vakk: "My main goal as a player is to be as flexible as I can"
WePlay Esports got the opportunity to sit down with nolpenki's vakk ahead of First Strike.
VALORANT's development as an esports title has been unique, primarily due to the on-going Covid-19 pandemic. Due to travel restrictions, it's been impossible to hold international events to compare teams in different regions. While North America certainly has seen many former Counter-Strike players switch over, the same can't be said for Europe quite yet. As such, we have seen far more tier 1 organizations invest in the North American scene compared to its European counterpart. The investment doesn't directly correlate to the skill in the region, however, as Europe still has many incredible players and teams, many of which are yet to be signed.
With a newly built line-up, nolpenki looks to be one of the best unsigned European teams going into First Strike, and WePlay Esports caught up with Vakaris "vakk" Bebravičius to get familiar with one of the hottest prospects in the region.
What is your esports background like? How did you get started in gaming?
My parents bought me a computer in 2005. The first games I played were CS 1.6, CS:S, and the GTA series. I got into esports through PUBG; I remember still playing CS:GO when PUBG came out. It was very unique, and everyone was playing it since it was something new at that time. I bought the game as well and started playing for fun. As I've always been a competitive person, I wanted to see what competitive PUBG looked like, and I dived into it. Everything went pretty well, I would say. I learned a lot about PUBG and esports overall. The experience I got was really important when I switched to Valorant.
What were your initial thoughts on VALORANT? Why did you decide to switch over?
My first thought was that it'd be something new and exciting. I knew that Riot Games is experienced in esports because of League of Legends, Worlds, and other big championships, so I was pretty confident with the switch. PUBG was slowly dying already; there were no updates that the community was asking for, there were no big tournaments, and the main league got canceled. There was no point in staying in the PUBG scene any longer, and I realized that Valorant could be a great option to dive deeper into esports and competitive gaming overall.
What are your thoughts on the European VALORANT scene?
The scene is still very young, I would say. There's a lot of talents and new teams coming up, so you have to make sure you're constantly improving and not staying behind. Tournaments are pretty balanced as well. Everyone has time to prepare and show what they can do against the best teams in Europe, and you can always test everything in smaller tournaments where you're still fighting against really good and strong teams.
Has G2 Esports' dominance prevented EU teams from getting the exposure they need?
I understand that from an organization's perspective, it was only G2 winning titles and no other team, so that could be one of the reasons why there's not that many tier 1 orgs in the scene. Maybe organizations are just waiting for someone to beat G2 and sign the team afterward. Anyway, I think G2's dominance will end soon, and we will see more organizations signing upcoming teams.
Why did you decide to play in an international roster instead of a Lithuanian one?
One of the main reasons was that it's hard to find individually skilled Lithuanian players, and whenever it's time to make changes, it's a bit rough to find players that could fit into the team. Also, it was a big struggle to find a decent organization if you have five players of the same nationality. But even before VALORANT's release, my main goal was to play with an international line-up. The whole Lithuanian roster wasn't planned, but I'm more than happy that it happened, and I'm really thankful that they taught me a lot of things and helped me improve, not only as a player but also as an individual.
How was this iteration of nolpeki created?
Everything started with me and Mehmet Yağız "cNed" İpek. We wanted to create an international team, and we tried A LOT of variations with different players. We weren't looking for specific role players, but the main idea from my side is to put cNed on Jett and find three players that could fit around the team. It ended up being perfect timing when Bonk released Aron "Aron" Fredriksson, and THOSE GUYS (Polish team) split up. We instantly grabbed Aleksander "zeek" Zygmunt and Aron for tryouts, and Jesse "JESMUND" Terävä's name was stuck inside my head as a confident and smart player in his old team of Mattistack. As it turns out, everyone chose their most comfortable Agents, and it perfectly filled the team.
JUICE time— Team nolpenki (@nolpenki) September 30, 2020
New nolpenki official roster
🇸🇪 Aron @xajdish
🇹🇷 cNed @cNedf0r
🇫🇮 JESMUND @JESMUNDgo
🇱🇹 vakk @vakkFPS
🇵🇱 zeek @zeekerino
It's time to kick ass and chew bubblegum.. and we're all out of gum pic.twitter.com/fhB6qml8V9
What are your ambitions with this team? How confident are you that you can qualify for First Strike?
Our main goal is to qualify for First Strike, I'm super confident with everyone inside the team, and I think we have everything it takes to qualify for it, but of course, there are no guarantees.
On paper, this roster looks very solid. Why do you think European organizations are more hesitant to invest when compared to NA? What do you think can be done?
From a player's perspective, it's really sad that no one is picking up the top teams, but I completely understand the side of organizations. There's no point to rush and throw money at everyone. I think that organizations will come with time, and it's more important to focus on the team and put great results in tournaments instead of crying on social media at how bad the situation is. Everything will come with time.
What did you think of the OP nerf? Do you think it was necessary?
I think that jump peek nerf was needed, and it affected a lot of aggressive Jett players, but I didn't felt much of a difference since I started getting used to it days before nerf. But I'm really happy to see that the CIS region is keeping that aggressive Jett playstyle alive. There are a lot of good players who can do amazing things with it.
With cNed coming into the team, you've personally moved away from Jett. How are you adapting to using other Agents?
First of all, it's very refreshing. Something new is always good, and my main goal as a player is to be as flexible as I can with the Agents, so I'm more than happy to play and master what's left for me.
What are your thoughts on Icebox? Are you happy with the map? Do you think it needs any changes?
I think the map overall is too big. There are a lot of angles you have to clear and a lot of empty areas, which makes you feel insecure sometimes, but I think it's a pretty normal reaction. Everyone will put time into the new map, and everyone will have their own ideas on how to play it. But I'm really happy with Valorant maps, every map is unique, and it's good to have something different.
What are your thoughts on Skye? How viable do you think she'll be?
Skye looks really strong, and I think that if Riot Games keeps the Agent the way it is right now, it will be a 100% pick rate from any team. It's a bit weird that she has spells of 3 different Agents. It's like a mix of Sage, Pheonix, and Sova, which is too much. But I'm also happy to see these types of Agents that will change the meta and could bring diversity into the comp.
Who is your favorite Agent, and why?
Currently Pheonix. When I was playing Jett, I felt so useless sometimes. If I'm not getting any entry kills or not hitting the shots, with Pheonix, at least I can do a lot more for the team. I also feel very natural with Pheonix since I can use my aggressive playstyle with him very well. If you're not killing people, you're still creating a lot of space for your team, and you're not dying for nothing. I'm also a big fan of Reyna, but I don't think she's that good for tournaments yet.
And finally, what kind of Agent or abilities would you like to see added to the game?
I honestly don't think something new is needed, but I'm always excited if Valorant can bring something unique.
First Strike will be an incredibly competitive event, and while the first place prize of €30,000 is very attractive to anyone, the real reward is the bragging rights. G2 has been incredibly dominant in Europe, with the likes of FunPlus Phoneix and Guild Esports also looking solid. First Strike will serve as a proving ground for many upcoming teams. Organizations will be interested in signing teams who can topple the favorites, and there's no doubt that nolpenki will be on the radar or many going into the event.