Boaster: "I am confident we will put on a good show at First Strike"
WePlay Esports sat down with SUMN FC's Boaster to discuss the team's formation, his opinion on the European VALORANT scene and his thought on recent changes.
Riot Games' VALORANT officially released on June 2nd, 2020, meaning that the new first-person shooter has already been out for over five months. Despite the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, many storylines have already been written in such a short period. It's been very interesting to see the growth of a new esports title, especially in such a unique climate.
Following in the footsteps of the past Ignition Series events, Riot announced the first tournament it would be organizing; First Strike. First Strike will serve as a proving ground for all participants, especially for teams looking for organizations. Ahead of the much-anticipated competition, WePlay Esports sat down with Jake "Boaster" Howlet, the captain of SUMN FC, one of the best unsigned European VALORANT teams on the market.
As someone with quite a large esports background, what were your initial thoughts on VALORANT? Why did you decide to pursue a professional career in the new title?
When the VALORANT beta came out, I was still trying to make it as a full-time League of Legends pro, but having spent the majority of my time playing CS:GO, VALORANT was a complete no-brainer for me. While I was enjoying League, it was clear to me that VALORANT was a game that suited me better, so it made sense for me to commit to going pro in it.
How was the SMUN FC roster assembled?
Alongside my coach Jacob "mini" Harris, I trialed around 25 players to form SUMN FC. We started with James "Mistic" Orfila, Muhammad "Moe40" Hariff, Domagoj "doma" Fancev, and Denis "dinkzj" Tkachev; the four players I felt were the strongest in terms of skills, mechanics, abilities to play at a top-level as well as communication and synergy with the team. We later parted ways with dinkzj and brought in Kostas "tsack" Theodoropoulos, who I used to team with back in CS:GO.
How would you best describe your teammates, and what are the roles within the team?
I'm the IGL, so the shot caller and the person that comes up with the majority of the strats. We have three players in doma, Moe40, and Mistic who are all capable of playing entry and fragging out. Of course, tsack has great aim too, but his agents (Cypher and Killjoy) tend to put him on more of a support and anchor role.
SUMN FC has only lost four official matches thus far. As the captain, what do you think makes you so dominant?
I wouldn't say we are dominant as such. We strive for consistency, and being able to perform consistently is always our priority. I'd say only G2 Esports at the moment, and maybe FunPlus Phoenix, can truly call themselves dominant in the scene but let's see if First Strike can change that up.
As an upcoming roster, how important was the victory at epic31 Online?
epicLAN always has a very special place in my heart as it was one of my favorite events to go to as a CS:GO player. Being able to win it with SUMN was really special to me, but it also allowed us to really show everyone that we're a competitive team.
A very special thank you to @LogitechGUK for sponsoring our Valorant content at #epic31 and helping us kick off our presence in a new title!— EPIC.LAN Gaming & Esports Events (@epicLAN) October 11, 2020
Congratulations @sumnfc for winning the tournament at #epic31 with some absolutely incredible play in all your matches! 🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/W0mdl98i0L
What do you think of the VALORANT scene in Europe? Are there enough opportunities for upcoming teams to showcase their talents?
The VALORANT scene in Europe is a little volatile right now due to the lack of interference from Riot. I feel like this is something that's going to happen to every new esports title, plus the global pandemic also means a lot of orgs are being apprehensive about investing in the scene, which is fair enough, but I do believe things will change quite drastically for the better once the economy improves and Riot get involved more.
Asides from FunPlus Phoenix, you haven't faced off against many of the top EU teams. Do you think you'd be able to prove yourself if given the opportunity?
I don't think you can measure what constitutes "top EU teams" purely on rankings that are largely based on invitation-only Ignition Series. There are a lot of really strong teams that we've faced that either missed out on the Ignition Series or were formed a bit after those events. I obviously think my boys are some of the best, and I am looking forward to being able to prove to everyone why we're one of the best at First Strike.
Why do you think that organizations are hesitant to invest in Europe when compared with North America?
Put it simply; North America has more money, which is partially due to the fact they have a more united market. This means it's much easier for them to invest when they only have the US and Canadian markets to work with. In comparison to EU, which has dozens of different markets, countries, and expectations, meaning it's always been a bit more difficult for EU to get into these new titles. The living wage in New York is going to be quite similar to the living wage in Los Angeles, whereas the living wage in London is vastly different to, let's say, Turkey. Paired with the global pandemic, it makes sense that EU orgs would be investing less, given the challenges they usually have to face.
Do you think that G2's dominance in Europe has limited opportunities for upcoming teams?
No, I do not think so. There are plenty of orgs, teams, and opportunities in EU. G2 is clearly a very good team, and we need competition to grow the scene. Just look at the infamously dominant Ninjas in Pyjamas team back in CS:GO; they definitely did not limit opportunities for upcoming talents.
Which team would you consider to be your main rivals?
I wouldn't say we have any rivals right now, but we always seem to have insanely close games against Vandal Only. I'm sure they find us annoying to play against too!
How confident are you in your ability to qualify for First Strike? Do you feel like the team is prepared enough? How have you been practicing?
I'm not able to give away anything in terms of how we've been practicing, but I would say we're definitely prepared. Of course, we'd love to have more time, but I am confident we will put on a good show at First Strike.
You're someone who plays a lot of Breach; what are your thoughts on the Swedish agent? Do you think that the previous buff made him too powerful?
I play Breach because my team needs it, but I am kind of getting a bit bored of him. To be honest, I can play any agent in the game, so I will always do whatever is best for the team. I'm not sure if powerful is the right word, but he has become way too vital in team comps, which is limiting creativity. On some maps, you'd be crazy not to play him, especially when paired with the Jett dash, but personally, I'd like to have some more freedom with team comps. Get me on Viper!
What are your thoughts on Icebox? Is it a map you're looking to specialize in?
Again, we can't give away which maps we will and won't specialize in, but I'll say that Icebox is kind of coo-coo.
What are your thoughts on Skye? Do you think that she'll be in meta? What happens to Sage now?
Skye isn't out yet, so I can't comment too much on how strong she is, but I do see her working on a couple of maps. It'd be really interesting to see how different regions use her or won't use her, though for sure.
What are your thoughts on the OP nerf? Do you think that Jett should've been reworked as well?
I can't fault Riot for listening to the community, but the OP nerf is actually a bit of a Jett buff as she has become the only viable option if you want to still get away with those off-angle shots. I think some agents could do with a small rework as opposed to a big buff or nerf like Riot sometimes do with League of Legends champions. It doesn't feel like they will nerf Jett any time soon based on the massive Operator changes, but maybe giving the OP more options to other agents could be a good idea.
What do you hope the future of VALORANT looks like?
I hope we stop seeing opportunistic TOs who don't care about the scene or the players continuing to run scam tournaments. I love creating strats and trying new things, so I definitely think as the agent pool expands, we are going to see quite nutty stuff from different teams and players. Of course, it'd be nice for us to have some kind of established league like the LEC, but I know we are quite far away from that, so for now, I just hope the scene continues to grow, and we eventually reach a stage of stability.
Finally, do you have any parting thoughts?
I want to thank all the people who are supporting SUMN and believing in us. It makes us really motivated to keep working hard and bring home that dub.