When news broke of the Last Dance roster, I burst out laughing like the rest of the world.
Surely it was a joke? We all asked, actively frothing at the mouths for more opportunities to watch toppled Brazilian giants embarrass themselves.
Its leader, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, had just had a disastrous spell with Team Liquid. Fernando “Fer” Alverenga and Lincoln “fnx” Lau had fallen off the map and were, well, terrible.
Even Marcelo “coldzera” David, two-time HLTV number one player and once rumored star of this roster, failed to garner any excitement from fans. His move to FaZe had shown him up as a system player. His star was burnt out.
What followed the initial reports continued the comedy. Coldzera soon left the project and with it, so did any hope that he might ever return to form. With it went a lot of people's hope for the team too.
So how on Earth did we get here? Let’s take a look at the players they ended up with first:
Old Friends and New Faces
FalleN is undoubtedly a legend. He was integral to the growth of Brazilian CS and is undoubtedly one of the greatest IGLs ever to captain a team. His SK team were host to iconic comebacks at the two Majors they won and had an incredible ability to grind out results.
He also used to be a pretty good AWPer, while his flashes have always been superb.
The win condition for that SK team was fer, a monster aggressive rifler who loved a calculated push to blow an opponent's head off. Even if Coldzera was remarkable at closing out rounds, he never needed to when Fer was really in the server.
Completing the trio is fnx. I have no words for fnx. I still have no words for fnx. This man - allegedly - got kicked the last time for being a bit too close with fer's missus. But he's here, and that's fine.
Returning to his former captain for the 67th time is Ricardo "boltz" Prass, who, honestly, I'm thrilled is here. I like boltz; the guy was part of the Imperial team that rocked the PGL Krakow Major in 2017. It's a shame what happened to them next.
Finally, there’s Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo, who, again, I like. I was sad to see him removed from Furia. These last two members provided the initial team with something important: players who weren’t irrelevant.
Now I know what you’re thinking: ‘I didn’t need to read all that background context.’ But you did because now you might understand why all I wanted was to see this team fail.
One Night in Antwerp
As the PGL Major Antwerp Challengers Stage began, I expected to see them flop.
What happened next was unexpected: they didn’t. But what they meant was even more surprising: I started wanting them to win.
They were decimated by Team Spirit before upsetting Team Liquid in one of my favorite results of the entire event. Bad News Eagles got the best of them, but at this point, I was hooked - Imperial was 1-2 down, best-of-three time. Time for legends to prove their worth once more.
Their first Bo3 was against IHC, the team that made their country proud by becoming the first Mongolian team to make a Major. It was a hard-fought Bo3, in which IHC took the first map Mirage thanks to a dominating performance from Tengis “sk0R” Batjargal. Imperial prevailed, though, winning Overpass and Inferno 16-10 and 16-12.
I sighed a sigh of relief. Imperial hadn’t lost the real upset. But up next was forZe, a CIS team that should’ve proved a much more significant challenge for the old dogs.
Imperial rolled them 16-5 on two maps of a short and sweet Bo3. Imperial, and their stars of years gone by, were Legends once more.
With the capitulation of FalleN’s Liquid, the veteran was becoming something of a fallen giant. The return of MIBR had been a laughable failure, and his place in Counter-Strike rested somewhere in the realms of comedy.
This was all different now. Now FalleN, not in his prime but a more learned version had guided a team to the Legends stage of a Major again. Against the odds, he had managed it, and that had won over many hearts.
There was no expectation for them to go further, and they didn’t either, although they took it as far as possible, going 2-3 following defeat to Copenhagen Flames. They even knocked out Cloud9 and ruined their first outing under their new banner.
Fer had proved to be a consistent star, with a 1.18 rating in the legends stage that highlights his return to form. The 1.95 rating Mirage map against Cloud9 is the standout.
Even fnx was okay, and that’s all he needed to be. All of this was better than anyone had expected. Ieb’s Swiss calculator gave them a 29.6% chance to go 0-3. That’s high.
Ieb's Swiss Calculator
In their final game against Copenhagen Flames, I was cheering for every round win (there wasn’t much cheering during Inferno), and the overtime had me on the edge of my seat.
It had nothing to do with my thoughts on Copenhagen Flames either. I just really like Imperial.
Better than Furia?
Of course, they aren’t, not really. Furia is a truly tier one team, and their playstyle makes them one of the most fun teams in the world to watch. When it works, that is.
But there’s something about a team of veterans who lost their way, with an old friend and a young(ish) gun, something quite loveable.
I was sad when they went out and wouldn’t be giving the play-offs a second Brazilian presence. But I was at least happy I felt that way.
FalleN, fer, fnx, VINI and boltz, I salute you. I hope you’re proud of everything you have achieved.