For both Brazilian finalists, the CBLoL Winter Final is just a stepping stone (what does best in Brazil mean for a so-called minor region). It means next to nothing for a team that actually wishes to compete internationally. Where top tier teams in major regions are granted with a few different routes to the League of Legends World Championship, Brazil's chance comes at the International Wildcard Tournament where they must prepare for seven other teams, each with their own playstyle and regional flair — in essence a miniature Worlds.
This isn’t an argument to make Brazil a major region — it still lacks depth compared to its closest counterparts in Europe and North America and has a ridiculously short regular season — nor is it a statement to incite the ever-present debate of wildcard slots at Riot sanctioned international events. Instead, consider this a bold underline of the difficult road that an international wildcard team has to take in order to reach any semblance of international recognition.
The New CNB
CNB as a team have yet to represent Brazil on a larger international stage, but they have three veteran players with international experience. In fact, one specific trait that three of their members have is World Championship experience. Top laner Pedro “LEP” Marcari, jungler Gustavo “Minerva” Alves, and mid laner Thiago “TinOwns” Sartori are all veterans of the 2014 KaBuM! eSports squad that unexpectedly took a game off of European champions Alliance. Their actions at the 2014 World Championship and their team’s unlikely group stage victory were instrumental in the slow — and still ongoing — shift in the international perception of Wildcard teams from easy wins to more legitimate threats.
KaBuM! were not favored to win their own domestic championship — they weren’t expected to make it past semifinals — nevermind actually win a game at the World Championship.
The new CNB is an interesting mix of old and new, relying on individual standout performances from various players and the pre-existing synergy of the former KaBuM! three. The division is neatly split between the top/jungle/mid group and the bot lane of AD carry Pablo “pbo” Yuri and support Willyan “Wos” Bonpam in a similar fashion to how NA’s Team EnVyUs is divided between their Korean-speakers in top/jungle/mid with an NA bot lane. This led to a quick start for CNB in 2016 CBLoL Winter who swept Red Canids 2-0 and tied with reigning champions INTZ in Week 1. Like INTZ, they made it through the entirety of the Winter season without dropping a set, ensuring that they at least tied their opponents.
For as much as they rely on individual highlights, CNB are not a bloody or quick team. They averaged the lowest combined kills per minute at 0.53 and the second longest average game time at 42.1 minutes of any Brazilian team during the regular CBLoL Winter season. This changed during their playoff series against Keyd Stars, but their regular season numbers remain indicative of CNB’s problems. CNB often struggles to make sense of the game past the laning phase, and often drag out games until they can get an advantageous teamfight or pick, rather than trading objectives well through the mid game. They’re a dangerous team for INTZ because they are capable of individual outplays, but INTZ knowledge of the map and objective trading is superior.
Stepping up this split for CNB has been TinOwns, whose Ahri showing at the World Championship remains his most well-known performance. While on KaBuM! through the first split of 2016, Tinowns struggled to make an impact when he was made the primary carry through the draft, but excelled when he was a secondary carry threat. He seemingly needed someone else on his team to draw the attention of opponents so he could position himself accordingly, often outshining his then-AD carry Pedro “Matsukaze” Gama even on the likes of a more supportive-style mid like Lulu.
Now on CNB, everything goes through TinOwns. He had the highest kill participation on his team at 83.1 percent during the regular season, outdoing both Wos and Minerva, and could be found roaming for skirmishes, adding much-needed map pressure to CNB’s early game.
That being said, CNB is still a slow team that languishes in the mid game. They rely on their opponents making mistakes and then punishing them, rather than taking initiative and being proactive themselves. CNB's losses have often come after the team has ceded too many objectives like early dragons, and while they looked improved against Keyd, INTZ presents a much stronger test.
Second Verse, Same as the First?
Usually a discussion about INTZ begins and ends with jungler Gabriel “Revolta” Henud, INTZ’s star jungler and one of Brazil’s better-known players in the international community. With jungle remaining a crucial position in the current metagame, there’s little doubt that INTZ will be looking for Revolta to make an early impact in this series. Not only was Revolta a better jungler than Minerva statistically this season in everything but wards per minute, but INTZ’s jungle control overall vastly outscales CNB’s, which starts with Revolta’s strong early presence. Their 55.3 percent control of the jungle — best in Brazil during the 2016 Winter season and well above CNB’s 49.9 percent — reflects INTZ’s superior understanding of what to glean from the map upon gaining an advantage from winning a teamfight or taking an objective. INTZ sometimes errs on the side of recklessness when taking things from opponents, and all-too-often gets away unscathed due to their sheer audacity.
Yet, the standout for INTZ this past split has been their support Luan “Jockster” Cardoso. All too often when INTZ faltered last year, or in the 2016 Summer season — regardless of whether he was in the jungle or support role — it was due to Jockster initiating teamfights well ahead of the rest of his team, dying before his team could make the most of his crowd control and drawing unfortunate comparisons to KT Rolster support Ha “Hachani” Seung-chan for his large amount of unnecessary deaths. Jockster still holds the highest percentage of INTZ’s deaths, but makes up for it with incredible playmaking and much-improved timing that allows top laner Felipe “Yang” Zhao, mid laner Gabriel “Tockers” Claumann, or his AD carry partner Micael “micaO” Rodrigues to capitalize on his engages and wipe opponents off of the map.
Above all, INTZ remain a fairly flexible unit when it comes to their champion pools, allowing them to adjust fairly well to meta shifts. Unfortunately, it’s the speed at which INTZ is able to adapt that often holds the team back, with their occasional adherence to previous styles and strategies that worked rather than immediately moving forward. INTZ has also suffered from mid and late game errors in decision-making, choosing fights they shouldn’t or not fully capitalizing on opportunities presented by opponents. If they choose poorly against CNB in a long, drawn-out game, this is where CNB will shine, provided that they haven’t given up too many neutral objectives.
You’re Gonna Carry That Weight
Both teams have their own respective baggage that they carry into this final. This may be the last chance for LEP, Minerva, and TinOwns to make it back to the World Championship. Making it to the international stage is difficult enough for a Brazilian team, and prior to this season, these three players received a fair amount of criticism from domestic fans that they were washed up, or crumbled under pressure.
Similarly for INTZ, it’s yet another stop on their quest to prove that they are strong enough to represent Brazil at a larger international event. During the past two years, INTZ has remained at the top of their region with little to show for it internationally.
The road ahead for whichever team wins the 2016 CBLoL Winter Final is arduous, the finals win a mere stepping stone for a larger tournament where their regional pride is on the line. In order to move forward, both CNB e-Sports Club and INTZ e-Sports need to forget.
Forget that INTZ has attended two International Wildcard Invitationals and failed to qualify for the Mid-Season Invitational despite being heavily favored. Forget that CNB even during their former heyday always finished second at best.
Forget that this is just the beginning, and focus on what they have to do to pass this first checkpoint: their domestic championship final.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.