Valorant world champion BONECOLD feels more like himself with Vitality

Acend's BONECOLD with a golc chain in his mouth and his hands make two metal symbolsLance Skundrich/Riot Games

About six months after he lifted the 2021 Valorant Champions trophy with Acend, Santeri ‘BONECOLD’ Sassi has joined a new team and has changed his outlook on how he plays and calls the game.

The 23-year-old player is now the in-game leader for Team Vitality, who are competing in the Valorant Regional League France: Revolution. It’s a step down from his tenure with Acend, with whom he had won Valorant Champions in the final tournament of the 2021 VCT circuit.

“It’s a lot more relaxing for me, because I’ve beat the best of the best,” BONECOLD tells Dexerto about competing in the French VRL.

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The Finland native was benched by Acend on March 23 because of differences in opinion about how the game should be played. The decision, according to him, was a major hit to his mental health at the time.

BONECOLD says he used to feel like he needed to be in charge in-game and have his teammates respect his calls completely, even though it goes against how he would ideally like to play the game, which is a more free-flowing style.

“I’m the best at leading by example.” he explains. “I do things correctly inside and outside of the game and my teammates will follow it and take it to heart. So like having that act up, it just didn’t work and as soon as it fell apart, and it didn’t work out, it just hit me mentally a lot, [with Acend].”

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After his benching, BONECOLD had teams vie for his services, instead of the other way around, as he had previously experienced as an unknown player. A few weeks into his time as an inactive player, he had a short chat with Vitality coach Tanishq ‘Tanizhq’ Sabharwal and the two hit it off.

“We both realized that we just have the same end goals, we see the game in the same style and we both want to implement the same things,” BONECOLD says.

Tanizhq, who has worked with Team Heretics, OG, SuperMassive Blaze and Giants in the past, is known for putting good rosters together, so linking up with the British coach seemed like an easy decision for the Finnish IGL.

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BONECOLD on Acend shrugging his shoulders as he walks onto the stageMichal Konkol/Riot Games
BONECOLD joined Acend, called Raise Your Edge Gaming at the time, in March of 2021

BONECOLD says that he saw Vitality as a solid choice as he recognized them from their presence in a variety of esports and that his talks with the organization’s management met his expectations.

On May 7, Vitality’s new roster was announced with BONECOLD at the forefront along with Nathan ‘nataNk’ Bocqueho, former FunPlus Phoenix stand-in Kamil ‘baddyG’ Graniczka, ex-KOI player Joona “H1ber” Parviainen, and Jokūbas ‘ceNder’ Labutis.

The squad had basically every player BONECOLD and Tanizhq wanted, with H1ber giving the team another “Finish buff.”

“We just had to have a Finnish buff, every other team has only one but we have two. It is what it is, we just have that advantage over others,” the Finnish player says with a laugh.

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BONECOLD in VLR competition

BONECOLD throws up his hands at his computer screen at Valorant ChampionsLance Skundrich/Riot Games
BONECOLD and Acend defeated Gambit Esports 3-2 at Valorant Champions.

So far in the VLR competition, Vitality is 8-4 and in fourth place, solidly in contention for a playoff position. The league plays best-of-ones so it is a far cry from what he was used to in VCT.

“It is something that can get extremely coin-flippy,” he said. “So you just have to be at 100%, you cannot have a slow start and you cannot stop until the end of the game.”

While the competition isn’t the same as an international tournament, BONECOLD says that he doesn’t take anything for granted and that he likes the variety in playstyle and level of competition.

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BONECOLD also says that after most games he wants to play more maps as he is so used to best-of-three competition.

As far as his in-game leadership style, thanks to mental coaching from Vitality, the 23-year-old is feeling more at home. Now, he can play the free-flowing style that suits him best without needing to put up the “armor,” or facade of the traditional vocal leader he had on Acend.

“I feel like I can just do a lot more, I’m not more into the shadows. I get to play my own game, it’s not like I’m just playing for my teammates and that’s it,” the 23-year-old explained.

“Right now I just get to play for myself, I get to play for my team, and with the help of the mental and mindset coaching, it has also unlocked me just being a lot more happy, a lot more positive.”

The Valorant world champion won’t get the chance to play Acend until 2023 potentially, barring any third-party tournament the two teams enter together, so showcasing his new mentality in a revenge game is off the table for now.

However, the two teams have scrimmed against each other, and according to BONECOLD, a best-of-three official match would be a close affair.

“It would be 2-1 for us to be honest,” he says. “We’ve scrimmed them a few times and they’re always very close and nice games of practice. But I’d still say that we would beat them 2-1.”