As the VALORANT Champions Tour approaches its third stage, its final stage for the 2021 season before Champions, the pressure is on for the top-tier teams to make a final push. In North America, it’s a crowded scene at the top with Sentinels, Version1, 100 Thieves, FaZe Clan, Cloud9, and Team Envy, just to name a few. Only two teams from NA will advance directly to Champions at the end of the year, with eight more being forced to fight in the last chance qualifier for just one final spot.
For Renegades, they’re on the outside looking in right now with two qualifier exits to their name during the first two stages. But since adding coach Evan “Warbirds” Olzem in late March, the team has gone on a confidence-boosting run in the second tier of NA VALORANT with several NSG Summer open event wins. With this mix of results, coach Warbirds took notice of a title applied to the team: the tier-one gatekeeper.
“I remember seeing a bunch of comments about how we were ‘the tier one gatekeeper,’” he told . “So if you wanted to get to tier-one, you had to beat us, and we were really happy with that. I like the thought of people having to go through us to get to tier one. It makes us feel like the villains of these smaller tournaments. But at the end of the day, we still want to compete at the highest level and do some damage in tier one.”
A former collegiate League of Legends coach, Warbirds dipped his toes into CS:GO analysis work for Renegades’ Australian roster before getting a chance to jump into VALORANT. While he’s relatively new to the game and the head coaching role, Renegades’ VALORANT team isn’t new to hovering around the top tier of North America. The team reached First Strike in late 2020 and, as previously mentioned, has had strong performances against tier-two teams, becoming the villainous benchmark dividing tier-one and tier-two teams.
But Warbirds noticed the team’s play was getting “a little stale” and they recently decided to make a move. They parted ways with Chuck “CP2” Proud and are now trialing a player who should be revealed at the Pittsburgh Knights Monthly Gauntlet in June. While coach Warbirds took care to keep the information to himself, he did say that the trial player doesn’t come from a controller background (perhaps a former duelist) but is transitioning to the vacant role. And the coach is high on what the new player provides.
“CP2 was definitely a very selfless player when it comes to agents played,” Warbirds said. “He’s a versatile player, so filling that hole he left was a very difficult challenge. Our trial [player] right now came from a background that wasn’t controller but wanted to pick up that role. He’s extremely vocal and he also frags a lot. He felt like his [previous] role had a certain level of pressure and he wanted to see what he could do in another role.”
Renegades will look to use the upcoming tier-two events to prepare for the third stage of the VCT, where another crack at tier-one competition awaits. While they’re not expecting the trial to launch them up to the very top of North America, they still have higher expectations set for themselves. Being happy with being the tier-one benchmark is one thing, but they haven’t been satisfied with their VCT showings. Despite the differences in resources between them and some of the top teams, Renegades want to firmly establish themselves inside the upper tier rather than remaining in the doorway.
“We don’t have the budget of a team like Sentinels or 100 Thieves, but we still want to be able to compete with them,” Warbirds said. “We’ve been top 15 at least since I joined, so we’re just maintaining that while trying to compete with these massive tier-one orgs.”