This story was originally published by ESPN Brazil and translated from Portuguese.
Within a week of the grand final of Brazil's professional League of Legends circuit (CBLoL) this past Saturday, work at INTZ was in full swing. Intense training was carried out by the starting players and closely followed by the reserves -- all guided by the coaching staff, with the mission of beating Flamengo in the most important series of the year on their minds.
At the finalist team headquarters, a figure stood out. Behind the players, head coach Lucas "Maestro" Pierre was pointing out something in a conversation with strategic coach Cesar "Juc" Barbosa.
"They are saying that you are the best coach in Brazil," I say with a smile minutes after we meet.
He smiles back, but looks away, almost embarrassed.
"I'm not used to it," he says in his calm but assertive tone. "I don't know. I'm not like that. But it's all right. It is natural for people to talk about it ... Because we are the best team, so it is natural. I won't complain."
Maestro has been the coach of INTZ since 2017, having joined them months after the end of the INTZ dynasty in 2016. Since then, he has lived through the team's best and worst moments, alternating between relegation candidate and CBLoL champion.
Between 2016 and 2017, INTZ dominated the Brazilian League of Legends scene. They were two-time champions in Season 6 and leader of the first stage during Season 7. Their success today can be attributed to their leader at the time: English coach Peter Dun.
In his debut year, Maestro was Dun's assistant.
"Few people knew his work from the inside," says Maestro as he remembered the day of his application to join the organization.
"When I came to do the interview, I didn't know who he was. He had been with INTZ for a year, and they said that despite being away, he was an excellent coach and analyst. He was the man before he even came [to Brazil]," he recalls.
Maestro has affection in his speech when referring to Dun.
"He was a great mentor. Not only as a coach, but also as a professional. A lot of what I learned as a pro, I got from him," he says.
Peter's mentorship went beyond their play on Summoner's Rift. It was also about working with differing views and understanding the role of different people to reach a common goal.
In his first year, with a restructured INTZ with Marcelo "Ayel" Mello, Bruno "Envy" Farias and Diogo "Shini" Roge, they already were the team to beat.
"It was really cool, but it turned out to be a little misleading," he says.
"I know I was part of that success, but I got into the success train," he says. "I thought it was very easy. I thought it was just sticking to Peter, understanding the game and helping him that we were going to win everything. I felt that we were very powerful. Moreover, as much as we had lost in the semis, I knew at the end of the year that we had two silly mistakes."
"The following year, I found out it wasn't quite like that," he says.
"When I took over as a coach, I had a very difficult year," Maestro says referring to the 2018 season.
"Peter himself told me that this year we had a very dangerous combination: a bunch of new players and a new coach. It could work, but it would be very hard," he says.
Recalling the setbacks suffered during CBLoL 2018, Maestro rambles, resting his sights on the ceiling.
"Whenever I don't reach the goal, I rethink. I thought if I would be a good coach. I knew they were going to compare me to Peter, as they did at the time. And I seriously wondered if the problem was me, or if any player was the problem. I could not identify, but I kept thinking repeatedly. I was getting the chance, and it was slipping through my fingers," he says.
"My war with Peter was never external. I never cursed at people, never confronted anyone. It has always been internal," he says. "I've always thought, always compared myself to them, and always thought I would never be a genius like him. Those players will never respect me as they respected him.
"Peter is an exception. He is a guy who has an absurdly high amount of authority without the need to impose himself. He has a kind of crazy genius style; he walks stepping on his shoe, it's crazy. It's cute and genius. He has his way of doing things, and it's impossible to copy. I wanted to develop my own, but I thought, 'Can I do it?'"
Despite the title in the 2017 Superliga, the newly redesigned INTZ did not maintain the same kind of performance for the 2018 CBLoL season and finished in sixth place in the first stage, narrowly escaping an early promotion series. With the arrival of Ygor "Redbert" Freitas to the lineup in the second stage that season, Maestro was in charge of a Brazilian champion bot lane and three Team Genesis players. Stumbling throughout the first stage, the last and decisive defeat was in the last week against IDM Gaming.
"It was the most painful defeat of my life. Whoever won was in the Climb, who lost was in the Climb down. We were 1-0, with 8,000 gold in front, with a composition we loved. We just had to seal the deal," he recalls.
His tone of voice once again goes down a little bit.
"There was a move that is still very clear in my memory, [Luis Felipe] "Absolut" [Carvalho] died giving a recall ... we lost the game, were eliminated, the dream was over," he says.
"When I got to the room afterwards, Absolut was crying. Absurdly sad. The van, on the way back, felt like a funeral. That was a hard one to deal with."
After that, INTZ would lose both best-of-three series that would save them from the Promotion Series. The last challenge of 2018, at CBLoL, was their last chance. I asked if Arthur, the assistant coach in 2018, was on the team during that series.
"No, he was on the other side," he says, referring to paiN, the opposing team. "Juc was on the other side. Djoko too, Ayel too. " Maestro described some of the details about the Promotion Series.
"When we arrived, I felt that everything was kind of darker in the studio," he says. "The energy was very heavy. I'm not religious, but I don't know, I feel that energy in some stuff ...
"I saw Arthur after a long time, and I thought he would be happy to see me, but he was very sad. I said, 'It wasn't supposed to be like that.' I was very, very sad to play that series. It was not cool to win and see others lose. At the time, that's what I could do."
He went on talking about energy when referring to that victory in the Promotion Series.
"When we won, many people were happy. But the only thing I felt was bad energy coming out. No good energy coming in. I cried wildly. I could not stand thinking anymore that I had failed. I just managed to let the energy out... I just wanted to let it all go. I left empty," he says.
The 2018 season ended once again with the Superliga title -- which ended in yet another INTZ victory. For Maestro, the tournament was validation of his willingness to work, to give and to win. There also was a brief reunion with his mentor.
"Peter was here for seven days, I think, and seeing him was an amazing deal. It wasn't even about content, he didn't even bring so much ... but the coolest thing was the energy thing. I felt like working again. He had no reason to be here, and yet he was," he says.
"It was magical for me to be there. The BBL studio [championship venue] brings me good memories. I saw people there that believed in me. As I was there, I regained confidence in my work," Maestro says.
"I saw young, young boys who had nothing in their career yet, like [Bruno Augusto] "Hauz" [Felberge Ferreira], [Diego Alejandro] "Sephis" [de Alencar Jara], joining the team. At the same time, I had [Matías] "WhiteLotus" [Musso], and he has come to trust me a lot. The victory in the Superliga was not cool just to reshape the team, but for me to regain the confidence that I knew how to guide people," he says.
INTZ's campaign in the first leg of the CBLoL 2019 had its stumbles, but it was enough for the team to qualify for the semifinals. At the beginning of the current season, despite adapting throughout the championship, they already showed much stronger foundations than they did in the previous year. The victory against Redemption in the semifinal was not easy. In their last game, INTZ won the spot in the final of the first stage and were set to face an absolute favorite in Flamengo for the title.
"It's hard to say that because it will sound defeatist, but I was surprised when we won," Maestro says with a smile on his face.
"What I wanted the most about that series was to play well. Because it was a David against Goliath matchup. I wish we could play well, make good games. But that last game ... I turned to the guys and said, 'Yo, it's very close. You can win his," he recalls.
In the last game of the best of five, INTZ pushed it to the limit and won the CBLoL title. It was Maestro's fifth best-of-five series as a head coach -- and the fifth time he celebrated victory. The victory earned INTZ a trip to the Mid-Season Invitational.
"I think we prepared a lot better," he says. "They had their heads in the clouds already. Their heads were at MSI, on the trip ... they took a visa for the second, third phase of MSI. And we only here. We gave our lives for the preparation, for that series, and it worked."
"Despite being very happy to win, I went crazy at MSI," Maestro says. "I thought, 'It is not possible we just can't win this.' And then life kicked me in the head once again."
Maestro is sincere in revealing external motives that hurt INTZ being in a completely different time zone in Vietnam.
"They talked to me a lot about jet lag, and I said, 'No, let's get over it.' Everyone arrived at 4 p.m., had dinner together, everyone was forbidden to sleep until 10. And so ... super naive," he says.
"Five, eight days later we were still totally tired because of the trip. Dropped at 5 p.m., fully awake at 2 a.m.," he says.
Because INTZ's routine was extremely timely, it was somewhat hard to synchronize players' bodies with the new time zone, and it was an extremely negative factor.
Also, much of INTZ's extensive delegation could not keep up with the team in the campaign. Only Maestro, the five starters and Emerson "BocaJR" Alencar -- a reserve, could participate in the championship.
The assistant coach was not present, as well as the coaches Juc and Daniel "Exorant" Hume Podosu, the psychologist Natalia and the physiotherapist Bruno.
"I felt a little powerless. I wanted to put in that rhythm, that training volume, that routine, but without everyone there and with the different time zone, it was very difficult," he says.
With the reduced technical commission, the jet lag and the attitude of the Brazilian community -- which did not believe in any good results from INTZ -- Maestro confesses that the team got to MSI in bad shape.
"At the same time, I felt I wanted to be there again. The main feeling I had at MSI was, OK, this is my place. I need to play internationally again, because it is so cool, it is so good. This is where I want to be. I want to be here every year," he says.
On his return to Brazil, paiN Gaming tried to bring Maestro to their coaching staff.
"Something called me back," he said about staying with INTZ.
"I had finally found a nice place to work. People that respect me, players that trust me a lot as well as everyone in my staff.
"I wondered if it would be worth leaving it to build elsewhere. I know I could do it, but ... my legacy is here. It's not the time yet," he says, returning to his midseason thoughts.
"One of the conversations that made me stay the most was the one with [Micael] "micaO" [Rodrigues]," he says.
"He was about to come back, and we went on to eat a pizza nearby. He said, 'Man, I'm coming back and let's do this, let's win. How are you going to get out now? You cannot exit. I am coming back now. I want to win.' "It was super meaningful to me," he says.
On Saturday, the Maestro-led squad faced Flamengo for second CBLoL title of the year and a chance to qualify for the League of Legends World Championship, but they lost. If they had won, it was a chance to perhaps start a dynasty.
"One of the dreams of my career, and I think the coolest of them all, is to create a dynasty," Maestro says.
"Leaving a legacy has always been my wish. I have a chance to leave one now, even though people always find us underdogs," he jokes. "If you have a club that supports my idea and wants to do the same thing, and players who also believe in me, I think it's one of the best chances I have."
In his second year as head coach, taking the front line already seems natural for Maestro. From absorbing the lows in his team's history to lifting them higher, the coach is an integral part of INTZ.
"You need to know how to put them [the players] in the right thinking and the best environment," he says talking about his leadership.
"I always try to think that everyone has obligations in their lives. Everyone feels pressure, works under pressure, takes STAs, studies, takes exams, has to deliver work," he says about how to deal with pressure and responsibility.
"People relativize [work in esports] because they have more audience and money involved. But if you think it is part of your job and it's normal, you can be more relaxed. I do here the same thing I would do in my day-to-day life," he says.
Maestro concludes by commenting, once again, on the title of "best coach in Brazil."
"If people said that I'm a good coach, I'd be happy," he confesses.
"I don't need to be considered the best," he says. "But I think everyone likes recognition for the work they do. As it does not come all the time, it is good to accept people's affection. If people are being honest, I am very happy. I promise that this will not affect my way of working and that I will work even harder to help build good people, good coaches, and good athletes."