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The unlikely story of Team oNe Esports

A guest piece from Geo Collins explores the unlikelihood of Team oNe's win.

The unlikely story of Team oNe Esports

Banner image: Ubisoft/Kirill B.

"I don’t know guys, we just made something impossible here, by beating Cyclops 7-2."

In his trademark pink shorts and flip-flops, Karl “Alem4o” Zarth stands in front of the Six Major Mexico trophy, grinning and exasperated, "And then we won the fucking Major," he said. 

What Team oNe had just achieved on stage in Mexico was described by Parker ‘INTERRO’ Mackay as 'the first real Cinderella story that we’ve seen'. Team oNe battled from the lowest rungs of the competitor pedigree, faced accusations of cheating, an impossible hope of qualifying for playoffs, and a phenomenal tie-breaker matcher, to make it all the way to the Grand Finals. 

But their Cinderella story extends well beyond the bulwark of the Mexico Major. Everything about this team’s lowly inception and precipitous challenges would mark a 2021 Major win as quixotic and unrealistic. Their initiation in the BR6, their fight through their very first Invitational, to here. Major champions, in a mere six months.

(Photo: Ubisoft/Kirill B.)

In the off-season preceding Stage 1 of 2021, the Brazilian region was making some big colossal changes. After a lackluster 2020, FaZe Clan made the decision that they wanted to rebuild into a super team, centered around their star player Leonardo “Astro” Luis Astro. MIBR’s 3-0 victory over Team Liquid in the Brasileirao Finals gave FaZe the answers they needed: buy four of the MIBR players, reunite Astro with Gabriel “Cameram4n” Hespanhol Cameram4n, and reap the rewards in the 2021 season. 

Naturally, with MIBR losing almost their entire entirety of their roster to FaZe, they too needed a new team. NiP and Liquid weren’t going to change for anyone, but the Team oNe roster,  who had also joined them in the Finals looked pretty enticing who had also joined them in the finals at the end of 2020, looked pretty enticing.

In one swift transaction, the squad who had been flying the Team oNe flag for two years were now MIBR. In canon, these groups were shifting their way wholesale from org to org, but it left one problem: Team oNe no longer had a roster. 

Rather than choosing to bring on a full, pre-established squad, Team oNe decided to build from scratch. Brazil was a region teeming with young talent waiting to be activated, and this was the perfect opportunity to capitalize on that.

Eduardo “KDS” Santos had been the only dropped FaZe player to not be scooped up by Black Dragons; Alem4o, the diamond in the rough from struggling INTZ, one of the most promising Buck and Smoke players the region had seen; Levy a player who hadn’t touched Pro League since his time on Elevate in Season 10, alongside his fresh young teammate Neskin who had never graced Tier 1; and Lagonis, the rising star streamer who had only just scraped by his 18th birthday in time to be signed.

Combined with the leadership of Tchubz, the coach responsible for Furia’s jump from relegations to SI-qualified team, this was a development project that was in it for the long haul. 

There were tentative expectations for Team oNe heading into Stage 1. Naturally, it takes time for any new team to synergize and grow together, and we were in the era of a new meta, new map rotation, and a region of old, dominating squads that sat on leaderboards like gods occupying Olympus. If Liquid and NiP were Zeus and Poseidon, Team oNe was Heracles: a mortal demigod, lacking the exaltation of the Titans, but by no means the courage.

In just their third game, they took to the brand new Chalet against the truculent FaZe Clan - the first Brazilian teams to ever do it. The game was a tug of war, with every alternate round going to the other team, until FaZe Clan’s final attack on Round 15.

It may not have been a victory for Team oNe, but it certainly opened our eyes to what they could be. The idea that a team whose glue was barely drying could take the most intimidating team in Brazil to the very edge, was one that did not fall lightly on the region. Team oNe could be something special. 

An emotional TchubZ after the Mexico Major win. (Photo: Ubisoft/Eric Anamalay)

And it was an attitude, a suspicion, that followed Team oNe through their Stage 1, like a wispy trail of magic, or rubber burnt into the tarmac to memorialize a speedy getaway. The way they played was reminiscent of a team who had spent years together, who understood each other’s movements and playstyles. They were by no means perfect, but the foundations were building, and the salience of their newness became more and more obscured by their improvement.

It was remarkable to witness, but it didn’t protect Team oNe from shakiness: after a loss to NiP, their qualification for the Copa Elite Six relied solely upon the performance of Black Dragons in their final game. It was something that seemed like it’d be a guaranteed victory for Black Dragons, given the struggles of their opponents Santos and yet fate fell on the side of Team oNe. They were in the Copa Elite Six.

This was the last opportunity for Team oNe to set a precedent about who they were before the Six Invitational. They had a guaranteed spot in the World Championships thanks to the successes of the previous roster, and the event’s heavy shadow was hanging over them. It was a massive ask for such a young squad, but if they were going to set expectations at all, it was going to be now. 

The group stage was no easy feat for Team oNe. They suffered a loss in their first game, a 7-4 to MIBR on Coastline. Their arguably hardest opponent, Team Liquid, was next, and they were going to Consulate. After two defender-sided halves, Team oNe pulled through in Overtime to secure a victory. After that was done, their two 7-2 victories against 9z and Fenix to push them into the playoff bracket seemed like child's play. The playoffs were going to be harder, though. FaZe Clan was waiting as their first opponent, and suddenly the feeling of their Overtime loss on Chalet was palpable once again. 

Oregon was the first map, and FaZe cleared up on it. Montagne pushes, Liquid-style post-plants, and that Bullet ace; Team oNe’s push against their opponent wasn’t enough. The tides turned, however, once Coastline was reached. Team oNe’s defense suppressed FaZe Clan completely, and they only needed three attacking rounds to close the map out. With the score sat at one map apiece, the two teams found themselves right back where they started: on Chalet.

Except this was a different Chalet. This was a Chalet where Team oNe’s attacks didn’t miss. This was a Chalet where FaZe’s creative strategies didn’t throw their opponent off the scent. This was a Chalet where Team oNe walked away with a 7-2 victory, a Frost mat being their wave goodbye to a monolith they’d finally surmounted; The seal on the biggest win they’d had in the region so far. Into the semifinals they progressed, the wrath of Team Liquid the next to be faced.

Team oNe at the Six Invitational 2021. (Photo: Ubisoft/Joao Ferreira)

Despite Team oNe not reaching the finals of the Copa Elite Six, their run in the tournament was a great boost as they headed into the Six Invitational. They were seeded into group A, and were somewhat overlooked as the attention was predominantly owed to such figures as Liquid, BDS, and Empire, whose battles for the top of the group enraptured even the most casual of viewers. For Team oNe, the event kicked off with two humble losses (one of which being to FaZe Clan, of course), but their tenacity brought them to a respectable fifth place in the group, sending them into the lower bracket of the playoffs. 

And while impressive, it was a run that didn’t last too long. Having been granted a bye round, Team oNe only got one chance to fight in the bracket before a reawakened Team Empire bulldozed past them, leaving just two rounds in the entire series to them, in almost an act of taunting charity. It may not have been the result Team oNe was hoping for, but it was immense for their first-ever international LAN. They helped piece together the story of the all-LATAM playoff qualifications, and Alem4o’s name was starting to circulate like a rumor everyone wanted in on. It had been a respectable run at SI, but it wasn’t their time yet.

Stage 2 only saw growth for Team oNe. As if their sights were firmly set on the next Copa Elite Six, the team cut cleanly through the regular season in a way they’d failed to in Stage 1. Their only losses were to the indomitable NiP, the revered Team Liquid, and a fresh new Black Dragons, and even then, the latter two had been in overtime. The brouhaha of MIBR’s suffering results, or NiP’s dominating performances, was not overpowering enough to fully drown out the rise of Team oNe within the region. They finished the Stage out in fourth and bought themselves a bye round into the second Copa Elite Six of the year, and by extension, the Six Major Mexico. 

The semifinal against Furia was a pendulum swing of a series that came to a rest in an Overtime third map. But the final against NiP was harder. While Team oNe took their win on Oregon, the third map was handily taken by their opponents. An achievement to make it to the Grand Finals indeed, but now the real work was to come. Team oNe were seeded into group A for the Major, which meant facing BDS, CAG, and Soniqs. If they had any hope, they were going to have to plant that same fear they’d cultivated in Brazil into all these unsuspecting international teams.

Six Mexico Major MVP: Levy
Levy would be crowned the SiegeGG MVP for the Mexico Major. (Photo: Ubisoft/Kirill B.)

And this is where that unbelievable story began. And this is when Mexico happened. That we all look at, mouths agape, wondering if that really just happened. The event left us shellshocked, mouths agape, as we saw it all unfold. How it took Team oNe four games to even find a win. How they’re ‘really not that team’, and how they’d landed themselves in the impossible situation of requiring a 7-2 over a team who had destroyed them previously, else they were going home.

But then…how they found that 7-2. How they took CAG to the first-ever tie-breaker game in the history of Rainbow Six Siege. How they, on Chalet, led the charge on their own vicissitude, crashing down around CAG to, unrelenting, force themselves into the playoffs. 

Their meeting with Team Empire at the foot of Olympus, the very home of the gods that Team oNe had been too young to share. Empire, the incumbent Major Champions two years on from Raleigh, running on a diet of adrenaline and kerosene to fuel the Russian Machine, prepared to do anything to expiate their fall from grace and become champions once more.

Empire, the squad who had slaughtered Team oNe in the Invitational playoffs, leaving them moribund with nothing left but plane tickets. It had once been them who were the young, unknown squad who had dared to wreak havoc in the business of the legends that stood at the top. Now it was Team oNe on that plinth, laden in bright pink shorts and dripping with confidence, telling themselves, ‘Just don’t fucking look down.’ telling themselves to do anything but look down.

It was a series for the ages, one which will go down in Rainbow Six history as one of the greatest Grand Finals of all time. It was not a game of Siege, it was a war. All five maps were reached, and everything relied on Villa. But it had been a bloodbath so far, and the wounds of Empire were weeping.

Invigorated by the trophy just within their reach, Team oNe unceremoniously wrenched the final map from the hands of their opponents. The victory was theirs. They were that team. 

At the start of 2021, Team oNe was nothing more than an experiment. They were a group of players, either too young to have made something of themselves, or overshadowed by their peers on previous teams. Brazil had become a forest overgrown with superteams, the harrowing figures of FaZe, NiP and Liquid making greatness seem like a pipe dream. But in just half a year, they have become one of the greatest teams in “Rainbow Six”; they have become Major Champions.