Sentinels sent T1 home in the quarterfinals of the VALORANT First Strike: North American tournament, and will move on to face 100 Thieves in the semifinals. The team performed well despite missing two weeks of practice before the tournament and had little trouble securing a win. Hotspawn spoke with Shazeeb “ShahZaM” Khan, Hunter “SicK” Mims, and Michael “dapr” Gulino about their preparations for the match. The players also shared their thoughts on recent changes in VALORANT, the confusing meta, and how previous experience impacts a team’s performance.
Hotspawn: What was the Sentinels initial plan going into the series against FaZe?
ShahZaM: usually, when we play against teams in these matches, I like to create a game plan specifically for their tendencies. I try to do a little bit of prep for every match we play, and I definitely did for our match against FaZe. We had a good idea about what they were going to veto and what we were going to veto.
SicK: We had a little bit of preparation, but we don’t do too much of the countering. We had an idea of what they like to do during the pistol round and what we wanted to do during our first gun round. Normally we prepare for the beginning of the match so we can at least have an idea of what we want to do at the beginning and play loose after that.
Hotspawn: Did FaZe live up to your expectations?
Dapr: I honestly expected them to be more aggressive than they were. I knew they were an aggressive team, but they actually played kind of passively against us. I thought that was surprising; I don’t know if that was a mixture of them trying to counter-strat what we do or them just being like nervous; I don’t really know the reasoning. I thought their usual playstyle was way more aggressive.
ShahZaM: If I expected more from them, it would be because of the rest we had. We missed like two weeks of practice right before this. They’re a team that plays really aggressive and like to take individual duals, and if they’re feeling strategy is thrown out the window. They’re going to get away with some plays. It can be frustrating to play against, but luckily we played at 100 percent at the beginning. Overall our communication and teamwork was just way better, and we were able to just kind of dominate.
I think I’d take a CS player over an Overwatch player
Hotspawn: ShahzaM, you pulled off an impressive 4k during the first map. Can you elaborate on that situation?
ShahZaM: It was a pretty big round. We have the tendency of blowing leads, especially on Bind. It was a 2v4 with Zombs and me, and it reset their economy. It was good that we took our time and played patiently, and were able to close it out. I got lucky, the guy on site could have spammed me while I was planting, and after that, we had good teamwork. It was really just Zombs creating that opportunity for me.
Hotspawn: Did the recent break from practice take a toll on your performance?
Dapr: We don’t really know what would’ve happened if we practiced as much as everybody else. Obviously, we couldn’t with the tragedy of ShahZaM’s father passing away and the mixture with Thanksgiving break. We had two days of full practice coming into this. Obviously, we’d want more to be as prepared as we can, but it’s kind of hard to tell if we would play better if we had a lot of practice or not. These games were clean no matter what, so you can’t really be that upset. I’m not winning a 13-5 and being like, ‘ah man, if we’d practiced it be a 13-2’ you know? (laughs). I think we played well with the experience we had.
SicK: I don’t think it affected us today, but when we first got back to practice, we were a little rough. But I think we are quick at picking the game back up and playing off each other. Not having practice doesn’t affect us too much, but I think it was in the back of our heads at the start of the match. Once we started rolling, we realized it wasn’t a big deal.
Hotspawn: Switching gears, do you think coming from CS instead of Overwatch gives you an advantage on the Sentinels team?
Dapr: I think they both have different benefits, but most of the benefits from CS is more impactful, like late round situations, clutches, and game sense. The fundamentals are way better for CS players, and they will be all-around better players because most of it transfers to CS from VALORANT. You can’t really say Overwatch doesn’t have anything because they understand how to play well with a team as well as having really good utility. I think they both have different benefits, but at the end of the day, I think I’d take a CS player over an Overwatch player. I just got lucky by teaming with the best Overwatch player in existence (laughs).
ShahZaM: I think there is no denying that having a Counter-Strike background helps in another 5v5 tactical FPS when it comes to certain situations and rotations. You need to have this basic understanding. Obviously, we have two players that came from the Overwatch scene, and one of them most recently played Apex Legends. It took a lot of teaching, but these guys were winning in their previous games and understand the kind of hard work it takes. That’s really what it comes down to; you can learn these things just as well as Counter-Strike players; it’s just about putting the time in and having someone there to teach you.
Hotspawn: Omen has dominated in the control role in almost all team compositions; what are your thoughts on this, and do any other controllers compare?
Dapr: The flash is probably the best part of his kit, but another part that makes him way better than Brimstone is the smoke range that he has, as well as the regenerative smoke. Pretty much any good Omen, if the round goes late, you should have four smokes total and a flash that is just stronger than what Brimstone has. His whole kit is pretty much better than Brimstone’s across the board. It’s not really a surprise that he gets played more than Brimstone. I’m interested to see if people are replacing Omen with Viper. I think she could be strong with the right team, but no one really utilizes her well.
ShahZaM: The other option for smokes is Brimstone, and I think they need to buff him heavily. They even nerfed him early on, which doesn’t make sense. Omen can smoke areas from far away, his smokes don’t make a noise like Brimstone’s pad, and his flash is one of the strongest flashes in the game. It’s a pretty busted ability. It just makes more sense to run Omen. We were probably the last team running Brimstone on Bind because of his molly, but they need to buff Brimstone if they want to see him played more.
Hotspawn: What are your thoughts on the VALORANT meta potentially shifting towards a CS:GO style meta?
Dapr: Honestly, I feel like every team has their own thing, and there isn’t one distinct meta. I would have said before this event the meta was five-man site hits, but at the same time, these hits become really readable, so it’s a mixture. I think the best teams are the teams that mix in both. You think they’re playing default, and they hit you with a site hit and then do the opposite, stuff like that. I don’t think there is one distinct meta; every team plays differently. That’s good; it keeps it interesting because every team is different, and you have to prepare for it. It’s not like CS, where everyone plays the same way, and everyone does the same exact flashes. That kind of gets boring quickly.
SicK: I don’t think it will ever be like CS in a true sense, especially if you’re running a Sentinel like Cypher or Killjoy. It’s going to play so much different than CS because you have something that can control a part of the map that isn’t a player. I think overall, it’s a much different game, and I don’t think it’ll ever be like CS.
ShahZaM: I think it’ll stay in the middle ground. I think in CS, you have a lot of set stuff; every team has the same utility you can account for. In this game, you’re playing different Agents, playstyles, utility, even positions. It’s all about adapting and reacting and being on the same page with your teammates to respond to how the other team plays. I’m going to disagree with the other players saying this; I think it is very different.
Hotspawn: Do you consider Skye a viable choice?
ShahZaM: I think Skye is very powerful; it’s like three Agents in one. The dog that she has can get information and stun. Her heal is stronger than Sage’s, and her flashes are so powerful, not only because they’re long and can pop fast, but because they also give you info. There is an audio line that tells you if an enemy is there. I’m surprised to not see more teams playing Skye because she is very strong.
Hotspawn: How do you feel about Icebox?
Dapr: I like Icebox. I think it’s funny because every CS player I know hates it. There is a lot of up and down, and they don’t like that. I really like it; it adds an interesting dynamic that not a lot of other maps bring. If nobody else likes it, I’ll play it all day; I don’t care (laughs).
ShahZaM: We really like Icebox. I think it’s a fun map to play. I know there is a lot of criticism for the map because it doesn’t play like other VALORANT maps, which feel like Counter-Strike maps. It feels like a different game. The vertical aspect is not what people are used to. I think that’s why people don’t like it. Our team likes it very much, and I’ll be excited if a team doesn’t veto it against us.