The Guard and IGL Vlayn decimate the NA LCQ Favorites Faze Clan in a 2-0 win, securing their spot in Grand Finals and moving one win away from Champs.
The Guard has once again entered as the underdog and completely taken the VCT by storm. In a 2-0 stomp of the LCQ favorite Faze Clan, the Stage One champs reestablished themselves as the team to beat. The superior team play, individual performances, and of course, the in-game calling from IGL Jacob “Valyn” Batio, shows a team playing with a level of confidence we haven’t seen since early 2022.
Congrats on the huge win. That’s the type of performance we expect to see from The Guard. How does it feel to be back in the finals and one win away from a Champs bid?
Valyn: “It feels great. The team has been putting in a lot of time and I mean a lot of time in this boot camp and we just want it very bad. I’d say that we’re putting in the most time we’ve ever had right now and it shows. We’re running these off-meta comps that not many people are used to playing against or used to running and we’re making them look like tier-one comps. Our teamwork has been insane and most importantly, everyone’s shooting back. Faze is a team with a lot of fire power and we knew that going into it, as long as we hit our shots as well we’re going to dumpster them and I’m glad we did”
I was going to ask about shutting down the Faze heavy hitters, specifically dicey and Babybay. How did you guys mitigate explosive players like those two? Do you think you did a good job in that?
Valyn: “We’ve always been a team that denies OP's very well. We don’t let a lot of Op’ers get a lot of value just because of the way we clear angles together and use a lot of utility in the right way to clear angles. So, definitely, we’re notorious for shutting down Ops, so I think we did a great job of that vs Dicey and Babybay. And Babybay’s obviously a very big factor of that team and their wins and he often has big matches but we’re just trading like we never leave a kill untraded. We’re very drilled in those situations and our confidence is back. Even when we’re taking those 1v1s we’re hitting our shots too. It’s not just that team with the heavy hitters. We got some as well.”
To follow up on that, how big is it for you guys to be playing with confidence? Are you guys back to playing with that underdog mentality?
Valyn: “100%. I don’t think people realize how much pressure it puts on a young team when you go from number one in NA and the number one target. Targets are on your back. So, for stage 2, I wouldn’t say it was expected but we got a lot of bad comments for our performance, rightfully so, but everyone’s watching us. Everyone’s watching our vods and how we play and all that so they want to beat us. We’re like the number one team, but now that everyone just counted us out like ‘oh, Guard’s trash, they're probably going to end last.’ We just dropped all those expectations again and we’re playing great."
"It was all of our first LAN events, except for Saya, and he was the only one who was keeping us chill like that. We were kind of nervous on LAN, 100%, but now if we go again, I think we’re going to be chillin”
"Now that we have that experience, we win again or we’re a top-four team or we’re in Istanbul or whatever, I think we understand how to play with the pressure a lot more because we’ve been through that. Before that, it was all of our first LAN events, except for Saya, and he was the only one who was keeping us chill like that. We were kind of nervous on LAN, 100%, but now if we go again, I think we’re going to be chillin”
Focusing on Haven now, the aggressive pushes on defense were giving Faze some issues. Were you guys expecting them to pick Haven after you floated it and what did you see in prep that showed you could find success playing aggressively?
Valyn: “I mean, that’s just our style on Haven dating back to stage one, even stage two. We just like playing pretty aggressively on Haven defense, so we kind of just pick something and roll with it and push through, and the game plan worked against Faze. I wouldn’t say I was expecting it…actually, I was expecting it in the map pool because we banned it the first two times and we didn’t ban it this time, so I expected them to go ‘oh, we should just pick Haven,’ but unlucky, they fell for the trap“
On Haven, Jonah hit a nasty flick in a 1v2 situation. He’s become one of the best players in NA. What makes him so good?
Valyn: “So, the one thing about Jonah, is he can play any agent in the game, not just utility-wise but play style wise and I don’t think people understand the difference. But, Jonah understands how to play situationally with any agent, so when he can go on an agent like Chamber where it’s just all shooting, he can take these aggresive fights. He knows how the other team…he’s one of the smartest players at knowing what the other team is trying to do with utility, with their crossfires, etcetera, because he’s been in all those positions. "
"He’s played every agent for us, so in these 1v2s, whatever the case may be, I swear he knows where they are and how they’re playing because he’s always been in those situations. So, oh man, he’s such a versatile player and we put him on the Chamber to keep Saya on Duelist because, chemistry-wise, this is how our team works, and man, he stepped up to the occasion, very proud of him.”
The strats on Haven were layered with default plays followed up by late lurks that kept Faze guessing. The mid-rounding was great too in terms of adjustments. What are you doing to stay unpredictable? And What’s working with your calling in the LCQ?
Valyn: “Yeah, I feel like I’ve been calling the best I’ve ever had right now and I just know how the other team is trying to counter us and I know what they're trying to do. I know their setup. Even if I don’t actually know it in the moment, it feels like I do. I just have so much confidence in myself and my teammates trust every call I make and even if it is like a mediocre call or a bad call, we have no hesitation and we’re doing stuff together and we’re winning rounds."
"So, preparation-wise, with the addition of qpert, alongside mCe, our head coach, they’re making me into the IGL I’ve always wanted to be. Where I know how to adapt in all situations and I know how to call in all situations, so I’m a lot calmer in these matches. Even though when the replay hits and I’m all standing up and getting rowdy, I’m thinking very clear-headed now and before when I was a little inexperienced back in Stage One I would say sometimes I got flustered. But, right now, I’m keeping my head clear and always keeping track of rotations, lurks, etc. and I’m always getting my teammates in good spots and they’re capitalizing. So, it’s been great.”
As for Icebox, you guys ran the double controller comp again with the Brimstone and it worked to near perfection, especially with denying space and plants. What works on that comp and why is it not picked at a higher rate?
Valyn: “I just think teams don’t have the players to run this comp. We have Jonah, who can run Brim or even I could run Brim and Jonah could run Kay/o, but we switched it. "But, yeah, I feel like a lot of teams are dependent on their chamber. Their Chamber plus Duelist so they can’t run these double Controller comps, but we run it really well."
"The reason why it’s so good is that both on defense, you can stuff the bomb plant really hard because of all the utility that we have and on attack, if we get the bomb down it’s almost over because of our post-plant utility. We can drop a couple of pieces of utility to get the bomb down and at that point, the round is over so it’s a very strong composition. I just don’t think people have the players it takes to run it.”
With you The Guard entering Grand Finals through Uppers, you get the extra map ban. How much of an advantage is that?
Valyn: “Man, that’s huge, getting that extra map ban, just being able to ban two maps vs the enemy and them not being able to ban is such a big advantage, I was telling my team. And, we’re very happy we went through uppers"
"But, also, a very important thing is we get the day off tomorrow so we can kind of chill and reset. Watch the lower final BO5 and get a really good read on all the teams and then we can prep our gameplan for them tomorrow and feel well rested for the next day so a very big win for us today. I’m very happy with the result.”
Last question here, there’s a good chance you guys will play in a rematch against either Faze or possibly c9. How do you feel you guys do in rematches when seeing teams for a second time?
Valyn: “I’d say in rematches we’re always better just from history, right? We were kind of known as that team that doesn’t lose to the same team twice, so the fact that we’re beating these teams on the first try, I think the second try is not even going to be close.”
The Guard will have a rest day tomorrow and will play the winner of Faze Clan and 100 Thieves for a spot in Istanbul on Championship Sunday.
Feature image courtesy of Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games