Renegades shows us that conquering one dimension is powerful, but not complete.
Throughout the closed qualifiers for VALORANT’s First Strike, Renegades was shown to be an aggressive and direct team that brute-forced their way onto sites while keeping a creative and unorthodox take on defence. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to topple the heavy favourites TSM in their opening playoff match, but nonetheless, it was important. What on paper looked like a walk in the park for TSM, actually did end up being a walk in the park for TSM, but even with such a decisive loss, Renegades gave us all a lesson in aggression.
While it is difficult to analyse, the opening pistol round on Ascent foreshadows the entire plot of the match. Beginning with a standard flash-and-dash to break open A-Site, Renegades quickly plants the spike, however, pay close attention to where the spike is being planted as it plays an important role towards the end of the match. Renegades goal is to play the post-plant off the site. They aim to buy as much time as possible and use their utility alongside blind fire through the smoke to deny a defuse attempt. What ends up dousing the torch for Renegades is Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik’s massive flank through attacker’s spawn.
Ideally, Renegades would just have the bomb to be concerned about, can focus all of their resources on that and send individuals to peek through the smoke to try and kill the defuser. What ends up being the nail in the coffin is Ryan "Winsum" Johns’s death. This removes Paint Shell from the resource table, an ability that gifts Renegades a massive amount of control over the general area around the spike. Had Winsum lived and Paint Shell been used to deny TSM’s first defuse attempted, Renegades could have easily squeaked out this opening round.
Now, if we remember where Renegades aimed to plant the spike during their pistol, it was more towards the centre of the site. This forces TSM to commit to a position that lends itself to taking blind fire through A-Main’s chokepoint. However, Winsum has a Paint Shell line-up to deny the defuse. The problem with that is; during the final attack, with everything going their way, he tragically tosses his grenade just a touch too shallow and misses the spike completely. For a team known to be aggressive, who wants to score early on attack, Renegades slumped on Ascent ending the half down 1-11.
What was initially concerning about this particular matchup was just how stylised both teams were coming into such a big event. Renegades are this fast, twitchy team that endlessly marches forward whereas one of TSM’s biggest weapons needs space to work with. If Renegades aggression could snuff out Matthew "Wardell" Yu’s flame then would TSM struggle against the underdogs? However fun the narrative is, in reality, this never happened.
If anything, Wardell looked comfortable having Renegades blitzing at him nearly every round. He proved to be a massive thorn in the side of Renegades, racking up a massive eight first kills across the series, with four per map. If Subroza drenched the torch, Wardell took it and snapped it over his knee. If Renegades want to take control of the game, they’d have to go through him. He consistently shut down their offence, hamstringing their core game plan and leaving them directionless.
What TSM did really well throughout the match is leverage the fact that Renegades is so direct and fast-paced on their attacks. They know that Renegades is looking to set up a quick and aggressive entry early in the round, they also know there is not a possibility for some Sentinel gadget or trap to deny them a flank attempt. This is why Subroza’s flank during the first pistol round was so successful.
This is why James "hazed" Cobb was allowed to find so much value in the following round. This is why so much utility is used on TSM’s round start to either deny or divide the incoming push. Coordinated and prepared don’t begin to speak to just how many steps ahead TSM were throughout this match. And credit where credit is due, coach Taylor "Tailored" Broomall had this team looking confident and extremely well equipped to handle whatever tricks Renegades had up their sleeves.
To call this clinical VALORANT is an understatement, but that doesn’t strip it of value.
Bind saw Renegades wake up slightly, but it was too little too late. Known for having some creative looks on defence, Renegades did not disappoint in their match against TSM. Not only packing set plays that catalyse their aggressive tendencies but more important, Renegades takes fights in odd locations.
For example, take a look at round eight on Bind, they actively choose to allow TSM to enter into Hookah for free and catch them goofy-footed fighting out of Garden. Normally Hookah is where initial fights and posturing take place as it’s the highway into B-Site, but because Renegades is leaning more towards B-Long, they make a deal in their minds. TSM can have Hookah control, but Renegades threatens circumvention and pressure from Elbow.
It’s not unheard of for a team to push down B-Long on defence and attempt to take a duel early. What isn’t to be expected is for a Skye flash to fly in from the roof and for two duelists to be waiting for TSM at B-Long. Again, this highlights who Renegades is as a team. However, a few cheeky set plays and some interesting defensive holds is not going to keep you afloat for too long. Once they catch on, you’ll soon start to take on water, and no one likes playing with wet boots.
Proactivity and commitment are what brought Renegades to the big dance, it is what they used to topple some of North America’s best teams, and that is commendable. However, aggression cannot be single-minded.
For example, if we look at their Ascent offence and we tally up which site they favoured, there is a slight edge towards A-Site but only by a few attempts. Out of a total of twelve rounds, Renegades attacked A-Site seven times, but that doesn’t paint a clear picture. What does is just how direct and fast-paced the team was nearly off spawn. The same tale of the tape is reflected when we look at Bind. Even down the middle on their six offensive rounds, but it’s only when they resort back to their direct aggression that ends up netting them any form of consistency.
Renegades' style was something that was applauded in the past, especially when they were qualifying for First Strike, but the depth that we hoped for never arrived. They were caught with a fairly one-dimensional play style that proved just too shallow for a calibre of team like TSM, but with that comes a lesson.
It’s like when your grandparents tell you to stick to your strong suits—the problem is, when your strong suits lack depth, then it’s infinitely easier for the enemy to adapt. Secondary or even tertiary options didn’t seem available for Renegades, where TSM has a litany of years under their belt playing a vaguely similar game. Having a vision is vitally important, but rigidity will only get you so far before you snap at the seams. It is the marriage of flexibility without straying from what makes you an individual that garners a complete style.
Images via Riot Games