Could Skye see play as early as next weekend?

17:30, 16 Nov 2020

After having successfully qualified for the First Strike European main event, analyst of FunPlus Phoenix Erik "d00mbr0s" Sandgren sat down with us to discuss their performance in the qualifier, their approach to practice, using Viper, G2’s playstyle, Skye, and the new map Icebox. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. You can catch the full video interview below!

Congratulations on qualifying for the First Strike main event. What did it take? How much did you guys practice?

We practised a lot of effective man-hours but structured - not over-practising. We’re the kind of team that practices lets say five times a week, two times off, and just fills everything with really good and meaningful practice. That has been the case for the last month, and I’m glad we could show it.

Other esports had issues of burnout flare up this year. Has this been an issue and is that why you pace yourself?

Yeah, for sure. We track our performance level over time, and how breaks affect how good we perform. What days and what maps? Just based on that information, we are timing it so we can peak towards the tournament. I think that’s a really important part of winning.

You are known for your particularly meticulous preparation. Is it therefore fortunate for you guys that we had a tournament break and you had time to prepare?

Yes and no. This tournament format has been quite confusing. It’s hard to really know what or who you’re going to face. In that case, preparation for opponents has been pretty quick and brief. It’s been more like perfecting our play and our quality because it was best of ones. You had to have a really good baseline throughout every match, especially pistol rounds. Today we lost almost all the pistols; it was a bit harder than it should have been. But yeah, that’s has been our main focus - to raise our baseline high enough and time our practice and our breaks, so our baseline and our peaks are perfect for the tournament.

Speaking of the pistol rounds, you came into the first map and at least for the first five rounds you got kind of rolled. Did you feel you over-forced it a little bit there?

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It’s hard to tell because… I’ll share a little secret, we can’t watch the games because there is no coach in the spectator client so when you see me [on stream] I’m just listening to the sound and just reacting blindly and looking at my friend list to see the score. I’m not looking at the stream out of respect.

I feel like those five first rounds were just us being cold and us not capitalising on our reads. We were reading them very well, and we were prepared for what we are doing, but we didn’t capitalise on that knowledge and were not holding the sites as we should. Then we fixed it, and we took, I think, eleven rounds in a row. 

For the second map, it got exciting because you showed off your preparation and brought in Viper. Can you explain what that was about?

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We’ve always been trying to innovate. Last tournament we played a comp without Sentinels, and this time we knew every team is going to VOD review us. Every team is copying us… not every team obviously, but they know our playstyle. We wanted something new, and we wanted multiple plans going in, and Viper was one of those plans. We wanted to have multiple team comps on the same map, and we were glad we could show off this version of Bind, especially on the last map because we’ve avoided picking it throughout the tournament. We kind of surprised them with this. 

A little bit more about the comp: I think Viper is one of the most underrated characters in the game. To think that you have to have a smoker with her is not the right thinking. She’s really good just as she is against a lot of combos, and there are a lot of things you can do with her, more than you could do with a Brimstone and an Omen.

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We talked to a couple of North American coaches about the Viper pick, and they raised that the Viper pick is often a bait and switch between the Recon Bolt and the shroud going up. Is that a mind game you should be expecting to win?

I think how some teams use the Viper wall is completely wrong, and that’s not how it should be played. Some people are dividing the sites into to halves. I feel like that helps the defending team much more than it helps you. Usually in this game, you want to take all the space you can get and then capitalise on Viper. I think it’s a mind game, especially on defence where the wall is so powerful, because you can decide when it goes up or down, it lasts longer, it can bait, you expect them to react to your wall in a specific way and then exploit that reaction. I’m not going to go into detail what those are, but most teams fall into the same traps against a Viper. As long as you know how to exploit it, it’s really good.

When you guys were on attack, you got two ultimates off, and you guys used it on B to get elbow control. Is that the thing you have to do with the Viper ultimate on Bind? 

I think it’s more that it’s super hard to take elbow control without a Breach. Yes, we have Phoenix, but he has to commit with his flashes, so it’s much easier to do it with Breach. We need something else to pressure over there, and Viper ult might be one of them. Not much more thought to that. I think in this game with ultimates like Viper ultimate, you should just use them to win a round with an ultimate. It’s enough. I think it’s more a decision like that, but also we lack Breach and the versatility that he brings.

Is the Viper also something that could come out on Haven?

I don’t want to reveal too much. I know other teams are trying it on Haven and are trying it as solo-smoker or with two smokers. We’re definitely playing Viper on more than just one map; I can say that.

Viper is, of course, the odd one out, but you also ran with Phoenix. Do you generally value Phoenix highly?

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Yeah, I think so. [Andrey "Shao" Kiprsky] and [Pontus "Zyppan" Eek] are both young, aggressive players with the best aim in the world, right? Phoenix is just a good character to pair with Viper, just because of how the Flashes work and how pop-flashes do. You have two walls as well. Especially if you have one Viper alone, you need some secondary smoker. You could play the Jett, Phoenix, or Cypher. You just need a buffer of smokes to give you a little bit of flexibility.

You got a lot of orb control despite usually requiring Omen. Did you expect to get this much and is that how scrims usually go?

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Keep in mind that I haven’t watched it but usually… I’m not going to reveal what the main part of the comp is, but if you watch it, you can probably figure it out. I think the agents we have are really good at taking map control in other ways, and have good zone denial in the beginning.

Agents will be trickling in at a constant rate, as will maps. Therefore, it doesn’t really compare to a game like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), but more to a game like Overwatch. Do you think it’s more important to be agile in a game like VALORANT and stay creative?

Oh yeah! You can’t just main one agent in this game. You can’t be stale like G2… okay I’m going to throw some shade here...but like G2. Unless they are saving strats, it’s the same old stuff. You always have to be the one who is innovating, not the one who is copying. It’s the same in EU. A lot of teams right now are just copying the Vision Strikers “Flash and Dash”, and I felt it really uninspiring. Then again, it’s going to change a lot tomorrow when Skye comes out. You’re going to see a lot of new stuff because again, “Flash and Dash” has been around forever and it’s not my cup of tea. I think we as teams can do better. 

Have you guys had a chance to try out Skye at all?

No, we put all our focus on this qualifier. Now we’re going to take a step back and maybe look at teams that will play the next qualifier and see what they do and figure it out for ourselves. We’ll see if we can integrate it into some strats in some setups.

We know the process is trial and error based, but do you think Skye is going to find her way into the meta at least on some maps?

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Yeah, it’s super hard to say. Every hero looks super [overpowered] when they first come out and then they usually decline, and after that, it’s a peak again. “Oh yeah, it actually was good!” I think she has a voice line when she flashes someone, and just that little thing makes her so powerful, so I think, especially with qualifiers, a lot of teams are going to use her. Especially teams that aren’t that comfortable with Breach or Sova. She is kind of somewhere in between.

What kind of comps could Skye see play in?

You have to have a vision with your comp. You could do a drone comp with Phoenix and Sova, and you have all these minions going into the site, right? You could do a Flash or Info comp. You could even do GOATs because she has the [area of effect] heal, so you just do a frenzy rush with AOE heal, and you just ran to the site. There are a lot of possibilities—too much to say. 

Let’s hope she doesn’t become the Brigitte of VALORANT.

Yeah! I’m scared about that! She can technically heal all four people from one heal.

That seems very strong in pistol rounds.

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Yeah, exactly. It only requires a bit of teamwork to make it work. But that’s what teams are for.

You guys have talked about there being a slight language barrier, and you tried to accommodate that by naming a couple of things after Russian terms. Of course, Icebox came in. Did you guys have to rename a couple of things and are there any fun ones you can share?

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Unfortunately is the most unfun map in the game. We haven’t even made the full callout pictures on it yet. The practice time you have is so precious; you can’t really afford to play a map that’s not going to be in your qualifier and dedicate time to that, right?

We’ll have a few days off and then we’re going to start with callouts and theory-crafting, and then we will take it from there. 

Do you think that’s a map that could generally suit you?

Off the top of my head, no. I think suits more chaotic playstyles and more individual timing pushes and cheesy stuff that I don’t like. Teams like G2 who are just doing like… go on Jett, double Updraft with Knives through a smoke and time it… that’s the coolest thing they have you know, it’s going to be good there.


Image via Riot Games

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