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VALORANT Champions 2021, the game's first-ever world championship tournament, is already underway.
On Thursday (2 December), Filipino hopefuls Team Secret will be joining two other Southeast Asian teams in a campaign to prove they belong among the best of the best and fight for the title of world champions.
The road to VALORANT Champions has been a long one for Secret's roster, comprised of Jim "BORKUM" Timbreza, Riley "Witz" Go, Jessie "JessieVash" Cuyco, Jayvee "DubsteP" Paguirigan, and Kevin "Dispenser" Te.
After spending much of the year with Filipino organisation Bren Esports, the roster missed out on attending the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Masters Berlin tournament back in September due to visa issues.
The players parted ways with their former organisation not long after, eventually finding a new home in renown international organisation Team Secret and qualifying for VALORANT Champions while they watched Masters Berlin play out from home.
Not only are Secret now set to play in their first-ever international VALORANT tournament, their long-awaited LAN debut will be on the game's biggest stage no less. Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia recently spoke to BORKUM and Witz about what their upcoming campaign at VALORANT Champions means to the team:
First things first, how did the team react to missing out on VCT Masters Berlin and how did that shape your mentality heading into VALORANT Champions?
Witz: Actually, at first it was a bit frustrating for us because we had a lot of expectations for Berlin and we really prepared for it. But then after that we just moved on and took it as a challenge.
How does it feel to know that you will soon be playing in the first-ever world championship tournament for VALORANT?
Witz: It’s very overwhelming. We actually didn’t expect to get into Champions, but here we are. We’re doing our best to not disappoint our fans from the Philippines and Southeast Asia. I think we are ready.
Do you guys feel any pressure with all that's at stake in the upcoming tournament?
BORKUM: For me, there’s a tiny bit of pressure because Team Secret is a very well-known organisation. But for us the players, they always remind us to just focus on playing. That’s always been our goal, to perform as best we can without thinking of pressure from other things.
You're coming into VALORANT Champions as a bit of a Wildcard since the last official match you played in the VCT was during the VCT SEA Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs in August. Do you think that will end up being an advantage or a detriment to the team?
BORKUM: For me, I think it would be an advantage since our latest official matches are so long ago now. Then our possible opponents would have more recent matches that we can review, like how they do in Fracture. I think the Fracture map is already open in Champions, so we’ll do our homework and do our best to counter-strat them.
Witz: Our team has really just been focusing on our own gameplay. We felt that we can really only adjust once we got to Berlin. Because we’ve been so used to playing in Southeast Asia, the playstyle we’ve adapted to has only just been that of Southeast Asia. So I feel like we've adjusted better here in Berlin because we can scrim against teams from other regions, not just from Southeast Asia but also Europe, North America, and EMEA.
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VALORANT Champions will also mark your team's first-ever appearance in an international VALORANT LAN tournament. What do you make of the fact that this will be your debut? What is the team's mentality coming into your first showing in the game's biggest stage?
BORKUM: It will be more helpful to us since we feel as if we’re hungrier. We had a chance to show our stuff at Berlin, but it didn’t happen, and so this time at Champions is when we’ll show the performance that we really wanted to show everyone.
For me, coming into Champions, our mentality is on performing like we’re the underdogs that can be the dark horse in the tournament. We’re preparing for our best maps, we’re trying to fix our mistakes, and we’re trying to review what other teams can do to us so we can counter them.
Seeing as VALORANT Champions features the 16 best teams in the world, what do you think will be the deciding factor once the matches start and the competition starts heating up?
Witz: I think Fracture will be the game-changer at Champions. It was a sudden addition, like barely a month since its release [before it was announced to be in the map pool for Champions], so almost all teams will still be trying to figure it out. I feel like we can call it a ‘poison map.’
For example, underdog teams like us can pick it against opponents that we expect to win against us normally. Or we can use it to our advantage in other ways, so that’s why we’re focusing more on Fracture right now. Because I really like it will give us the advantage at Champions.
You'll be going up against some big names at VALORANT Champions, like Gambit Esports and Sentinels, to name a few. Have you focused on preparing for specific teams or are you treating all your potential opponents with the same amount of respect?
Witz: I think we respect everyone about the same, I feel like we’re really just focused on our own gameplay. Because if we focus on just one team, we’re bound to forget about other teams with how focused we are on just one opponent.
Despite what you said, are there still some specific teams that you are itching to take on and even take down?
Witz: It’s Gambit, they’re the ones being targeted by most teams at Champions. If we managed to defeat them, then the confidence boost we’ll get from that will be too great, you know?
BORKUM: Sentinels and Gambit, since they already proved their performance on LAN tournaments. Teams from the European region play a very different style from ours, so we really wanna face them. It will also make for great experience for the whole team, that’s also one of our goals for the tournament.
You're one of three Southeast Asian teams at VALORANT Champions alongside X10 CRIT and FULL SENSE. Southeast Asia hasn't quite made its mark yet in the FPS scene, so what does it mean to you that you're one of those with a chance to represent the region in VALORANT's biggest stage?
Witz: VALORANT Champions will be our chance to prove everyone with the mindset that, just because we’re Southeast Asian then we don’t have what it takes, wrong. We will show them that we have what it takes.
BORKUM: There are three Southeast Asian teams, so we’re one of those with the chance to prove to everyone that we can beat teams from other regions. And, who knows, we may even win the championship. Hopefully. We’ll do our best to make that happen.
Team Secret will be starting their VALORANT Champions campaign in Group C alongside Gambit Esports, Team Vikings, and Crazy Raccoon. Their first match will notably be against Gambit Esports, champions of VCT Masters Berlin.
For everything you need to know about VALORANT Champions 2021, check here.