Interview by: Bleghfarec
Out of the eight teams in First Strike: North America, 100 Thieves have among one of the most notable all-star lineups in the region. But, due largely to the current iteration’s recent formation, the team have yet to find a major tournament win to put respect to the name.
“The only time we played [100 Thieves] was for a seeding match that I want to say didn't have a lot of weight to it,” ShahZaM said on Friday, following their quarterfinal win against FaZe Clan. “Although they beat us in that [match], I would definitely like to play [100T] again to let them know that when it comes down to a serious game, we are the better team.”
What ensued on Saturday was a tumultuous and exciting three-map series of Valorant, and one of the must-watch matches of First Strike: NA, depending on how you view Icebox. Going the full length, with incredible plays and comebacks, both teams made the argument that North America is among the most competitive of regions in Valorant.
Taking down the #1 team in North America 2-1 was 100 Thieves, who proved that the organization’s overhaul of the roster was worth every cent of investment. Among the team’s most valuable players was Josh “steel” Nissan, who departed Chaos EC in CS:GO to join the organization and lead them into First Strike, where they sit in the grand finals now, who we got to chat with about his team, their upcoming match, and their rank in the region.
Nice job taking down Sentinels! What was your team’s mindset going into that matchup?
Going to the match, we were pretty confident that we could take it. We felt like we were better prepared than them and we had already beaten them once before in the closed qualifier. So we're just like, “Let's just go in and do this.”
It was pretty surprising to see Sentinels pick Icebox as the first map, which we’ve seen sparsely across all regions, and I noticed you mentioned in the on-stream interview that you were partially expecting them to pick it. Did you guys prepare that heavily for the map in this series?
We kind of expected Icebox. We were thinking like, “Hmm, like, will they though? Like, are they gonna chance it if they think they’re the better team? Probably not.” But we saw that they had banned Ascent yesterday against FaZe, so there was definitely a possibility in the back of our minds that they’ll ban assent again and then pick Icebox. So, we didn't prepare specifically for them on it, we just were ready for it anyways.
It definitely seems like Icebox has been a bit of a risky toss-up for a lot of teams. How did you guys feel after closing out the first map in overtime, after being at such an initial advantage and nearly losing to Sentinels’ comeback?
Yeah, we're feeling really good. Because, again, we felt like if they were gonna pick Icebox, it's because they weren't confident of the other maps. So even if we lost Icebox, we were gonna win the series. And then when we won Icebox, it's like “there's no way we will lose both Haven and Bind. Maybe we’ll lose one, but not the other” type of thing.
"They [TSM] have changed their composition. They have beaten us before, both in practice and in the qualifier group stages. So we just need to be able to bring our A-game"
As a team, it seems like you guys are a really well-rounded team, there were big plays from nearly everyone. But, I’ve seen some people in chat and on forums talking specifically about either Hiko’s K/D ratio, Asuna’s big plays, or strategies that were likely decided by you. Do you think there was one specific player on your team that had the largest impact in the series?
Honestly, it's hard to say, because there's a lot of things that go on in a team, whether it be in the actual match that you can see in an eye test or in stats. Like, for example, I'm the in-game leader and I call plays. Asuna is a Duelist and his job is literally to take fights. Hiko’s job is, as a supporter, to go in and clean up after it's a 3v3-type of situation. So we all have our specific roles and duties and I think we all just do a really good job of making sure that we're all taking care of what needs to be taken care of.
So I, as a lurker, need to make sure that I'm getting in that space, getting that info, and calling those mid rounds. Asuna, as a duelist, his job is to make sure that he's having his teammates support him so that he can get those first couple of kills and create that big opening at the site. And then Hiko’s, as well as nitr0’s role. is to close out those rounds. And Dicey is also supposed to help with Asuna as an OPer or as a second Duelist. His job is also to do that and create that space and kind of get in their face. I think everyone pulls together really well.
You guys are now in the First Strike: NA grand finals, where TSM is currently waiting for you. What are your thoughts on the matchup?
I think the grand finals will be good just because first of all, making it this far anyways, we kind of told so many people that we kind of like flipped our way here or that we weren't good enough or that we're talking a big game and we can't put the money where our mouths are. I think that in itself is a really good feeling.
So when we go against TSM tomorrow, we know we can beat them. We've beaten them in practice, we beat them in the qualifier to make it to where we are right now. So at the back of our minds, we know we're capable of beating them.
They have changed their composition. They have beaten us before, both in practice and in the qualifier group stages. So we just need to be able to bring our A-game and make sure that the energy is good and we're focused and we're hitting our shots and we're communicating well, and we're gelling well together as a team.
"I think undeniably we have to be considered, at this point, top 4."
Speaking of gelling well as a team, what’s the journey been like playing with this new 100 Thieves roster for the past two-ish months?
The journey has been kind of good. I mean, we officially picked up dicey and Astana in like, early October, but I think we had been playing with them through tryouts, and then the transfer process took like another week or two. So, we have two and a half months total, I guess, under our belts. And then, you know, we did like have a week off here for these things, and then a week off after the closed qualifier.
But I guess the biggest steps forward for us were when we had the gap between the open qualifier and the closed qualifier to really get a lot done when we're at the 100 Thieves CashApp compound. And then we went home, we played a couple weeks at home, and we came here, just about a week ago, like on the 28th. And then we've, we've had like five prep days. I feel like on day four of that prep day, we're like, “okay, we're feeling really good.”
We feel like we've made really good progress. We feel like we got everything that we needed to have done, done. And we're feeling just overall good and confident.
Before I got to talk to you, I spoke with a player from TSM following their semis match, and they mentioned that they wanted Sentinels to win because they wanted to take on “the better team.” After beating Sentinels, how do you guys feel right now in terms of your rankings in North America, especially with Sentinels and TSM firmly as the top 2 in the region amongst the community?
I think undeniably we have to be considered, at this point, top 4. The teams that we took out to get here are teams that other people consider to be at the top. So TSM, we beat in the closed qualifier, people will say that they’re top 1 or top 2. Te took Sentinels twice now, once in the closed qualifier, once just today in the main event, and people widely regard them as the best team in the game right now.
So if people won't concede and say, “okay, you deserve to be up there with sentinels, with TSM, as one of the top four teams in this game,” then I don't know what else I can do besides winning this event, and then winning the next one after it. So I guess we'll just take it game by game, event by event, starting tomorrow. If we win this whole thing, then, you know, I don't know how anyone's going to be like, “no, that's a fluke. Like you don't deserve it. You're not like the top two team.” But we're out there for number one anyway.
On Sunday, steel and company will take on TSM in the grand final match of First Strike: North America, with the winning team likely to be declared the best team in the region. While TSM were likely expecting Sentinels to meet them in the match, they’ll still be prepared to take down 100 Thieves, even if they won’t get to replay another iconic SEN v TSM rivalry match.
“I think 100 Thieves is a little overhyped right now,” TSM’s hazed said on Friday after their quarterfinal match against Renegades. “Like, they beat us in one best-of-3 and people are freaking out. They got to do more than that.”