FEATURE

Ferg on Valorant retirement: “My love for esports will always be a part of me”

Ferg's Valorant journey may be ending, but his impact on the scene will be felt for years

Oceanic CS:GO legend turned Valorant star Fergus “Ferg” Stephenson has hung up the mouse and keyboard after an illustrious career. Well, kind of.

When Demon first announced themselves into the Oceanic Valorant pro circuit, the lineup didn’t seem conventional to many. You had the star-studded fire power of Swerl, Signed and Maple coupled with the experience and knowledge that Gazr and Ferg brought into the roster.

During the Valorant Oceanic Tour, the roster ran through their opponents, beating Genuine Gaming, OverPalaStrike, and Mindfreak before eventually falling to Wildcard Gaming in the finals of the open qualifier.

A similar story ensued in the closed qualifiers, where despite beating Dire Wolves, they couldn’t get past a dominant Order squad.

On March 4, much to the disappointment of their rapidly-growing cult following, the roster disbanded as the players went their separate ways. For Ferg, this was the end of the line for him as a pro player, after a nearly 20-year career.

The past

When I first questioned Ferg over the abrupt ending with his roster at Legacy Esports, he had nothing but praise for the organization and his team-mates.

“Being a part of an organization as prestigious as Legacy ensures you always get well taken care of. We were treated exactly as expected and they met our expectations if not exceeded,” he said.

“With the team on the other hand, we were trying to push our game a little bit more but at the end of First Strike we were dragging our heels out a little bit. We had a meeting to sit down and be as transparent with each other as possible and really discuss how hungry we were to keep pushing.”

While Ferg applauded the work ethic of his team-mates, life in general got in the way of Oceania’s brightest esports talents. Both Dale “deoxiDE” Carta and Aaron “zenk0k0” Cox had to drop out of the active roster due to personal commitments.

“The circumstances were just not in our favour. DeoxiDE couldn’t extend his practice time due to other priorities, which is very much understandable. I know he’s in a very good position right now and I understand why he would make that decision.

“It was the same with zenk0k0, his family business was doing well and I can’t even imagine how draining it would have been for him during the last two weeks of First Strike while juggling full-time work.”

“When it comes to pan1k, I really appreciate what he brings. A lot of people might disagree as Tyson does have his moments but that just comes with being a very blunt person. It was a little tricky to understand what sort of role he would fit into,” he said.

“Ideally we should have got him exploring more roles sooner as the team developed but with the limited time we had, we ended up funneling him into a hybrid smoke-duelist role which probably wasn’t the best for him.”

The loss of two players who formed the backbone of the squad meant their eventual demise.

“We sort of told ourselves that maybe it was better to have a fresh start. Maybe in hindsight that was the wrong decision, but at the time that was just how we felt.”

The formation of Demon

With the sun setting on his time at Legacy, Ferg was on the hunt for a new roster to keep pushing for the heights he initially had in mind. Still hungry for success, he found himself playing a lot more ranked than usual.

“After the meeting with the Legacy boys, I started reaching out and seeing where other people were at the time. I was also playing a lot of SEA ranked games with Maple and I was really impressed with how he was as a player and as a teammate,” he said.

“With Swerl and Signed, they were players I was reaching out to as I’ve been following them since the beginning. A big factor for me was to find players who were hungry to succeed and were committed to the game. Ironic, because that happened to be my downfall.”

“In hindsight, we just really were looking for players who put in a lot of time and effort into the game and those three just fit into the category easily. We had some good and bad scrims from there on, but we went with a little bit more of a relaxed approach and sort of just doing things on the fly,” he added.

The former Chiefs CS:GO coach was all praise for the three young stars, emphasising that the sky was the limit for them.

“All three of them have world-class potential. They’re at such young stages of their esports careers and each of them might feel different but they have massive careers ahead of them,” he claimed.

“The way they understand the game the way it needs to be understood to play at the highest level is probably their strongest characteristic. Respective to their roles, they’re very good at playing multi-class agents which is why we picked them in the first place.”

Ferg stressed on the importance of a player being able to play multiple classes and not just limiting themselves to one. He believes that it helps a player become more rounded in not just their skillset but also develops their game sense by better understanding opponents.

“The ability to play multiple classes is an absolute essential. When you limit yourself to one class or two classes, you cannot out-run someone that will come after you and can do exactly what you do, if not better. You need to be able to react based on what you understand, and you can’t do that if you limit yourself.”

While he did reminisce about his past, he would take the chance of starting his esports career during this current time-period in a heartbeat.

“From my perspective, I’d love to rewind the clock and be in this exact time-period as [the rest of Demon]. With all the money coming in and opportunity to travel overseas, pre-COVID of course, it’s a good time to be an esport professional.”

With the Demon roster never officially being signed to an organization, Ferg pointed out that the lack of structure that brings cannot be sustained over a long period of time.

“Being loose is just a bandage fix. Although it is relaxed, free flowing and when it works, it works well. But when it doesn’t work, it can lead to a lot of frustration and hard situations to sort of break down,” he admitted.

“When there’s no structure in place, you don’t really have a backbone to navigate what’s right or wrong. Ultimately, you want to be as structured as possible when you’re competing at a high level.”

Overall, he was happy with how his final experiment in esports went, even if it was short-lived.

“We did pretty well, finishing top two in consecutive tournaments but from then on things just kind of evolved. But we didn’t really have a guaranteed position within an organization. We did have some back and forth but it just fizzed out.

“When you’ve got hot property such as the players in our roster, it can become a little bit iffy. There are organizations out there that are paying a lot more than nothing and the crux of our journey together is that there’s desirable players within the team.”

The future

Upon the eventual disbanding of the Demon roster, they unceremoniously dropped out of the Valorant Oceanic Tour. A last chance qualifier was decided to be held to replace them. For Ferg however, his mind had begun to wander.

“I personally had — maybe an epiphany — and found something I’m far more passionate about during the last week with Demon,” he said.

“Midway last year, I was bleeding the game dry. I think I was playing Valorant for nearly like 10 hours a day, I reached a point at the beginning of last month where that just all changed pretty much instantly and I reckon I’ve probably only played like two ranked games since that date.”

When probed on where he has his eyes set next, Ferg exuberated nothing but confidence.

“I preferred to keep it fairly promiscuous as I didn’t really want to reveal my hands and give people bad financial advice or whatever. But I’m diving into the crypto world. I know I’m going to get mixed reactions from most people, but it really doesn’t bother me,” he said.

“The way my brain works sometimes is that my passion can quickly dive if I find the next best thing. Last year, with all the time I’d spend playing Valorant, my time versus reward chart was just plummeting.

“After a strong three years in the coaching sector, which was rewarding financially, the last year and a half has definitely hurt. Looking at where the crypto market is and doing a bit of research, I saw a really big opportunity to make the transition.”

According to Ferg, this doesn’t spell the end for his time in Oceanic esports. If the door comes knocking, he will answer under the right circumstances.

“My love for esports will always be a part of me. I might come back with the right opportunity, as a player or coach, it’s hard to say. When I look at coaching now, because I’ve lived through it, it’s a lot of hard work and you underestimate it if you haven’t done it before.”

“As a coach I’m as emotionally invested as a player is, so it can be stressful with a high reward ceiling. But yeah, it is not out of the question and it would have to be a very good offer.”

To many who played Valorant casually and watched the Oceanic pro Valorant circuit closely, Ferg was an enigmatic figure. A player with an illustrious history, who had seen it all and was still hungry for more.

While he hasn’t decided to completely hang up the mouse and keyboard for one last time, the idea of not seeing Ferg Raze satchel onto incoming traffic for the foreseeable future will most definitely be missed.

Photographydogryan100
Sherry Philips
A European soccer aficionado, Sherry "hjper" Philips is trying to reignite his love for writing for the umpteenth time. He dipped his feet in the CS:GO scene for over 7 years, but now mainly focuses on Valorant and the stories that come with it.