Mindfreak have managed to bounce back at the Rise of Valour First Strike Oceania qualifier to be within just one series of making the Regional Finals. They’ve put themselves on notice with their innovation, something IGL Corey “Jasper” Lane takes great pride in.
Mindfreak came into Rise of Valour on shaky ground. The team hadn’t yet landed after making a big roster change, having brought on former Dire Wolves members Dale “Signed” Tang and Ali “Swerl” Kobraee in for George “SkitzMACHINE” Ison and Kade “MrRed” Hamilton.
The MEX Invitational highlighted the dire straits the team was in after their fourth-place Ignition Series finish. While they were in the more difficult group with EXO, RipNTear, and Legacy, they only managed to sneak out one win against the latter.
The team needed an intervention if they wanted to make the First Strike Regional Finals. It seems like they’ve found it though.
A nail-biting finish but we secure the 2-0 win over @KangaEsports and we're through to tomorrow's upper bracket showdown!— Mindfreak (@Mindfreak) November 21, 2020
Let's keep the momentum rolling and secure our spot in the finals 🔥#MFWIN | @FortressMelb pic.twitter.com/SFuI1xSUTR
Mindfreak have clicked in the Rise of Valour First Strike qualifier, taking the fight to second-seed Kanga Esports to find themselves in the Winners’ Bracket. While they did eventually fall to the top-placed EXO Clan, they’ve now carved out a clean path to First Strike that was rocky just weeks ago.
“With Rise of Valour, we went through some more changes on short notice. We were going through some growing pains as a team with picking up [Signed and Swerl] and everyone finding their new role. I’ve switched to IGL, which means swapping agents as well, and we’re trying to look for our strengths,” Mindfreak IGL Jasper told Snowball.
Mindfreak’s struggles might have only been temporary, but they had the chance to be devastating. They shipped the changes at the latest possible time, which could have seen the squad bow out of First Strike unceremoniously. They almost did in the Top 32 Swiss stage, only scraping through in 15th. So, to steady the ship, they’ve gone back to basics.
“We’re really struggling with certain aspects in the game, so we’re making things simpler. We’re playing easier agents, so less info gathering and more guns up. We have some incredibly sharp players on the team, and we’d rather them have a gun up instead of a dart or smoke out,” Jasper stated.
It’s also been a big jump for the young IGL. Jasper himself admits he’s a “very quiet player.” Communication was his biggest issue — not just in Valorant, but also in his past in Overwatch. He had to not just change his playstyle, but himself as a person, to get Mindfreak over the line.
“When I was first part of Mindfreak, my comms were an issue because of how little I talked. Once all the boys made it clear that I needed to pick up my comms to improve, I focused on that,” he admitted.
“When we lost Skitz we needed a new IGL, so I picked it up, and we’re getting used to it now. I’ve had to become more confident and learn to understand what we need to be doing every round and giving a general plan we can work with.”
Unfortunate 0-2 against @EXOClan_gg an incredible team and all incredible players ggs. We go again next weekend to secure our spot in first strike.— Jasper (@JasperOCE) November 22, 2020
Only up from here 😁
Mindfreak made waves at the First Strike qualifier when they became the first team globally to pick Skye. Jasper himself picked up the Australian Initiator on Bind against Kanga Esports, helping lead the squad to a 13-7 victory with his 11/9 KD.
Jasper takes luxury in diving deep into the strats and setting his team up for success. However, he was really thrown in the deep end with Skye. With nothing to go off, he had to wing most of what he was planning, based on plenty of theorycrafting and not much scouting of international talent — something pros rely on. It’s one thing to be the best at something, but it’s another to be an innovator.
“The thing with Skye is she’s not a new concept. She’s very similar to Sova. You use her flashes not so much for entrying but as more of a Recon Dart to get information,” he said.
“The issue people have is that there’s no VODs to learn off. When I was scouting out to learn how to play her, I can’t look at any VODs because no one has ever played her [in a tournament]. That learning curve of understanding her and her best plays is going to be tough, but once people realise that, she’ll be played a lot more.”
Jasper has been on his toes throughout Valorant anyways. Picking up Skye is no different to him as it has been picking up Breach, Sova, Killjoy, or any other agent he has in his arsenal. He plays whatever his team needs him to — as long as it means his star fraggers like Signed and Jack “Jax” Bennie pop off.
“I’ve got that role of playing Sova, Killjoy — I play four different Agents on four different maps and I play the util-heavy ones because I’m so focused on IGLing and giving the team direction. As long as the team has their guns up, and I’m doing all the intel, we’re fine. I want to help them frag.”
While they couldn’t get the job done the first time around EXO Clan — an “unfortunate loss” marred by an hour-long pause, Jasper said — they still have another chance this weekend against Nebula. The winner of that series will go to the Regional Finals, the loser will be sent packing, and Jasper wants nothing more than to prove the new Mindfreak is here to stay.
“The EXO game was an unfortunate loss. We did lose some of our momentum, but they played the better game anyways. We’re not too down on that, and we know we can work on things — we’ve fixed a lot of them already. As long as we pull our heads in [against Nebula], we can make First Strike.”
“I’m personally happy with a top four finish. Obviously winning will be the best goal ever, but I’m definitely happy if we place in the top four. We’ve gone through a lot of changes, we’ve done some agent swaps. If we can pull through, I’ll be very happy with that.”
After First Strike though, the road gets murky. With Riot’s plans for Oceanic Valorant’s future unclear after the announcement of the Valorant Champions Tour, pros are facing a potential early exit from their careers.
I am going to shamelessly use @Spawnlol as a message broadcasting tool – we intend to provide both a domestic VAL scene through local TOs in OCE in 2021 (RFPs coming soon) as well as path (albeit not a direct path) to Champions.— Chris Greeley (@IAmGrza) November 25, 2020
Jasper doesn’t see it that way though. In fact, he had a message of unity for the community.
“We need to stay strong together. The main issue we’re going to face is getting over to an international competition. It’s going to be an issue for a while, and it always has been. As long as we make sure we are doing tournaments, we are doing publicity and trying to get this attention consistently across Oceania, then international organisations and scouts will take notice,” he said.
“If a team is out there dominating every single tournament, an international scout will look at that and they can pick up that team. We can’t host a big American-style tournament because the player pool is so much smaller. We need to grow as a whole scene and boost the best players into international tournaments.”
Mindfreak play against Nebula on November 28 at 2pm AEDT for a spot in the Valorant First Strike Oceania Regional Finals.