Due to the way the VCT Americas Last Chance Qualifier is formatted, the two lowest-placed teams from the regular season started the competition by facing each other. That put both MIBR and KRU Esports in the precarious position of facing elimination from the outset as a loss in this opening match signaled the end of LCQ and the end of the 2023 season entirely.
Despite MIBR’s best efforts, which saw the team integrate André “Txozin” Saidel to the lineup after he replaced Olavo “heat” Marcelo during the late stretch of the season, the team lost 2-0 to KRU, marking the end of a disappointing year for the Brazilian team
Following MIBR’s series loss to KRU, BLIX caught up with coach Matheus "bzkA" Tarasconi for an interview about the result, how he looks back at the team’s 2023 season, what went wrong for the team, plus what he could’ve done differently and more.
An early end to MIBR’s LCQ run
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Commiserations on the loss against KRU, bZkA. To start off, I want to ask what you thought of the series and how the team played against an opponent that came into this event without winning a single series in all of 2023.
Matheus "bzkA" Tarasconi: I'm not happy with our performance. We had one month and a half preparing for the tournament and we just weren't able to show everything we have worked on, so I'm definitely not happy with what we showed. But at the same time, I'm proud of the boys because I can assure everyone that we worked a lot and we did everything that was in our reach to get good results. Unfortunately, the single-elimination bracket for us was very hard and we just don't have any more time to show what we have worked on for one month and a half. We had our chance in this match against KRU and we just couldn't show it.
BLIX: I talked to Txozin and he mentioned how he felt an increase of pressure and how that led to him not playing well in the series. Did you also feel the other players were feeling that increased pressure as the series continued? Or was it something besides that which led to the loss?
bZkA: Every time you lose a match, every time you lose competition, it's hard to put the blame on just one thing. It's never just one little stuff or one little thing that makes you win or lose a match. It's a mix of a lot of facts and I think it's normal that the players felt a little pressure. We have a very young team. We have a team that, both in ages and competitive scene, don't have much [sic] years on high-level competitions so I think that's kind of normal for them to start feeling that. That's something that we, as a staff, try to take out all the pressure that we could from their shoulders, but sometimes, the players need to go through situations to adjust and improve themselves and just learn from it.
BLIX: Diving a little bit into the series, you guys played Bind for the first time this year. It was a map that KRU picked in which they themselves have not played as much as other teams within this league. Did the move surprise you? If not, how did you guys work around KRU's move to include the map into the series?
bZkA: We did get surprised. We knew that Bind was a possible pick for them but it was a very risky one for them because they didn't have any information about our Bind. At the same time, they were using a composition that was just like what Fnatic used during the last tournament and we expected them to be running it again. We had a solid game plan to be able to play against it, but at the same time, they had some micro adjustments about the setups and how they were playing it. Even if we had a read and even if we knew what was happening, we had some troubles micro-adapting to that and I think that's what caused a little snowball in the start of the game. I even tried to use two pauses during the first half. That's something I don't like to use in a tournament but it was something that was necessary, but at the time, we tried to adapt. There was all this stuff going on like the pressure and us even missing some shots and I feel we missed a little experience inside this match.
Looking back at the 2023 season
BLIX: Taking a look at the entire year of MIBR, after missing out of playoffs in the Americas, the team became the first to bow out of the LCQ and get eliminated in the season. What do you feel was the most important thing that you feel the team could have done differently this entire year from Lock In up until now?
bZkA: I don't regret anything we did this year. I think we were always evolving. I feel we were always trying our best. Unfortunately, the results didn't come and that's something that, in competition, happens because, at the end of the year, you just have one winner and all the other teams losing. This year, we weren't the winners so I think that what we learned most during this season was about the mentality that players should have and, as a staff, we should be helping them create it and build it together. That's something that's a learning process, It's hard to say but it's actually a process.
BLIX: Taking the focus towards yourself. You ended last season as world champions with LOUD. To go from that to this point, as the coach of MIBR and seeing the team go out the way that it did, how have you personally been taking in this elimination, with it happening so early, compared to last year?
bZkA: For me personally, I learned a lot of stuff this year about myself as well. I learned that I hate losing more than I like winning. I know that's a cliche but that's actually very true for myself. We started this project knowing that we were underdogs. We started this project knowing we will be dealing with very young players and starting to build up. We know the risks, and at the same time, we knew what we're capable of reaching as well. I think we did a good job this year as a team, with the whole MIBR staff and even the players, but at the same time, the results were just not there and there are some points we need to be working on for the next tournaments.
BLIX: I want to cover what the difference has been like with the team when it comes to including Txozin and playing without heat and playing with the latter person. How has the team adjusted from playing with heat to then him leaving and then you guys including Txozin? What has that difference been like?
bZkA: They're two different players that are very different. The way they approach the game are very different. The way they approach the team environment is different. When Txozin was stepping up, it wasn't something planned very early. It was something that happened during the season and we are very grateful for him for his job with us. At the same time, he's a totally different player from heat and we just had to adapt ourselves and tried our best to adapt. We tried to have the cleanest environment as possible to have the players feeling good and have no pressure going into the tournament. That's something we worked very hard on doing, but at the same time, the competition's hard. Sometimes it just hits you in the face and there's nothing you can do and you should be stepping up.
BLIX: About the future, the team is fresh off elimination and obviously this might be the last thing that will be in your mind, but with a loss like this in the LCQ, it might be necessary to make some changes. How do you view the future of this team for 2024?
bZkA: That's something I had started thinking some weeks ago to start making the project and start building up, but at the same time, I didn't work on it one second. We need to take a step back and take a further look for what we did this year, what we could have done better, what we could have done differently, and from there, we can start thinking about any changes for next year, but at this moment, there's nothing right now.
BLIX: You already talked about this a while ago but what is one thing that you feel you could have done differently?
bZkA: Several things. We tried to have a higher pressure environment inside his team. We tried to have no pressure at all in the team environment. We have tried several things and we just couldn't get on the same page. Every time something was going on, it was just really hard for us to get on the same page. The difference between what some players, some staffs, and some people was [sic] thinking about what they thought was right, they were just not in the same direction, so we tried several things and maybe this was something that costed [sic] us. That's because changing the plan and changing the direction of it can make you lose time.
BLIX: In changing so much, it might have cost you guys in losing your identity. Would that be fair to say for this team?
bZkA: Yes and no but a bit more for yes. That's hard to answer because, as a team, we are always creating new identities. If you just have one single identity during the whole year, the other teams are just going to be able to read you and they would be able to counter you much more easily so you always need to be reinventing yourself. You always need to keep improving your game because if you don't, the other team can improve. We tried to create several identities like at the start of the year, when we were playing against NRG and then we had good matches against LOUD and KRU, we had some identity, and after we got our first loss, we knew we would need to adapt ourselves and that's when several stuff starting happening and that was when I feel we lost our goal on the year, I feel it was the mid-season where it was the hardest part for us.
BLIX: What do you feel is going to be the biggest thing you will focus on during the offseason so that you can make sure this result doesn't happen again?
bZkA: I think our preparation is just like we did this year. We started the VCT very good and we were able to perform very well inside the season. Unfortunately, some stuff happened that we couldn't continue that good performance during the season, but I don't think we need to change the way we were working. That was the way I worked last year and that was the way I worked this year and that's something I am going to be doing. That's having really good work ethics and some really good work plan about the team and the building of it, but we just need to actually go on and understand what was wrong and I just don't have the answer for this right now.