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League of Legends Worlds 2020: INTZ micaO hopeful for CBLoL's international fortunes

League of Legends Worlds 2020: INTZ micaO hopeful for CBLoL's international fortunes

Although Micael "micaO" Rodrigues and INTZ Esports were unable to reach the 2020 World Championship's main event, the journey towards their goal was the strongest statement Brazilian League of Legends could make.

League of Legends Worlds 2020: INTZ micaO hopeful for CBLoL's international fortunes

Image credit: LoL Esports

Micael “micaO” Rodrigues looked down at his screen as INTZ Esports’ final defenses crumbled one by one.

As the nexus exploded, the team’s hopes of carrying the hopes of the Brazilian League of Legends fanbase to a Group Stage showing died. For the third time in a row, Brazilian fans were to watch those from other regions fight for the prestige of facing the best teams in the world in the Main Event.

But a moment later, as INTZ were walking away from the stage for the last time, mid laner Bruno “Envy” Farias chatted his way, the contents of the exchange unknown beyond them; micaO smiled.

What a crazy few days, and what a crazy few months, it has been for INTZ: from escaping relegation after the first split of the 2020 Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends (CBLoL) season, to falling so close to their region’s dream, all during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has hit Brazil harder than most other places.

And they did it with the same roster when most organizations would have reshuffled, overcoming adversity and criticism within the scene for their seemingly foolish choice.

“We made the decision to stick together, and I think it just shows how strong we had to be, and how willing to work with each other,” micaO recalled in an interview with Millenium, when INTZ's hopes for a run were still alive. “I think it's [because] we are friends with each other, it makes everything easier.”

Without friendship, the stinger of their Worlds 2020 Play-In exit would have hurt beyond disappointment; as finger-pointing would have been the norm in teams that had neither a fully-fledged collective identity, nor the bedrock on which such an identity could be built. micaO knows how important friendship can be, and how to keep pushing. And experience taught him when to fold and to look for new adventures.

A younger micaO (center) stands alongside his 2016 teammates at the World Championship. Credit: LoL Esports - League of Legends
A younger micaO (center) stands alongside his 2016 teammates at the World Championship. Credit: LoL Esports

In 2016, a young curly-haired micaO reached the World Championship group stage with four other friends in what many remember as INTZ’s golden years: Felipe “Yang” Zhao, Gabriel “Revolta” Henud Cresci, Gabriel “Tockers” Claumann and Luan “Jockster” Cardoso. Despite their Group Stage exit, they stunned heavy group favorites EDward Gaming, and their contribution changed the face of that year’s bracket stage. Since then, that roster split, reunited, and split again, experiencing a rollercoaster of highs and lows, with their final stop being relegation and a final separation.

Nowadays, Envy, Rodrigo “Tay” Panisa, Diogo “Shini” Rogê and Ygor “RedBert” Freitas flank him, but the vibe is all the same. And his gratitude for this turn of events, after narrowly missing out on 2019 World Championship qualification, is apparent.

“It's a good time to be here four years later,” micaO said, the weight of the passing of time manifested as he reflected. “It's the biggest honor we can have, that I can have. It just feels really good since it's been a long way since the last one.”

Current circumstances did not help alleviate the weight of the time that passed, as COVID-19 affected daily life across the board. The occasions to relieve the accrued stress of competition were few and far between, especially as Brazil’s lack of early measures turned the situation more chaotic than it could have been with proper care and planning.

In comparison, during the World Championship, micaO felt good. He didn't mind undergoing the quarantine, maintaining social distancing, and wearing a mask. “It's better than in Brazil,” he said. “The whole year in Brazil has been bad in these terms.”

So, he focused on honing his individual skills on the Chinese super server, which can only be accessed by players with a Diamond I level account or above in other servers, as even a Bronze I player on it has Diamond-level caliber. As for team play, scrims against the world’s finest took care of that.

All is well, until one remembers the weight carried by Brazilian representatives since 2016 – the year he went to the World Championship for the first time. The region has been improving, but not quickly enough to keep pace with the rest of the field.

“Since 2016, we keep getting worse every year, and it really sucks,” micaO said. “We really want to have Brazil put in a good performance internationally. That's the end-goal for everyone. We need to do something to evolve more than the others.”

micaO (center) takes a group picture with the 2020 Worlds roster. Image credit: LoL Esports - League of Legends
micaO (center) takes a group picture with the 2020 Worlds roster. Image credit: LoL Esports

For 2020, in appearance, INTZ’s elimination may not seem like much, as CBLoL representatives often bit the dust before the bracket stage. But the way they did it was different: they looked the part of a competitive team, featuring cohesion and a solid overall understanding of the game and of their capacities. Which is why their elimination is more bittersweet, as it is difficult to pinpoint an exact point of emphasis for future improvements.

“Individual [play] matters, but it's always that we make too many mistakes,” micaO said. “I can't really pinpoint the issue because it's a bit of everything. Early-game in the second game [of the Play-Ins], vision and tempo in the first game, and some individual stuff.”

INTZ did their best, with a marquee victory against then-undefeated Team Liquid to support that, a victory that allowed them to force a tiebreaker against MAD Lions. The fans that had been up watching them since 5 AM local time could feel hope and rallied behind their players, and it all seemed good for a time. But botched minion wave management after a Baron Nashor takedown took the game from a potential by-the-book victory to a heartbreaking defeat.

Even during the Play-Ins, he cherished their support.

“I want to thank you for all the support, everyone,” he said when INTZ’s fate had yet to be sealed. “It's a tough time to watch us in Brazil, and a lot of people are supporting us. It just sucks that the results were like this, but we will try to come back stronger.”

They became stronger indeed. And they did their best despite being down 0-2, their only lopsided defeat coming against Papara SuperMassive. But for one more year, Brazil’s representatives will miss out on the Main Event.

However, if their competition in the CBLoL – especially KaBuM! e-Sports, paiN Gaming and Prodigy Esports – keep pace, the time will come for the region to cheer for their players as they take on Main Event opponents, as they did in 2016.

Worlds 2020 Schedule & Results

Worlds 2020 is now over, and it's the Koreans of DAMWON Gaming who have claimed the Summoner's Cup! Find all the results from League of Legends' premier tournament right here.

Worlds 2020 Play-Ins: One word to define the teams in hindsight

Defining the 2020 Worlds play-ins as awesome is the easy part. Splitting it into 10 words, one for each team that competed during the event, gives a far more accurate story.

Adel Chouadria
Adel Chouadria

Freelance esports writer in Europe with eight years of LEC coverage experience. Also a 90's NY Knicks fan, sneakerhead, and wrestling fan. Cake is #1.

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