The NA VCT Stage 2 Playoffs kicked off on Thursday. The two teams that can survive the playoff bracket and attend the grand finals will qualify for the VCT Iceland LAN taking place later in May. Top-seeded 100 Thieves kicked off their playoffs with a solid 2-0 win over Andbox on Thursday.
We caught up with legendary North American player Spencer "Hiko" Martin to ask him his thoughts about the playoffs, how important the Iceland LAN is to 100 Thieves, and how he thinks North America stacks up against the other regions!
Did everything go according to plan today, or did you feel like you could have played better?
I think we are coming into the playoffs with a lot of confidence. I think that something that is very important for us is keeping the mood in a positive light and keeping our attitudes high. We want to make sure we are having fun; we want to make sure that, at the end of the day, we have confidence going into these games. Outside the strategy, micro and macro, inside the server, I think a big focus and attention of ours coming into this tournament is making sure our attitudes are good outside the server as well.
We are the first seed. I think a lot of people are kind of expecting us to move on. One of the ways this roster crumbles is when morale gets low and our attitudes are down in the gutter somewhere. So, we have a sports psychologist that helps us with this, his name is Edward, and we are doing a lot of things to be very mindful and this is all in addition to the inside the server stuff.
Is it harder to be the favorites?
I don't believe so, not for me personally. I think across many players on the team, we have all been on what is considered to be the best rosters in the U.S. at different times across different games. So I definitely think we are used to it, and I don't think the pressure of being the favorites is really getting to us. But I think we all respect what it means being the favorites in a tournament, what it means to be one of the best teams in a region.
We are the best in the region, so everyone is gunning for us. We paint that target on our backs. Everyone is trying to adapt to how we are doing things. We saw it after First Strike. I don't know if we are seeing it right now; probably after this tournament will be a good judge after that.
What would it mean to you and the team to make it to the first-ever VALORANT LAN?
Our number one priority for this weekend is to make it to Iceland, that is what we have been practicing for, it's why we are in LA right now as a team. All the money spent, all the time spent, everything leads to us making it to Iceland. So that is our number one goal, it is what we are focusing on, and that is what we are planning on doing.
The significance of it being the first LAN, we won the first major, the First Strike, now how cool would it be to take that to the next level and say "we also won the first LAN tournament in Iceland." What a story that would be for all of us to switch games and compete in a different game, and win the first LAN tournament. That'd be really cool.
Do you think that 100T will play better on LAN since you all have experience with LAN tournaments?
I think that is something we have going for us. It's something we have acknowledged a lot over the last six to eight months, ever since we made the roster change. Our team is built to be a LAN beast. We are all proven on LAN, except for maybe one of us. We have all been to countless LANs, I think unlike many teams we are at the same level online, and I think a lot of teams who don't have the experience on stage will fall behind compared to their online results, at least early on.
How do you think 100T playstyle will stack up to the other regions, should you make it to Iceland?
There was a long time when I thought Europe was a bit behind NA, but I think Europe is innovating things at a much faster rate than we are. And I also think the general skill in Europe, not necessarily individual talent, but team talent, I think Europe looks way more structured and more planned. NA has a lot of super-aggressive challenging and fighting. If you are hitting your shots you can beat anyone, if you are not hitting your shots you look kind of lost. Especially outside the top five or three, that is how people are playing.
We practice against the Latin American region a lot, and based on them I think we are ahead of Latin America. But when it comes to Europe and Korea, I am not sure. Vision Strikers look like that's gonna be a fun game if we get to play them, and obviously, FPX, NIP, Heretics, all the EU teams, I don't know where we stand against them. I envision it being something like how NA and EU CS were, where early on it seemed like Europe was dominating, but we put up some good performances against Europe.
Maybe this situation is similar? Maybe the Top end of NA has more experience and better players than Europe does, but again it's hard to say.
The TL;DR of what I just said is it's too hard to tell. Who knows how good Vision Strikers will be against NA or EU? We will find out in a few weeks here!
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.