Ghost Aproto: “We are showing teams that we are better than what they thought so we'll keep on doing that.”

Pedro Romero
category_image Valorant
Reading time  ~23  mins

Around the time professional Valorant player Aproto announced his departure from Luminosity Gaming, he underwent at considerable setback. On top of shouldering the fact that he was teamless for the first time since the summer of 2020, he felt a considerable regression in his gameplay in a way he never experienced beforehand.

All of a sudden, the customary gusto that accompanied his playstyle had vanished and what was displayed in the meantime left much more to be desired. A sense of stagnation filled his psyche which was only exacerbated folowing his departure from LG as he felt there was not much left to grow both internally and externally. As such, the possibility of forgoing the North American VCT Challengers 2 season waas a realisitic possibility for the 22-year-old.

However, when Ghost Gaming came calling in April, Aproto's wellbeing took another turn--this time for the better. Despite joining as a final addition for the team's bid towards qualifying for the VCT, Aproto managed to reset and recover his mentality which had previously worked against him in months past.

Needless to say, Aproto's renewed state allowed him to manufacture success with the rest of Ghost as he helped them secure qualification to the VCT by winning five consecutive Bo3s in a region known as one of the toughest to succeed throughout the world.

Not only that, Ghost's blistering momentum from qualifying continued well into the group stage as they went on to seal a spot in the playoffs, putting them in position for qualifying towards Masters: Copenhagen, the VCT's second international tournament of the year. With a good team, a different environment, and a refined wellbeing propping him forward, Aproto has return to being on top of his game

Aproto sat down with BLIX.GG to discuss how he mentally reset following his departure from LG, joining Ghost Gaming, content creation, the newest franchising-esque for the VCT in 2023, and much more.

Playing in VCT Challangers 2

Pedro Romero: As of now you are standing within the top half of your group in VCT NA Challengers 2. You have already secured a spot in the playoffs, so to start off, I want to ask how are you feeling right now regarding the team's current position?

Aproto: I'm feeling really confident. I'd say that, on a better day, I think we could have beaten XSET instead of losing. I believe if we won the pistol rounds on the first map, we would have won and we would have taken it to the third map and won there. But then again, that's just my personal thoughts on that. Overall though, we're feeling great. We beat TSM, The Guard, and NRG and I feel really confident going into the last match in groups against 100 Thieves.

Coming into the start of Challengers 2, Ghost was one of the teams who qualified through the closed qualifiers, and from there, they entered this group which was relatively stacked if I can say so. This included XSET, reigning NA champions The Guard, TSM who have reemerged from the doldrums of the scene, 100 Thieves, who reloaded their roster and gained considerable attention on that front, and NRG. How would you describe the team's expectations when it comes to playing against this crop of teams in the group stage? And how has that been subverted as the games were played?

I would say, from the very start, we were very confident in ourselves and every time we won, it just made us even more confident and reassured us that we were continuing to put in the time and we are better than these teams.

In a way, did it surprise you to see this team do so well in this group stage and actually fight for first place at this point of the season?

I don't really think it surprised us because we knew our strengths and our potential. I could see how most of the other teams thought us as one of the teams that didn't make playoffs, but we proved them all wrong. To us, that was normal and I think we're going to keep on doing that. We are showing teams that we are better than what they thought so we'll keep on doing that.

How has that altered the the general perception of Ghost Gaming from the start of this season until now? Given the teams that guys were facing, it would be fair to say that most expected you guys to roam within the mid to lower table of the standings.

People thought we weren't going to do well. They expected TG, NRG, and 100T to be the teams that qualified, I believe. Again, I think people are starting to realize that we are much better than they thought we were originally and I still think there's a lot of people doubting us, so I'm excited to prove them all wrong.

There's been plenty of discussion regarding how this team has been able to perform so well according to past analyses. As a matter of fact, Ghost Gaming actually has one of the best defenses in the entire region. How was this team able to play so well with each other despite forming a short time ago ahead of open qualifiers?

We've been putting in the time. We practice nearly every single day. For the very first week of groups, I think we did six days--we might have even done seven, to be honest. We've been putting in the work and it's showing and when we lose, we take it in stride. We've got a really good coaching staff and analyst in Kaplan (Adam Kaplan) and Luke, who you might know as Gunter on Twitter. They both do an insanely good job of prepping us for matches. I think overall, we are matched players. We show up when it comes to matches and we put in the time to show up for matches. I think right now it's been five to six days a week for the most part.

Rising out of a low point

And clearly the results have been showing through this team and also for yourself. Sometime after Ghost secured their ticket qualification for the VCT, I remember you posted on Twitter mentioning the team, in materializing itself and forming a cohesive unit, bringing you out of your "low point" after your departure from Luminosity Gaming, so I'd like to delve into that aspect if you don't mind me asking. Since leaving LG at the start of the of the year until now, how do you reflect on that time?

I think my departure from LG was good for the org and good also for Ghost since the latter is playing so well on VCT LG is playing well. I think my removal from the team benefited both sides. I don't have any malice towards any of the guys on LG. I love them all and I hope they do well. After that, I don't know. I would say of my time towards the end of LG, I wasn't playing anywhere near my level. I was uncomfortable and I think my time on the team came to a natural close.

By joining Ghost, I started playing a new role. I'm a controller now so I had to learn how to play other agents a bit more and I would say it developed my playstyle a bit better and it made me change the way I play the game, which was nice. It was a nice fresh breath of fresh air for me. In that time that I had off, I was chilling a bit. I took the time to get into a good mental space, I hung out with my friends, and I relaxed a bit, you know? I came back when I knew I was ready and I'm glad Ghost gave me a shot and I'm glad we're proving to everybody that we're here to win.

It's interesting that you were talking about this sense of stagnation in-game. What do you think was the cause of that issue which then led to you feeling you're not doing well in your performance?

I think it's definitely partially my fault. I wasn't really adapting my playstyle as well as I could have been and my mental state wasn't the best towards the end of LG. I would definitely say that it was good overall for me to be benched from LG. I think it gave me a bit more of a perspective on the game and allowed me to expand and playing new roles. I also think right now I mesh really well with the rest of the Ghost's team. My personality fits well into their team which is good and I feel extremely comfortable on this roster. I feel like I can play my own playstyle and also do so with a new team like a fresh experience. It just feels good overall.

Do you think these recent changes in meta and its agents, what with the noticeable nerfs to Astra and whatnot, has contributed to your struggles in the game?

No, I don't think so. I think it was just a mix of me being in a bad mental state with the game. I just think sometimes, as a player, you come to a natural close with your team and if I was with this current iteration of Ghost back in the old meta, I think we would have been playing really well considering Astra wasn't, as you said, nerfed and I like playing Astra a lot also. I would have been able to play on the unnerfed agent.

How do you view the current state of the controller position because, as you said before, you switch to that role for this team in this season?

I still think controllers probably have some of the least impact as a class. Their most important thing is, for the most part, smokes because you need to cut off vision from teams, you need to use it in defaults and all that and I think you've got certain agent types, right? I think initiators are the strongest characters in this game and every time they come out, it becomes that useful. KAY/O is really good and Sova has been good since beta. Fade, the newest one, is incredibly good on certain maps and I would say controllers are probably the least strongest individually, but that is of course their role their support role. I hope that the next agent is another controller. I would like that very much. I think the current controllers we have now are all very similar in strength within each other. I would the worst one is probably Brimstone. I still think Astra is very viable and Omen is still very good.

Directing the conversation back towards yourself, it eventually came to the point where you finally recovered from your adversity both mentally and also in-game. Can you pinpoint like exactly the point in time in which you started to have a different mindset towards yourself in the game and also out of the game that led to your reemergence?

It was definitely when I started to pick up different roles and I was trying out for other teams. I was playing well and it was a breath of fresh air. It was like a change and sometimes change is good. It helps out and I think the controller agent plays very well to my style and I would say that trying it out when I was trialing with Ghost was definitely around the time I really started to see my gameplay come back.

Being a content creator

I also noticed how, in between your departure from LG and you joining Ghost, you've been doing plenty of streaming and content creation such as regularly posting videos on your YouTube channel. How did entering into that streaming and content creation space help you build yourself back up into the player that you are now?

I would say it kept me playing the game because I wanted to make sure I was posting videos and stuff like that, but I wouldn't say it had the biggest impact. I do YouTube because it's another possible avenue for revenue and it's good for you marketability wise. The same goes with streaming. I do enjoy streaming though which is one reason why I do what I do. You want to grow your brand as a player and these are all ways you can do it through YouTube, Twitch, and Tik Tok and I strongly urge any any players right now who stream to start posting on alternative forms of media. Even if it's something as small as a clip, it can help you grow. One clip going off can get you more followers on Twitter and can build your brand individually and that can only help you in the long run.

It's sort of different to how players have advertised themselves in years past in different many different other esports titles. Previously, they would basically only be shown through competitions and other highlight videos from various platforms, but nowadays, we're seeing a ton of more players building an audience for themselves especially in Valorant. How do you make of this shift into content creation as a content creator yourself?

I think it definitely helps when you play the game competitively and you do well on the pro scene. Whether you're on a strong team, you being strong individually, or even both, I think it definitely helps your brand and gives you more viewers on your other platforms. That is how a lot of these guys grew their streams so quickly. You have people like ShahZaM, Wardell, and Subroza, right? They're all great players, but they also started streaming and playing on teams right at the very start of this game. They were like the first influx of really good players and they were able to grow their platforms based off of that.I just think that content creation is not that it's an easy thing to do, but it's something that every pro should do.

Valorant has been able to get so popular with the contribution of content creation through its players. What makes Valorant stand out compared to other esports titles in that it became so popular so quickly in such a short amount of time?

I think it's very similar to obviously a game like Counter Strike but it has abilities and there's people who, like me, enjoy competitive games and it was a nice spin on a game that I enjoyed playing for many years of my life through high school and all that. And also, it's a great game. Valorant is a great game in itself and I think one thing that Riot is doing extremely well is they are allowing content creators to help them grow their game. Whenever they have a big tournament, they would let people stream some of its matches. You've had the Tarik streaming matches which is great for viewership. Overall, Riot has done a good job with supporting the content creators scene and using it to help grow their game.

Personal evolution in Valorant

As most people know, you entered Valorant scene after playing in CS:GO, much like how other players that you mentioned did. You have been a part of the Valorant scene since its start back in the summer of 2020. Given that you've had a front row seat into the development of Valorant's competitive scene, how have you seen its evolution from being played in third-party events until now?

I think it's only been positive that the game gets updated very frequently. The meta is constantly shifting and changing. You can tell Riot cares about its game and wants to constantly put updates out for it. From the very start of the game, you had some characters that were extremely broken, right? Raze could throw two grenades (or satchels) where it dealt crazy damage. She was one of the best agents during the beta and Riot updated, buffed, nerfed, and fix characters. And I think it's just great to see from what the game was two years ago to what it is now. It's a very big difference and I'm excited to see where it's going to be like two years later. I think it will just continue continually have more agents, new maps and this franchising coming up too which is going to be unique for the game. I'm very happy with the route things are going for the most part.

How have you viewed your own evolution as a player in Valorant compared to your evolution as a player in CSGO?

I would say I definitely grew the most from CS:GO because it was the game I first started playing competitively and wanted to go pro in. I initially started that game as more of an entry role and towards the end of my time, I became more of a support player which I think carried over to this game where I chose to play more supportive roles like sentinel and controller because it fit my current play style. I think I could do the other roles as well but it's what I'm comfortable on right now, and as more characters get released, I'm excited to see where the next evolution takes me.

If you could have one word to describe your evolution in Valorant, what word would you use?

I don't really know.

It's kind of a big question to answer, I know.

It's all good. I'm trying to think but--I don't really know if I could sum it up with one word.

How about about two words or three?

I would say, overall, it's "a positive evolution". I like the way I'm headed and I'm excited to see where I go.

On franchising in VCT for 2023

One other thing that I'd like to touch upon is the ongoing discussion regarding the upcoming VCT season in 2023. There's been a lot of talk about this new format concerning regional leagues and international leagues, but focusing on the latter, one of the main things Riot will implement is a franchising-esque "long-term partnership model" that allows a select number of teams to enter, receive financial support, and compete for events such as Masters and Champions. You have already given your take about this new model for next season, saying how it worries you that we might see more teams announce they might not pursue their ventures in Valorant for the future. How do you think this new franchising system will affect this region in due time once it's implemented?

I think it's too early to tell. I still don't know if anything set in stone, I don't think anybody knows, which is the thing. I do believe from what the rumors are being said that the amount of teams set for NA, South America, and Brazil, which are 10 teams total for all three regions, is very, very low. I don't think it's enough spots to make up for three regions. Aside from that, I have really nothing else to say about it. In due time, we'll get more information from Riot and I'm sure they'll make good decisions regarding the matter.

One more thing to mention is how there have been an uproar from fans about how they think the move will disrupt everything below the Tier-2 scene, so what do you think about about this notion?

I think the reason why there's and uproar, and why they believe that it would hurt the Tier-2 scene is because of how few spots there are in franchising, especially with three regions combining into one, which I think is a reasonable response. We still don't know what Riot's going to do with franchising. We don't know about domestic leagues. We don't know what their plan is for the Tier-2 scene. They could have everything all planned out and it could be good, but we really have no clue yet.

Expectations for playoffs, future

With that notion in mind, we move on to what's ahead in the VCT Challengers 2 season. As I mentioned before, Ghost has already locked in their spot in the playoffs. Taking into consideration your revamped mindset which was consolidated through the help of your new teammates and coaches, how will this team and also yourself approach this portion of the competition?

I think we are putting in an incredible amount of time. Practice-wise, we make sure our practice is good and useful. I think the biggest thing for a pro team to have is good practice. You can play the game as much as you want outside of practice, but if your team is not having good server time, good scrims, nor good goals during practice, you're not going to be one of the top teams. Even so, I think we're doing a really amazing job. We've got, like I said before, good supporting staff in Kaplan. They bring so much to the table to help us stay in practice and I think everybody on the team is really focused right now and giving it our 100% during our eight hours of practice.

There's a chance that the gold staring my face Luminosity Gaming in in the playoffs? So what do you think about that? What think about that matchup?

I'm incredibly confident in my team right now to face LG. I think we have a good chance in beating every team such, Luminosity included. There's no beef here with me and LG. It's just another day in the life of a pro Valorant player. It's just another match and just another game to win.

It's good to hear that you've been able to have a very good mindset through the help of your teammates, so how have they affected you when it comes to rebuilding yourself both in and out of game and how have you applied that into actual VCT matches?

Every single one of the guys on my team are all really good dudes and I think we walk a very strong line between being focused and putting in the effort during practice and having the mental capacity to laugh sometimes. It's a good in between and what I like is that every single person on the team wants to win and it just helps that we all play so well with each other.

Although you're working with new teammates in Ghost, you've not had plenty of time familiarizing with them (NiSMO, koalanoob, brawk, and johnqt) given that you joined as their newest player. It's in stark contrast to when you were with LG and saw various players come and go within the team. How has your ongoing integration with Ghost differed from your time with Luminosity?

In joining Ghost, it was already a set of four and they were re all good friends and teammates already, so for me, it was more like I was slotting in and they had been extremely welcoming. I have nothing but positive things to say about the players on and the coaching staff on our team. You know, it feels good to have a set of five and be extremely confident and make everyone know that we can win our games. I think we have a good chance to qualify [for VCT Masters and Champions].

The roster for Ghost Gaming appear in team jerseys

(Credit: Ghost Gaming/Twitter)

How would you describe this current stage of your career? This year's there's there's plenty of ways that a player can can describe themselves, you know, in a career or at a given point in their careers. But for you know, since joining those from LG, and given that you've spent the time to you know, revamp yourself and sort of mentally reset, like how would you describe this current stage of your career?

I think I'm incredibly experienced at this point after four years of playing semi pro in CS:GO and then playing pro basically for the past two years of professional Valorant in Tier-1/2 events. I feel I'm very experienced and I still think that my career is somewhat in its infancy, you know? It could take any direction it goes.

Do you have a set point in time where where you might like actually call it quits?

No, not at all. I don't think I have any thought of quitting Valorant anytime oon.

So are you saying we will see Aproto at age 40 still playing?

I don't know about playing the game. I don't know if I'll be good enough to play at that point. But I still want to be in the esports scene in some capacity whether it be content creator, streamer, coach, or analyst. I think something like tha would be very cool to do in the future as well.

Pedro Romero

As an esports journalist, Pedro started covering the scene in late 2018 and has since worked for numerous websites over the years. He has also interviewed dozens of players, management staff, and coaches that span multiple games. On his off time, Pedro likes to eat burgers and read.


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Copyright © 2023 BLIX.GG. All rights reserved.