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Sentinels ShahZaM and SicK “relieved” after beating C9

Scott Robertson

After a hard-fought three-map series win over Cloud9 Blue, Sentinels has claimed the first NA spot at VCT Masters 2 in Reykjavík, Iceland. The final hurdle for Sentinels wasn’t easy, with two tough map wins on Haven and Icebox with a C9 blowout on Split in between. The team still has the grand finals to look forward to in the NA Challengers Finals, but “mission accomplished” for the Sentinels squad so far.

Sentinels VALORANT

Sentinels is back on top of the VALORANT mountain after taking the strangest path. Image via Sentinels.

Following their win over Cloud9 Blue, Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan and Hunter “SicK” Mims sat down to talk with Hotspawn. The two stars discussed their biggest challenge facing Cloud9 Blue, their own team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses, and the infamous narrowly missed ninja defuse from C9’s mitch.

Hotspawn: Congratulations on winning a great series. How do you feel?

ShahZaM: So relieved, man. I know the tournament’s not over, but the main goal is completed. There’s no better feeling.

SicK: A lot of pressure is obviously off our shoulders. It’s nice.

Hotspawn: Between the result and how uphill the series was for you, how much more satisfying is this win than the others?

ShahZaM: This is the biggest thing we’ve accomplished yet. And it puts us into a great position when it comes to VCT points to put us in Champions at the end of the year. We really believed this was a tournament we could win.

SicK: Definitely one of our most satisfying wins. I think winning Masters One was one of our most important, but this is still insanely satisfying, especially considering our qualifier run. We got knocked out of the first, and we were down 9-3 on the second map against T1 in the second one. And all the series here have been close too, and that all adds up.

Hotspawn: What were you most worried about from Cloud9 Blue heading into this series? Or what did you think would give you the most trouble?

ShahZaM: They’re playing really confidently right now. They’re making a lot of individual plays, and they’re really on a heater. So we needed to be on our A-game to shut that down. We needed to not let leaf blast pack in and take space and catch us off guard.

SicK: They’ve done a lot of preparation. They have a big coaching staff. At the same time, they also have leaf, who’s a star duelist. So our main worry was him and the prep they did.

Hotspawn: Almost a mirror start to the Haven map against C9B compared to the one against 100 Thieves. Were you warier of a potential comeback, and did you attempt to do anything differently?

ShahZaM: We talk about not making sloppy plays and not letting them back in the game, but now I realize that saying that makes people hesitate. So we kind of just let it go and lost a few unfortunate rounds, but they played well. At the end, we won despite them playing well, and we’ll take that, and after the game, we can re-watch and see what let them back in the game. I think it’s more an individual mental thing than a tactical one.

SicK: I’ve noticed we have this tendency to let people back into the game. I think it’s because our playstyle is aggressive, so we’ll be up and then just start doing stuff that lets them back in. It was hard for us to prepare for that, so we’d just choke the big leads. That’ll just improve with time, but it’s also something that helps us in some situations, so we just need to fix it, not remove it.

Hotspawn: The comeback came again, but again you prevailed at the very end. What about this team’s makeup keeps you all cool under pressure?

ShahZaM: This is gonna sound very cliche, but there’s a massive amount of trust on this team that I’ve never had with another team. There’s trust to take initiative, to perform, to hold a site. There’s no overcompensating or over-rotating. We believe in each other’s ideas. Even when someone’s having a poor game, like I did, my teammates turn around and instill confidence in me.

SicK: We’ve been in all these situations so many times, so when it gets really close, we don’t psyche ourselves out. We just play how we always.

Hotspawn: Tough day on Split for you guys. It seemed like their utility gave you a lot of trouble and that mitch’s paint can grenades were seeking you out. Then a backbreaker combo with the ace from Xeta and then losing second half pistol. Is it easier to shake off maps like that when everything snowballs like that?

ShahZaM: Yeah, it’s easier to mark off maps as a wash when it’s so one-sided. We just reset really easily and refocus on the next map.

SicK: For sure. Someone on our team said we were playing scared, but no, they just had so much prep that was really good. They played in a way we didn’t expect. Like when we were on attack, they were set up for us coming B heaven when teams would normally stop us at mid. So we were just able to write off that loss because they out prepped us.

Hotspawn: Given how Icebox went against 100 Thieves before this series, was there more nerves this time around especially considering it was the decisive third map?

ShahZaM: There was some concern. We didn’t know if they were going to change their composition from last time, but they didn’t play Viper or Astra, so there was no new look for them. We were confident we could outplay them with our newer meta stuff.

SicK: Their problem was not having a Viper, which was a driving factor in our loss to 100 Thieves. Against Cloud9, we could save our utility for the sites and not have to hold mid as hard. We weren’t too worried just because of the comp.

Hotspawn: I don’t know if you guys knew, but mitch almost had the greatest ninja defuse ever in the 16th round, needing just .02 more seconds. Is there gonna be some work done on safer post-plants before Iceland?

ShahZaM: I was telling zombs, “he’s going for the bomb,” and then telling him, “he has it, he has it!” But zombs was so sure he didn’t that he didn’t even run towards him. And then [zombs] said, “calculated.” I almost had a heart attack.

SicK: I saw zombs was fighting them and joked about not letting him ninja. But then I saw zombs running away from the spike, and I heard mitch on it and thought, “this is fucked.” We shouldn’t have been in the situation ever because the bomb was planted in a horrible spot. That’s really the only adjustment.

Hotspawn: Speaking of Iceland, you already know that two talented EU teams in Liquid and Fnatic await you. What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing the teams from Europe?

ShahZaM: Definitely adjusting to different play styles. They’ve been playing really different styles than NA teams. But I know we’ll have some time before that, and I’m really confident in the methods we’ve used all throughout the next ten months. I think adapting to different playstyles is one of the biggest strengths of our team.

SicK: From what I’ve watched, lots of people think their utility is really oppressive and really good. I think we struggle against those kinds of teams, but I also think we can abuse those kinds of teams. With our “puggy style,” I think we can catch them off guard.

Hotspawn: Who do you think will take the second NA spot?

ShahZaM: I think Envy can do it. They’d be a good representative. A lot of people are rooting for C9, they’ve been playing really well recently, but I don’t think they’re too tactically in-depth without taking away from how well they’re playing. I think Envy is better at adjusting. Their flaw is more of a mental flaw with individual decisions in big games. With V1, you never know. I thought our matchup with them would be easy, but you could tell they put the work in and caught us off guard in certain situations. But I still think Envy and C9 are a step ahead of them.

SicK: I would say Envy. They’re the most consistent. But it’s gonna come down to who plays more with their heart. I know that sounds corny, but it’s the end of the line, so everyone’s going to try super hard.