FalleN: "We definitely need to do much better to start making comparisons to our runs in the past"
MIBR are widely regarded as one of the favourites coming into the $500,000 event, and with an extended preparatory period, they aim to deal damage and potentially end a trophyless run.
In a media day interview with the team's in-game leader, FalleN, we discussed the current state of the roster, Epitacio "TACO" de Melo's evolution, the team's mentality issues and how they plan to overcome them, and FURIA's impressive rise.
The "reunion" roster has been together since January 2019. At this point in time, do you feel the squad is in full swing, or are there still a few things to work on?
We definitely need to do much better to start making comparisons to our runs in the past, but I think we're on the right path. Recently, we've shown some progress during online matches and, overall, some competitions as well. We're now going to be on a five-tournament run over the next 40 days, or something like that. We're going to be able to discuss and make comparisons a little bit better after those tournaments have ended.
A figure that has been crucial to both the former Luminosity/SK and the recent-most MIBR roster is zews. Back in the day, he was still what could be described as an upcoming coach, since he had only recently concluded his own active career. Now that some time has passed, how has your interaction with Wilton evolved?
I think the work he's doing right now is pretty similar to the work he was doing in the past. He's always looking for new features that we can use in our game, being critical about things that we aren't doing properly, understanding and trying to identify things we need to get better at during the practices, and during competitions, making sure we study our opponents and know which vetoes we should be making. Also, he points out different strategies that we might face that we normally don't see from other teams.
He's someone we can rely on during crucial moments when games are going hard and you don't have the answer. He can bring a second opinion and, most of the time, he is correct about what he thinks.
Another crucial component of the team is TACO. On several occasions, speaking to both ex-LG/SK and Liquid players, at the time, Epitacio was described as not only an outstanding player but an important moral component within all squads that he was part of. Talk to me about what it means to have him back alongside the team.
It's great to have TACO back, he's a player that we have a lot of synergy playing with, and he understands a lot of concepts in the game. He knows that games are not only about numbers, it's all about doing the right thing at the right time, sometimes even not doing things, and letting teammates take initiatives - he's very good at that, he's a very good player. I think he grew a lot in Liquid. When we first played with TACO at the Major, I think he was displaying a much higher level than I had seen last year. This means that he had improved a lot individually, that's what I felt at first, but with time, and it's also a conversation I had with him, he has slowed down a little bit lately.
It's hard to say why, but maybe it's because of the roles he takes on for the team and all the ways he tries to contribute. He is not the same player he was in January, but he's working towards getting back to the level we saw, and we have been trying to put together a plan to return him to that level, because it was very impressive.
He's a very important player and a very cool guy to have around as well. He has always been critical about things we can get better at both inside and outside of the game. He brings a whole new perspective having played on another good team in the past.
If you had to compare TACO pre and post-Liquid, how would you say he changed?
Just the fact that he played with a bunch of different players, this in itself is already something that makes you have a different look on the game and the atmosphere in the team, so he's helping a lot with that.
Also, the fact that TACO is a player who constantly studies the opponent, which he likes to do for himself, helps me as an in-game leader sometimes, because I receive some information from him about what we're going to be facing, which helps me. He always has the extra component of watching the teams we're going to play and brings these extra comments during the matches.
In a previous interview, TACO mentioned that the team experienced mentality issues getting back into games that you are losing. This was quite unsettling, particularly considering that during the glory days, you were associated with a certain mental fortitude, the brightest example of which would be the immense comeback against Liquid in the semi-final of the MLG Columbus Major. What seems to be causing these issues for the team?
I think the resilience we built in the past is something you achieve by living those moments and experiencing comebacks, and also by having the strong mentality that you can pull [that] off against any opposition. Of course, it's much easier to have this mentality when you are winning trophies and having good wins. All of that gets really hard when you're not going through a good moment - it has been hard for us for the past months in terms of getting good wins.
It also has to do with how well you take those defeats, because as we're no longer the best team in the world, it was harder for us to deal with the fact. You kind of have to live those moments and understand that we're currently in a different situation, it's not the same as it was in the past, so we need to get used to it again, and we need to work harder to make sure we have a different mentality in those moments. It was a transformation of our mentality, but I think we have done that already. We take every single game we play right now very seriously, we know that every opponent can be difficult, from Astralis to any tier two teams that we play online. All those matches can go very wrong if you don't approach them right. By having a better understanding of all of that, it gets easier to get back to that path, where you can really come back into any game.
Talking about the present - we're here at the media day of ECS. MIBR had a very decent chunk of time to prepare for the event. How is the squad feeling going into the tournament?
I think the preparation we had going into these next five tournaments was very good. We spent time at our gaming house, spent some spare time at home doing the things we like. We practiced a lot, which was very important. The recent results were very good, we were able to qualify for ECS - all the important matches we managed to win, so that was very satisfying and boosted our confidence, in my opinion.
I saw the level of play rise a little bit, and now it's going to be up to us to show the same level here at our first tournament, and keep it up for the upcoming four tournaments as well. It's going to be a very busy 40 days with all the competitions, and we have to make the most of it.
Present at the event are your compatriots of FURIA, who have really blown up as of late, particularly in light of their recent performance in Dallas, where they secured a semi-final exit. What are your general thoughts on the roster?
FURIA is a team that has been rising very fast. They have taken the hard path of having to go through a lot of qualifiers to secure spots in leagues, and I think they have done a very good job so far. Some of the players, and their coach, I have had contact with before. Even KSCERATO, in 2012-2013, I was teaching some classes in Brazil, and we had some LAN encounters, where I would meet guys in a cybercafe and play some CS - he was there. It's very cool to see him flourish on a very good team. Their coach, guerri, I had been playing against him since 2007, so we had been opponents for quite a long time, I know him very well. All the other guys I'm getting to know better now, I think this is the first tournament we're going to be at at the same time, so we're going to have some time to spend together.
For us it's great to see another team come up and it's a reason to be proud, because we opened this path for so many young players to start thinking about having a life of CS nowadays. On the other hand, we don't want to have another Brazilian team coming up and trying to take our position as the best Brazilian team, you know (laughs). I think they're far from that, but they are definitely on the right path, and they're a team that we have already started admiring in terms of how they play the game. They are definitely bringing their own style, and that's cool to see because it's going to inspire a lot of other teams to copy some of their strat book or some of their ideas about how CS should be played.
Looking at the rankings, FURIA are currently right behind you at #11. Do you think they stand the chance to overtake you as the #1 Brazilian team in the near future?
To be honest, if we're only talking about HLTV rankings, then I think there is a big chance they can ever overcome us, because it's up to the teams who are playing the most, and if you have a big break, or skip some tournaments, teams can really go up in the rankings.
In terms of playing high-level CS, I don't think they are even close to the level we can play at yet, but I think they are on the right path and they just have to keep working. They need the experience of playing and losing at tournaments, they need to go for these tournaments, fight against better teams and really polish their game as they have been doing since Dallas, I guess. I think they have a long way to go to achieve the level, at least I think, that we are at, because of all we have achieved, but they're definitely on the right path.