FaZe Clan became the latest esports organization to join the Valorant Champions Tour Game Changers scene with their signing of the Hamboigas squad for the 2023 season. The new lineup consists of panini, Maddie, refinnej, Emy, and di^, the latter of which will be playing as the IGL.
For di^ specifically, her joining FaZe ushered a new chapter in her professional career which spans nearly a decade, the majority of which happened in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. She started her professional career in 2013 as a member of UBINITED before getting signed to represent Counter Logic Gaming and its new Red branch.
As the pioneering member of CLG Red, di^ would go on to build an impressive career by winning events like Electronic Sports World Cup 2015 Women, Copenhagen Games 2019 - Female, World Electronic Sports Games 2018 Female, and more.
As the years passed, di^ remained at the top of her game. Even when the next wave of talent was entering the pro scene with the introduction of ESL Impact, di^ stuck around long enough to be present in the Season 1 finals in Dallas, Texas in 2022 and the Valencia standalone event later that year.
However, with the COVID-19 pandemic restricting play to online-only events and a personal loss of motivation gradually diminishing her competitive edge, di^ decided to retire from CS and simultaneously announce her switch to Valorant, thus welcoming a new challenge and opening a new chapter in her already stellar career. As the IGL of FaZe’s GC squad, di^ looks to lead her team to glory in the same way she helped CLG Red win women’s CS events during its heyday.
In the first part of BLIX.GG’s two-part interview with di^, she talks about her transition to Valorant from CS and her first steps into the competitive Valorant scene. You'll find the second part of the interview here.
Switching from CS to Valorant
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: I remember in an interview the team did with Refinery29, your teammate Emy talked about how you basically asked her if she was down to play Valorant. What led to you making that switch from CS, a game you played for your entire life, to Valorant?
Diane "di^" Tran: I felt we accomplished a lot in Counter-Strike. For my entire career, it's always been really good with the team from CLG's standpoint and for me, I really wanted to start a new chapter with Valorant because I saw how big the female scene was and I wanted to be a part of this. As much as I love CS, the population was so small and I saw how amazing it was to see Valorant go from CoD girls, Fortnite girls, and Overwatch girls come into one game.
I wanted to start a new leaf and try a different game and I figured Emy might've wanted to come with me because she thought about Valorant for a while but we didn't make the official switch. Jen made the official switch before we did and then we talked to her about what if we made a squad and tried to compete over here because I think we accomplished so much in CS that I think we wanted to do in a different game.
BLIX: Did that decision happen on a whim or was it a gradual thing (i.e. something that took a long time to build up)?
di^: I think it was a gradual thing because, even with COVID eyes, we still kept to CS. We were so used to going to so many tournaments and flying everywhere for CS that the love of CS for me kind of died down. For me, it gradually started shifting and I really wanted to try something fresh. It was months. This was even after ESL announced the whole Impact League and they have way more tournaments now in CS for females, which is awesome, but I really wanted to try Valorant. It didn't come out of nowhere. I was gradually thinking of wanting to shift over.
“As to why I left CLG I'm stepping away from competitive CS:GO. I felt like the competitive scene in cs wasn't for me anymore. Ever since covid had hit from the amazing year we had in 2019 it definitely didn't feel the same anymore, competition-wise.”
-di^ in her Twitlonger announcing her switch to Valorant
BLIX: You competed in the Season 1 Impact Legue Finals and the Valencia event so I guess you already had that thought of switching in your mind even after the Impact League was already underway?
di^: I did. I told my coach and my teammate Goosebreeder (who's been my teammate for years), "Listen, I'm going to be here and it's not like I'm not going to try. I will try my damnedest in CS still with these tournaments because I'm still competitive at heart no matter what. I'm always going to give it my all." It was in the back of my mind, but I still wanted to switch over even though I was still playing CS, I still wanted to leave a little note behind for myself in CS. Although we didn't do that well, for me, I feel like I accomplished enough.
BLIX: Did you, at any point, feel overwhelmed with trying to learn every single agent and its attributes in Valorant since starting out?
di^: Oh yeah. It's been extremely difficult. There's still some things I'm still learning to this day. It's not even the big things. It's always the smallest things that can change the whole round out and learning day-by-day of what we can and can't do with different comps and everything. Honestly, props to Valorant because I took this game very lightly when I switched over because I felt aiming in this game isn't as hard as Counter Strike, but with all the different abilities, it is definitely what makes it extremely difficult to play.
BLIX: Talking about how you're still in the learning process of getting used to the game, how long do you think it would take for you to feel fully accommodated to playing the game?
di^: I want to say it's still going to always be a learning process for me. Because of how different metas change and how fast they change in this game, it's always a learning process no matter what. But I do think, at this time, my team is starting to get to that point where I'm pretty confident how we play right now. When we first started, obviously, it's going to be hard to get our groove going, but as of late with practice, I'm feeling more and more confident with everything.
BLIX: I know that some people, while they try to understand more about the deeper intricacies of Valorant, they observe other players and to know what it is they need to do in a given situation. Has there been anyone that you've been taking an eye on when it comes to learning Valorant?
di^: I like to say I don't necessarily watch a player, but I mostly like watching teams and one of my favorite teams to watch is definitely NRG… like Pujan (FNS), I really like his calling styles. I really like how he goes into games with a game plan because they know the teams that they're playing have a specific playstyle or comp. I feel he's really good at abusing that. I feel like his game plans prior to going into Bo3s or Bo5s, it just seems there's a good story that he's calling.
Playing as Hamboigas
Credit: FaZe Clan
BLIX: As far as your career is concerned, you started off playing with Hamboigas which preluded the roster’s eventual signing with FaZe. For you specifically, you primarily played in initiator and controller agents throughout this past year and a half. How have you adjusted within playing those two particular positions?
di^: It's very rewarding to play these characters a lot of times because I do play a lot of flash initiators so I do like setting my team up a lot. I generally call in play flex-initiator or second controller because I feel like it's a lot easier to also be within the pack of calling. I can see a lot of things happening the majority of the time. I think it's a very hard role but it's also very rewarding because if something goes right, then you know you did your job.
BLIX: That Hamboigas team, besides featuring familiar Valorant players like panini and Maddiesun, consisted of past CS teammates like Emy, refinnej, and cath. When it came to forming that Hamboigas team, why did you decide to stick with your former teammates?
di^: With CS, it comes with a lot of basic fundamentals. For example, a lot of things that myself, Jen, and Emy would know already from CS can be applied in Valorant already, from knowledge about playing with each other for so many years. I feel finding teammates that have that same mindset and chemistry with each other is extremely difficult to already gain from just making a team randomly, right? For me, it was really easy to be like, "we played with Jen for years. It'd be so simple to just make a squad with her and have that CS background knowledge," and for me, that's implemented into Valorant which makes it even easier.
The thing is, at the end of the day, there's basic fundamentals that you have to teach other people that are playing Valorant that didn't play CS. So for me, that's what made it so much easier to play with Jen and form a team with her. We trust Jen enough to ask her, "We're going to the scene and we don't really know anybody. Do you have anybody in mind?" She told us about panini and Maddie and that's kind of how it went.
BLIX: You've already had that familiarity with Emy and refinnej from your CS but how has it been trying to synergize with Maddie and panini?
di^: I think it's really easy because panini and Maddie are super chill. They have really chill personalities. They clash with us really well. I feel like our chemistry is pretty much on the same page, majority of the time. They're really both really good teammates, in my opinion, and I'm super glad that we found them. Like I said, it's really hard to find people that you mesh really well with and I think for them, it was really easy from the start.
BLIX: What is the communications dynamic like within the team? Who's the most vocal? Who's the less vocal? Who's in between that sort of a facet?
di^: I would have to say panini is one of our more vocal person players and Emy is as well. She also plays as our duelist but she's a very vocal human in general. She's like a crackhead so she definitely talks a lot. Maddie is like in between. Sometimes she'll not even have to need to say anything, to be honest, because a lot of times if we're already calling it, she doesn't really need to do it. Jen is definitely one of my more quiet players but she's definitely vocal when she needs to be.
BLIX: At this moment in time, how would you describe the team's identity at its current state?
di^: I'd like to say we're a pretty aggressive team but we're also trying to be more disciplined because a lot of us were CS players and previously used to being able to punish a lot more in terms of how we were playing so aggressive, but with this game, when you're heating up and you are going way off, the round can completely 180 and you can end up losing because of how much you heated up. For us, I think it's all about discipline right now and rolling back a little bit. If anything, it doesn't hurt that we're aggressive because it shows that we're not scared to play like that. It just that we need to find a balance in between.
BLIX: This is a two-part question: what do you think is the most annoying ability to face off against and which agent do you think is the most annoying to play against?
di^: Thank God for Chamber meta being gone because that's out of the question now. For me, the most annoying ability would probably be the Gekko flash. The fact that you can't dodge it and you have to shoot it--if there's a good Gekko player who can rev up their flash behind the wall, which gives it time where you can't even destroy it, and the second it pops behind the wall you're instantly blind, for me, I feel that's super annoying.
BLIX: In trying to lead a team within this game, how is that different from during your days in CS in addition to being an IGL?
di^: I don't think it's any different because, with the IGL role, if you take on that leadership role and take on that mom role, your teammates look to you to be the most vocal person on the team. For any game, I feel it's not ever any different. If anything, you have to call with confidence, so if you sound like you're confident, your team is going to feel confident.