SK Gaming’s rise back to prominence after disappointing results with new addition felps has been bolstered by a victory at IEM Sydney. A flawless group stage, dominant semi final match against OpTic, and closely-contested 3-1 grand final win over FaZe allowed the Brazilian side to claim their second title in a month.
I spoke to SK’s veteran leader, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, about the grand final match and the team’s goal to become the best in the world once again.
Your team has gone from two group stage exits to a win at the cs_summit and now a win here at IEM Sydney. What do you think is the big factor that’s changed in the team to facilitate this?
I think it was adaptation at the moment. We were trying to figure out how to play with felps. We were trying to use the best we could from his abilities. And in game we figured out that it was more about him understanding the player he had to become to make us play well. So, I think it was adapting. For us, it was a kind of a mindset too. Like, let’s go back to the drawing board, let’s start everything from scratch, so we can get better results.
A lot of people are talking about fer and felps and how their playstyles are very similar. What’s the dynamic in the team between these two? Is fer stepping back? Is felps changing his play?
We normally call felps a young fer because fer has more experience and has been playing for a longer time. They have some really similar abilities that you can’t find in other players so it’s very good to have players like this. On the other hand, when you have this success, it‘s also bad as well. If they both want to do fer and felps things every single time we’re probably going to lose the match because this is not how proper CS works. We need to find a balance where we can use our skills and the match plays they can do. I think fer is more experienced and knows when to do it and felps is trying to be the player we need. If we have the opportunities to do his plays, of course we will do it, but he’s doing it less and less because you can’t have doing that every single time.
Starting on Train in the grand final, your team got out to a great lead. Were you swayed at all when FaZe started to come back on the CT side?
Train has always been a very good map for us and we really didn’t understand why we were losing so many Train games lately. We tried going back to the drawing board to see whether to add some new stuff to our game, mainly on the CT side, and we’ve adapted. I don’t think we felt we could lose this game. They had a very good CT side as well, it got a little close. But with the good start we had, it was very difficult to throw that game and we played super good. I expected to win and we did it.
Cache had a pretty dominant scoreline, but a lot of the rounds came down to close situations, such as 3-on-3s, 2-on-2s. What can you tell me about the playstyle and communication of the team during those situations?
I think Cache was the best map we played in this tournament. Everything was going great, we were playing super well, all based off each other. A lot of rounds you could see someone using a flashbang in very tough and exciting moments, using the flash to get kills, or being patient enough to make a rotation to happen to get some kills. The communication was perfect in the game. We were feeling very well and very confident after beating them on Train, and I think if we had the same approach on Inferno we would not have lost it. The moment on Cache was perfect. Everyone was playing confidently and making the right decisions.
Can you go into a bit more detail on went wrong on Inferno that allowed FaZe to get 10 T rounds?
Everything that was going well on Cache, we did it wrong on Inferno; sometimes talking too much while dead, making stupid mistakes like re-peeking in 2v2s, including myself. I think they started super well. They got pistol, which is super important as T, and 6-0 so we had to pause the game. We came up with the double AWP setup that got us 3 rounds, but they got some more. We paused at 9-3 and tried to get it 9-6. What I think went wrong at the beginning was that they were playing super fast on the A site and that caught us a little off-guard. When we went to the T side, I thought we were playing an amazing side, but then we started losing some clutches that we shouldn’t have, clutches where we had the advantage; things that we didn’t do on Train or Cache for example. It was more about the atmosphere and the emotional part of the game. We lost a bit of ourselves at the end of that match and that’s why we didn’t win it.
Overpass was very back and forth with a lot of force buy rounds. Did you guys ever think to concede a round to FaZe for the sake of your economy?
I think that was one of those games where you trade 7 or 8 rounds in a row. It’s crazy. We lost so many rounds that we shouldn’t have. It kept happening on this map, but this time we kept ourselves cool. We knew that we had a good CT side. We knew that they are not that good on T side on Overpass, they don’t play it too much, even with the ninja play to defuse the bomb and us losing some rounds because we didn’t go over a plan or something like that. I think they played well, though. You can’t take it out from FaZe. They have great players, their aim is insane, they have a good leader. So, it would be bad from me if I just think we made mistakes. They did very good plays as well and got some rounds that they shouldn’t have.
What was going through your team’s head when karrigan was able to get that last-second ninja defuse?
I think that round was my fault because I was the one closest to the bomb and I was trying to be one step ahead for the next round. So, I was using that team when the bomb was going to explode to talk about the next round. Suddenly, we were too far away when we heard him defuse the bomb and it was too late. But that round was not a big deal. After we lost it, we said “alright, they did it, my bad, let’s go after the next one”. A lot of teams would be way more hurt from this, so I think we had a good mentality.
We’ve touched on felps and fer, but I wanted to ask you about TACO, as we saw him pick up the AWP a lot in this tournament, especially on B platform on Cobblestone. Is that confidence-based for him or positional-based?
It’s positional-based. If TACO was playing drop, then he would be AWPing on B site. It’s more about which gun fits the position we’re playing. TACO’s a very good AWPer. He knows how to play, he has good aim, he has good positioning, he knows when to wait for flashbangs and when to re-peek. TACO’s a great all-round player. He knows how to do everything and he does one of the most difficult and important roles in the game which is being the entry killer and anchoring sites. TACO’s an amazing player and we’re so happy to have him in the team.
What’s next for SK and what can you do to become the best team in the world again?
Our next event is Pro League finals in Dallas. We have 3 or 4 tournaments coming up before the break. Next is going back home, practicing again, watching our matches, checking for mistakes, changing some stuff, and that’s it. Keep up the same work to get more trophies.
Do you have any final words or shout outs you’d like to give?
I’d just like to thank everyone here in Sydney. I think ESL did a great job with this tournament. Australia is amazing and also the crowd was amazing. I think they put on a great show just like the Brazilian fans. I think when you have tournaments in regions that normally don’t have it, they take it like a unique chance.