Rawkus talks FaZe’s rapid improvement, people underestimating ex-Overwatch pros

by Jessica Scharnagle

FaZe Clan have ensured their continued run in the top bracket of the North American VALORANT Masters 1 tournament after beating XSET 2-0.

Recently, FaZe have been catching the attention of VALORANT fans because of their sudden emergence as the team to beat. They smashed their way through the Challengers 3 qualifier and dropped only one map along the way.

What some saw as a rag-tag group of mostly ex-Overwatch League pros has become a fierce contender coming into Masters. They are climbing in power rankings with every match they play, and their momentum is carrying them through it all.

Read more: North American VALORANT Masters Power Rankings

Nerd Street Gamers caught up with Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty to see how he’s feeling coming out of FaZe’s match against XSET. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Nerd Street: How do you feel coming out of this match?

Rawkus: I feel like we’re playing well as a team, and I think that we are improving very fast. We talked about how we wanted to play as a team, not individually. I think our styles were a bit mixed, and I felt like because of that people were uncomfortable playing certain things. So we had to figure that out, and I think we figured that out in the past few weeks, and it really showed, I think, in our performances.

Generally, looking forward we are very excited, and I think the mentality that we have is to take it one round at a time. Right now, I’m looking at Envy and I’m not looking at anything else. Before, I was looking at XSET, we beat XSET, now, the next team, which is Envy.

Read more: Immortals coach Packing10 on his ever-changing roster: ‘We think synergy is a myth’

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Nerd Street: What role do you think momentum played since you did so well just last week in Challengers 3?

Rawkus: Momentum definitely played a part in the match itself, but I think when we played XSET last, we were playing as a shell of ourselves, we weren’t really playing the game we wanted to play. We let them play into our own hand. We were playing into XSET’s favor and we weren’t playing our game, so I think winning the last qualifier actually helped us a bit. We are a very momentum-based team, especially when we start getting a groove going in a match, so it definitely helped. I think it’s going to keep paving the way for our future matches [in Masters].

Nerd Street: What is the driving factor behind your recent success?

Rawkus: I think the driving factor is honestly the same. Nothing has changed. Winning the last Challengers or not, it wouldn’t have really changed. I think our biggest problem was where we had a bunch of things lead up to different styles. Some people wanted to play fast, some people wanted to play slow. So we were playing two different styles on one team, and it wasn’t working. We didn’t have everyone on the same page, and that obviously showed before. We were not consistent, we were losing rounds that we shouldn’t have lost.

I think the biggest factor is that we talked to everyone, and we’re all individually overconfident in our plays. That’s a good thing. You want players to be confident, you want players to win their 1v1’s. You never want a player to be afraid of another player. Our team honestly feels like we are better than everyone, and that’s a good thing to have. It’s not an ego thing, it’s a confidence thing. You need to have that. I think once we found a way to be on the same page, having that involved, everyone’s showing up. It’s not just one person, and it helps.

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Nerd Street: During First Strike, [Andrej “babybay” Francisty] said that because most of you were in Overwatch League when the game came out, that you didn’t have the opportunity to grind VALORANT from the start full-time, so it was just a matter of time before you got good. Do you think that rings true?

Rawkus: I definitely think what he was saying was true. For me, personally, I started off playing the game as a duelist. I was a Jett player, and I was a Phoenix/Raze player. I never played any of the supports, I never played Cypher, didn’t play Sova, I didn’t play any smokes. So in our first tournament ever I was on Jett, and then Andrej was on Cypher, and he wasn’t comfortable on Cypher, so we had to make some changes, and I was the one that had to pick up Sova, and I think picking up Sova for me was a really hard task.

I think that everyone had to learn their new role that we swapped to, but the problem with me playing Sova is that Sova is a way different beast. There are so many dart lineups you have to learn, plus you get caught without your gun out because you’re shooting darts. That being said, and on top of us not playing in beta, that hurt us a lot. I was playing Overwatch while playing beta. I was playing matches in Overwatch [League] while playing beta and trying to grind [VALORANT] in my free time.

[What babybay said] is true to that point, and I think right now we’re catching up and showing that we’re caught up, if not ahead, of people right now.

Nerd Street: One of the casters said “these guys don’t look like they came from Overwatch.” How does that make you feel?

Rawkus: This is what I like to say, I always hear the CS thing, the Overwatch thing, the Fortnite thing, right now we’re all VALORANT players. This game is not CS:GO, it’s not Overwatch, it’s not any other games. There’s similarities with all the games. Overwatch has abilities and CS:GO has defaults. I think you can compare them, but they’re never going to be the same.

Right now, we’re in a stage of the game where everyone should be a VALORANT player by now, and their old game shouldn’t be affecting them. So, right now, I feel like we’re VALORANT players, and that’s all I feel like. We’re going to improve in VALORANT, and I don’t think what games we played before defines us now.

Nerd Street: Do you think that other teams saw that most of your roster is ex-Overwatch pros and underestimated you because of that?

Rawkus: Yeah. A lot of players, especially from the CS:GO scene, underestimated Overwach players, and that was fine, but they were really fast to realize how good our aim was. There were tweets from some really good CS:GO players saying that these Overwatch players have crazy aim. We won so many ecos with Sheriffs and Classics because our aim was very crisp, but we were losing on the aspects of defaults and stuff like that from the CS:GO side.

But now, the game is not necessarily all defaults, but it’s a lot of ability usage and aiming, and I think we’re thriving in that aspect right now. It’s showing that we have different knowledge and different experiences, but we’re also able to learn from their experience as well, so it’s mixing well. Very soon, CS:GO players are going to have to learn some things from us, and we’re still learning from CS:GO players. It goes both ways, it’s a nice little circle of learning.

Lead image credit: Activision Blizzard

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