FPX’s VCT Masters title run was built through adversity

The back of FPX as a team on the VCT Masters stageLance Skundrich/Riot Games

In FunPlus Phoenix’s Valorant Champions Tour Stage 2 Masters Copenhagen winning round on Breeze, Dmitry “SUYGETSU” Ilyushin hunted down the final kills on B Site.

He walked up to the entrance of the site, battling the first two challengers in a long range duel, defeating both in quick succession before taking aim at the final two Paper Rex players in B tunnel. He pushed forward and finished off both players with two headshots, the Russian teenager threw off his headset and earphones as he jumped out of his seat to embrace his FPX teammates.

Just over 10 days before, SUYGETSU was sitting at home watching his team take on international competition with a stand-in. He got his travel visa just in time to play in FPX’s second Playoff Stage match at VCT Masters.

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“Losing rounds which they should have won was stressful,” SUYGETSU said in a press conference about watching FPX from home.

Playing with a stand-in wasn’t the only adverse factor going against FPX at VCT Masters Copenhagen. The squad had to deal with the lack of rest from the tournament schedule along with unrest at home as their Ukrainian IGL and Russian players had to deal with their country’s war to even travel to the event.

“I’m still reading news. There’s a f****** war in Ukraine… it’s still happening and still people dying as Russia invades Ukraine. It’s always in my head at least,” FPX’s IGL Kyrylo “ANGE1” Karasov said in an early press conference at Masters Copenhagen.

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“War sucks.”

FPX started by playing a man down

The FPX Valorant team at VCT Masters CopenhagenColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
SEIDER went 2-2 at VCT Masters Copenhagen with FPX.

Coming into VCT Masters Copenhagen, FPX already had plans for if the majority of their roster couldn’t travel. The team, learning from their ordeal during their qualification to Stage 1 Masters, had three stand-in players lined up for the worst-case scenario.

Fortunately for FPX they only needed to use one of those players, Alliance’s Mathias “SEIDER” Seider, for about half of the tournament.

While the team still managed to move along in the event, the players outlined how they were still not at full strength due to their use of a stand-in. But, they still had confidence in themselves that they were one of the best teams at the event.

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“Keeping in mind our preparation and all the switches we should be doing every day, I would be happy with top four. But.. we are capable of winning it all,” ANGE1 said after qualifying for the Playoff Stage.

Overall the team went 2-2 with SEIDER and every player switching up their roles to accommodate him into the lineup. But thanks to those loses, FPX had to play the most amount of matches possible en route to the Grand Final and had to deal with four days of consecutive matches in the Group Stage and three in the Playoff Stage.

The grind of VCT Master Copenhagen

Preparing for multiple stand-ins, and then getting their original member up to speed was already going to be a process for FPX’s head coach Erik ‘d00mbr0s’ Sandgren. But, to then turn around and prepare strategies and study the next day’s opponent meant that the Swedish coach had a lot on his plate when it came to this tournament.

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Before their match against OpTic Gaming, one day after their victory over Fnatic, d00mbr0s prepped deep into the night to get his team ready to take on the Stage 1 Masters champions. He said he only got around 4 hours of sleep the night before.

FPX ANGE1 raises his hand while competing on the VCT Masters stageLance Skundrich/Riot Games
ANGE1 has been competing in competitive FPS for over a decade.

“For me a lot of prep is beneficial even though I might be tired on the day, as long as I have good prep and tell [ANGE1] the right things, who can usually do adoptions as well, so that’s why I did it,” d00mbr0s said about why he strategized so late into the night.

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The team also had little time to rest on those days, going from matches to their hotel late at night to wake up and then only have a few hours to prep before their next match.

The routine might’ve been advantageous to the team at some point according to Ardis ‘ardiis’ Svarenieks.

“I feel like it help us though,” he said after FPX’s win over OpTic. “Because it’d be like in the start we were all just in a routine. It was like wake up, go play, wake up, go play, wake up go play. Then I think when we first had our first day off, we were like, ‘What the f***?'”

The relief of winning

After FPX defeated Paper Rex 3-2 in the Grand Final the team gathered on the stage around the Masters trophy for a final interview before lifting their earned hardware.

ardiis started an FPX chant with the crowd and said that the team was ready to “take over the world” at Valorant Champions. ANGE1 used the time to point out a fan in the crowd donning the Ukrainian flag, something the IGL was barred from doing on stage at the event by Riot Games.

The fan would later give him the flag to drape over his shoulders as FPX went up to the crowd after the ceremony to greet the spectators.

“It meant a lot. I felt like I went home wearing it. I miss this flag so much,” he said.

FPX head coach VCT Masters Copenhagen stage with red lightLance Skundrich/Riot Games
d00mbr0s has been with the team since its inception in 2020.

d00mrb0s, looking drained from the five-game series, said that he would like to sleep for a month.

FPX came into the tournament with high hopes, their goal was to qualify for Champions and finish top four even if they had to play the entire tournament with a stand-in. Heralded often as one of the best teams in the world, FPX finally got to show what they were capable of even when at a disadvantage at almost every step of the way.

“For me, this win meant actually a lot,” d00br0s said about the Grand Final. “I think our team has been through some really difficult times this year, as a team, but also as individuals.

“I’m glad that we get to work through it and come out on top even though there are so many things that’s happening around us and I’m really glad that we finally get something for all the hard work we’ve been doing even though sometimes things were looking pretty down. I’m just happy and relieved.”