Valorant pro Anthony ‘vanity’ Malaspina, Cloud9 Blue’s new in-game leader, discussed the victory in the Nerd Street Gamers tournament in an exclusive interview with Dexerto.
There had long been a sense of inevitability about vanity getting back together with his former Chaos teammates Nathan ‘leaf’ Orf and Erick ‘Xeppaa’ Bach. So when that reunion finally happened, the element of surprise was somewhat missing.
Vanity had led Version1 to the VCT Stage 2 Masters in Reykjavík, the first major international LAN in the game, where they finished top six. Despite traveling to Iceland with a stand-in, Version1 were no pushovers, and a solitary round separated them from a spot on the podium. They were one of the tournament’s feel-good stories, their infectious enthusiasm leaving no one indifferent.
In explaining his departure from Version1, a team with which he had made “Valorant history”, vanity admitted that it was a bit of a step into the unknown and accepted responsibility if his move turned out to be a flop. “I think this will end up being worth it,” he said, before jokingly adding: “If not, just call me an idiot. It is what it is.”
But if first impressions are anything to go by, Cloud9 Blue seem like a team ready to make some noise in North America. They went on an unbeaten run en route to the Nerd Street Gamers: Summer Championship title in mid-August, beating teams like Immortals, Evil Geniuses, and NRG along the way.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going into the tournament,” he told Dexerto. “I definitely knew we could win it, given the level of teams in it, but I wasn’t really worried about how the tournament ended. We had two days of practice before the tournament with this group.
“I think the biggest thing we have to focus and work on is expanding our agent pool, mostly myself, leaf, and Xeppaa.”
When vanity signed with Cloud9, it wasn’t clear if the team would be working with an expanded roster or if one of Mitch ‘mitch’ Semago and Michael ‘poiz’ Possis would be stepping down from the lineup to make way for the new addition.
But after playing the NSG tournament with mitch, Cloud9 Blue seem intent on sticking to the title-winning lineup.
“We tried both players and liked the role fit more with mitch,” vanity explained. “Nothing is certain, but I don’t believe we will be using a six-man roster.”
After a little over two weeks in command of Cloud9 Blue, vanity believes that “things are going pretty well”. He sees some similarities between his new team and Version1 but also some differences in terms of potential.
“I think they are pretty comparable,” vanity said of the two teams. “I think the baseline of both teams is pretty similar but our ceiling on Cloud9 is higher.”
Vanity and the rest of Cloud9 Blue will now turn their attention to the VCT Last Chance Qualifier, a LAN tournament with a spot at Valorant Champions, the end-of-the-year event that will feature the best teams in the world.
thank u riot games 🥰 https://t.co/3E8JcnVmzQ
— Anthony (@Vanityxz) August 23, 2021
With the qualifier still more than a month away, Cloud9 have a lot of time on their hands to iron out the creases and develop an identity. They are not among the favorites for the tournament — especially if the VCT Masters Berlin trophy does not go to North America and one of 100 Thieves and Envy will need to play the qualifier —, but that doesn’t seem to worry vanity too much.
He has proven in the past, in both Counter-Strike and Valorant, that his teams can play their best game in the underdog role.
“I think it’s always easier to go into games as an underdog because of the lack of pressure people tend to put on themselves,” he said.
“I don’t think there will really be a favorite heading into the last-chance qualifier, though I think every team that made it there is a strong team and can make a run to Champions if they are on point.”
As one of the players who competed in Iceland, vanity has a better understanding of the strengths of each region than most. He will try to catch as much of the VCT Stage 3 Masters action as circumstances allow and is looking forward to seeing how some of the LAN debutants will perform in Berlin.
“I’ll probably watch every game that I’m awake for,” he said. “I’m most excited to watch Acend, Gambit, and Vision Strikers.
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“I was really impressed with the game style of Acend and Gambit when we practiced against them in Iceland, and I just think finally seeing Vision Strikers compete internationally will be really cool.”