Mindfreak’s 2021 couldn’t have started much better. Runners-up to Order in both the Valorant Oceania Tour Stage 1 and the Nova Invitational has put them in good stead to be one of the two Australian squads heading to the NA Valorant Champions LCQ.
Back in VOT Stage 1, the roster went from strength to strength, looking better the more they played. They dispatched Dire Wolves in a dominant display, then slid past the fan-favourites Straight Outta The Zoo to make the final.
At the more recent Order Nova Invitational, they once again made it to the final after dominating the group stage and making a nice lower bracket run in the playoffs against Bliss and Kanga Esports.
With the possibility of clinching a major trophy on the horizon, it is important to put things into perspective and for many members of this star studded roster, their career pathways so far have been very different. More so for sentinel extraordinaire Norsin “Norsin” Yawanis.
The past: Rockdale’s Finest
Prior to signing with Mindfreak, Norsin was part of a roster named Rockdale’s Finest, who were eventually signed by Bliss to represent their growing organization. Looking back at it now, Norsin remembers it rather fondly.
“My time in Bliss was pretty important for me and my career. I was on good terms with everyone in the team and the organisation was great,” he told Snowball.
“I see it as the time that I went from a bottom-tier player to really reaching my true potential, as the whole team in general pushed each other to achieve that.”
While Norsin did find it unfortunate that the team eventually disbanded, he pointed out that “everyone on that roster had potential to be in a Tier 1 team.” He’s just the one living up to that potential right now.
The flexible Sentinel found a new home on the Mindfreak roster, which was in a big rebuild phase after the organisation’s original roster disbanded after First Strike. The opportunity came knocking for Norsin, and he seized it with both hands.
“The Mindfreak roster was really unexpected for me. After trialing together with Skrawl earlier, he messaged me to test some things out as their potential fifth. I agreed, initially trying duelist but then switching to Sentinel after noticing the need for a solid one,” he said.
“After the first scrim we were set and started practicing for the upcoming tournaments, knowing we had to get to work as we were the newest formed roster [in Oceania].”
Valorant Oceania Tour Stage 1: Settling down
There’s no doubt Mindfreak were shaky in their first major competitive debut at the start of VOT. However, they managed to come back and make it through the second closed qualifier.
Their rise to the top was arguably aided by Demon disbanding and God Squad (Soniqs) moving to North America. However, Norsin believes his squad had the tools regardless to get there. It’s just that they’re improving at a rate not even they expected.
With both Demon and God Squad dropping out of the finals, the atmosphere around the Stage 1 finals wasn’t exactly as expected.
The Oceanic Valorant scene was seeing a major shuffle and Norsin points out that this forces a roster to change the way they approach situations.
“I think VOT Stage 1 was an interesting tournament as pretty much half of the teams had disbanded or had their roster’s shuffled. There was some competition to see who the top dogs would be and how the scene was going in general,” he said.
“I can’t be prouder of how we’ve progressed, as we really stepped up the past fortnight in working hard in practice and improving a lot of the things we were struggling with, and then taking the current top team in the region, Order, to the edge.”
Despite the confidence, Norsin’s wary of letting it get to their head.
“We have been shaky recently but I genuinely think we are finding our form, and it’s hopefully proven to some of the doubters that we are a top 2 roster.
“I know that with the hard work, dedication and effort that we’re putting in, we have the potential and can be the top roster in the region in time.”
It’s important to note that Norsin wasn’t just fighting the other top teams in Oceania during VOT. He was also battling the New South Wales floods, with his internet cutting out every second round.
It played on his mind during the tight best of five against Order, where Mindfreak mounted a huge comeback from 0-2 down to bring it to a fifth map, but ran out of gas.
“In the series against SOTZ it was bad, with me disconnecting four times and constantly jittering. I didn’t expect at all for the situation to actually get worse on the final day, where I DC’d about once every two rounds, sometimes on key rounds which further messed up my rotations.”
“The jittering and the disconnecting, combined with playing some of the best players in the region wasn’t a confidence booster at all. It’s a shame because I do feel like I was on form in that series. It was devastating for my mental.”
“My ceiling caved in at the back of my room on Saturday during the SOTZ series, so the whole time I had some buckets lined up behind me collecting some of the rainwater that was leaking from my roof.”
While it was a good first run, the Mindfreak star believes in the future, some changes would go a long way to keeping Oceanic Valorant as competitive as possible.
“I’d prefer at least the finals to be a double elimination format as this would ensure that even if a team was upset, they would have a proper chance to claw back and prove themselves. It’s not ideal to play weeks of qualifiers just to be knocked out in one unfortunate day.”
The future: Sights set on NA
Norsin’s aspirations along with that of Mindfreak are clear: To keep pushing until they make it to the top.
“The team’s plans for VOT Stage 2 is to make finals, and then win the whole thing. We have a lot more practice and form even greater cohesion with each other now.
“We hope to get a good seed for the end-of-year finals and push to compete internationally. It may seem far-fetched as of now, but it’s clear that the opportunity is gradually getting closer and will only keep getting closer given we keep working hard for the rest of the year.”
He also underlined the difference between his roster and the rest that are looking to improve with Stage 2 now underway. While the players comradery inside and outside the game is positive, their flexibility as teammates is really helping the roster evolve.
“I think the biggest difference between our roster and other rosters in the region is that we have really good cohesion and get along really well in and out of game.
“Everyone on the roster is a top tier player at their specific role and in general. However, everyone is also willing to change roles and be flexible depending on what’s needed, a trait that I think is lacking a bit within the region.”
Norsin also highlighted the kind of role that Pecks and Lakers currently employ within the squad, with their flexibility giving Mindfreak a number of variations in which they can approach a game.
He stressed that players in the region should leave aside their egos, stop playing for mere stats and look to grow within a roster.
On an individual level, Norsin stated that if anything, he was extremely keen to see how his future pans out.
“Despite my issues [in VOT], the whole team was constantly laughing and enjoying ourselves. I also feel like I played pretty well, didn’t let my tilt take over me and that we all had the mental fortitude to keep compact as a team,” he said.
With Stage 2 of the Valorant Oceania Tour now underway, and Mindfreak in the first closed qualifier, they are gearing up for what will once again be a gruelling series of matches.
If Norsin’s words are anything to go by however, he seems unfazed, optimistic and excited to showcase his roster’s strength to a region that truly backs them to make it to the very top.