The European VALORANT scene still doesn’t have as many established names as its North American counterpart. However, this doesn’t stop it from having absolute powerhouse rosters waiting for organizations to pick them up. One of those is undoubtedly bonk, who impressed event after event, placing 2nd in all of LVL VALORANT Clash 2, Mandatory.GG Cup, and Absolute Masters.
THESPIKE.GG got the opportunity to sit down with Yacine “Yacine” Laghmari to ask him about his transition from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to VALORANT, his surprising climb on the ranked ladder with no comms and how it affected his playstyle positively, his thoughts on the importance of teams sticking together for long periods of time, and the most interesting VALORANT esports scene outside of Europe and North America.
Answers edited after the interview for grammar and clarity.
What was the thing that caught your eye in VALORANT and made you decide it was a title you wanted to play professionally?
I’m a huge MOBA fan. Like, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive became my “main” game due to the fact that my stream loved the game so much. I’ve actually always loved Heroes of Newerth so much more than CS:GO, and I even found League of Legends to be more enjoyable than CS:GO ever was (even though I only played League of Legends for a couple of months). So when Riot announced “Project A” back in February, I immediately saw the combination between FPS and MOBA and fell in love. I’ve literally played 12hrs/day since the closed beta every day.
It’s just the perfect game for me. When playing the game I used to solo-queue without communication in the early days, because I felt it made me get closer to the actual game. Back then, when Radiant was called VALORANT, it was harder to get the highest rank. However, I still managed to become one of the first people to get there, soloq without comms also.
It was around this time, when I found out how hard it was for people to climb the rank even with 5-stacks, then I realized that I’m obviously doing something right. I then got introduced to Ninjas in Pyjamas as a stand-in and just kept destroying people even in officials and scrims, the same way I would in ranked. I mean, there’s this vibe between me and the game. I just get it. I know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. So it kind of felt natural to pursue a professional career.
Do you think it is something that can help players improve their game and map awareness without having the need to be told where everyone is? I feel like it is an undercover training technique if I can call it that, especially at such high ranks.
YES! I wholeheartedly believe that turning off your communication forces you to use the incredible radar Riot Games implemented into VALORANT more often. And even the agents speak for themselves in most situations. I try telling my teammates this a lot, finish your scenario. Sometimes when someone calls out “IT IS A!!!” in a panic, you tend to over-rotate even if it’s only two A and you know at least two are B, you leave when you really don’t believe you should and often stress into the retake because your teammate sounds frightened.
Removing the communication will allow you to play your role to the fullest, in a more calm way. You will start to feel the timings and when to leave your position, when to smoke, throw a reveal arrow or just satchel in. I truly believe there is so much to gain from playing like a MOBA player in League without communication, seeing as you have all the tools necessary within the game.
There is one thing you really need to be able to do, however, and that is to be self critique. Always, and I mean ALWAYS! try to improve yourself instead of complaining on your team. There is always something you could’ve done better. Take this from someone who’s watched over 100 demos of myself analyzing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I record myself playing ranked, then watch it afterwards, that’s how I get demos of myself.
How much do you think it helps coming from a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive background? Do you believe former CS:GO players have an advantage over PUBG and Overwatch players for example coming into VALORANT? Especially the latter since they were used to their abilities being core points of their gameplay.
I can’t really tell you who’s going to have the advantage transferring from what game. I mean, Dafran came from Overwatch and destroyed everyone in the early stages of the game, Malkolm “bonkar” Rench came from Paladins, Pontus “Zyppan” Eek and Dylan “hoppY” Aube were Fortnite players, and myself is a CS:GO player, who feels that everything I know about this game ability wise came from my MOBA days.
I feel that we’ve unlocked 7% of the true potential of this game. There is still so much more to be unlocked and so much more to learn. For example, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom has ten times the better aim than I have. In CS:GO he would destroy me in FPL.
However, in this game, due to the fact that the outplay potential is so much bigger than in CS, I destroy him (still love Adil, no hate here). What I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe that you need any CS fundamentals to become good in this game. If you’re a smart MOBA player I think you’ll go further in this game than if you’re crisp CS:GO aimer.
‘Ninjas in Pyjamas did not want to sign me,’ reveals Yacine, © fragbite.se
At first you were playing as stand-in for Ninjas in Pyjamas before deciding to form Bonk with bonkar, Sayf, ziz, and xajdish. What made you decide to create your own team together?
Well, Ninjas in Pyjamas did not want to sign me. The reasons behind this are many, I’ve been told. At first, it had to do with my skill. I had to prove myself, and prove myself I did. I performed exceptionally for four straight tournaments, yet did not get an offer. It then became a matter of money. At the time I was still streaming and wanted a little higher salary because of my brand “yzn” and because I thought I would become their face out for the VALORANT team.
However, that request immediately got turned down and I ended up settling for the player salary. It then became a matter of future, would I still be good today, skill wise, and would I still be a good team player personally wise?
It honestly got to a point where one of the people in NiP said “I have a bad gut feeling about Yacine”, meaning he decided to not keep me based on his intuition, which is fine, honestly. I, myself, am a spiritual person and often base my actions on my intuition. Honestly, I just felt that NiP never wanted me to be involved from the start. There were too many different reasonings as of why they should not sign me. Even when my whole team loved me, including the coach and we got to playoffs in the tournaments we played, it seemed to me as if I had done something personally to someone in NiP during my early years of being a streamer, but I really do not know.
It basically got to a point where bonkar had to stand up for me to the management, which then cost him his own contract, something no one has ever done for me, and then the team kind of split up. Bonkar and I then had to rebuild everything and found ziz and Sayf. We taught them everything we knew about the game and practiced the entire Summer trying to become the best. And we then became one of the absolutely best teams out there, before Sayf decided to leave.
We’re currently in a rebuilding phase right now, thankfully this time we’re not starting from 0, which we kind of had to do after NiP, and thankfully, there’s no tournaments coming soon so we also have time on our side this time
Contrary to your constant advocacy for long-term development, “melonhead” and Saif “Sayf” Jibraeel eventually left bonk. Any reasons why they decided to leave? Do you still believe squads who stick together for longer periods of time can outplay star-studded teams just because they are more used to each other’s playstyles and better coordination over time?
I think playing for the long run is the only way to actually becoming the Astralis in VALORANT. We did play with melonhead, a friend of mine that I brought in. However, we came to the conclusion that he did not have what it took in that time to become the best with us and swapped him out for Xajdish (Aron) who we later decided to bench in order to try out draken. Sayf leaving came as a shocker to everyone, I think.
He got poached by a “top” organization as an individual and decided that his future would look brighter going in that direction. I would also like to add that ziz got the same offer, but decided to stick around instead. I really don’t blame Sayf for leaving, yet I don’t agree that it was the best choice, but at the same time, what do I know?
We often speak inside the team about ESL Pro League being in season 12, League of Legends is also in season 10, while we, in VALORANT, are not even halfway through Season 1. It’s important to remember that if you really want to be around for a while, you’re probably better off sticking to one team trying to build an empire rather than buying a small apartment and then moving around every 2 or 3 months.
What do you want to see from Riot Games in terms of VALORANT competitions now that Ignition Series tournaments are officially over?
I fully trust and have confidence in Riot Games knowing what’s going to be the best for this game. The only thing I don’t want to happen is the VALORANT professional scene becoming what CS:GO was in terms of a closed-top30-invite-only environment, where the same teams and players compete for years and years even if they turn bad. I’ve told my own team that if the day comes where I stop performing, stop playing with me. For my own sake and your own.
Which region do you think will most likely rise to compete with Europe and North America next?
I really like that you asked this question. I’ve been watching as much VALORANT as I possibly could, besides playing. And must say that the Japanese scene is something to look out for.
I think Brazilians have amazing talent in the form of mechanics, but I do believe that ability wise, the Koreans and Japanese have something really good going for them. Worlds are going to be an insane event to witness and play.
The Japanese Mildom Masters League has given us some intense matches so I understand your love for the scene.
100%, the way some of the Japanese teams play Split is something beautiful to watch.
There are several regions that impressed us so far with their VALORANT competitive scene, which one would you put right after NA and EU in your opinion?
Tough question. I really want to see Vision Strikers competing against us and NA, so I’m gonna say Korea!
‘I think I have the potential to be one of the greatest,’ says Yacine, © fragbite.se / André ‘rich’ Åkerblom
Do you think there is a noticeable difference between the North American and European playing styles and even other regions since we mentioned Brazil, Korea, and Japan?
The only thing I know for sure, and honestly I don’t even know this (laughs) is the fact that NA gets and needs a lot of map control for free in order for them to succeed with their rounds.
However, in Europe, we contest every bit of map control all the time. So it’s going to be really interesting seeing how NA play mid round/midgame against European teams and if they can handle the aggression we Europeans put out early in the rounds.
Who do you think is currently the best player in NA and the best player in EU and why?
I think that it’s way too early to say. There’s so much hidden talent. Just last night I played an opponent that outsmarted, outaimed and outshined me the entire game. Give that player a couple of weeks in a professional environment and maybe that’s your new number #1 in the VALORANT world. I think we’ll have to wait until Worlds to find out!
Which players do you see currently performing the best in NA and EU respectively?
Then it is safe to say it is yourself?
(laughs) I think I have the potential to be one of the greatest. I still have a couple of things to sort out regarding my gameplay, but it’s a marathon, not a race. We just need to keep grinding!
I think Draken is one hell of a player with one hell of a personality. He is very mature, calm, reasonable, and brings a lot of good ideas to the table. His experience will most definitely help us in a very positive way and he is willing to adapt, learn and relearn anything that is the best for the team.
Any specific players you have shortlisted to join Bonk as your fifth and final member?
We have a beast, you will just have to wait and see. Jokes aside, we are trying out a really good guy at the moment. We are trying to fit him within the team, and once he does, everything is going to be better than before I hope!
Considering Bonk is starting to become a staple name for Swedish VALORANT players, would you want to eventually get picked up together as a team or continue representing yourselves?
AS. A. TEAM! We have so much potential becoming the absolute best of the best, we just gotta stick together and grind it out!