Premier Oceanic esports organisation AVANT Gaming have expanded into VALORANT, picking up Ignition Series top four and Rise of Valour invitee, Control. Here’s The Thing caught up with AVANT’s Lewis ‘WAT’ Watson to talk about VALORANT in the region and their push to become the best in OCE.
AVANT Gaming - VALORANT 2020
A top four finish at ORDER’s Oceanic Open, the first VALORANT Ignition Series event in Oceania, was the dream start for Control. But how do they build a presence and become one of the region’s best long-term, all on their own? Lewis "WAT" Watson and the Control squad knew the next logical step was organisational support – which would come from one of Oceania’s largest brands, AVANT.
“After placing top four at the ORDER Oceanic Open, we started thinking about looking for an organisation to help brand ourselves and build a good reputation within the VALORANT community.
“We contacted most of the organisations that had an OPL spot for League of Legends – as we hope to compete in the VALORANT’s eventual equivalent – and AVANT expressed interest in us. We shared the same visions and the rest is history.”
It’s a brilliant move for the lineup that came across from CS:GO, with each member of the new AVANT VALORANT roster actively competing in the first-person shooter from as far back as 2017. However, outside of a 2019 stint on Control’s Counter-Strike roster with Joshua “Lakers” Puopolo & Byron “Spesh” Rowlinson, this is the first time all five have played together. “We all knew of each other for years in CS:GO but only some of us have played together. We were all wanting to make a team so we started scrimming together and everything gelled,” explains WAT.
“I feel like competitive VALORANT is much more dynamic in the way the game can be played [compared to CS], as each agent can bring a very wide range of strategies that allows for much more creativity in how the game can be played.” - Lewis ‘WAT’ Watson, AVANT
Eric “Exxy” Do & Bernard “m4jor” Chau round out the squad, with all five putting in extensive practice ahead of the ORDER Oceanic Open to develop team cohesion and a playstyle that takes the fight to their opponents. “Our collective experience in CS:GO was definitely a factor with our top four finish [at the first Ignition Series] but we put in a lot of work developing strategies based around our aggressive playstyle. At the same time it was important everyone was on the same page mid-round. I feel like our aggression really caught a lot of teams off-guard.”
Team Launch, also consisting of former CS:GO prospects & champions, proved the region’s early frontrunners with the win at the ORDER-hosted Ignition Series in July – a win WAT put down to the enormous amount of experience the squad boasts. “I feel like the competitive experience that everyone [on Team Launch] has gives them amazing team play that is unrivaled in OCE at the moment. They are all amazing players but Tyler "tucks" Reilly is a stand out for me personally; when he has the Operator in his hands, the impact he has is incredible.”
It’s still early days for VALORANT and teams are continuing to adapt and develop strategies to suit their opponents. But with a focus on area denial and their own aggression, WAT feels AVANT can build upon their success in July and challenge Team Launch. “I think that to beat Team Launch you need to get early momentum and deny them from making aggressive plays on defence with Operators for picks, that’s their biggest strength right now.”
“You’re telling me you don't like being molotov'd by an invisible potato?” - WAT on VALORANT’s most recent agent addition, Killjoy
EXO Clan were runner-ups at the Ignition Series opener, taking down AVANT in a controversial semi-final that was almost outright cancelled following a false positive hardware ban for EXO’s Ethan ‘Crunchy’ Laker.
For WAT and the AVANT crew, it was out of the loop and in the dark, finding out hours after the streamed announcement that AVANT would officially be through to the final, only for a reschedule to be confirmed the next day. “We found out that the semi-final game was cancelled the same way everyone else did, by watching the stream. No one contacted us until hours after the game was cancelled and they told us there was pretty much no chance EXO would be able to field a full lineup for the semi,” recalls WAT.
“But the next day, only a few hours before the game, they told us the game was back on. It was rough for us because some of our players went out the night before thinking we would have this day off. It was very unexpected, but in the end they were the better team and I'm happy we got to play them. I’m just glad no-one was actually banned, that would have been horrible not only for [EXO Clan] but for the scene as a whole.”
For AVANT it’s all water under the bridge. Their focus is on continuing to develop through scrimmage with the region’s best, with a five-day regiment including both practical strategy and theory. This, combined with the delay to Rise of Valour to mid-September means more preparation for a team already on the cusp of cracking the top two.
We always try and scrim against teams in the top eight so we can be punished for doing dumb stuff,” says WAT. “These scrims let us get a good feel for what works and what doesn’t, as well as helps us get used to other teams' playstyles and tendencies. We’ve also been experimenting with different team comps lately, so expect some interesting comps from us for Rise of Valour.”
Beyond Rise of Valour, WAT wants to see Riot’s development of the game expand in its map pool. “I think the main addition that needs to be addressed is getting more maps into the game. Playing a best-of-five where the final map will be a repeat due to the current four map pool is awkward for the players and horrible for the spectators,” he explains.
At the same time, it’s VALORANT’s application of utility through differing agents that has freshened the genre for WAT. “I feel like competitive VALORANT is much more dynamic in the way the game can be played [compared to CS], as each agent can bring a very wide range of strategies that allows for much more creativity in how the game can be played.”
As an invitee to the final stages of Fortress’ Rise of Valour Ignition Series, WAT’s expectation for his AVANT squad is nothing less than a semi-final berth, at the minimum. After that? The sky's the limit.
“At the moment, our focus is just playing as much VALORANT as possible together and determining the best composition of agents that works for us. Short-term, top four is our target at Fortress’ Rise of Valour, but beyond that we’re aiming for the top – becoming the best team in Australia is our long-term goal.”