While the Six Invitational 2018 Grand Final will probably remain as the greatest single match of Rainbow Six: Siege for a very long time, few could disagree that the 2020 Grand Final is hardly far behind.
The Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) had gone into that game with high hopes. While it was only their second-ever Grand Final, after the Season 6 Pro League Finals under Black Dragons, the Brazilians seemed to be the favourites.
Then-TSM coach Colby "Bagel" Smith had remarked that "the beast [they] had created", after beating the Brazilians in the Upper Bracket, would run through all of TSM's competition in the Lower Bracket, leaving his team to 'just' beat NiP again to take the caber home.
Ironically, that "beast" would come back to haunt TSM themselves, as they would lose to the Brazilians after dropping down to the lower bracket.
In the Grand Final, NiP seemed to be in full control. Despite already being a map down due to the Upper Bracket advantage to Spacestation Gaming, they had crushed their opponents 7-2 and 7-3 on the first two maps. And a short while later, they were leading 5-3 and had the defuser planted on the third and seemingly the final map.
Then, Javier "Thinkingnade" DeAndre Escamilla struck. João "Kamikaze" Gomes failed to hang on and the Brazilians had not only lost a chance to secure series point, but also the win. And perhaps, on some level, they had known.
As Spacestation Gaming later celebrated, the NiP players sunk down in their seats, deflated.
To their credit, they continued playing admirably well for a team that undoubtedly would have the ghosts from Montreal continue to haunt them for a while yet.
Second would be the finishing position for the Ninjas in Season 11 of the Pro League and they would even go on to win the Six August 2020 Major before finishing overall second in the BR6 2020 regular season.
While they could only managed joint-third at the BR6 2020 Finals, after a third place at the Six November 2020 Major, their 2020 performance would still be top-class.
In contrast, 2021 has been a lot more difficult for the team. It only managed fifth place in Stage 1 of the BR6 and only got to fourth at the Copa Elite Six.
While it has been tough, the Ninjas are hardly deterred. Their sights have been set on the caber long before 2020 and last year's loss has only intensified their desire to lift it. As such, to understand their approach better, SiegeGG spoke to team captain Gustavo "Psycho" Rigal.
Last year, your team was a mere two rounds away from being World Champions when that Clubhouse clutch completely changed things. How did the team dynamics change in that moment when Kamikaze lost that clutch and how awful did it feel to lose in such a manner? What was the biggest learning point from that loss?
I believe after that lost clutch, the psychology of the team went to a bad place and affected us during the match. So, after that, we made some changes to how we prepare for matches, even moreso for Best-of-Fives.
The biggest lesson learnt from that loss was how to deal with that much pressure; each player learned how to deal with it in a different way and we are for sure better prepared now.
In light of that, do I even really need to ask who are your most anticipated opponents?
G2 Esports and BDS Esport are always interesting teams to play against, but I believe that every team wants to have a good match against Spacestation Gaming, or even Team Liquid, which is a team who we have a huge respect for and always have a good match against.
While they will be your competitors, how amazing is it to you that Brazil will have the most teams at the event (six teams)?
To me, it's very interesting, because I have a lot of friends playing on the other teams and I'm happy for them. It's not all the time that our region has so many opportunities to play a tournament at this level.
How nerve-wracking was it when you were informed that you (and all the other Brazilian teams) could miss out on the Invitational? How did your team react?
At no point did they close the doors on all of us playing at the Invitational, so deep down we always had hope that everything would work out.
Now that you have arrived in Paris, safe and sound, we'd just like to know how the journey transpired. How was your team helped to get into Paris? What are the safety precautions in place and how is Ubisoft assisting with practice inside your hotel while quarantining and how will they assist for the event itself?
At every point, we took many COVID tests and followed the health protocols and social distancing. At this moment we are practicing in the hotel with each player in a different room.
Your team had shied away from a coach after Ar7hur's departure, until very recently. Why did you not have a coach for so long and what changed with Mity?
Our team always had good performances without a coach and at the time we didn't know anyone in the Brazilian scene who would be a good fit for us.
Mity came to be a sixth mind on the team; before he came we already had good results, so what he does with us is just to value-add on every level.
Your 2021 season has not gone according to expectations so far, with a fifth place in the BR6 and a fourth place in the Elite Six Cup. What has not quite worked out for a roster that has been unchanged for over a year and a half?
During the season, we tried changing our play style as we ended up losing some parts of the mindset that took us to the top of our region. So, we had to go through a deconstruction process to help us understand what took us to the level we were playing at at the Invitational (in 2020) and this process made us lose some important matches.
What is your opinion on the changed format for the Invitational and how do you rate your chances in the group?
Our goal is to win the Invitational.
How confident are you that you will take the caber home this time?
During every boot camp we had, our team has always learnt and adjusted a lot of things and that helps us build a lot of confidence ahead of the tournament.
Is there anything you want to say to your fans and maybe your competitors?
I would like to thank all of our fans for the support, no matter the circumstances!
Catch Ninjas in Pyjamas next in action on the 12th of May at 12 PM BRT (UTC-3), when they take on MKERS live from Paris.