Minutes into Team oNe's match against Oceania's Dire Wolves, the Brazilian champion appeared finished. Top laner Álvaro "VVert" Martins picked off before the minions even spawned, and it seemingly just a matter of time before its tournament run was over.
A minor league team less than a year ago, Team oNe made the Cinderella run through the Brazilian premier league, CBLoL -- and at its first major international event, the young team was struggling. The black sheep of its region by besting the biggest and brightest names of the burgeoning scene, Team oNe failed to make any sort of positive impact through the first two days of the World Championships. Three games and three blowouts in the favor of the opponent. Across the three losses, Team oNe only managed five kills compared to 46 total of its opponents.
In 2014, KaBuM! e-Sports put Brazil on the League of Legends map with its stunning upset of European champion Alliance at the World Championships. The next year, PaiN Gaming did even better, taking two games in the group stage and even threatening to move out of groups. Come 2016, INTZ e-Sports upset China's EDward Gaming in the first game of the tournament before experiencing a rough end to the event. All the momentum Brazil had built up over the years was halted with Team oNe. A team built of youngsters and lacking the superstardom of past teams, even the always passionate fans of the region didn't know how well the fledgling club could hold its own on the international stage.
Yet, as it did throughout its Worlds qualifying domestic season, the green (but dressed in black and gold) representative didn't let the pressure crack them in the crucial moments. In front of millions watching at home and down a kill off the bat in a must-win game, Team oNe held its own through the laning phase, and when the game turned to objective control and teamfighting, it began to shine. What was a chaotic mess of a game, the Brazilians escaped with the all-important victory, tieing its overall group record with the Oceanic side to force a one-game tiebreaker later in the night to see which team would move on to the knockout stage of the Play-Ins.
When the team needed a hero, AD carry, Luis "Absolut" Felipe Carvalho, stepped up, the longtime minor leaguer making his presence known at the biggest tournament in the world, escaping the madness fight after fight as one of the lone survivors on his Tristana.
While most of the growing regions generally send teams who play a more up-tempo, lane-focused style, like the Dire Wolves, Team oNe isn't that type of beast. Instead, to beat the more talented teams in Brazil, Team oNe plays in a way similar to the likes of Counter Logic Gaming of North America, where the focus of the game is always on the objective and team over a specific player's personal strength. Most teams that shoot up from the bottom of the secondary league around the world are carried by a single player or by a lineup of talented individuals brought together. Not Team oNe. The Brazilians play with a confident resolve usually reserved for far more experienced squads. When pushed near the edge of a cliff, the team has the intelligence to make the right decision regardless of how dire the situation might be.
That resolve was on full display in the tiebreaker with Dire Wolves in the finale of the second day of the World Championships. Again, Dire Wolves did well in the laning phase, but come the later parts of the game, Team oNe dictated the pace of the action. If a player was picked off on one side of the map, the Brazilians would react without hesitation, rotating to take a tower or set up an objective. On the opposite end, the Oceania champion was flat-footed in response when it came to making the important calls, letting VVvert's Camille split-push at will in the top and bottom lanes, knocking down towers at will. At the close, the Dire Wolves, on its last legs, went for a desperate Baron call, signaling Camille to put the final touches on the night, with the rest of Team oNe converging not too long after to take down the Nexus and move onto the next round.
Hours earlier, Team oNe was one of the worst performing teams to ever step foot at Worlds, three blowouts in a row filled with terrible misplays and passive reactions.
At the end of Sunday, though, the team of rookies left the arena standing tall like veterans, moving onto the next round from a position most teams would have collapsed from. Win-or-lose in the best-of-five knockout stage, Team oNe has earned its place as a worthy successor in the line of Brazilian champions at the World Championships.
The only question left is: How far can the black sheep of Brazil actually go in China?