Even after a strong second-place finish at VCT Masters: Copenhagen, Paper Rex’s controller player Aaron “Mindfreak” Leonhart still sees himself and his teammates as underdogs at VALORANT Champions 2022.
“I’m not sure if we are a favorite,” said Mindfreak following their victory against EDward Gaming in their Group A opening match at Champions. “Personally, I never think we are going to win any tournament we play in so every match just feels the same exact way.”
It was a surprising answer from Paper Rex’s Indonesian controller player, who posted a 37/43/17 kills/deaths/assists scoreline in their narrow 2-1 victory over EDward Gaming. Yet, it also was an understandable and realistic answer given the team’s busy schedule throughout 2022 as a regular representative for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region internationally.
After their deep run at Masters: Copenhagen, Paper Rex took two weeks to reset before all flying to Singapore on Aug. 13 for a 10-day bootcamp. Truthfully, he shared that the team is currently not playing at what they know they are capable of because of these circumstances.
“Today, we just felt out of practice. We aren’t playing as well as we were back in Copenhagen, but the show must go on,” Mindfreak said. “We actually didn’t expect to win today because of our lack of practice because we didn’t have as much time. Really glad we pulled out the win today.”
Even though he and his teammates did not feel they were playing at their full capabilities, he made sure to note that their own performance was not a diss toward EDward Gaming. He was impressed by EDward Gaming’s strong performance in their close match to open Champions.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“I think people underestimate them a lot because they are a really good team,” Mindfreak said about EDward Gaming. “They actually have a structure of how they want to play. I thought that they were just going to push constantly, but when we got into the server, they had structure and looked sharp.”
He noted the mixture of feeling out of practice combined with the strong calculated aggression from the side of EDward Gaming. In particular, he highlighted EDward Gaming’s performance on Icebox as a big realization for the team that brought them back to glimpses of how they played before.
“On Icebox, we were playing really weird. Maybe it was a lack of practice, but EDward Gaming really made us feel like we were playing our worst game,” Mindfreak said. “So going into that third game, we actually didn’t go with any of our preparation. We just played our own style and adapted in game.”
Although he finished the series with a 167 average combat score, Mindfreak's adaptation to EDward Gaming’s playstyle was apparent. In particular, his play on Astra on Haven in stopping any aggressive pushes from the side of EDward Gaming was impressive and resulted in a 13-8 victory.
One of the key contributors to Paper Rex’s success throughout 2022 has been their refined approach to play their style of game. From playing Mario Kart before important matches to dropping preparation to go out and play their own style, Paper Rex is there to do what they always do, have fun.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“We go into every match just trying to play,” Mindfreak truthfully shared. “If we win, then good, but if we lose, then we learn. All that matters is that we continue to have fun.”
Mindfreak closed out the interview by thanking both new and old supporters of Paper Rex for their dedication to the team.
“Thank you for supporting us. Right now, we are in the honeymoon phase because we keep winning, but when we start losing, we remember the real fans who stuck by our side,” Mindfreak said. “So whether we win or lose, please continue to support us because your support means a lot to us.”
Paper Rex will now face Leviatán as they look to secure their spot in the Champions playoffs bracket. Group A’s winner’s match will take place Friday, and either Leviatán or Paper Rex will be the first team to qualify for the playoffs. Meanwhile, EDward Gaming will take on Team Liquid in Group A’s elimination match which will take place Sunday.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games
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