XSET VALORANT on VCT Masters, Astra, underdog status
As the first phase of the VALORANT Champions Tour nears a dramatic finish, several North American teams are looking to put a stamp on a red hot region. One of those teams is XSET, a relatively new face to esports that’s already made a big splash as a brand. Their VALORANT team consists of players with unique competitive backgrounds compared to many that primarily feature former CS:GO players.
The XSET VALORANT team is scheduled to compete at the first Masters event after they qualified via Challengers 2. Their newest addition Brendan “BcJ” Jensen, and coach Don “SyykoNT” Muir, sat down with Hotspawn before Masters to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, what they think of the new agent Astra and their expectations for VALORANT esports.
Hotspawn: Let’s start with the recent news: the first international LAN for VALORANT, Masters 2, announced for May in Reykjavik, Iceland. Is that a little added motivation for you?
BcJ: Oh for sure. Any worldwide event with all the regions coming together? You know we want to shit on EU; that’s the biggest motivator. Iceland is somewhere you get to go maybe once in your life. It’s gonna be tough with only two spots for NA.
SyykoNT: Yeah, that’s gonna be added motivation as well. Masters 1 is a regional event with eight teams, but only two will make it to Iceland. Got to shine a little harder to attend this event.
Hotspawn: there are only two spots for North America and only ten teams total. What are your thoughts on the small field?
SyykoNT: I’d love to see bigger international events. Some teams [and regions] are more competitive than others; I think NA is nearing 30 full salaried teams, whereas EU and Korea aren’t anywhere near that. But bigger events will mean more NA teams can shine on an international stage.
Hotspawn: You guys are competing for a relatively new org in XSET; when I talked to the CS:GO ladies a couple of months ago, they called the org “one big family.” Do you guys feel similarly?
BcJ: 100%. I’ve only recently joined, but whenever we’re playing a match, everyone’s there. We have a bunch of group chats that everyone responds to. I’ve never seen this level of family before.
SyykoNT: Just five minutes before this call, BcJ was working on an instruction manual for people to play Batallion 1944. We do these family game nights all the time.
Hotspawn: How does the team and the organization go about setting expectations? Are there candid conversations about expected results?
SyykoNT: Coming into this, the expectation from the org was, “we want to be the best and we want to compete at the top.” Through a couple of roster moves, we identified WeDid as our smoke agent; then we made another move to pick up BcJ. And we created this team I knew was going to be competitive.
Hotspawn: Do you guys still feel like the underdog label applies to XSET VALORANT?
BcJ: Most definitely, yeah. The biggest thing for us is not having a ton of CS experience; we have one player from CS. Nowhere near the amount of experience other teams are bringing in; 100 Thieves has got probably 40+ years of [combined] CS:GO experience. We’re gonna learn as much as we can and play to our strengths, but it’s a learning experience. We’re gonna be the underdog for a bit, but we’re getting better every day.
Hotspawn: A defining feature of this team is the diverse competitive background, consisting of Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Crossfire. In a scene dominated by mostly CS:GO players, what’s been the biggest challenge for you guys? What about your background gives you an advantage?
BcJ: We play a unique style; almost no one plays our agent comp. We’ll triple role swap on some maps. It’s hard to contend consistently with some of these teams, but we can rely on our teamwork and fundamentals that are really strong. That uniqueness allows us to come out and surprise people.
SyykoNT: Also, from a team-building perspective, when we were identifying players, some of these orgs are looking at CS:GO pedigrees. But we’re able to say, “we’re not looking for good CS:GO players; we’re looking for good VALORANT players.” Then we can build a team around these players in a way that no other organization is doing.
Hotspawn: A big change to VALORANT just debuted with the new agent Astra. How excited are you to get your hands on the new agent?
BcJ: We actually just came out of a call with our smoker WeDid. He’s been messing with her already; he’s so excited. They’re a more team-dependent character, and that’s where we really shine. I think we’ll be able to utilize them more than any team.
SyykoNT: Once Masters is over, we’ll be really excited to dig into her.
Hotspawn: When you have a big meta shift like this, whether it’s a new agent, map, or set of buffs/nerfs, how do you collectively adapt to something like that?
SyykoNT: It’s important to identify what you’re losing by switching out a character because it’s really easy to tunnel in what a new character can do. There’s only five agents on the map, so if you’re adding someone new, you’re taking someone out. So we look at how everything shifts, how this affects our playstyle, and try to identify if it brings more than what it takes away.
Hotspawn: This was a weird first year of pro VALORANT with the pandemic and all. What are you looking forward to this year and in the future?
BcJ: I’m a big LAN guy; I love competing on LAN. I’m really excited to do that in VALORANT. The prize pools are going to come back; the LANS are going to come back. Every CS player has already been there, been to multiple LANs, and traveled a ton around the world. I haven’t had the chance to compete internationally, and I want to see how much we can win.
SyykoNT: I’m looking forward to a franchised league. Riot has done an excellent job with LCS; I’m excited to see what they do with VALORANT. I expect we’ll see all the teams in the same city with little to no ping or in a LAN environment. I’d like to see a relegation system where T2 teams can’t work their way into the franchised league.