Team SoloMid ended up running straight through Envy in a dominant two-map affair in the North American First Strike semifinals. TSM’s soaring Phoenix player Taylor “drone” Johnson sat down with Hotspawn after the series to discuss his team’s diverse agent compositions, their approach to practicing maps, what the veterans provide to the team, and the key to Subroza’s insane second map as Raze.
Hotspawn: You were back on Phoenix again to start the series on Ascent, and kept him for Split. You spoke a few months ago about how well he fits into nearly any comp; is that why he’s a mainstay in all of TSM’s different comps?
Drone: He synergizes well with pretty much any agent, and it’s because I fit so well with him, so they try to get me on him whenever possible.
Hotspawn: You guys have a huge amount of different agent compositions that show off your versatility. Are all these comps a sign that you’re still in the experimentation phase, or is this just part of your team profile?
Drone: It’s more that we’re willing to experiment; every player is willing to play any agent that makes us the best as a team. Even Matt (WARDELL), he’s been the staple Jett for a long time, but he’s not a one-trick, and he’s been very willing to play other agents, it’s just hard to take him off her because it’s such a perfect match. It has become part of our profile that we can throw this triple-duelist comp out right before First Strike and surprise everybody. We’re always willing to adapt.
— VALORANT Champions Tour (@ValorantEsports) December 5, 2020
Hotspawn: I spoke to Hazed yesterday, and he just comes off as the most selfless teammate you could have. And cutler was the shock dart master on map one. What value do veterans like them provide to a professional roster?
Drone: They provide such a crazy stability for our team. In situations where me, Matt, or Yassine (Subroza) are getting flustered or uncomfortable, or when things are tense, they are very calm. They help us do our job better, so we try to make their job as easy as we can. When it comes down to it, they bring us back to center.
Hotspawn: You went into map two with your own map pick in hand, and Split is a big favorite for Envy. How do you split practice between maps when it comes to your favorites and your opponents’ favorites?
Drone: We actually try to target the map we feel we’re weakest on. We’ll really drill those for a week. It’s a waste of practice on a map you’re already comfortable on. It ends up working out where we’re confident on every map. So when a team like Envy comes around that’s very confident on Split, we don’t feel threatened, we’re ready to play you, especially if we get defense first.
Hotspawn: Did you work on attack on Split a lot, knowing how strong Envy’s defense is known for?
Drone: In our last few Split games we’ve had really dominant defense sides. So on attack we can just zone in on getting 4-6 rounds, and then we feel like we’re set for the rest of the game.
We all have a lot of trust in each other
Hotspawn: Hazed talked about on stream about not biting on fakes. Has that bitten you in the past against Envy or other teams?
Drone: We had a little bit of a problem with over-rotating, and that comes from just jumping the gun because we’re in a tournament and we just want to go. But we know FNS’s play-style, and he will run fakes or a cancel strat, so we knew we couldn’t bite and I think we held our nerve.
Hotspawn: Watching Subroza just open up sites with ease is pretty satisfying to watch, right?
Drone: Definitely. There was a round on Split where he ed out of B-main and killed a guy on top of the box, and that wasn’t a strat. We were just trying to get ultimate orbs, and we just see his robot alerted to an enemy in B-main, so he said “I’m just gonna ult and go.”
Hotspawn: Does everyone have the green light to call an audible like that?
Drone: Absolutely. We all have a lot of trust in each other to make reads like that. If someone has the confidence and the knowledge, then go for it, just let us know that you’re doing it.
I love getting revenge on 100 Thieves for knocking us out
Hotspawn: The two of you along with WARDELL never really found your footing in the NA CS:GO scene, so how sweet is it for all of you to have a chance at being the first NA champions?
Drone: It feels great. A lot of us had our potential kinda shunned in CS; we’re all great players and it shines through on VALORANT where we have fresh opportunities. It feels great to have a second chance to prove ourselves.
Hotspawn: One more test in front of you: grand finals tomorrow, best-of-five. Who would you rather play between 100 Thieves and Sentinels?
Drone: It’s hard to say. I love Sentinels for the storyline, but I love getting revenge on 100 Thieves for knocking us out. I think Sentinels would be best.