In an interview with the XSET roster, the team discussed finding that comfort level on stage and beating Europe’s best teams at VALORANT Champions

XSET is going through a resurgence at VALORANT Champions, proving to the world the talent runs deep on this roster. With a 3-1 record, and wins over EMEA titans Fnatic and FPX, XSET has catapulted up the rankings. The reworked approach from the coaching staff after the early Copenhagen exit appears to have relaxed the nerves, allowing them to play at their best. 

In an interview with XSET’s full roster and coaching staff out of Istanbul, the team discussed finding that comfort level on stage, winning with the Neon comps, and loving the experience of traveling together. It’s a tight-knit group of players built on a foundation of belief that’s growing stronger with each win. 

Interview with XSET Players and Coaching Staff

Esports.gg: The team is looking much more comfortable on stage compared to Copenhagen. Syyko talked about working on calming the nerves in the FPX press conference. What did you guys work on specifically in that regard? Does the extra bit of experience from Copenhagen make a difference?

Jordan “AYRIN” He: The experience from Copenhagen helped more than people realize and have made us more comfortable and we value that experience a ton. We take practice very seriously and that is big credits to our coaching staff Syyko and Drewsparks for fostering an environment that is about constant improvement and development. I also feel that we realized this is the biggest tournament of the year and it is a very unique experience, so we wanted to make sure we are showing our best this time around.

Zachary “Zekken” Patrone: To calm the nerves we all have our own individual pre-match routines that help us get in a sort of comfort zone before the match actually starts. The experience from Copenhagen definitely helped in terms of relaxing the nerves before and during matches.

Esports.gg: Neon comps, outside of Fracture vs FPX, have been working wonders. What’s working on the set plays to get Zekken in advantageous situations? How good has the utility usage been to set up the Duelist for kills?

AYRIN: Zekken has been a key player for us since he joined but in 2022 he has leveled up to become a world-class superstar. He is a player that has been getting better each and every tournament and it comes from within, that is what makes him a special player. The team as a whole has put a major emphasis on making sure our utility is creating the best opportunities possible for Cryo and Zekken to dominate and have favorable fights.

Zekken: Mostly supporting the Neon with utility and ensuring that the fights I take are either safe or supported by multiple teammates are what put me in advantageous situations.

Esports.gg: On Pearl, we’ve seen teams run comps without flash agents, FPX ran a Chamber-less comp, and Fade/Raze has been the most common. Only XSET has run the Neon. Why the Neon over these other comps? And, what do you guys emphasize on the map when theory crafting strategies?

Don “SyykoNT” Muir: With the flexibility of Zekken, Cryo, and the entire team, we are able to swap comps around to achieve different goals. We felt Neon offered more on both offense and defense for how we wanted to work the map on Pearl, and Zekken has been an animal on the agent lately.

Zekken: Neon allows us to create and control space on both defense and offense.

Esports.gg: Second international LAN together, I just wanted to get a feel for how the team gets along traveling long distances. Have you enjoyed Istanbul? And what will you do with the extra free time?

AYRIN: Istanbul has been a remarkable experience. Exploring the city and the different types of cuisine as a team has been super enjoyable. The hospitality and service that Istanbul provides are amazing, really no complaints at all and everyone is really nice and all smiles. The locations Riot has chosen for the tournaments are amazing and we have loved Istanbul as much as we did Copenhagen.

Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban: Team gets along really well outside of the server. We always go out for food as a team whenever we can and Istanbul is such a beautiful city. If we ever have off days we always go out into the city together to just kind of explore and sightsee, just kind of clear our minds and really take in we are traveling the world playing video games. At the end of the day, we are living the dream only a few get to so it’s important we take it all in and give it our all.

(Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

Zekken: We get along pretty well traveling long distances, I think the team really enjoys traveling and seeing new places. Istanbul has been awesome. The foods and people are great, the only downside is people drive like maniacs. With the extra free time, we’ll go out and explore the city and try some new food, I think we’re also going on a boat sometime.

Rory “dephh” Jackson: I love these guys, it’s been a pleasure to spend time and make memories in an international country doing what we love to do the most; play video games. 

Esports.gg: Thrifty rounds have been a major theme running throughout Champs and XSET has the most wins of any team. What is working in those rounds? Is it because the low-buy weapons are strong or the ability to combo ultimates like Tour de Force or Showstopper?

Zekken: Playing really grouped up and winning our gunfights, along with comboing our ults effectively is what is allowing us to win these thrifty rounds

Esports.gg: Playing in front of a crowd has to be a dream come true. What does this moment mean for you as a team? Were there any extra nerves? How did you respond?

AYRIN: Every time an esports player gets to play in front of a crowd it is truly a dream come true. With covid, it became really rare to do so, and finally being able to play in front of a crowd. It was electrifying. There weren’t any extra nerves, there was just pure excitement and we knew we just had to enjoy the moment.

Cryo: Playing in front of a crowd is only new for the younger players on the team (Cryo and zekken) while the older teammates are quite used to it across other games. Since the crowd was only really supporting the home team it gave us something to prove in front of them and created fuel to beat their team in front of them. Just the feeling of slapping the team they are cheering for gives us a feeling of great energy that we use to carry on. XSET has always been the underdogs even in NA so it doesn’t really phase us at all, I just want to show the world what we can do

Zekken: Playing in front of a crowd for the first time meant a lot for us as a team. There weren’t really extra nerves, personally, I was a lot more excited to play knowing there was a crowd.

Esports.gg: Zekken and Cryo have been world-class on the Chamber and Duelist roles, while the support players feel incredibly underrated at large. What’s the ceiling for XSET? What makes you guys so good as a team rather than relying on individual performances?

AYRIN: Valorant is heavily, heavily team-based game, not everyone can have an amazing KD or ACS every single game, it is just not possible for the highest functioning teams. The ceiling for XSET is not even close to what we have shown, we are just getting better and better each and every event. We have a world-class attack side IGL in Dephh and one of the best communicators in the world in BCJ. After taking over the defense calling late last year, I am proud to say with the help of our coaches I have helped transform the team into becoming one of the strongest defense-sided teams in North America.

“We have a world-class attack side IGL in Dephh and one of the best communicators in the world in BCJ. After taking over the defense calling late last year, I am proud to say with the help of our coaches I have helped transform the team into becoming one of the strongest defense-sided teams in North America.”

XSET AYRIN

dephh: We feel like as a core we recruited some of the brightest talents in the NA region. Every day we as a team work on supporting them to their maximum ability, it doesn’t matter how the supports are doing as long as we can get the duelists to request util and micro plays to set them up for success. The scoreboards are irrelevant when at the end of the game you’ve won it.

Zekken: When we’re firing on all cylinders, I feel that our ceiling is a top team in the world.

After a controversial loss to OpTic Gaming in the Upper Semifinals, XSET drop down into the Lower Bracket to face FPX on Tuesday, September 13th at 10 am PST.

Featured image courtesy of Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Blake Van Poucke -

Blake Van Poucke

| Twitter: @TokyoDown

Blake Van Poucke is a Valorant writer at esports.gg. He found esports through the early days of MLG and the Super Smash Bros Melee scene. He's been competing and writing about esports dating back to 2008. He has written for several publications and wishes to return to in-person esports events in 2022