Lithuanian VALORANT packs a punch.
With his former team nolpenki, Vakaris "vakk" Bebravicius was always close to the top VALORANT teams in Europe, usually getting through to the qualifiers and upsetting the occasional favourite. In this interview with GGRecon, he talks about the reasons why the team parted ways and what’s in store for him and his new teammates who will be competing in this week’s Red Bull Home Ground.
The interview was edited for clarity and brevity.
It’s been over a month since nolpenki, a team that was always on the cusp of achieving the highest heights in VALORANT, disbanded. What was the reason for the split? How did you feel about the situation?
I was pretty sad because it was the team that I instantly looked at and thought it might be a really good team and everything is going to work out, but it happened what happened. The main reasons are that we got picked individually and we barely got any org offers. People from Finland or Sweden, they can live a normal life without [another job], but we didn’t get a good deal from the orgs.
Considering the disbanding date of nolpenki going back too only mid-December of 2020, you can’t have been playing with the new team for a long time. How much practice have you had together as a team? What do you think your potential as a roster is?
We only talked about one or two maps and not even fully because we just have one or two strategies. We just flex around the map and are trying to adapt to the enemies currently. Everything we’re doing now - we’re not fully prepared. I wouldn’t even say we are half-prepared. We’re just at the beginning of a great future, I think.
I think when we get to invest more time into the details, I think it will be better. Right now we are just running around the map, doing our own stuff, playing how we like to play. There are some rules about when we do or how we do it, but everything is basically very simple. With the preparation, we didn’t have a lot of time. We just dived into our game, and we played confident. We just played our game.
Did you guys get into it knowing who is going to play what and in which role, and with a communication structure in mind that you wanted to achieve or are you still trying to figure all of this out?
The only thing that was a bit new was probably me playing Raze, but we knew about everything else. Basically, I said I wanted to try to play Raze more on Bind four days ago. I was playing it, and I was missing a lot of ultimates. It was really hard in the beginning, and I didn’t expect to perform that well with Raze, especially as I just started playing it. It’s kind of new for me, the mechanics and everything else, but apart from that, we knew what people are going to play. We’re still a new team, we’re trying new stuff, new agents, and see what works best for us. We are searching for ourselves as a team, as players, and as individuals.
As you mentioned, you’re a very new team, and still, you made it through the second phase to qualify for the Red Bull Home Ground. Can you give us an idea of what those matches were like?
Currently, I’m trying to go into the matches without expectations. I don’t care too much, and I try not to think about it. Personally, I don’t know about others; I just try to play my own game. I just played how I play normally. I wasn’t nervous like I usually am. It’s actually the first time I’m playing that confident and focused. I don’t know what helped. Maybe it was the coach who helped me to outskill the enemies. I’ve never felt like that, and I was really surprised.
GGRecon had an interview with your former nolpenki teammate Aleksander "zeek" Zygmunt and we’re not sure if he was just humble or represented the situation in the team accurately. He said that while he did call to an extend, everyone in nolpenki was very vocal. It was therefore a surprise that G2 picked him up for the shotcaller role. How do you evaluate that situation?
What zeek said is true. I think G2 picked him as a shotcaller; I’m not 100% sure about it, people were talking about how they picked him as a shotcaller. In nolpenki, it was basically five people gathering info and ideas, talking about them and expressing them, and then we decided quickly what’s best in each round for us. It wasn’t like zeek was shotcalling every round. He was the guy who was making the last decision, like maybe reacting faster than us and maybe doing something like IGL. It was basically in the beginning of the round.
There was basically no strict IGL in nolpenki, there never was. My plan is, and I mentioned it in a couple of interviews, I never want to have one guy that calls everything because I don’t think that’s how VALORANT works.
What’s different about VALORANT that this calling structure is the best for you?
I don’t think it’s that different. It’s more about the abilities [and where people use them.] If someone wasted utility maybe now someone can react and call that they don’t have abilities so it’s better to go in there. I think the most important thing is abilities and sometimes people can react to that very well and spot the weaknesses on the map.
I’m not saying playing with an IGL is bad. I think it’s good but having your other teammates gathering information is really important, I think. Everyone in a VALORANT team should be vocal because it’s very valuable in the round. I think all my teammates are like that.
In your first match at the Red Bull Home Ground, you’ll be meeting zeek in the first round. On Twitter, you addressed zeek directly. Was that a taunt towards him or were you just having fun with it?
We’re friends, man. We’re really good friends, and we understand each other. He got a good offer, and I’m really proud that he accepted it. We’re just going different ways. We’re still ex-teammates. It was Twitter banter just for fun, not anything serious.
We’re still talking sometimes. We’re still laughing about some things. We just keep the relationship in a funny way, nothing like enemies or something like that.
This tournament has an interesting ruleset with the home ground win condition. If you win the home map of both teams, you win the best of five instantly. Do you enjoy that type of format and could that work in your favour in this tournament?
It’s pretty fair; I’m not going to lie. You pick, and the enemy picks, and you both play your best maps. It’s a new experience, and it’s hard to comment. I don’t think it’s bad and it’s new stuff that we need to try. I think it’s something refreshing, something new which is not bad and it’s not like super stupid. It makes sense what happens after the two picks, after a 2-0. I think we need more practice with this type of tournament format.
Image via Riot Games