Discussions about VALORANT’s North American pro scene often revolve around star-studded squads, like Sentinels, TSM, and 100 Thieves. But Team Envy’s consistent performance over the last couple of weeks helped them rise through the qualifiers and land the first seed in December’s First Strike main event.
While some may think of them as underdogs, Envy’s Jake “kaboose” McDonald and Austin “crashies” Roberts argue they’re just “very underrated.”
Envy made a big roster move in September, picking up former T1 pros crashies and Victor “food” Wong. Like many other teams, Envy was forced to make a new lineup work quickly—especially with the biggest VALORANT event to date just around the corner. But where other squads may have faltered, Envy swiftly found their stride with a first-place finish at the Nerd Street Gamers Closed Qualifier earlier this month.
Despite their recent accolades, however, the team still feels they’re not given the credit they deserve.
“I don’t think we’re ever underdogs, we’re just very underrated,” kaboose told . “I think people underrate us extremely because we don’t have a big streamer. I read comments on most websites and people don’t give us the credit we deserve. When we get a big win they say it’s because the other team is playing bad.”
While not having a big-star carry may lead the public to underestimate Envy, crashies celebrates his team’s ability to show up when it matters.
“As a team, we can all pop off at any time,” crashies said. “I feel that’s why we’re good as a team, we mesh well together. You shouldn’t need that one star, like [Cloud9’s Tyson “TenZ” Ngo], going off in your team.”
And he’s right.
One of Envy’s greatest strengths is that you can point to any game and see a different player at the top of the scoreboard. If one player is having an off-game, another rises to the occasion. In Envy’s sweep over 100 Thieves during the NSG Closed Qualifier grand finals, for example, kaboose had the highest average damage per round (ADR) in the first match. Food topped the list in the second map, while crashies had the most frags in the third.
Even though the players chalk up their success to “putting in a lot more work than the other teams,” the recent roster change seems to have made Envy complete. Crashies praises the team’s “structure,” with FPS vet Pujan “FNS” Mehta leading and shotcalling their matches. And kaboose believes Envy’s flexibility and wide agent pool allows them to “play more loose.”
The result? A first-seed berth at the First Strike main event, taking out Complexity, T1, Gen.G, Renegades, Dignitas, and 100 Thieves across both NSG qualifiers. But without a victory against some of the scene’s biggest squads, there still may be an asterisk next to Envy’s name going into the final event.
And the two pros would agree “that’s fair.”
The team fell to Cloud9 Blue in the open qualifier finals, 2-1. In the closed qualifier, they were relegated to the lower bracket after being swept by Sentinels. They also have yet to match up against TSM on the main stage.
While kaboose and crashies say they’re successful when scrimming against TSM or C9, both players identified Sentinels as their biggest threat.
“I think they’re really unpredictable and they know how to adapt really well,” crashies said. “When you’re beating them or they’ve seen something they’ve never seen before, they know how to adapt really well.”
But crashies believes a matchup against Sentinels will come down to “who’s hitting their shots.”
The First Strike final event is only a couple of weeks away, with Envy, Sentinels, 100 Thieves, and Renegades already locked in to compete for a $100,000 prize pool. The competition will be fierce among the eight teams that qualify.
And for Envy, confidence is at an all-time high.
“Confident is an understatement,” kaboose said. “I’m very confident in these match ups coming up.”