For Ethan, joining NRG Valorant brings a sense of nostalgia

Ethan throws the peace sign up to the camera at Masters BerlinColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Ethan ‘Ethan’ Arnold has moved on from 100 Thieves after a year with the organization and joined another top North American VALORANT squad in NRG. His new squad recently qualified for the VCT Stage 2 Challengers. 

In NRG’s match against Knights in the VCT Stage 2 Challengers qualifying tournament, their newest signing shined in one of the few blowout map wins that they managed to find.

Ethan, on one of his comfort agents in Skye, averaged one kill a round on the attacking side on Bind and helped NRG move on in the bracket with a 13-2 win over the Pittsburgh-based organization.

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Just over a week and a half earlier, Ethan was one of the last long-standing members on a struggling 100 Thieves squad that was due for roster changes. He joined NRG just before the VCT’s roster lock after considering the offers he had on the table.

What swayed his decision and made him rejoin the org in which he rose to prominence during his Counter-Strike days is what largely led to NRG’s qualification for the second stage of Valorant Challengers: chemistry and familiarity.

“These games require persistence to win honestly and everyone pitches in, everyone’s super into it all the time, no one’s really losing focus,” Ethan said in an interview with Dexerto. “So it’s definitely promising.”

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While none of the players are the same as when he was with the org in 2018, he has crossed paths with many of his teammates before and has a familiarity with the brand and upper management.

He even played with his new coach, Josh ‘JoshRT’ Lee, early on in his Counter-Strike career.

“It’s good to be back,” the former 100 Thieves player said. “Definitely kind of nostalgic.”

NRG’s qualifying run

Ethan on 100 Thieves walks onto the Masters Berlin stage in 2021 next to Envy's yayColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Ethan last saw international LAN competition at Masters Berlin in 2021.

To the untrained eye, NRG’s run to make the North American VCT main event looked like an easy path. While they swept Knights and Version1, two other teams that were in the main event in Stage 1, the maps themselves went the distance and featured multiple 13-11 scorelines.

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The difference in those matches, according to Ethan, was the chemistry he has built up with the team and their plan for the event.

“On a good team, everyone knows how to be a good teammate, but you’re not always going to get that from the actual person… But the last time I had this was, ironically, back on NRG when I first joined in CS. They remind me a lot of that so it’s kind of funny,” Ethan said.

The way the team gels can also be seen in some of the team’s statistics in the tournament. The squad had one of the highest retake success rates in the tournament, winning by retaking the site in 27 percent of their defensive rounds, according to Matt Liu, a Twitter user who compiles professional Valorant statistics.

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“I think if everyone is kind of on the same page, if everyone knows what they’re doing, retakes are super easy and super simple,” Ethan said.

Ethan on his future with NRG in Valorant

NRG have nowhere to go but up in Valorant at the moment. In Stage 1, the team placed fifth in their Challengers group, just one win shy of making the playoffs, but they were largely considered one of the better squads in the competition.

Joining this specific squad was less about making it back into VCT Challengers than it was about finding a squad to grow with, according to Ethan.

With this new roster, NRG can improve on their previous performance, make a push for playoffs and potentially reach an offline event. A trip to a LAN tournament is something that Ethan said he wants to experience again after he attended VCT 2021 Stage 3 Masters Berlin.

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Ethan celebrates a round win at Masters BerlinColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Ethan first joined 100 Thieves in February 2021 from Evil Geniuses’ CSGO team.

“Nobody on my team has been to a Valorant LAN yet, so I want to also do it for them,” Ethan said.

“Obviously for me as well, because I like winning, but I’d like to share the experience with as many people as I can.”

Joining him on this journey is Anthony ‘Zikz’ Gray, a former League of Legends coach who guided CLG and 100 Thieves, among other teams, and a familiar face for Ethan.

The two crossed paths on CLG and 100 Thieves, with Ethan spending some time with his new brother in arms at the 100 Thieves compound in 2021.

According to Ethan, Zikz has been more than up to the task in his new role and has brought a fresh perspective to the game.

“If you get five other players in a server together, they’re all going to have a pretty similar mindset, maybe,” he said.

“But if you get a person from, let’s say League of Legends, who also has a little bit experience in the game itself, that’s like a whole other experience with players and everything that you get to see. So it’s super helpful.”

But while gelling with his new teammates and linking up with familiar faces has given Ethan a nostalgic and hopeful feeling, this new chapter for the former 100 Thieves player is all about the thrill of the game.

“I kind of just see it as a new project and honestly right now, from experience, I know having fun with it is really the most important thing,” he said.