4 situation for us to help us tie the game. He had a lot of nerve to pull off something like that in such a crucial moment, with a title on the line. It was just nerve-racking, something that deserved a standing ovation."
In June of 2016, FalleN and co. attended ECS Season 1, breezing past NiP, Liquid and TSM to reach the grand finals where they rematched against G2. This time around, it was the French team coming out on top, as FalleN registered a bad performance inthe grand final and his worst showing at a tournament where his team had a top two finish (1.02 rating).
The second Major of the year came knocking in July, and the Brazilians, now playing in SK Gaming jerseys, were in Europe again for ESL One Cologne 2016. FalleN opened up the tournament with two strong group stage showings against G2 and FaZe, getting his team out of the group of death and avoiding a matchup with the Swedes that were their kryptonite at the start of the year - fnatic.
Toledo was unexpectedly underwhelming in the quarterfinals against FlipSid3, but picked up the pace in their toughest test of the tournament - the semi-final against Virtus.pro - where he finished all three maps with a positive K-D and a 1.22 rating for the series. After a one-sided grand final against Liquid, FalleN lifted another Major trophy and got yet another EVP award, despite being only the fourth best player of his team at the event with a 1.13 rating.
"ESL One Cologne was the first international event where it was possible for me to have my whole family to watch me play. It was amazing to win a tournament with my family in the crowd. A unique experience."
"The team played very well. Everyone was important, and this is the only way to win such difficult tournaments. Some rounds against Liquid on Train, winning eco rounds with big plays from cold and TACO are still in my head, I remember thinking that the title would not get away after such plays!"
The Brazilian squad was due to return to Atlanta for the ELEAGUE Season 1 playoffs, but they were off to an early vacation as they were disqualified from the competition as a result of leaving Luminosity to join SK Gaming.
"I believe that I should have been emotionally involved in the transfer in a much better way. I do regret some of the things that happened at the time, but I have learned from it. Esports are always growing and transforming, and players are no exception. I definitely think we could have fought for the ELEAGUE title. We were in a great moment, but it would be too arrogant of us to say for sure we would have won."
The summer break followed, but the team returned to North America without fer who was absent due to health issues. With Gustavo "SHOOWTiME" Gonçalves as a stand-in, SK didn't attend offline events but only played their part in online leagues and competitions. The first post-break event SK competed in was ESL One New York, but it was soon made obvious that the team wasn’t on the same level it was before the summer.
With his teammates a little bit rusty, FalleN stepped up to the task, leading his team in the fragging department as well as tactically. The 25-year-old recorded a team-high 1.07 rating (10% above team average) and 0.74 KPR - but without the rest of the team chipping in SK couldn't overcome Virtus.pro in the semi's, finishing 3-4th. ESL One New York was a good representation of what was to come in the second part of the year - no titles, but consistency in both high placings and FalleN's play.
FalleN's highlight play vs Astralis at ESL One New York
“Of course that the period we had without fer was a setback, also because we had some results that affected our confidence. I believe during [the post-break] period we could not fix some mistakes that we were picking up after defeats, so we kept repeating them. That made us stagnate, both tactically and individually. If you add to that the fact that during that period teams studied how we played and prepared really well for us, it made everything harder. Lack of recycling and commitment set us back in some tournaments.”
SK finished 3-4th at the following EPICENTER: Moscow, where FalleN once again performed admirably. He lead his team in their thrashings of G2 and Virtus.pro on Train (16-0 and 16-1 scorelines), but SK were defeated by the Poles once again, with Nuke proving to be the map pick that swayed the matchup the way of the Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas and co.
FalleN left Moscow with his 7th EVP award of the year, returning to Brazil for the first big tournament in his home country - ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals. With Virtus.pro, Natus Vincere and even fnatic missing out, everything seemed set for SK to lift the trophy in a stadium filled with their passionate fans. However, after making their way through the tournament with some convincing displays, both FalleN and his team went missing in the grand final with against Cloud9, finishing second.
“Playing in Brazil was the most fantastic feeling I have had in my career. Watching the clip and remembering the 1v2 against Cloud9 on Dust2 is just insane. Our comeback on the first map nearly brought the stadium down. That event was the best I have ever attended because of the support of our fans.”
FalleN's eighth and last EVP award came at IEM Oakland, where he once again dominated throughout the tournament before finally dropping off in the last two maps of the grand final, this time facing against NiP. Following Oakland, SK played the ELEAGUE Season 2 playoffs and ended 3-4th - the 10th above average rated event in a row for the Brazilian sniper and the last one with his FireGamers teammate fnx - who was removed from the team due to internal issues.
With Ricardo "fox" Pacheco filling in in fnx’s absence at the last tournament of the year, ECS Season 2, FalleN recorded his second below average event in 2016 - out of sixteen he attended. Despite FalleN's fall-off and the difficulties with the team adapting to fox, a dedicated AWPer, SK still managed to get to a top four finish over dignitas - who were also using a stand-in.
As SK made a name for themselves as a elite team in the world in 2016, we asked FalleN what he thinks that means for the local Brazilian scene now and how that ties into what teams like MiBR did back in 1.6, before FalleN's prime:
"In my opinion, Brazilian people have always loved CS and have always been very committed, working the way they can to improve at the game. The time of mibr, g3x, GC and the likes was crucial and reflects what we have nowadays because they assimilated and brought home experience and evolution by playing against international teams. This made the level of the players in Brazil get even higher. There is no doubt that many of them inspired me to be here today, and I am sure that the new generation looks at us the way I looked at them and also dreams about being professional."
"Nowadays, it is much easier for the fan to be closer to the player he roots for, because of the improvements in technology (streaming and social media) and because it is much easier to have a computer at home. Back in the day, we could only follow matches through scorebot on IRC or we kept trying to connect to an HLTV slot."
Even though he led the best team of 2016, won two Major titles and is ranked as the second best player of the year, FalleN does have some regrets:
“The way the transfer from LG to SK went, the preparation for DH Malmo, some key rounds where I failed and other things are lessons for the future.”
Why is he the 2nd best player of 2016?
FalleN was the only player who was an EVP or MVP of more than half of the events he attended in 2016, with 9 personal awards from 16 tournaments. Adding to that, two of his EVP's were from Majors and five were from big tournaments, with his MVP at DreamHack Austin not having a big impact on the overall ranking.
The Brazilian sniper was one of the most consistent players in 2016, with only two events that were below average - both barely under the cut (0.96 and 0.98 rating). His tournament-to-tournament consistency is followed by his round-to-round one, with FalleN having an impact (KAST) in 72.1% of the rounds.
With 27 Player of the Map awards he is tied first, and also leads in terms of involvement with either a kill, assist, survival or traded death in 93.6% of the rounds that SK/Luminosity won this year.
FalleN ranks 4th in terms of AWP kills per round with 0.41, but the number is the same for big event and Majors, meaning he didn't boost the statistic at lower-tier events such as DreamHack Austin. He is first in terms of total AWP kills (1570), with his team winning 74.3% of the rounds in which he made an AWP kill (1st among primary AWPers) - all that combined makes him the best AWPer of 2016.
His AWPing skills also lead to him being the best at opening rounds throughout the year, topping the list with 63.9% opening duels won (1st by far) and 0.14 opening kills per round (well above average, 7th overall).
Although he was the one taking the first duels in the round most of the time, FalleN would very rarely die, surviving 40.8% of the rounds and ranking 2nd overall. His survival was also helped out by successful clutching, where the Brazilian was one of the best as well with 55 1vX situations won (2nd).
"The fact that I am an AWPer really helps in [getting opening kills] because many times as CT you can pick the right spot to get an opening kill in the round. I really like to watch CS and I often say this joke that, when I am not streaming, I am watching streams. This means that I follow most CS matches and I have a good idea about how teams and certain players play. That helps me find weaknesses and AWP pick options that can bring me an edge. I always think that I bring more value alive than dead, so I try not to overextend to get unnecessary picks or make plays that do not make much sense."
The opening kills and clutching combined tie into his impact - he averaged a team-high 1.14 impact rating, but the number did drop off during SK and LG's biggest successes.
Overall, FalleN had a brilliant year, but the fact that he wasn't SK/LG's best player in their biggest tournament wins and was rarely the best-rated player in general, meant that he couldn't be ranked higher than #2.
“I have not been following younger players that much, so I will mention TACO. I leave here in writing that he will be among the 20 best players in 2017. His game level during the second half of the last year is worthy of that, and I believe he is working the right way to reproduce that this year.”