The Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) is about to run its second Masters event of the year, with the offline Valorant LAN taking place in Reykjavík, Iceland from May 24th and featuring some of the best teams in the world.
Megalodontus speaks to two top Valorant broadcast talents in British host Yinsu Collins and Irish caster/analyst Mitch ‘MitchMan’ McBride about the VCT so far, their predictions for the Masters event and their reflections on Valorant’s first year.
Thanks for accepting this interview. It’s been almost a year since Valorant launched. What are your general thoughts on the game and the development of its esports scene so far?
MitchMan: I’ve been involved in the scene since day one and although there have been a few bumps along the way, overall I am very impressed with the ecosystem that Riot has and is developing. We have a constantly evolving meta with a good flow of new content and maps to keep things interesting!
Yinsu: I love this game. When I say I love this game, I fucking love this game! In the past, most of my shooter experience has been on console, so Valorant for me was a really big commitment and dedication in the beginning. I started as complete noob obviously, but after about a week, maybe less, I completely fell in love with it.
In terms of the esports scene, I feel like Riot are very good on the whole when it comes to feedback and listening to their playerbase. They’re not perfect, but as developers they’ve really gone out of their way at times and tried their best to listen to what we want, and that in itself sets a very good precedent for the future of the game. We know that if there’s a crazy feature that nobody likes, Riot will eventually fix it or change it, or even add new things to it.
There’s also always new game modes as well and that’s why I think I really like Valorant. It’s like LoL, I freaking love URF! I love that game mode and I think having those dimensions in Valorant is great too.
In terms of the development of its esports scene, for a game that’s only been out for a year it’s been pretty spectacular. We’re about to have the first Masters international LAN during COVID times, which is difficult as it is, but the fact we’re going to have a large event with so many different teams, nationalities and players represented is so exciting to me. I think Valorant’s smashed it in a year, and I can’t wait to see how it develops in like 10 years like LoL for example.
Looking back on the EMEA Stage 2 Challenger Finals, were you expecting a full five-game final series between Fnatic and Team Liquid? What are your reflections on those finals?
MitchMan: I expected a close series and hoped for five maps. In a best-of-five, we always expect some slightly one-sided maps but with the way Map 1 went to Fnatic with a score of 13-3, I was worried we were in for a big blowout.
Yinsu: In terms of Fnaitc and Team Liquid, the last time they played against each other we didn’t see Haven. But when the map vetoes came out, I immediately thought if Fnatic wins IceBox and Haven, we would go to four maps. I didn’t think we were going to five, personally, but if Fnatic or Liquid didn’t win IceBox and Haven, it would be over pretty quickly and there’s no way in hell we get the fifth map. But because Haven somehow went to Fnatic and IceBox went to Liquid, at that point I definitely felt that we were going to get five maps. I’m glad we did!
I’m a huge fan of the Turkish and CIS community as well – and their scenes. I’ve been trying my best to keep up with them as much as possible during Challengers, even when EU was on. Honestly, going into it I thought Gambit Esports and Futbolist were going to be really good, and the upset against Futbolist by Oxygen Esports was really interesting.
For Gambit, you hear about them being scrim lords and you see them perform consistently in CIS, and them taking down FPX, like, woah! Fnatic were able to overcome them but the scoreline does not reflect how tight that series was, and I think everybody going into the next tournament will not underestimate them whatsoever.
For those who perhaps have not kept a close eye on the EU Valorant scene, what can we expect from both EMEA representatives going into the Reykjavík Masters and the UK talent within them? Which player – or players – should viewers keep their eyes on?
MitchMan: When we talk about Team Liquid their newest addition, Jamppi is going to take the spotlight. Coming into Valorant with very little time in the game, we’ve seen him struggle with some agent specific elements. And yet despite that, he has been one of the top performers of VCT EU. His raw talent shines through with every passing day as he gets more familiar with the nuances of this game, he becomes a bigger threat to the world.
In general, Liquid will bring more of the ‘heads up’ play, with world renowned aimers like Jamppi and ScreaM, but having been together as a core of the same four players for close to nine months, they have no shortage of depth.
On Fnatic’s side we see constant innovation: This team is always one of the first ones to try to push the limit of the meta, and no doubt they have some things up their sleeve coming into Masters. Derke will be the player most people have their eye on, another young gun coming out of Finland, has shown depth and flexibility as well as raw aim that is almost unmatched. With the big brained Boaster leading them, they will be one of the favourites to win the VCT Masters in my eyes.
Yinsu: I mean, I’m going to have to say Boaster, obviously! But I think the UK representatives going into Iceland are amazing. I know I’m a bit of a boomer but I wasn’t really there during the CS 1.6 era… however across all the other titles I know, this has got to be one of the biggest success stories we’ve had in the UK. I’m so happy because all of these guys who didn’t get too big of an opportunity in CSGO or weren’t at that level have now finally gotten the opportunity, and they’ve grabbed it by the balls!
On the side of Liquid you have players like Jamppi and ScreaM, they’ve been pretty consistent in terms of being on top of the scoreboard but look at the rest of the roster. You cannot underestimate or disrespect what the other players bring. L1nk is a clutch god, he’s clutching stuff out of his arse! He is always so exciting to watch. Kryptix and soulcas as well, both of them have been flexible in agent picks and they’ve been such rocks for this roster.
Liquid has coach Sliggy and he’s insanely hard working. He’s doing every job under the sun for his team and he’s such an asset not just to Liquid, but to the scene in general. The fact that he’s homegrown in the UK as well, makes me as a fan and person who works in Valorant feel so proud.
On the side of Fnatic, the two new guys Derke and Magnum have been in the spotlight. But I do think that this roster would not be where it is without Boaster. He’s been working like a madman. He’s not had a proper day off where he’s been away from the game since pretty much the end of December. It got to the point where he woke up one morning and he went: “I’ve got a really good IceBox Pistol strategy, I’m going to make it.”
He actually dreamt of this strat! I think they actually played it against Gambit and it worked. This guy is so dedicated to this game that he’s eating, living, breathing and bloody dreaming it!
But the roster would not be what it is today without coach mini. A lot of people know mini from the CS scene, he’s old school, really grounded and puts his heart and soul into the game. He and Boaster just get on really well (they’re both called Jake too)! I have to talk about Mistic as well, as he and Boaster go way back. He’s very nice, really hard working and I don’t think he’s the kind of guy that moans about stuff. It’s no coincidence he’s considered as one of the top Viper players in the region.
If anyone wants to keep an eye on these guys… keep an eye on all of them! I’m going to want to push my boy Boaster a little bit. He’s not just a great In-game leader and player, but he’s also super nice and a great content machine!
I’d like to get your thoughts on the VCT Europe Challengers format. Unlike NA, for example, EU doesn’t have double elimination for it’s qualifier finals or even the Challenger series. What do you think of the format, do you think it should be changed in the long run?
MitchMan: As I understand it, double elimination is a priority right now within EU, it represents and all together better format with greater competitive integrity. In the long run, I believe we will see the shift to double elimination.
Yinsu: Personally, I would prefer double eliminations but this one is difficult for me to comment on. Basically, I think that double elimination is the most perfect model ever, but we’re also in the trial and error phase. I think in the future, I would be surprised if we don’t see double elimination. I don’t know how it would be but I’m all for it and I think it would bring a great addition to how the VCT has been so far.
On the whole, I feel like VCT in Challengers has been really good, especially the EMEA playoffs. It’s been super fun to see what teams can do and see the avenues where teams were able to qualify for that playoffs.
Going into the Reykjavík Masters, this is also Valorant’s first big international event. What other regions or teams are you most looking forward to seeing and are there any dark horses that you think people should keep their eyes on?
MitchMan: The Koreans don’t get nearly enough praise, I’m scared for anyone facing NUTURN Gaming!
Yinsu: I think Sentinels will be EU’s biggest challenge. Between them, they have tons of competitive LAN experience, and ShahZaM is just a great player, person and leader. They have so much mechanical potential and are going to be a super tough opponent to play against. But it’s probably obvious to the rest of the world that they’re a big challenger.
In terms of dark horses, this isn’t even a dark horse but just outright: I think Brazil will be super strong. Brazil are just good at video games, and they definitely have a lot of potential to make it far. Some of the other Asian regions could also be dark horses but without Vision Strikers being here it’s hard to call. I still do think that the gap is going to be closer than people think.
With the new map Breeze being disabled, the likely point of discussion will be the agent Astra. She has been polarising, with some saying she’s bad for the game due to her powerful and versatile kit. What are your thoughts on Astra and her design?
MitchMan: Astra is a super interesting agent. For me, she isn’t overpowered to a game-breaking extent. The only thing I don’t like is her post plant ability (to pull you off the defuse). Other than that, along with recent soft Viper nerfs, I think we are in a good place going into Masters where there probably is no one agent you have to play.
Yinsu: I love Astra! I think she’s great and we’ve seen in EU there’s so many ways to play her. We’ve seen Astra supports, Astra Lurkers which I believe Boaster was kind of playing as a Lurker. We’ve seen Astra used very cheesily and we’ve also seen battle Astras. There’s so many different variations of this agent.
I personally don’t think she’s bad for the game. I think as we’ve seen from Fnatic, they’re starting to use Astra in quite unique and very cheesy ways. I can see why it’s annoying for players to play against her, but then again I cannot wait to see what people come up with as a counter to her, because it does exist. It’s not like she’s uncounterable, and I’m looking forward to how other regions use her as well at the upcoming Masters.
Moving away a little from the VCT Masters, last month Boq tweeted his thoughts on casting Valorant and its challenges. How have your experiences been so far casting Valorant, as you’ve come from different esports backgrounds? Has it been more challenging than other FPS titles?
MitchMan: Valorant has mechanically been very similar to casting CSGO but on hard mode. The varying abilities and lack of HUD showing abilities, ultimates and so forth in the earlier stages of the game certainly made it a challenge to tell the stories. In its current state, I think it’s more difficult due to the pace and variety we see, but it’s also a challenge that I’m very fond of!
What has been your personal favourite moment or highlight in the VCT Europe so far?
MitchMan: For me it was ScreaM just sending it down the middle on Haven against Oxygen and grabbing a five headshot Ace!
Yinsu: My highlight has always been interviews. I love doing interviews and hearing players’ thoughts. ANGE1 has always been incredible, we’re so lucky to have someone like him in the scene and he’s just a great personality. We’ve also had guests like rhyme, ec1s, Yacine, eMIL and neilzinhoon on the broadcast and every single one of them have been fantastic.
Honestly I would love to have more players on the show, always. If anyone of them were to retire anytime soon, come join me on the desk!
Riot recently announced that it will record and review in-game voice chat when reported for harassment or hate speech. What are your thoughts on this and toxicity in game?
MitchMan: Toxicity is out of control in most games and Valorant is no different, especially when I play with my female friends. The amount of harassment is unacceptable. Riot already actively police this, but with the recording and review of in-game voice chats, we stand to gain a lot as a community in weeding out these horrible people who thrive on putting others down.
Yinsu: Good. I’ve been a target for harassment and hate speech pretty much on a daily basis in-game. There was a time where I didn’t speak at all, because I think there were a couple of really bad days. I was super down because I fucking love this game. I just… couldn’t bring myself to reveal my identity and my voice so that was sad.
So any effort by Riot to come in and review in-game voice chat and crack down on it, I welcome it. I think it’s needed and I’m really happy they are taking steps towards it.
With the recent announcement of the one-off Valorant UK & Ireland Skirmish and an article on Upcomer written by Yinsu herself on UK CSGO and Valorant, what do you guys think of the popularity of Valorant in the UK & Ireland, and the esports talent we have here, in comparison to titles like CSGO, CoD and Overwatch?
MitchMan: The prevalence of UK players in Masters alone shows that the region is ripe with talent. From my own experience, just coming off a Campus Clutch event – where college students compete nationally – within Ireland, we saw a huge level of individual and team skills on display, as well as large player numbers even within the college scene. Valorant is certainly gaining popularity. Currently, the community might not match the numbers of other big titles but considering how new it is, I think that’s only natural.
Yinsu: Valorant is super popular in the UK! I also host a university league and we get loads of people playing in that, and they’re all super passionate about this game. So I’m really happy to see that and I think because we have so many talents in terms of players at the top level, I think it’ll really inspire more people into playing.
Also, we’ve got a female team too with Rix.GG picking up a women’s team and I know both Jupi and Padge. They’re really good ambassadors, are good at the game, and I’m looking forward to them competing. I think them being at the top of the female scene in the UK is going to do really well for us in the long run as well.
Riot has also announced that the VCT Masters 3 will be taking place in Berlin. What are your thoughts on that?
MitchMan: Berlin is a beautiful city but more importantly, it’s iconic for esports since it is the home of the LEC. If we get a LAN event hosted in the LEC studio, that will be a huge milestone for the Valorant community, and I will certainly be very excited for it! At First Strike, I had the pleasure of working from that studio and, with Germany having COVID under decent control, maybe there’s a chance for a crowd this time around!
Yinsu: I’m so happy it’s in Berlin because I feel like I could go to that one now. And maybe by then, COVID would like chill out a little bit! It’s going to be our home turf, our EMEA boys are going to show up and be prepared to take down all the other regions, and I can’t wait to cheer for every single one of those teams in Berlin!
Before we end, Valorant is of course starting to gain traction and the attention of many, but there are some still wary about dipping their foot in. What would be your elevator pitch to get them playing Valorant or to start watching the VCT?
MitchMan: Do you like LoL? Do you like CSGO? Do you like to constantly be challenged by an ever changing meta and constantly expanding map pool? Then Valorant is perfect for you!
Yinsu: Like I said before playing Valorant, I wasn’t super into FPS games on PC, and CS was one of the only one I did play. But if you’re someone who on the whole enjoys video games, it doesn’t hurt to try it. I know a lot of people who play LoL, and there is a little bit of a divide where some are interested in Valorant and some aren’t. But if you are someone who likes games in general it’s a no brainer to try out. It’s insanely fun. If you’re based in Europe, hit me up, I’ll play with you!
In terms of watching VCT, for me it’s being a sports fan. I love sports. I would watch almost any sports if it’s available to me. When you watch sports you get the excitement, the drama and the narratives, and we have that in the VCT. Not just in EU, but around the world. It’s a no brainer for anyone who’s into a sport or esports to check it out.
When we come back for VCT Challengers 3, you can tune in, but definitely watch the Masters in Reykjavík. It’s the first bloody LAN in Valorant, it’s a historical moment! People are going to ask where were you when the first ever international Valorant LAN happened and you’re going to look like a right melon for not watching it! So tune in and support our boys Team Liquid and Fnatic!
You can follow Yinsu Collins and MitchMan on Twitter, and catch the VCT Masters Reykjavík on May 24th on Twitch
Megalodontus is a miraculous survivor from the mass extinction and somehow learnt how to use his stubby fins to operate complicated mechanical equipment and drink tea. Worryingly for cryptozoologists, he’s been writing League of Legends articles too.
A self-taught writer who’s had the privilege to work with good editors who aren’t terrified of his pearly whites, Megalodontus is often seen writing either independently or for various websites such as this one. When not writing, he usually runs it down mid in real life and is fascinated with watching paint dry.