Taco takes absolute control with the Razer Viper – you can do the same by starting here.
When people talk about the Brazilian core that ruled the world of Counter-Strike from 2016-2017, the conversation is usually centered around: Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Marcelo “Coldzera” David, or Fernando “Fer” Alvarenga.
All three are larger than life figures. FalleN is the Godfather of Brazilian Counter-Strike. Coldzera is the best player Brazil ever produced. Fer redefined the limit of aggression in 2017, and his personal story is among the most dramatic in esports history.
Yet no story of the Brazilians can be complete without Epitacio “TACO” de Melo. TACO is the unsung hero of the squad. He was never the star or leader, but his contribution and impact were critical in helping his teams succeed at the highest level.
Joining Luminosity Gaming
Like many other CS:GO players, TACO started off the game as an escape. At the time, his mother was diagnosed with cancer and one of his coping mechanics was to play Counter-Strike. That coping mechanism eventually turned into a career as he continued to grind at the game.
The first time TACO met fer and FalleN was in a match. In the MLG X-Games Qualifier, he and Coldzera made it to the finals on Dexterity. They lost the series 0-2 to FalleN and fer’s KaBuM.TD. In 2017, Coldzera joined FalleN and fer on Luminosity, while TACO played for Games Academy.
Games Academy was a project started by FalleN to support the Brazilian scene. Before other big organizations came along, it was a lifeline for Brazilians with aspirations to play professionally. In the second half of 2015, both TACO and Lincoln “fnx” Lau were on Games Academy, and this put them on Luminosity’s radar when the latter was looking to make roster changes.
On Nov 23, 2015, TACO and fnx joined Luminosity Gaming days before they went to the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals. After going 0-16 on Dust2 against Fnatic, they made it to the grand finals – where they fell to Fnatic.
It was a period of growth for Luminosity as they jumped from a consistent playoff team to championship contenders. In their first few outings they couldn’t get over the line. Getting top 4 at StarLadder i-League StarSeries XIV, 2nd at DreamHack Leipzig, and 2nd at IEM Katowice 2016.
While those were heartbreaking losses, it was also crucial experience for the team as they learned how to be champions. It all came together at the MLG Major where they won their first title and started their era. While it only lasted three months, it was impressive nonetheless, lasting from MLG Columbus to ESL One Cologne.
After winning the second Major, it looked like they would be unstoppable for the rest of the year. Instead, the team stagnated. They were still a consistently great team that got top fours and finals, but they had stopped evolving. Fnx had lost his motivation and by the end of 2016, he was kicked and the team brought on Joao “felps” Vasconcellos.
2017: The Felps and Boltz lineups
After bringing in felps, the team worked through stylistic and internal issues. They tried a loose aggressive style early on that got them 2nd at DreamHack Vegas, but SK then bombed out of IEM Katowice 2017. The team went back to their initial style from 2016 and went back to the grind.
From CS Summit to ESL One Cologne 2017, the team grinded back to the top. They reinstituted the same style of play, but with fer taking on the aggressive star position instead of FalleN. The move worked as they vied with FaZe and Astralis for the top spot in CS:GO. The summer was blazing hot for the Brazilians with multiple wins leading up to the PGL Krakow Major: 1st at DreamHack Summer, 1st at ECS Season 3, and 1st at ESL One Cologne 2017. They were the favorites heading in, but Astralis upset them in an epic quarterfinals match.
After the Major, the team once again deteriorated as felps lost his motivation for being a role player. SK replaced him with Ricardo “boltz” Prass towards the end of 2017. The team instantly kicked into gear again as they started winning more tournaments. 1st at EPICENTER 2017, 1st at BLAST CopenHagen, and 1st at EPL 6 Finals.
Closing the Chapter and Moving to Liquid
After the end of 2017, the Brazilians started to drop off again. This time though, there was no easy out as buyouts had increased exponentially and it was no longer possible to chop and change the fifth player in SK. The team was in dire straits and after WESG, TACO decided to leave the team. In his twitlonger, he wrote a farewell statement, “Today I am closing the last chapter of the most beautiful book I’ve ever written. Today was the day I’ve decided for myself, taking the hardest decision in my life.”
The timing was fortuitous as Lucas “steel” Lopes had left Liquid and they were in need of a fifth player. It was an easy transition as TACO was a better and more experienced support player than steel. As for the Brazilian support, he seamlessly fit into the Liquid system and they became up to that point, the best lineup NA had ever seen.
The lineup was: Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken, Keith “NAF” Markovic, and TACO. The Liquid team became the second best team in the world in the latter half of 2018. They were incredibly consistent as they got 2nd place at six different events, top four at three others, and only ever got eliminated three times in the group stages of a tournament.
Unfortunately for Liquid, they were the second best team in the Age of Astralis. Astralis are the greatest lineup of all time and this was during their absolute peak as a team. Astralis eliminated Liquid at five different finals and once in the semifinals of the FACEIT Major.
During this period, MIBR hit a roadblock with their international mix. They eventually decided to try to reunite the gang back together. The idea of returning to save MIBR was too attractive and so TACO returned to MIBR. MIBR have continued to struggle throughout 2019 as they’ve faced internal issues and tried to find a way to reinvent their Counter-Strike.
TACO’s impact as a player
Throughout this article, I’ve avoided talking about TACO as a player. This is because you can only understand him as a player through the lens of his team. As a support player, it makes it much harder to pin down what he does as the support role and its existence in CS:GO is still debated to this day. There are no spots or positions that designate what denotes a support player. It can change from team to team or player to player.
The most common scenario used to describe the difference between a star and a support is a typical two-man flash setup. The support player is the one who throws the flash grenade while the star player uses that utility to take an aggressive duel. This breaks apart when you talk about the Coldzera-TACO dynamic as Coldzera was often the one flashing TACO in to take aggressive duels on the CT-side of LG.
While counter-intuitive, this is a support action by TACO in the context of the LG/SK system. Coldzera is at his best in the late rounds in small man scenarios. In that case, when the site with Coldzera and TACO needs to make an info play, he can best enable Coldzera by being the one to take that initial aggressive duel. Coldzera can then bait him for information and it leaves Coldzera alive in the late round situations where he shines as a superstar.
That in essence explains TACO’s entire philosophy towards CS:GO. He is someone who always places the team ahead of himself and is willing to do whatever role they require of him. This exact mentality was one of the reasons FalleN picked him up in 2015, “We needed someone to be our entry-killer and TACO had the right mindset for that position. Also, he is very dedicated and seemed the correct guy to pick up. He is very friendly and was coldzera’s old teammate for a long time, which helps.”
In game you can see this with his sacrificial entry style. He will sometimes go in running and jumping to create crosshair space between him and the player following him. His time on Liquid was different as he was a wing player who took passive control of the flanks, got info, and let the rest of the team take control of the map. On the CT-side in LG, TACO played the most sacrificial positions where he had to split his attention between two different areas, support his team, and facilitate rotations. On Liquid, TACO continued to play sacrificial roles, but was given a bit more flexibility. Sometimes he got to be more aggressive and be the secondary AWPer of the team.
When you look at TACO’s positions across LG, SK, and Liquid, you get a better understanding of what the support role actually is. There is no fixed position or style of play that designates the support. It is a mentality where a player buys into the team system completely and does everything he can to make his teammates succeed. This mentality bleeds into intangibles we don’t see in the server.
For instance, he calls setups for his sites on the CT-sides. He did this with Coldzera in LG/SK and NAF in Liquid. When Valve announced the changes to the CS:GO economy system, the support revealed that he had been keeping track of the economy for his team through his entire career.
I used to read the economy and also communicate the opponents’ money to my team almost every round.
Today I announce that I’m retiring from this position and will focus only on playing CS:GO.
— Epitácio de Melo (@TACOCS) March 14, 2019
Finally, TACO is held in high regard by all his teammates. The Brazilian was the most criticized player during his time on LG/SK/MIBR and Liquid due to his poor stats. Yet all of his former teammates have nothing but praise for what TACO did for their teams. In a recent interview, Coldzera said TACO was the best teammate he ever had and in an HLTV interview he explained why,
“We chose what we want to do, we play, he trusts me and I trust him. That how it works for us. We always create something and we always have a surprise for the opponent, so they never know which setup we have or how they need to play against us. That is the biggest impactful point during the matches.”
If you look through TACO’s games in his career, you’ll realize that he rarely makes macro mistakes. He almost never plays selfishly and constantly sticks to the system of his team. He has been a pillar of support which has grounded the teamplay of every team he’s played in. This is partly why MIBR’s clutch factor disappeared after he left the team. His impact on their natural teamplay hurt their small man situations and diminished the aura of invincibility in clutch scenarios.
The same thing could be said for TACO’s time on Liquid. It’s hard to remember now given how much success Liquid has had since he left and Jake “Stewie2K” Yip joined, but Liquid made a huge jump when the Brazilian initially joined as well. Liquid were a potential top 5 team at the beginning of 2018, but after TACO joined they became the second best team of the year. If you use the eye test, you can see that in some ways the previous TACO lineup was more consistent than the current Stewie2K lineup on maps like Inferno or Mirage.
So when history is settled and when people look back on the Brazilian core that took over the world, TACO will be remembered as the ultimate team player. Someone who sacrificed his ego for the betterment of the team. He was someone who did everything he could to make his teammates shine while he toiled in the shadows. Though he will never get the plaudits or accolades of Coldzera, fer, or FalleN, he and his team understands the value and impact he brought them. After all, if you were to tally up all of the results, TACO is the most decorated Brazilian player in CS:GO history. His career is proof that there is more to CS:GO than aim or tactics. That being a teamplayer can be just as critical in being the best in Counter-Strike.