C9’s IGL once again makes a dastardly play that eliminates V1 and cements C9 as the NA team to watch.
"My interviewer's here, get the f*ck out!"
Anthony "Vanity" Malaspina says this while V1 team members Jordan "Zellsis" Montemurro and Maxim "wippie" Shepelev roast him after C9's victory over their team. I continue to sit back with my popcorn while pointing out that they should keep going despite the time limit.
"Yeah, that's what I'm saying!" wippie agrees. "You're getting free content!" Of course, I couldn't help but needle them by saying congrats to all of them, after which Zellsis says incredulously, "Congratulations?!" More roasting commences.
And without skipping a beat, amongst the chaos I purposely created, Vanity casually replies, "Yeah, congratulations on being dominated."
The Flank that Eliminated V1
V1 were, in some respects, dominated despite the series going all the way to three maps, with C9 eliminating V1 after a 2-1 match that ended with the polarizing map Fracture. Cloud9's class ultimately shone through with their ability to grind out rounds they probably have no business winning; that is the difference between a good team and a world-class team.
It is argued that Vanity's humility and easygoing humor that allows C9 to be known as one of the most hyped teams in the NA region. It seems that they constantly find themselves in lower brackets and elimination scenarios, which can be both riveting and frustrating for their fans, yet they are always able to climb their way out almost every time.
But Vanity doesn't really think of it that way at all. "I mean, it kind of just happens. I don't think many of my teammates are really worried about any of that. We just show up and play the game. We're not too worried with like what the general public thinks. It's hard to do, obviously. But I think it's pretty important to do, especially when you're one of the more like hyped teams in a region like we are currently. So it's important not to let any of that get to you."
That tenet was much more important after the final play on Fracture. It was one of Vanity's trademark flanks that sealed V1's fate...and it was glorious.
Not unlike his performance during VCT Champions last year, where he stealthily ended FULL SENSE's entire career with a ninja defuse on Breeze, fans were already wondering about the end of Fracture. But once again, this isn't abnormal for him or C9 at all.
"I knew they were both at dish because of my smoke and I knew that corner is really, really deep," he explains. "So they were never going to come back and clear me; if they did, they were probably the ones stream sniping. And I'll call him out--Mitch [Mitch "mitch" Semago]--was concerned, and I told him, 'Mitch, they're not gonna clear me I have a Frenzy. I can't fight them. Just let me hide in my little corner. And that worked out, obviously. "
Going With the Flow
It's these types of interactions that allow C9 to be such a fun team to watch. And Vanity also reminds us why--they simply don't take themselves too seriously.
"I think it's kind of just how we are as people," he says. "And I think it's something I look for in teammates; I look for people that don't necessarily take themselves too seriously. And I think we have a pretty good group here."
For this specific game against V1, coach Yoon "Autumn" Eu-teum provided a lot of prep to C9, but Vanity clarifies that overanalyzing each and every move doesn't get them anywhere. "It helped a little bit, but I think just watching them play prior tournaments, I kind of knew what to expect. And I think we did a really good job of handling it."
"I'm pretty happy with how I played today. I think I've been kind in an individual slump. On Astra, I felt really good, but on the other smoke agents, you feel as if you need to do more, and I think I'm getting used to that again."
Upsetting XSET and the Threat of Cryocells
Their upcoming match is once again crucial, as they go up against another team who is fighting for their place at Masters Reykjavík: XSET. And Vanity immediately recognizes the threat they will have to take down if they are going to take the match.
"I think [Matthew "Cryocells" Panganiban] is playing really well, so a big part will be trying to shut him down," Vanity says. "He seems to be improving at a pretty quick rate despite not playing very well in the initial stages of the tournament. Yet the longer he plays, the better he gets. He's probably the biggest X-Factor for them."
Road to Reykjavík
Thinking too far ahead also isn't part of Vanity's plan. His unwillingness to think past the current moment has definitely served him well and he has his humble background to remind him to never take things for granted. So when asking him about how he would feel about reaching Reykjavík, he offered an unsurprising response.
"I'll be honest, I don't really think about all of that," he explains. "I'm just happy to be playing a game and doing something I love as my job. I don't overthink it or overhype it. I just live in the moment. A lot of people get too emotionally attached to their performance, and I understand that you need to perform well in order to keep your job. But if that's all you have to do, then there's no reason to believe you won't continue to get work."
"I wasn't wealthy growing up and having money to do whatever I want. Now I get to travel the world and play fucking video games. I'm just happy to be here. And I hope I can continue it."