SuperMassive Blaze’s VCT Challengers run highlights bright future of Turkish Valorant

SuperMassive Blaze are one of the four EMEA teams that have qualified for the VCT Stage 3 Masters. Dubbed the ‘Turkish super team’, they will be looking to carry the country’s flag high in Berlin next month.

For many in the Valorant scene, it was only a matter of time before a Turkish side belonged in the conversation on the best team in the EMEA region.

Indeed, the signs were all there: a wide pool of emerging players, an incredibly passionate fan base, and the guarantee of a stable and well-organized competitive structure developed by Riot Games’ local branch.  

Turkey has a chequered history in CS:GO, where a number of the country’s Valorant stars hail from. For years, Turkish fans rallied around Space Soldiers, a team that battled hard to earn a place among Europe’s Counter-Strike elite. In 2018, they finally reached a Major and were knocking on the door of the top 10 in HLTV’s world rankings. 

Space Soldiers winning DreamHack AustinAdela Sznajder/DreamHack
Space Soldiers were at one point one of Europe’s strongest CS:GO teams

But that incredible story of resilience and competitive heart came to a saddening end later that year, when the team parted ways with Space Soldiers. As Turkey’s biggest players began looking abroad for opportunities and embraced international careers, the local scene took a major blow. Only now, with the creation of Eternal Fire, are things finally starting to change.  

“We have always had passionate fans, but our players and teams didn’t have enough opportunities,” Alican Karahan, a Turkish Valorant and CS:GO caster, told Dexerto. “We had the fan base and the player base [in FPS games], but we couldn’t show our potential to the world.

“Valorant has brought together many players from other games and communities, like CS:GO, PUBG, Fortnite, Zula and League of Legends.

“Streamers, casual players, and especially professional players were very excited for the game even before it came out. One of the reasons for this was the investment made by Riot Games in Turkey with League of Legends.”

The EMEA Stage 2 Challengers Finals came a bit too soon for Turkish teams. BBL Esports and Futbolist finished bottom of their groups, and while Oxygen did manage to reach the playoffs, they only had to beat one non-Turkish side, Guild, to get into the four-team knockout stages. They were then steamrolled by Liquid in the semi-finals, posting only three rounds across the series and even losing a map 13-0.

SMB’s beginnings

It took the creation of a super team to alter the landscape and make Turkey a true contender on the international stage.

Enter SuperMassive Blaze, who were built from a merger between SuperMassive Esports and Blaze Esports. The organisation made its introduction into Valorant in mid-May with the signings of Baran ‘Izzy’ Yılmaz, Eren ‘Brave’ Kasırga, and Mehmet ‘Turko’ Özen. Later that month, the roster was completed with the additions of two big names: Batuhan ‘russ’ Malgaç, who came from BBL, and Melih ‘pAura’ Karaduran, who boasted significant international experience from his time with Heretics.

“This team has star players in every role,” Karahan explained. “But the main thing is that the players all have the same vision and goals, and they all trust each other and enjoy playing together.

Turko and pAura have been together since the days of CS:GO and have put a lot of effort into achieving something. They and [team coach] 9999 have been very close friends for a long time and all live in the same neighborhood.

Izzy, the team’s Jett player, was a promising CS:GO AWPer

“Russ had proven to be one of Turkey’s most talented players, and he left Turkey’s most-supported team, BBL, for success. He even wanted to give up on Jett and play more supporting roles because of it.

“Izzy was the most popular Turkish AWPer after woxic in CS:GO for a while, and he was expected to be a very strong Jett player when he moved to Valorant. In my opinion, he is already one of the best Operator players in Europe.

“Brave is also a very cool and clever smoker. These individual traits instill confidence in the team.”

Rapid success 

SuperMassive Blaze quickly took the Turkish scene by storm. In early July, the team won the VCT Turkey Challengers 1 event following an incredible lower bracket run: after defeating Fire Flux Esports and Futbolist in extremely tight affairs, they fought back from a map down against Oxygen in the grand final to emerge as national champions.

“Our team already consists of star players,” pAura, the team’s in-game leader, told Dexerto. “We have achieved this in such a short time by creating an environment with the right work ethic, by learning from each other’s mistakes, and, most importantly, by maintaining team harmony.”

Heading into the VCT EMEA Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs, a much more stacked tournament than its predecessor, no one really knew what to expect from SuperMassive Blaze, though some had alerted to their dark horse potential.

And it’s fair to say that fans, pundits, and opponents alike have been blown away by what they’ve seen from the Turkish team, who dispatched FunPlus Phoenix in their opening match and then battered tournament favorites G2 Esports to lock down one of the first two EMEA spots at the VCT Stage 3 Masters in Berlin. 

“We got f**ed today,” G2 captain Oscar ‘mixwell’ Cañellas admitted after the match. “Well played, SMB.” 

SuperMassive Blaze’s red-hot confidence has been on full display not only on the server, but also in the way that they approach their matches. After beating G2, Brave revealed that he and his teammates had not had any special preparation for the series.

That also seems to be their mindset as they are about to take on Acend, a very well-rounded team packed with individual talent. They boast the biggest Turkish star, Mehmet Yağız ‘cNed’ İpe, the MVP of the VCT Europe Stage 1 Masters. He is, according to Sentinels’ Tyson ‘TenZ’ Ngo, “the best player” in Europe.

“I think they are a very talented team where everyone complements each other,” pAura said of Acend. “But we have always only played our own game, regardless of opposition, and it will be the same [against them].”

If SuperMassive Blaze maintain this kind of momentum, anything is possible. The highly-anticipated match against Acend should provide a better assessment of the Turkish team and answer questions as to whether they have tactical flexibility to go along with their incredible firepower. 

Dreams and hopes

In a November 2020 interview, cNed outlined his belief that, if Turkish players learned how to utilize their talent, Turkey could have “a great impact on the Valorant scene.” Almost a year on, that vision seems to be coming true.

Even if SuperMassive Blaze’s meteoric rise proves to be a false dawn and they struggle under the weight of expectation, the hype surrounding Turkish Valorant is very much real and seems to suggest there are many more chapters to come.

pAura has no doubts that the game will “definitely increase in popularity” in his country because of the Turkish representation at VCT Stage 3 Masters, the biggest Valorant LAN event to date. 

“I am very proud and happy to be one of the players representing Turkey,” he said. “I could have stayed in Europe, but this is one of the reasons why I returned to my country.”

Reaching Berlin is an impressive achievement for SuperMassive Blaze and Turkish Valorant, but the team’s dreams go beyond that. Their eyes are also set on the end-of-the-year event, Valorant Champions, a tournament pAura has dreamed of winning for almost a year now.

“Every player on my team has the potential to win Champions,” he said. “For this, we need to have time and the right work principles. 

“If we continue like this, I believe we can win it.”