Surrounded by his charismatic teammates, INTZ e-Sports mid laner Gabriel “Tockers” Claumann cracks a sheepish grin as his team files in, waving to their fans. A few moments later, Tockers and INTZ are seated, ready to play for the CBLoL 2016 Summer championship against Keyd Stars. The smile on his face immediately falls, replaced by an intense scowl of concentration and a furrowed brow.
Approximately four hours later, INTZ are crowned CBLoL Summer champions. Placed in a lineup with Gabriel “Revolta” Henud, who oozes charm in interviews, the affable Micael “micaO” Rodrigues, and playful pranksters Luan “Jockster” Cardoso and Felipe “Yang” Zhao, Tockers comes across a bit stiffer even in the afterglow of a championship victory.
“I just play my game. People assume that I am boring or that I don't have personality when in fact I do!” He laughs. “I just don’t show it.”
The end result of his perceived lack of personality is that Tockers has quietly been towards or at the top of his region for the past two years, with little to no community recognition.
“I'd rather play my my game, practice and get better. I don't know why people say, 'He's bad because he doesn't have personality.' Before I was bad because I was bad, now it's another reason, you know? They'll always find a reason."
Continuous hard work has propelled the mid laner through the ranks of Brazilian mid laners and to the best season of his career this past split. In the regular season he had the highest KDA of any starting player in Brazil (6.5) along with the second-best first blood percentage (62 percent) and second-highest CS per minute (8.9) of any mid laner in the region. This was all while having the lowest percentage of his team’s total deaths (13.9 percent) and fewer resources (23.5 percent of INTZ’s gold) than the majority of his mid lane counterparts.
When he first began, Tockers was even more of an unknown than he is now, which is relative to the two Brazilian gods of the mid lane that overshadow him — Keyd’s Murilo “takeshi” Alves and paiN Gaming’s Gabriel “Kami” Santos. In retelling how he came to be on INTZ, there’s a lingering incredulity in Tockers’ voice that he was initially chosen at all.
“At the time, everyone was really bad. I was really, really bad.” He places extra emphasis on really while laughing a bit. “We didn't know anything about the game, so we would just play like it was solo queue. Try to win your lane, just group into something and just try to yolo."
This is how INTZ worked as a team until the arrival of Revolta in the 2015 preseason, who brought with him some semblance of macro strategy that he’d picked up while on Keyd Stars.
"With Djoko (INTZ’s former jungler) we were happy to be one of the best in Brazil. When Revolta came, this changed into 'You need to be the best, not one of the best.' We started learning, we started building knowledge, because now we understood how the game worked; not just doing what Revolta said but doing things that we now thought were right. Everyone started getting better and smarter about the game. That's why we got so much better in so little time."
INTZ e-Sports stormed through CBLoL Summer 2015, sweeping Keyd Stars in the Summer Final to become Brazil’s inaugural representative at the International Wildcard Invitational. IWCI was a tournament that INTZ was favored to win, with the Turkish side Beşiktaş e-Sports Club and the GPL’s Bangkok Titans hot on their heels. Their first opponent was jet-lag, as they had approximately 48 hours from their finals games in Brazil until their Day 1 IWCI matches in Turkey.
"That was really, really bad. We were so tired from the finals, and we had to travel the next day. We had to watch the replays on the plane. Riot gave us a notebook with all of the replays and they said that that's all they had, so we watched mostly on the plane. When we got there it was 11 p.m. and we didn't want to sleep so we went to play solo queue and the next day we had to wake up at 7. After the first game against Chiefs, we just slept on the floor. There was a room for us and it was just five guys sleeping,” he laughs. “It was horrible really."
Tockers’ individual performance visibly suffered at the tournament, due to a higher ping environment than he was used to.
"We were playing with 50 ping when we were used to playing with 9 in Sao Paulo. I couldn't play champions like Cassiopeia because it was too hard at the time. I was losing some lanes because I couldn't last-hit properly. I lost some lanes that I wasn't supposed to because I couldn't last hit, it was really annoying."
He ended up bearing the brunt of the criticism levied at INTZ, especially after their finals loss to Beşiktaş.
"I literally stopped using Twitter. People wanted to kill me, I don't know why. When the finals came, we were playing against Besiktas and we just tilted. It was something else that crowd. I got a lot more criticism, at the time it was really hard for me. I wasn't playing that well, it's true. But it's because of the whole Kami/takeshi thing. I won against them and I was nobody. People wanted me to destroy everyone."
Seemingly unable to escape the looming shadows of Brazil’s two most popular mid laners even now, he posits that their longstanding history in Brazil along with their individual personalities continue to contribute to fan popularity, even to this day.
"There was a time when they were really ahead of the curve but ... it's not like that anymore. If they don't step up, they might fall behind. People still think they are gods when in fact, everyone is better now and it's not like Kami and takeshi can just win against everyone."
Admittedly, the game has evolved far beyond a time where players could simply stomp their lane and win — but the legacy of takeshi and Kami’s individual outplays lingers over the consistency needed to be a strong mid laner in 2016.
"When you watch a game as a spectator what do you want to see? You want to see the big play,” Tockers says. “When you're at the show you aren't there to see how this guy sets up this wave, or how he controls vision and I understand that, but the thing is that people overrate big plays too much. This split I think I had some big plays too and it didn't matter after all. It's kind of weird."
Shrugging off his relative unpopularity, Tockers’ strong understanding of how the mid lane meta has shifted in the last year, and even the past few weeks, is continuously reinforced by his play on the Rift. Tockers has been a carry when the team has required that of him, and taken a backseat to other teammates when necessary.
"In this meta, mid laning is about keeping control of the lane,” he says. He’s spent his most recent matches on champions with high waveclear or zone control like Corki and Azir. “Whoever gets the push will have control of the map. If the other guy gets the push, it's so much pressure. With this jungler meta where Kindred is god, if the good Kindred team gets the push, you'll have a bad time playing against her. Mid lane is all about having the push, controlling the lane and vision. It's not about solo-killing the other guy. You can control the game by controlling mid."
Most recently the team has undergone another shift to adjust to the current metagame that involved shifting their resources and structure towards Revolta on carry options like Graves and Kindred.
"We have Revolta playing more carry junglers and I'm playing more wave clear and fewer assassins. We had a lot of troubles with carry junglers before but ... right now you just give gold to the jungler and he wins the game, that's basically the meta. We had to learn how to play without his ganking pressure in lanes so he could be more of a carry jungler."
While INTZ did initially struggle in their semifinals match, the team is now en route to their second IWCI appearance after besting Keyd Stars again, this time in the CBLoL Summer 2016 Final. It auspiciously marks the first time that a Brazilian team has undergone a foreign bootcamp before a domestic final and won. INTZ attended a bootcamp in North America last year and notoriously lost to paiN Gaming in the Winter 2015 Final while the latter team went on to the 2015 World Championship. In previous years, Keyd Stars and paiN Gaming had both tried bootcamps out of the country and were subsequently eliminated in their home finals, lending weight to the “Brazilian bootcamp curse.”
“[Bootcamping] is not a curse,” he says. “It's the mentality that you go with to the boot camp. Last year it was five or six days of practice. It didn't help us, it just destroyed us. We didn't have time to learn, we just copied. We literally saw what they did and we copied it. This time it was different. We had time to see what they did, understand, and adapt it to our gameplay. The bootcamp curse is about your mentality when you go and your mentality when you come back. If you have the right mentality then of course you're going to get better because you're practicing against better teams."
Returning to the international stage, INTZ and Tockers have a bit of a chip on their shoulder after admittedly botching their chances at their last international event.
"It's redemption,” he says firmly “We were really sad that we lost because we know that we were better than them but we just didn't play our game in the final. We want to prove that Brazil is better than the other wildcard regions and that's our mentality going into this wildcard as well."
As for what it personally means for him, he’s content to fade into the background and put his team at the forefront.
"I had a lot of experience [at the bootcamp] against European mid laners who are really, really good, so I'm confident going into this wildcard ... but I want to win as a team. That's my main goal. We want to do well this wildcard and give Brazil what it deserves."
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her onTwitter.