He talks about the team’s surprise Brimstone + Icebox pick against XSET.

After an exciting series victory over XSET, OpTic have now secured their spot in the VCT Challengers 2 NA Grand Finals. A top 2 placement confirmed, the team has confirmed its spot at the VCT Masters Copenhagen. Just before their upper bracket match against XSET, two OpTic players tested positive for COVID. Despite this, they went on to win the match 3-1. Esports.gg’s Rohan Samal got an opportunity to talk with OpTic Yay after the match. The star player talks about the team’s COVID scares, FNS’ leadership and the excitement of going to LAN and facing some tough EMEA competitors.

Rohan: Congrats on the win and making it to the finals. I know a few of your teammates have tested positive for COVID. What were your COVID test results?

OpTic Yay: I actually did the test last night and I turned out to be negative. I’m happy about that and I don’t want to get into a situation where I’m sick. I hate being sick. I don’t want any Long COVID or something like that where you feel bad for months on end. I’m happy I didn’t get it.

Rohan: Despite two of the teammates having COVID and Marved playing elsewhere as well, OpTic was very dominant. Especially with the mental fortitude required to make that comeback on the two maps (Icebox and Ascent). This was also an upper bracket run similar to Challengers 1. How satisfying was this victory for you guys?

OpTic Yay: I can’t say it wasn’t satisfying. (Laughs). It was really satisfying. I’m really happy to see us qualifying for another event. For me, I would be really sad if, let’s say, some circumstances happen, we lose that match and maybe our guys’ condition gets worse. Because of COVID we are super handicapped and lost us a lot of important games. 

Something similar to Champions, I’d be so sad. But it’s really satisfying to be able to pull out a win despite the hard conditions and to be able to band together and make up for each others’ shortfalls.

Rohan: Yeah! This would have been a very bad way to go out, especially if it was due to COVID.

OpTic Yay: We had a similar situation happen at Champs. I just remember we were really close to winning some maps and all I could think at the back of my mind was: ‘If our guys were at 100%, maybe it changes the round’.

But what can you say, you got to look back at it and just move on and try your best at the next event.

OpTiC Yay and Chet talking on stage during the VCT Masters Reykjavik tournament.
Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker (L) and coach Chet “Chet” Singh of OpTic Gaming speak onstage at the VALORANT Masters Finals on April 24, 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Lance Skundrich/Riot Games)

Rohan: Talk to me about FNS. I saw your tweet where you mentioned FNS saying stuff like ‘I can’t breathe mid-round’. As scary as that sounds, I think he did a fantastic job with the mid-round adaptations in the match. Can you tell me a bit about how he managed to lead the team today despite not being in the best health. 

OpTic Yay: I think the thing with FNS as a leader is that he definitely doesn’t complain about his problems or health. The only time in which he really said anything was towards the end of the series. 

He’s like ‘Guys, I need a few seconds. I can’t breathe. I’m throwing up’. We finished the Icebox match. We gave him a good 10-15 minutes to get some medication. Just to try and pull himself together a little bit. He came back and (laughs), he started doing even better. 

Throughout the series, he kept on playing, he didn’t make excuses and he did his absolute best despite the circumstances to lead the team. And I think he did an incredible job. 

Rohan: I’d say that’s the sign of a true leader. 

OpTic Yay: Yeah, I agree. I think he’s a leader who despite his own personal struggles, he’s able to rally the team and lead by example.

OpTIC Yay hugging the VCT Masters Reykjavik trophy in Iceland after winning the Challengers 1 event.
Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker of OpTic Gaming appears onstage with the VALORANT Masters Finals trophy in hand on April 24, 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

Rohan: Today in the match, even though OpTic won 3-1, it was a really close match. On both Icebox and Ascent, it seemed like XSET is just going to walk away with the win. Did you expect the series to be so tough coming into the match?

OpTic Yay: Urm, I knew with two guys with COVID not feeling well, that’s going to take away a large portion of our team. Because we rely a lot on more of our supportive staff. Austin (Crashies) for example, he’s really good with communication, bringing people together.

Even mechanically speaking, he’s really good in late-round situations. So I knew with him feeling a lot worse, the comms might be a little bit down and the same with our IGL (FNS). I also knew he (FNS) won’t come to ideas as quickly and you know, maybe have a hard time focusing.

We all did our best, despite some of our players not being able to contribute what they usually contribute (due to COVID), we filled in those gaps. 

OPTIC FNS on his team’s performance against XSET

We all knew it was going to be a team effort to get us through. I was going to pick up some of the comms and some of the shortfalls and so was everyone else on the team. We all did our best, despite some of our players not being able to contribute what they usually contribute, we filled in those gaps. 

Did I expect the series to be close? I knew it was definitely a possibility given the circumstances. I think we would have played a lot better not given these conditions. But you work with what’s given. 

Rohan: If this is not your peak performance, I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us in the finals and later at MastersOn the first map, I think it was 5-7 and then the defense, you guys failed to win a single round. What do you think happened there?

OpTic Yay: I’m going to be honest with you. I think me in particular, I cost us a lot on that series. There were a few crucial rounds, where I remember there was one time we had a 5v4 advantage. I overpeeked and gave it back 4v4 and they managed to claw it back and win it in a close clutch.

There were a few other times where I didn’t hit my shots and I wasn’t having a good read of the game. I’d put a lot of that on myself to blame cause I could have performed a lot better than I did. Even on the attacking side, we were up for a while and I missed some shots I never should have missed. I’d say for the most part, a lot of it was on me not doing my best, not contributing my best. And nobody else really. I put the entire map on me.

Rohan: Let’s go to Icebox, the second round. Five bullets, five kills. Do you think that was the reason why there was a significant shift in the team mentality. After the first map, after that second half, it’s normal for the team mentality to be a bit down. And then you guys just made two amazing comebacks

OpTic Yay: I think that definitely shifts the mental ability in your favor when you have a really crazy round. Especially when they were having really crazy clutches, kills, entries.

I think it’s definitely a momentum shifter. It gave me a lot of confidence because I wasn’t making some of the same mistakes I was making on Map 1. It also gave my teammates a lot of confidence, like ‘Yeah there we go, we’re finally pulling together’ I think it definitely changed the mental a little bit.

Rohan: Today, the Icebox pick in itself was a bit of a surprise. You started Challengers with a few Icebox picks, but then you kept consistently banning Icebox over the past several weeks. And then you picked Brimstone today on it. Was this your plan all along, surprise everyone with Icebox and Brimstone combo at the end of Challengers?

OpTic Yay: (laughs) Yes!! We had a comp in mind for a hot second. We were practicing a little bit and it worked really well in practice.

The only reason why we decided to put Icebox in is we’ve expanded our map pool to seven maps. So if there’s a map where the other team is super strong on and confident in, we can simply flex over and ban it.

And that was kind of the plan, cause I think we have a pretty good understanding of their Icebox. I think we knew we could beat them on it. 

OpTiC Yay on stage at VCT Masters Reykjavik
Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker of OpTic Gaming competes at the VALORANT Masters Finals on April 24, 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

Rohan: The broadcast was talking about how you are not going to pick Icebox before the draft. And then you pick Icebox, and you, personally went 34-11 with a 400+ ACS. Can we expect ‘Yay+Friends’ to win Masters again?

OpTic Yay: It’s definitely not Yay + friends. It’s a team effort. If you even look at the other maps we played, on Ascent for example, I had a really bad T-side. But on the CT, my teammates helped me pick up the slack a ton.

I picked it up on the defense half, but my teammates really had me there while closing out. Even on some of the other maps. It’s a team effort no matter what it is. 


OpTiC Yay at VCT Masters Reykjavik looking for a fistbump
Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker of OpTic Gaming competes at the VALORANT Masters Finals on April 24, 2022 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Lance Skundrich/Riot Games)

Rohan: How does it feel going back to an international LAN with a live audience. How excited are you for that event?

OpTic Yay: I am super excited cause it gives us an opportunity to win another title. I think it’s great. But as I said before, it’s another time to grow because now we’re going back and facing a much stronger EU region, provided nothing happens. They were nerfed a little bit last event. [FPX couldn’t attend and Fnatic had to play with two stand-ins.]

The top seeds, FPX, couldn’t attend. Their substitute was Team Liquid who, I think, was having a rough time. G2 was there but I think they had kind of a weird performance. And Fnatic played with multiple substitutes. Two of the teams that played were a bit handicapped. Now hopefully we get to see them at full strength.

I am super excited cause it gives us an opportunity to win another title.

optic FNS on qualifying for masters 2 copenhagen

We are going against very strong opponents. I’m really excited to go back there, practicing, seeing how different regions are playing. I think we improved a ton when we first initially went to Iceland and I’m hoping for a similar jump in performance when we get to Copenhagen.

I’m hoping that we gain that valuable experience and see what everybody else has been doing especially. That’s the opportunity where you do this because all the regions are isolated. You don’t get to practice them. I’m super excited for us to play against the strong EMEA teams.

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Rohan - Content Editor

Rohan

Content Editor | Twitter: @rohan_esports | Twitch: rohan_3105

Started esports with Dota, moved to CS, then OW, back to Dota 2 and now a bit of Valorant. I love city-building games, have spent hours in Cities:Skylines only to have the traffic defeat me. Love travelling, an admirer of fine movies, writing a sci-fi novel in spare time and coding (Javascript)