Alter Ego Celestè have emerged as far and away the most dominant all-female VALORANT team in Southeast Asia.
Comprised of Indonesian players Ryona "Tarathiel" Tan, Odella "enerii" Abraham, Dhammamitta "margeaux" Marvella, July "Eisberg" Kusuma, Risalma "oreopheliaa" Agnia, as well as Malaysian player Nurul "Ayumiii" Aini, the team have been virtually unstoppable since they started competing in the FSL VALORANT Circuit in July last year.
In 2020, the roster of Alter Ego Celestè — then playing as Celestè Esports — won all but one of the five VALORANT Open tournaments hosted by FSL that year. They won FSL's first-ever VALORANT Open, narrowly lost in the finals of the second one, then proceeded to win the next three events.
After getting signed by renown Indonesian esports organisation Alter Ego back in March, Alter Ego Celestè have only gotten stronger in time for the 2021 FSL VALORANT Circuit. They now sit at four-straight titles in this year's circuit and are looking to claim a fifth at FSL VALORANT Open V, which will hold its playoffs from 29 July to 1 August.
Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia recently sat down with Tarathiel, enerii, and margeaux in order to talk about Alter Ego Celestè, their dominance of the FSL VALORANT Circuit, and what it means for an all-female esports team like them to finally make big waves in the esports scene.
When did you all start playing video games and why did you gravitate towards playing first-person shooter (FPS) games like VALORANT? How did your professional careers start?
Margeaux: I [have been] playing competitively since 2019 but I already had access to my PC since I was seven years old. I actually played a lot of games but the game I really tried hard on was [Counter-Strike] 1.6. I prefer games that are very personal for me like FPS games. It's really attractive to me, I don't know how to explain it but it's just different.
Tarathiel: I think I started playing competitively when I was 12 years old. At that time I was playing Cross Fire and my friends asked me to join a tournament. That's when it all started for me, when I really got passionate for FPS games.
From when I was a little kid, I've been playing with guys a lot and I have more guy friends than girl friends. I seem to connect with them more so my hobbies are like theirs. I used to play soccer also and just like playing games and all that boy stuff. My dad encouraged me to play too because he also likes to play [video games]. I think that's why I like playing FPS games, because it's more of a guy's game.
Enerii: I played [Counter-Strike: Global Offensive] because my brother played it. He asked me to buy it so I got my father to buy it so I play it with him everyday. Everybody playing it is so competitive and I also feel like I want to be one of the best, so that's why I play it. I started competing seriously when Celestè offered me to play with them at WESG Malaysia 2020.
Why do you think your team has been so dominant in the FSL VALORANT Circuit?
Tarathiel: I think that out of all the girl teams, we have the best chemistry because we've stuck together for quite a long time already. Overall, the individual skill of my team members is above the rest. Ayumiii and enerii are especially good. Eisberg is also a very good support while margeaux is very good [at using smoke grenades]. I think that's what makes us very strong, each of us has a very high individual skill.
Can you tell us more about the team dynamics in Alter Ego Celestè? What are the roles that each player has in the team and why?
Margeaux: Each of us has a really important role. For example, we all know that enerii is the carry. She's always on her game, always really good. We can really rely on her in every game. For Eisberg, she's a really good support. Our in-game leader, Tarathiel, often makes the calls and those calls are really important so that we know where to go and what we should decide to do next.
The motivator of our team is Eisberg since she's the oldest among all of us. I think I'm just the clown in the team. Ayumii is the chillest (most chill), she's the calmest in almost all situations so when I get a bit tensed up she often calms me down.
Tarathiel: As the in-game leader, usually I let them do what they feel like doing. Playing an FPS game needs confidence, so I don't wanna keep them from playing their best. I don't wanna say, "you cannot do this, you cannot do that, don't do this, don't do that." I prefer to say, "What do you wanna do? You want to do this? Then let Eisberg support you and let enerii help you" or something like that. They can do whatever they want, I just minimize the risks that come with it.
How is the team like during official matches? Do you get really serious whenever you play or do you prefer to keep things casual?
Tarathiel: We don't want to be too serious because I feel like everybody is gonna get pressured. We just play as if it's not a tournament. Y'know, we just joke around and we're just all chill. If we lose a round, then it's okay. We don't really get angry.
Enerii: I think the reason we're winning is that we trust our teammates a lot, even when we're joking around with each other during a game. I always believe in my team even when we're dropping down, for example we were against Mad Army [in the 2021 FSL VALORANT Open I] and we were getting wrecked in the first half. I believed we could managed to get back on top and we did. We had a lot of comebacks in every tournament [because of that].
Did you expect your team would be this dominant in the FSL VALORANT Circuit?
Tarathiel: When Celestè first formed, we were very excited about [the FSL VALORANT Circuit]. Among the other female CS teams, we were the first to come into VALORANT so we learned more before they did. I was very confident that we were going to dominate at first because we started first, right?
I was also [on Immortal rank] when the first season came out, so I was very confident that I was going to be very good and that my was going to be very good. As it turns out, we were and we managed to keep it going until now.
Going back to last year, your team have won eight FSL VALORANT Open tournaments and even hold a streak of seven-straight titles. How did you maintain your high level of play and continue winning after all this time?
Margeaux: I was surprised that teams like Seven Sins, Oasis Gaming Aqua, Mad Army, and others were actually really good so in every tournament we were actually on edge. Because we are trying to keep our spot and the other teams are trying to climb up to our spot, we're actually really trying hard to hold our spot.
Tarathiel: We never underestimate the other teams so that we play our best every time. We play a lot, I queue a lot in competitive and the rest also do that. We keep on improving ourselves individually.
What are some of the difficulties you have encountered as an all-female esports team?
Tarathiel: We don't have a lot of scrims because it's very hard to find scrims for us. It's due to the fact that some male teams they don't really want to scrim with us because they some of them think it's a waste of time. They have this mindset like "Why are we fighting girls? We're boys, we're not gonna lose against girls, right?" Since it's very hard for us to find scrims, we don't really practice much but if we did we're really serious about it and still try our best to improve ourselves.
VALORANT developer Riot Games recently partnered with FSL in order to make the FSL VALORANT Circuit a part of the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Game Changers series, which aims to support female esports players around the world by giving their tournaments bigger prize pools and more exposure. As one of the foremost all-female esports teams right now, what can you say about this development?
Tarathiel: I think it really helps because back then in [Counter-Strike] there were so few female tournaments. If we joined the boy's tournaments then it would be hard because boys and girls have different standards. Even though I want them to think that we can be as good as them, I know for a fact that we think differently. It's just how girls and boys are. I really, really want to compete against the boys but sometimes I think it will still take a long time for us to get there. The FSL Circuit is a very good platform for us. It makes us feel like we're allowed to play FPS games and it's not just for the guys.
Margeaux: I have been wondering for a long time why girls are not really getting the attention from the others. What I see is, compared to older times, there are more tournaments now compared to before. I think that it's really good that the FSL Circuit is focusing on us girls because, for me personally, even though we all are allowed to play games, not all girls have access to a PC and not all girls are allowed to play by their parents, or they just don't think they can make it in the esports scene. Because the FSL Circuit is allowing girls to play, they are more challenged and more willing to try in the esports scene.
Enerii: I think Riot picking up FSL is a really good thing because we get to see more players showcase their skills and because Riot has taken it as an official tournament, I think we get to see more people trying harder. We just see a lot of CS veterans coming back to play VALORANT and making a team and just doing very well. We also see a lot of new players who we haven't seen before get so good and I think it's just a really good platform [for everyone].
Over the course of the FSL VALORANT Circuit, you guys have attracted a rapidly growing fanbase that includes a lot of aspiring female pro players. Do you have any advice for those girls looking to break into the esports scene and be as successful as you have been thus far?
Tarathiel: For the girls that are trying to compete and have been watching us, my advice to them would be to take their time. It took me nine years in the competitive scene to reach this level. VALORANT now has a good platform for girls so take your time, play your own game, and improve yourself first. Don't think about the wins, don't think about being the champions first, just do your best and learn from your mistakes and you'll get there eventually.
Margeaux: For me, if you have the passion then you must go for it. Even though you feel like you're lacking, if you have the passion for it then you have to keep practicing and keep on trying hard. I almost gave up because there were no offers in CS and I actually felt like I was going nowhere. But I kept going and I kept trying hard and I kept trying to get some attention for me, because I believed that I can do it and I believed in my potential. Because of that, I managed to be here in Alter Ego Celeste. We always have to try and always have to go forward, we should never give up if we have the passion for it.
Enerii: For all the girls trying [to play professionally], you should just ignore all the sexist people. Mute them in-game and just play your own game. It's okay if you feel like you're lacking because we've all been there before. Just try to improve, watch a lot of other people play, and then you're gonna get there someday. You don't have to give up.