Earlier this year, Into the Breach were riding high as they competed in front of 20,000 fans in the quarter-finals of the BLAST.tv Paris Major. The team's unlikely run to the top and their quintessentially witty British interviews made them a loveable, scrappy underdog team that many were rooting for. Now, following multiple rebuilds, Into the Breach lacks the identity that once made them so special. With no Brits left on the roster, what happened to the saviors of the UK scene for them to go from promising underdogs to complete uncertainty?
The first domino
Just as the excitement and reality of the Major run began to set in for Into the Breach, they were thrust back into their regular level of competition, far lower than that which they had endured in Paris. Thomas “Thomas” Utting and company were brought back to where many of their careers had started: ESL Premiership, the UK’s national ESL event, alongside other online competitions. The team claimed the local crown and had mixed results in online competition, and after a long and strenuous season, they were ready for a break.
Into the Breach headed into the player break, and all eyes were focused on their roster. The general consensus was that Cai “CYPHER” Watson would be a hot commodity and the first to go to a top team. The player break went on and stories broke; NAVI were going international and Cloud9 were getting even stronger, but there was nothing on ITB other than false rumors and reports. For a moment, it almost seemed as if Into the Breach would escape the brutal offseason unscathed, not only to the public but to the team as well. Sebastian “volt” Malos told BLIX that “pretty much 80% of the off-season the roster was going to stay together.” But then GamerLegion came knocking.
The side who had just reached the Grand Final of a Major had been gutted of their two stars and now looked to the teams below them to return the favor. GamerLegion had the money, the history, and an exemplary coaching team that volt was well acquainted with. And in their search for replacements, the Romanian was the most logical avenue and thus he entered their crosshairs. Rumors broke from 1pv that he had received an offer, whilst UKCSGO announced that a bidding war had ensued for the British-Romanian rifler. It was not an easy decision for volt, who told BLIX, “It took me some days to actually decide. I was so split on it. It got to the point where I was changing my decision every hour, I was so indecisive about it.” But in the end, GamerLegion’s enticing offer won him over, and he parted ways with Into the Breach.
volt would later reflect on his decision in an interview with HLTV: “I feel like GamerLegion have a better plan for the future compared to what we had in ITB [Into the Breach].”
With volt parting ways with the organization, all eyes turned back to CYPHER. No concrete offers had been reported, but that was all set to change when news broke about the lineup with which TSM would make their long-awaited return.
After speculation on whether the rumor would come true, Into the Breach announced that CYPHER was parting ways with the roster. With volt and CYPHER no longer on the roster, Into the Breach had lost their British core and the identity that they had built for themselves during the Major. There was now a huge hole in the roster that needed to be filled.
A new era
Once the dust had settled, Into the Breach were left with only four of the original six from their BLAST.tv Paris Major run and had just one Brit left on the roster. Into the Breach moved away from the British market and instead shifted their focus to two players with both tier one and tier two experience. Enter Aurimas “Bymas” Pipiras and Adam “NEOFRAG” Zouhar.
The arrival of the two Europeans signified a new era for Into the Breach, but they remained dedicated to their established identity. Despite only having one British player, Thomas, they still kept in touch with their UK roots; announcing a “pipeline” academy and competing in the national ESL tournament with stand-ins. But before they could go back to competing in the local scene, they started their new era with what would be their biggest challenge: IEM Cologne. The fresh-faced roster headed into the event with a massive question mark hanging over their heads. Their Major chemistry was all but gone and fans did not know what to make of their newest additions.
The first matchup was against NIP and despite a boot camp prior to the event, Into the Breach looked out of their depth as the team suffered a 16-5 loss with their two new star signings struggling out of the gates. The first-round loss set up a match with TheMongolz, the former IHC squad was another question mark team, but unlike ITB, they had shown fight in their opening match as they forced MOUZ to overtime. Into the Breach had to up their level if they wanted to have any chance of making the main event in Cologne.
That didn’t happen.
Once again, Into the Breach looked out of their depth as they were swiftly dispatched by the Mongolian powerhouse. After their elimination, Into the Breach’s AWPer, Joey "CRUC1AL" Steusel, rather matter-of-factly spoke on the broadcast, saying, "It's really hard to win rounds if you can't kill people." The team headed back home with their heads low and their hands empty.
Shortly after Cologne, it became clear that stability had yet to be achieved. Juve announced that he had parted ways, stating, “For professional and personal reasons, I decided that the best thing for both parties was not to continue with the project at this time.” The coach had been an integral part of Into the Breach’s previous success, and now only three members of the Major playoff team remained on the roster. In hindsight, this move hinted that more change could be on the way for Into the Breach, but what happened next was even more unexpected as Into the Breach made a serious and shocking announcement.
Into the Breach announced that they had removed NEOFRAG from the roster and had ended his contract as his “comments and perspectives displayed do not align with our attitudes regarding inclusivity and equality.”
August 2023 started in complete chaos for Into the Breach, they had lost their coach and now one of their newest additions was no longer part of the organization. In an attempt to regain control, they announced the signing of former Astralis coach Martin “trace” Heldt. The big signing indicated a move towards stability, especially as they then began trialing the well-known former Vitality player, Kévin “misutaaa” Rabier.
The team was starting to stabilize again, but their identity was still uncertain. During and before their run at the Major, Into the Breach had pivoted themselves as the saviors of the UK scene to fill a gap that was left behind by Endpoint. Thomas even spoke in an interview with UKCSGO at the Major, saying that Endpoint had shot themselves in the foot by losing their identity and, in turn, lost the UK fandom. But after all the changes, Into the Breach were in a similar position. They had lost their identity as the plucky underdog that was symbolic of their region. Still, whilst they retained Thomas, they retained their link to their local scene and thus, the identity they had built for themselves. But what if Thomas was to leave? If that were to happen, what would be their identity then?
Fans didn’t have to imagine what an Into the Breach without Thomas would look like for long. Towards the end of August, Into the Breach claimed that they had five announcements coming out. Most fans assumed one of the announcements would be misutaaa; another would be a team in a different esport, and probably some players related to the aforementioned ‘pipeline academy.’ What they didn’t count on was the very first announcement was that Thomas had stepped away from the team. The final nail in the coffin had been unceremoniously hammered in. No more Brits were left and only CRUC1AL and Karol “rallen” Rodowicz remained from the team's greatest moment.
Leaderless and lacking an identity, Into the Breach needed to start from scratch. They needed to find themselves a new IGL; enter Alexey “Qikert” Golubev, a Major winner and a player with experience calling at the top level.
It was time for a new era of Into the Breach.
Lining back up the dominos
Success has its consequences in sports and esports. Into the Breach went from promising and explosive underdogs to a team lacking an identity and starting from scratch. This mirrors stories from mainstream sports like Southampton in the Premier League, where they were constantly finding gems only for bigger clubs to pay big money for them once they perform well, CS:GO is no different.
In professional football, they call this being a feeder club and when done right, clubs can use that money to invest in talent, but it’s a hard system to keep going forever and sometimes the dominoes just don’t fall in your favor. For both Southampton and Into the Breach, this ended in a loss of identity.
In the end, Into the Breach had to start afresh and once again are at the beginning of a journey. Only time will tell if they can reach the same heights.