Days after the G2 VALORANT roster announcement, wippie sat down with esports.gg to talk about his new teammates and switching over to Smokes.
A new era begins for G2 in the form of a region and roster shakeup. After missing on a franchise spot, G2 has pivoted and committed to building a roster capable of jumping from Challengers to the VCT — this time in North America.
Signing former Sentinels stars Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan and Michael "dapr" Gulino showed G2 is looking to compete immediately, but it’s the trio from Version1 that makes G2 dangerous. Maxim "wippie" Shepelev and Erik “penny” Penny were key contributors to V1’s Stage 1 success and head coach Ian "Immi" Harding proved to be a creative and structured game planner.
One of those players, a 23-year-old, Russian-born Controller main, wippie, joined me over a voice call to talk about his new journey forward with G2. How his experience and the six-month match layoff impacted his form during the offseason. And finally, the potential and excitement of playing among this talented group of players on G2.
Interview with G2 wippie
So you’re joining G2, one of the most recognizable brands in esports - how was the free agency process?
wippie: "I mean, it went fast. It’s probably been a week since I was asked to join, so it went fast."
What enticed you about the G2 offer? And, did you get any other offers?
wippie: “Potentially, I had one more offer from another non-franchised team, but I chose G2 over them because I trust these teammates more because we’re all really good.”
Along with your former teammate penny singing with G2, Immi is coming along as head coach. How important is that continuity going from Version1 to G2?
wippie: “It’s definitely easier for me because I know these two. I’ve played with them for two years so joining a new team is easier for me because it’s always harder when you have five new people. So, having Immi and Penny is actually really good for me. I don't like meeting new people and things like that, so playing with people I know is better for me.”
Wippie on his new teammates
You get the opportunity to team up with Shahzam and dapr. Two guys with a storied history in Valorant. What are your early impressions of those guys?
wippie: “I’ve known those two since CS days because all of us played CS, FPL, and things like that.”
As for the 17-year-old rookie addition, how familiar are you with Francis "OXY" Hoang as a player?
wippie: “I play rank a lot, and I always kind of hated this guy because he’s really good. You’ll just like play against him and always lose, so it’s real nice that we got him. He’s actually unreal from seeing him in scrims. He dominates everyone. The guy’s actually really good.”
The Chamber Meta
Back in Stage 2, you were primarily on Chamber for Stage 1, but flexed onto Killjoy, and Viper. Does this new Chamber-less meta benefit you or hurt you?
wippie: “I’m going to be playing smokes on G2, so it doesn’t really affect me because I’m not going to be playing Chamber.”
Does Chamber disappear entirely or is there a place for him in this meta?
wippie: “I don’t think people are going to play him because, even in scrims, some teams try to play him and it just looks terrible. He doesn’t have the same impact that he had before so I don’t think a lot of teams will be playing him.”
The Long Layoff for penny and wippie
To close out the 2022 VCT season, V1 didn't have the success in Stage 2 that was expected following a 5-0 in Stage 1. We didn't get to see a lot of you at the end of 2022. What did you take away from that experience?
wippie: “To be honest, I was sad all year because once we lost in stage 2, we had nothing to play for and we were out of LCQ, out of everything. We had like no matches for five, six months. The last time we practiced was back in June, so it has been a long period. Since I started practicing again — I started practicing with G2 in November, so yeah, it’s been almost five, six months, I’d say. It’s been a sad period for me.”
With so many months removed from your last official match with V1, has your form suffered at all? How did you stay at peak performance during that period?
wippie: “It definitely affected my form. Back in November, I felt I was worse, but after a week of practicing, I feel like I got my form back. It’s hard to keep your form when you only play ranked because ranked really doesn’t do anything for you if you're like a pro player.”
Focusing on the region, G2 will play in the Americas. Which Challengers teams from this region do we need to keep an eye on?
wippie: “From just practicing, I would say Faze and Shopify Rebellion. I think these two teams will be good going into next year.”
the talent in Challengers is unreal. How do you feel the top Challengers teams match up with the partnered teams?
wippie: “I mean, I feel the franchised teams are more talented because of the lack of spots. There’s what, 25 people? If I compare franchise teams to non-franchised teams, the franchised teams are obviously a bit better talent-wise.”
How did you get your start in esports and when was the moment you realized you were good enough to make it pro?
wippie: “I was playing CS back when I was in Russia and studying in school but I never tried to go pro because I enjoyed studying more. But, when I moved to the US for college, after like three months, I got really bored because I didn’t know anyone and it’s like a different culture and a really different language. So, I started playing more and that’s when I thought I could go pro.”
G2 wippie on the transition to full-time Controller
You ended the VCT season playing a lot of Chamber and Killjoy. Now with you and dapr sharing a similar agent pool, you’ve moved back to the Smokes role. How will you handle the transition back to Controller?
wippie: “I don’t think it's going to be hard. When I originally started playing Valorant professionally, I started playing Smokes for three months when I played for Ghost Gaming. And when I played for V1, I played Viper, who is basically a Controller. And when I left V1, I played Controller for the last five months, so I don’t think it’s going to be a problem. I feel like I've played the Controller role more than the Sentinel role, to be honest.”
“I don’t want to jinx us, but feel like we can make franchising, easily."
What are the team goals? And do you think there's a significant talent gap between Challengers and the partnered teams?
wippie: “I don’t want to jinx us, but feel like we can make franchising, easily. Just look at the results in scrims and how fast we improve. We had this similar thing in V1 where we were improving fast and you could just see that we’re a good team as a result.”
How good is penny?
wippie: “Playing with penny — I like playing with penny because he’s a really calm person. He doesn’t have a lot of emotions and never shows them. That’s why I like him. He never tilts. Most people do when they play on Duelist roles.”
How do you see this team meshing chemistry-wise?
wippie: “At first, when we started practicing, I could see that chemistry was not good at all. I could see some problems but we’ve been practicing for like four weeks so I feel like everything’s solid and we actually have good chemistry now.”
G2 and wippie will have to wait till February 11, 2023 to get an official match to play. However, that gives this newly assembled team time to gel and practice. With the combination of talent and experience, G2 could be a force in VCT Challengers.