Number 18 in the top 20 ranking of 2017, powered by EGB.com, is Ricardo "boltz" Prass, who makes the cut for the first time in his career in large part thanks to his consistent level of play, which didn’t always match up to Immortals’ inconsistencies, as well as his role in SK's title-winning campaigns late in the year.
Ricardo "boltz" Prass began his career in early 2014, in Brazil, where he played alongside many talented up-and-coming players, including his now-teammates Epitacio "TACO" de Melo and Marcelo "coldzera" David. But it was only when he was included into ProGaming.TD with Caio "zqkS" Fonseca and Lucas "steel" Lopes that his first real opportunities would come as he and his teammates then joined KaBuM.TD, linking up with Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and Fernando "fer" Alvarenga for the first time. Back then, Brazilian CS was pretty much non-existent, especially outside of the country’s borders, but that KaBuM.TD lineup would be able to break down the barriers and successfuly compete abroad.
"In Brazil, I made my first competitive appearances at the start of 2014. At first, I played alongside coldzera and TACO on some teams, but then I got invited to join Progaming.TD, alongside zqkS and steel. Some time later, the team became KaBuM.TD (FalleN, fer, zqkS, steel and me). This all happened in 2014 and very quickly, we would make our first international appearance in January 2015. In terms of important moments in my career, I believe everything that has happened and all the tournaments I have played in are part of my learning process, not just as a player but also as a person."
At the start of 2015, KaBuM.TD played at MLG X-Games Aspen, where they beat Cloud9 but fell to Dignitas and NiP. That marked the beginning of the long journey that the Brazilians have taken to make their country a dominant force in the scene.
KaBuM.TD then qualified for their first Major, ESL One Katowice 2015, which they played under the Keyd Stars banner. In Poland, they ended in 5-8th place after losing to the hometown favorites, Virtus.pro, in the playoffs.
"My expectations back then were not as high, first I wanted us to stabilise as a great team, playing big events on a regular basis, which is something that did not happen at the time. However, I always knew that the team had a lot of talent and had the potential to achieve what it has achieved."
Despite having taken only their first steps towards success, boltz & co. were known for their great best-of-ones but terrible best-of-threes. Playing for Luminosity—now with coldzera in lieu of zqkS—, the Brazilians struggled to win playoffs matches, like at the ESL One Cologne 2015 and DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 Majors—where they went out to fnatic and Natus Vincere, respectively, in the quarter-finals.
At the end of 2015, having been unable to make it out of the groups at the CEVO Season 8 Finals, and lost their only two maps at IEM San Jose, boltz and steel were removed from Luminosity and were replaced by TACO and Lincoln "fnx" Lau, who would go on to make Luminosity and later SK the best team in the world. Meanwhile, boltz was sent down to Games Academy where he joined Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles, Henrique "HEN1" Teles, Gustavo "SHOOWTiME" Gonçalves, and future SK player João "felps" Vasconcellos in what was a big step down in his career - but one that would ultimately make him a stronger player.
"At the start of Games Academy, we were five young players, but with our desire to win and to improve day by day, with some lineup changes and with the experience we gained, we became stronger and more ambitious after every tournament.It was a very good evolution and it was very satisfying to be part of it."
Soon after the transfer, the team got picked up by Tempo Storm, and they started to get more and more exposure after qualifying for a handful of tournaments in the international circuit. After failing to go to their first Major, the Brazilians went out in the quarter-finals at IEM Katowice 2016 and in the groups at DreamHack Masters Malmö 2016. It was at a medium-sized LAN, CEVO Season 9 Finals, that boltz won his first tournament. To top it off, he was named the MVP, thanks to an average 1.21 rating and a +61 KDR over 14 maps.
Tempo Storm then came second at DreamHack Austin 2016, won the ESEA Premier Season 21 LAN, and qualified for the ESL One Cologne 2016 Main Qualifier by coming in second place at the MLG Minor. With 1.51 and 1.25 ratings at the latter two, respectively, boltz was starting to show he could punch above the weight of the teams he was facing at these medium-sized LANs, something notable considering the star players of the team were felps and HEN1.
With good results in the bag, boltz and his teammates changed organizations once against and signed for Immortals. After being eliminated from the ESL One Cologne 2016 Main Qualifier, their first tournament under new management, Immortals won back-to-back titles at DreamHack Summer and Northern Arena. After a couple of bad results, Wilton "zews" Prado, who had attempted to make a comeback as a player, replacing SHOOWTiME, was let go, and boltz was reunited with his old teammate steel, who was brought in to take the in-game leadership reins. Eventually, boltz closed out 2016 with a 1.12 rating and a 1.08 LAN rating, showing he could be consistently dependent despite not being the team’s star player.
With fnx on tow for felps, who had moved to SK, boltz & co. kicked 2017 off with a semi-final run at IEM Katowice 2017, where they lost to FaZe on two maps, followed by a group stage exit at the SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals, where, despite the team's poor showing, boltz still had a 1.22 rating, the best on the team. Early in the year, boltz was already showing that a high number of tournaments in the red was a thing of the past.
Immortals kept their good results at small and medium-sized events, finishing second at DreamHack Austin 2017, where they lost to Gambit in the final, and winning the Esports Arena Showdown Championship against much smaller opposition. They were, however, unable to make a mark on the bigger stages, placing 9-10th at the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals—Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe’s first event with the team—where they failed to make it past the round robin group stage, and 12-14th at ESL One Cologne 2017, boltz’s worst tournament of the year as he averaged a 0.77 rating over four maps.
"kNgV- brought a lot of desire to the team and he really made us stronger as a unit, which is something that the team had been missing for some time, not to mention his performances and his amazing in-game level, which were notorious right from the start."
At PGL Major Krakow - boltz's first Major since departing Luminosity -, Immortals finished in second place behind Gambit after beating the local favorites, Virtus.pro, in the semi-finals. In Krakow, boltz had a 1.08 rating, the fourth-highest on his team, but he still earned an EVP nomination because his good performances were crucial to his team’s deep run, while his weaker moments did not have such a negative impact. He showed up in the games his team won and was the highest rated player on those maps, making him a stand-out player in his team’s success story.
"We did not expect such a high placing, also because it was the team’s first Major, but after it started we realised we were playing at a high level, and, when we went through the groups and we learned the bracket, we knew we had a great chance to go far. I think what really helped was that we bootcamped in Europe and played in some great tournaments weeks before the Major, which allowed us to cut out a lot of mistakes."
After the Major, boltz closed out his stint in Immortals with three great events where he was the top-rated player of the team, whose results did not always mirror his stats. boltz had a 1.12 rating at DreamHack Masters Malmö, where his team went out 5-8th following a 2-0 loss to North, and a 1.38 rating (+36) at DreamHack Montreal, where he could have been an MVP had his team not forfeited the first map of the final and lost the only map that was played—once again against North—as he had a 1.29 impact rating, 97.8 ADR, and 80.9% KAST. At ELEAGUE Premier, boltz once again had a fairly high 1.23 rating (+23) despite Immortals' unimpressive 9-12th place run following losses to North and fnatic.
"My worst memory [of 2017] was for sure what happened at DH Montreal."
With a myriad of good showings under his belt in the first half of 2017, including three EVPs at DreamHack Austin, PGL Krakow, and DreamHack Montreal, boltz was rescued by SK as his team was crumbling. After the Montreal fiasco, kNgV- was benched, and LUCAS1 and HEN1 declared themselves in rebellion as they were unhappy with the team’s management, who had allegedly slighted the players by signing João "horvy" Horvath as the team’s backup member against their will.
With LUCAS1, HEN1, and fnx benched, and kNgV- released from the team, boltz was asked to join FalleN & co. on SK as felps had not been able to adapt to his new role and was not happy playing with the team, who kept struggling for form.
"After the mid-season break, SK did not have any good results, if I am not mistaken their latest setback was going out in the groups at ELEAGUE, which is something that did not happen often to them, so I imagine the atmosphere was not the best at the time. As I received messages from Dead, FalleN, and Camila at the same time on WhatsApp while I was practicing with Immortals, I thought it was something related to it. After practice we had a talk and I got invited."
In four tournaments with SK, boltz almost doubled his EVP count, getting two more under his belt after helping SK to win their final two events of the year. His worst showing for the team came at IEM Oakland 2017, where he averaged a 1.01 rating in the Brazilian team’s semi-final run. At EPICENTER, in St. Petersburg, boltz ended with a 1.13 rating, and he closed out the year with 1.15 and 1.20 ratings at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen 2017 and at the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals, in Odense.
Some of the highlights of boltz’s play with SK were the finals against Virtus.pro at EPICENTER, where boltz racked up 29 and 37 frags in a single and double overtime maps, or the BLAST Pro Series final against Astralis, in which he had a 1.21 series rating.
"I had two very special matches last year, both of which against Virtus.pro. The first one was in the PGL Major Krakow semi-final. Beating them in front of such a passionate crowd was incredible. And then beating them in the EPICENTER final, in a bo5 that, in my opinion, was the best game of the year, we won my first tournament for SK."
After a rollercoaster ride with the bad boys of Immortals, both in and out of the server, boltz was able to close out the year in style in his last tournaments with SK, and with 2018 looking bright for the young Brazilian player, his goals will be to remain at the top as his contributions to SK late in the year were crucial for the Brazilian team to be able to enter the new year as the best team in the world after months of fierce competition for the top spot in the ranking with Finn "karrigan" Andersen’s FaZe.
"I think I cannot just mention one good memory. Reaching the final of the Major with Immortals was magical, and then joining the best team in the world and winning three titles in four tournaments was something that I have no words to describe. My goal for 2018 is to keep our team at the top and win as many tournaments as possible."
Going into the new year, boltz will have a thorn in his side, however, as he is ineligible to play the upcoming ELEAGUE Boston Major with SK, who will field felps instead. Apart from that, boltz believes the Majors should be played at the end of a season, when teams are peaking, instead of at the beginning, when they’re fresh from vacation.
"A lot has been said, but they continue not listening. Most people agree that the rules about the roster lock do not reflect what the CS scene needs. Besides that, I believe the dates for the Majors are also wrong. In my opinion, the Majors should be the last events before breaks, when teams are at their peak, and not the first ones after breaks."
Why is boltz #18 in this year’s top 20 ranking?
The main reason boltz made it into the list is how consistent he was throughout the year, even at times when his Immortals team were not. With only one really bad tournament (ESL One Cologne), boltz always delivered to some extent, and he went above and beyond on the five occasions in which he was named a tournament EVP (three with Immortals, two with SK).
boltz is also one of the most impactful support players in the game, as shown by his ADR of 81.1 (11th highest), his grenade damage of 8.0 per round (2nd highest), and his 0.16 APR (5th highest), all three stats a clear measurement of his impact within his teams, even though he was usually eclipsed by the brighter shining stars in the different lineups he played for.
"Whenever possible I buy an HE grenade instead of two flashes, which is something that most players do, and I always try to use them well, especially on the CT side. Soloing some bomb sites really helps in that regard."
Having grown out of some of the bad habits that got him removed from Luminosity, boltz has shown that he can measure up with the best by proving to be a reliably consistent player even, and, with three titles under his belt with SK, he proved that, when the team is consistent, he can still perform at very high levels, despite not being tasked with doing the heavy lifting.
Being a support player who sacrifices himself for his team may have hindered boltz' ranking finish, as he was never the star player in any of his teams' top placings. In the server, playing certain positions—particularly on the CT side—also hurt his stats as he forced himself to play, especially on his former team, some of the harder positions.
"I think that soloing some bombsites, which is something that happened more often on Immortals, harmed my CT stats a bit, but that is something I am not worried about, I always took upon myself the challenge to play where no one else wanted. Besides, I really like to play as T."
"I think Twistzz is a great top 20 candidate for 2018. If he had had better results and made more appearances at big events he would already be on this list."