Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo takes the sixth spot on our top 20 ranking of the year, powered by EGB.com. SK Gaming's veteran was one of the top performers in the playoff stages of big events throughout 2017 and one of the best at opening up rounds and clutching them.
|Top 20 players of 2017: Introduction|
The unflagging motor of Brazilian CS, Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, is part of a dwindling group of players who can boast a career going all the way back to the early-mid 2000s. Between 2005 and 2008, FalleN got his first notable results, especially at WCG events. In 2008, FalleN started to make himself known, getting a fourth-place finish at WCG with several good performances. The following year, the Brazilian AWPer would be asked to join the country’s best team FireGamers, linking up with the likes of Lincoln "fnx" Lau, Renato "nak" Nakano, and Bruno "bit" Lima.
Since then, it was uphill for FalleN in CS 1.6, and in 2010 he played several international tournaments. First came ESWC, where FireGamers ended in 5-6th place, and then the WCG Pan-American against, which they won over Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert’s Evil Geniuses, a team he would beat again at the IEM V American Championship Finals. That yeah, FalleN also finished 4th at the main WCG event after dominating the local qualifier.
In 2011, with CS 1.6 losing some steam FalleN dabbled in CS:S while still playing 1.6. FalleN’s last event back then was with PlayArt, at a WCG Pan-American event in which he beat n0thing and Braxton "swag" Pierce’s Ultimax Gaming.
"I always believed CS was going to be a big esport. I bet on it for many years, although I was cautious and had a plan B in case my expectations didn’t become reality. In 2012, as I was getting the Games Academy project underway, I also studied electrical engineering for eight hours a day at a public university.
"In 2013 I enrolled at the Federal University of Curitiba (UTFPR), but that only lasted two weeks. One day, a professor asked me “why are you here?” and I answered "this is my plan B. I need a future in case my life as a gamer doesn’t work out." I didn’t show up the following day. After thinking about that conversation for hours, I decided to risk even more and go all-in on my dream, putting 100% of my energy into Games Academy and other projects."
It wasn’t until 2013 that FalleN switched over to CS:GO, as the scene in Brazil was considerably small at the time, and he plyed his trade for an "FPS" squad playing several games at the same time, alongside longtime teammate Fernando "fer" Alvarenga as well as fnx, Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles, and Henrique "HEN1" Teles. That team played their first international event at ESWC 2014, but a 21st-24th finish prompted changes in the scene. By merging KaBuM and TD, FalleN made the first Brazilian team that would have some sort of international success.
"Competition always ran in my blood. In Brazil we had different eras where some games had more competition than others. Many times, playing one or two relevant tournaments per year wasn’t enough. I wanted more. The challenge of playing more than one game at the same time always instigated me because I wanted to test my potential. I was a decent player for a Brazilian level when I played both CS:Source and CS 1.6 at the same time.
"When I played CrossFire, CS 1.6, and CS:GO, we were champions in almost every tournament we played in Brazil. The lack of tournaments and opportunities early on in CS:GO and the fact that other publishers like the one running CrossFire were supporting competition in the country made me embrace the idea of competing on a high level in Brazil.
"When we decided to make the multi-fps lineup I wanted two players, fnx and fer. We had no idea who the two others would be. We even thought about playing with two CrossFire players, but that lineup never materialized. We ultimately decided to go with the only two players who had some experience in 1.6 and who were playing CrossFire, HEN1 and LUCAS1.
"That lineup had a lot of chemistry and we competed together for the first time in an international CS:GO event at ESWC in Paris, having won most of the tournaments we played in Brazil in several games."
KaBuM.TD had on their books FalleN, fer, Ricardo "boltz" Prass, Lucas "steel" Lopes, and Caio "zqkS" Fonseca. After winning the Brazilian qualifier for MLG X Games Aspen, that lineup was able to catch the attention of the international community after taking a map, Mirage, FalleN & co.’s best, against Cloud9, by a 16-4 scoreline.
"It was very difficult to get enough money to go there, we knew we weren’t going to go there to win but as a first step to evolve and begin our journey. Due to the lack of funding it would have been really hard to compete with the existing structure, which is why we merged the two organizations, which had both the financial potential and the will to make it happen. That was the first lineup that got Brazil to a Major.
"I say that the Brazilian qualifier for MLG Aspen was the most important tournament of our lives. It allowed us to travel internationally with trips and lodging covered, which at that time was uncommon in Brazilian competitions (with the exception of the WCG of previous years). Our showing there, mostly the win over Cloud9, is what got us invited to the Katowice Major qualifier.
"I can’t describe the happiness I felt at the time, when I saw opportunities starting to appear. The eyes of the community finally looked towards Brazil and South America, and it was thanks to the community (fans and players, especially flusha) that we were able to finance our trip to the team’s first Major in Katowice.”
After making a top-eight finish at the Major qualifier and securing a spot at the $250,000 event, KaBuM.TD made the jump to North America, where they played in the ESL Pro League and in the FACEIT League, quickly becoming a top side in the region. One of the most important changes in the team’s history came after a group stage exit at ESWC 2015, when FalleN brought Marcelo "coldzera" David on board.
After replacing zqkS on the roster, coldzera quickly became one of the best players in the world, and it also meant FalleN could go back to being the main AWPer in the team, his longtime role. Having secured a spot at ESL One Cologne by finishing 5-8th in Katowice and settled in California, FalleN saw the perfect opportunity to bring on another Brazilian team, which ended up being Games Academy, the winners of FalleN’s Games Academy Golden Chance.
"When we decided to move to a slightly better house in Lancaster, California, across the street from where we had lived, I saw an opportunity to bring more great players who were in Brazil and had no opportunities. There’s no use in having talented players if they do not have opportunities, and I suffered a lot because of that during my whole career.
"Bringing the Games Academy project in partnership with Azubu, which financed the project and helped Ricardo [dead] and Camila, we decided to bring more Brazilians to live the dream that not long before was also mine."
Under Keyd Stars and Luminosity the Brazilian lineup played two more Majors, and while they were able to keep Legend status, the team was unable to perform in best-of-threes, making deep runs in tournaments very hard. That prompted steel and boltz to be dropped and fnx and Epitacio "TACO" de Melo to be brought into the starting lineup. The change had an immediate effect on the team as Luminosity went on to take second place, losing 1-2 to fnatic, at the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals.
2016 was the breakout year for FalleN & co., as they became one of the dominant forces in top-tier CS. That year, FalleN had an incredible 8 EVPs and 1 MVP, becoming the second best player of the year, only trailing behind teammate coldzera. The first tournament win for Luminosity was the MLG Major in Columbus, which was followed by wins at DreamHack Austin—where FalleN was named MVP—and at the ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals.
Among a plethora of deep runs in tournaments, several finals that couldn’t be closed out, and a few semi-final runs, FalleN & co., now under the SK banner, were once again able to bag a Major, their second in a row, at ESL One Cologne 2016 before closing the year out with several second and third-fourth place finishes.
With fnx out of the team late in 2016, SK played the first event of the year, the ELEAGUE Major, with Ricardo "fox" Pacheco. While the team had been practicing with João "felps" Vasconcellos, who would only be officially announced in February, he was ineligible to play in Atlanta due to Major transfer restrictions. With the stand-in, SK, the Brazilian team was able to take a respectable third-fourth place. Personally, FalleN had a 1.05 rating, fourth in the team, and a 72.4 ADR, in what would be a slow start to the year.
The second event of the year, DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, was also average for FalleN as SK—now with felps—lost in the final to Virtus.pro. In Las Vegas, FalleN averaged a 1.02 rating, once again fourth in the team, ending the tournament with more maps with ratings below the 1.0 mark than above.
The two following tournaments, IEM Katowice and StarSeries Season 3 Finals, were where FalleN, and the whole team, dipped lowest. For the Brazilian AWPer, it was the only two tournaments of the year with ratings below 1.0. In Poland, SK went out in 11-12th place after two victories and four losses in the round-robin group stage. FalleN only had one map with a positive rating, in a 16-6 victory over Heroic. At the StarSeries Season 3 Finals, SK also went out in the groups, in 9-11th place, and FalleN posted his worst rating of the year, 0.86.
"I had a rough start to the year, trying to adjust my game and testing the team in action with a more aggressive felps, trying to find space and make plays we didn’t before. I was good in the first tournament, but terrible in the second and third ones. That’s when we realized our previous structure was more adequate and reliable than the way we were playing. Then we started to organize the team in the same way we did in 2016.
Having figured out that felps’ aggressive style didn’t work for the team, FalleN decided to revert to their previous style, giving FalleN freedom to make plays once again. That change was noticed immediately at cs_ummit, a laid-back tournament that SK were able to win and where the 26-year-old got his first EVP of the season after delivering a 1.22 rating. The AWPer was particularly solid on the Terrorist side in California as he ended with a season-high 1.36 T-rating.
"At the beginning of the year I was going through something I’ve never gone through in my 15-year career as a CS player. Excessive criticism from fans, as well as from myself because I wasn’t giving my best and playing at a level that was below the one I consider I’m usually at.
"FalleN was always a friendly person, who tries to stay away from trouble and avoids controversy. BADFALLEN is the opposite, he appeared when I felt like I wasn’t able to put up with some of the things I was experiencing. Some people have a very short memory. You can do thousands of good things and it just takes one bad thing for people to come out with a hammer and crucify you. Such is the world. Even if you’re used to it, depending on how intense it is, it can still hit you.
"BADFALLEN appeared to get FalleN out of that situation, and he did it. It started randomly when I was playing Rank S and one of my teammates threw a flash in my face even though I had communicated what I was doing. In the heat of the moment, I put my sunglasses on and told him to flash me again, ironically of course. That is when I saw the opportunity to bring my alter ego to life."
FalleN stabilized after that, and the team went back to being one of the dominating forces in CS. Their next event took place in Australia, which played host to an IEM stop. In Sydney, SK emerged victorious after beating FaZe 3-1 in the final, and FalleN was awarded another EVP. He only had the fourth-highest rating on the team, but it was still a very commendable 1.22. In the three games won against FaZe in the final, FalleN had 1.10, 1.44, and 1.17 map ratings.
At the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, SK went out in the semi-finals to G2, a team they tend to struggle against. FalleN was still awarded an EVP, however, and deservedly so as he was second-best in his team with a 1.22 rating and a year-high 83.1 ADR. SK went back to winning ways at DreamHack Summer, although FalleN had a personal dip as he went down to a 1.05 rating, being rated fourth in the team.
SK doubled up at the ECS Season 3 Finals, where FalleN earned his fourth EVP mention of the year despite a relatively low 1.09 rating (third best among the squad), in part thanks to his team-leading 0.58 DPR and a very high KAST (72.8%). The team then visited Cologne, a familiar city for SK, whose headquarters and bootcamp facilities are located there. Right before the PGL Major, FalleN had a great event, leading his team to a first-place finish and earning an MVP award with a 1.24 rating—second highest of the year—and an impressive 1.32 impact.
"Technological advancement for demo analysis, the addition of coaches and analysts to teams, internationale teams being formed, and a great number of competitions and new talents appearing make this one of the most competitive eras of CS. Everything you do today will have been studied tomorrow. You have to have the basics nailed down really well to not just be a one-hit wonder. It’s also important to know how innovate which is what makes the difference in winning titles, tournament after tournament. How to do this without much time to practice is the secret to be on top and get ahead of the rest. There were many tight periods during the year and in most of them we were amongst the best."
The Major was FalleN’s worst memory of the year, as, according to him, "poor computers and the jump bug" marred what was supposed to be one of the most anticipated tournaments of the year. There, SK went out in the quarter-finals to Astralis, with whom they were paired after losing to BIG in the group stage. FalleN ended the tournament with a 1.01 rating, one of his lowest of the year.
In Malmö, SK also went out in the quarter-finals, but FalleN gave a better account of himself, boasting a 1.13 rating and seven 1vsX situations won. After Malmö, SK went to Mykonos, where they got a third-place finish, with FalleN keeping an upward trajectory individually as he brought in a 1.16 rating.
At ESL One New York, SK had another semi-final run, and FalleN had his highest rating of the year at 1.29 — with above-average ratings in every game and only one of them below 1.20 —although he was only the third-best in the team. Despite the team playing well individually, they lost in a tight semi-final to Liquid.
SK had a rough ELEAGUE Premier, going out in the group stage following back-to-back defeats to Heroic. Before EPICENTER, however, everything changed. That was boltz’s first tournament with the team, and SK went all the way to claim their first title in a while. In St. Petersburg FalleN was awarded yet another EVP—his fifth— after delivering a 1.23 rating. After that, SK flew to California, for IEM Oakland, where FalleN had a 1.11 rating in the team's semi-final run, the third best in the team.
"Our team is special. It’s the combination of peculiarities of every players on the team that makes us strong. The way of thinking, the efficiency during training, the respect towards and constant research on our opponents. Talent and innovation distances us from other teams. When our “machine” is working, we have coldzera at his highest level, fer being unpredictable, making our game easier and being a terror for the opponent, TACO’s dedication and mastery playing some of the hardest roles in the game for the benefit of the team, and now boltz in the passive role and filling the holes we need him to complete us.
"Knowing what to expect from my teammates, understanding what and how they like to do things, makes my life a lot easier as leader and that way I know what to do during the rounds. In addition, bringing boltz on has allowed me to have more freedom and be able to take more risks which is one of the strongest parts of my game."
SK bagged the last two events they played in 2017, BLAST Pro Series in Copenhagen, where FalleN was presented with his second MVP medal of the year, in large part thanks to an absolutely stunning performance in the grand final against Astralis. The experienced Brazilian, who racked up 38 frags in the last map of the final, also had an extremely high 1.27 Impact, his third highest of the year.
Finally, SK took the ESL Pro League Season 6 title in Odense, and, as the second best-rated player on the winning team (1.22), FalleN was once again awarded an EVP, his sixth and last. The 26-year-old featured in the top five in eight different categories, leading in none, and was the highest rated player in two of the three maps won in the much anticipated final against FaZe.
"I consider this year much more of a success than the one in which we won the Majors. We won both Majors in 2016, it was a good year, and we placed high many times, but we failed too much in big finals and let titles slip away.
"In 2017, we won eight titles in nine finals. The team is more mature and committed, and, in my opinion, the Majors have lost some prestige. The computers in Krakow weren’t in the best condition, which is absurd for events that are supposed to be the biggest of the year. We won a lot of tournaments in 2017 that could have easily been described as Majors, and, for us, they were. Beating the best teams in the world is what motivates us and keeps us going. Valve has to work better on their tournaments, bring more innovations and exceed the expectations of fans and players."
Why was FalleN the sixth best player of 2017?
One of the main reasons FalleN is ranked this high is because of his outstanding performances in playoffs at big events (1.14 rating over 65 maps, the fifth highest), which makes him one of only a handful of players who were able to achieve better ratings in playoffs than in group stages.
"When I’m on the stage or when I play an elimination match I know there is nothing to lose. I’m different from the rest and what I had to go through to get here was different. So when I get in the server I know I’m unique, and that’s my motivation. I play to change my life, to change my family’s life, the lives of the players on my team and of the thousands of fans, especially those in my home country. The moment on stage is my moment of consecration. I don’t play "not to lose." I play to win.
"I take risks others don’t take. I make decisions others would never make. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t, and I know the person next to me will stay with me, regardless if we win or lose. That’s my motivation. My team counts on me, and I have to deliver my best."
FalleN was also the fifth player with the most standout performances at big events, garnering two MVPs, at ESL One Cologne and BLAST Pro Series, and six EVPs, at cs_summit, IEM Sydney, ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, ECS Season 3 Finals, EPICENTER, and ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals.
Although he had just the seventh-highest AWP kills per round ratio at 0.37, he had the most kills with the 'Big Green' (1575), which still ranks him high on the list of best snipers of the year.
As usual, FalleN was one of the hardest players to kill (0.60 DPR, second-lowest), one of the best clutch players of the year, winning 59 1vsX situations (ranked second), and one of the best at opening up rounds, boasting a 61% success rate (second).
"I practice, I study, I learn. I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’ve never gone more than two weeks without playing Counter-Strike. I never believe I’ve reached the limit of what I can learn. If you play as much as I do the way I do, you can also make it to the top. And remember: the amount of practice does not equal the quality of it. I didn’t make it here alone. My teammates and my team are essential to my success. I would have probably not accomplished any of the things I have accomplished without the right people by my side. I’m always grateful to them, every day of my life.
"And, while we are on this, I’m second in a lot of things. I don’t mind not being first. What I care about is always trying to be the best. Knowing that you tried to be the best should always be comforting. Especially in defeat. If you’re not ready to lose, you’ll never be prepared to be a champion."
While all of the aforementioned statistics means he stood out in many ways as a top five player, his poor performance at the beginning of the year affected his overall consistency compared to other players, leaving him just outside the top five on our ranking.
FalleN went with a Brazilian player when asked to predict someone who will break out in 2018, and that player was Luminosity’s star, Marcelo "chelo" Cespedes, who had a good showing at the ESL Pro League Finals in Odense, where he averaged a 1.34 rating.
"I saw a bit of the level chelo reached at the end of 2017, and I think he has potential to become a great player. There are many talented players who can be in the ranking next year, but here’s a tip for everyone: be the best your team needs, not the best that you think you have to be.