gMd: "There's no doubt in my mind that we're competing for a Top 4 spot"

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Pedro Romero
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Published  23 May, 06:50
Reading time  ~27  mins

Many teams have come and gone in the two-year existence of competitive Valorant. Despite the short timeframe, the scene has already seen the emergence of numerous strong teams and the simultaneous decline of countless more lingering underneath them. Overall, it is an environment replete with volatility that has little room for long-term stability.

But in surveying the general landscape of competitive Valorant, no team is best seen as a polarizing figure than Team SoloMid. Hailed as one of the top esports organizations ever, TSM announced its entry to pro-Valorant in the summer of 2020 with considerable expectations for them to waste little and compete for the top just as they have done so in other major titles.

Though they did live up to those initial expectations during the game’s first year, by the end of 2021, they were reverted to becoming nothing but serving as the butt of jokes, regularly placing in the mid to bottom level of numerous VCT tournaments.

Whereas their initial rivals like Sentinels and 100 Thieves went on to rise to prominence by winning and competing in international events, TSM sputtered by failing to qualify for the VCT. As a result, when one mentions TSM during any conversation, most if not all fans react by rejoicing in laughter or posting memes over their apparent ineptitude.

Fortunately for TSM, that bleak sentiment changed in the 2022 NA VCT Challengers 2 season. After the team reloaded their lineup by signing a new core featuring Corey “Corey” Nigra, Daniel “Rossy” Abedrabbo, Johann “seven” Hernandez, and Anthony “gMd” Guimond to complement long-standing IGL Yassine “Subroza” Taoufik, they qualified for the group stage by defeating 100T, sending them back to the forefront of NA Valorant to pick up right where they left off roughly two years ago.

With Challengers 2 finally underway, BLIX.GG caught up with gMd, one of TSM’s newest signings, to discuss how he joined TSM, how the team qualified for the VCT for Challengers 2, his expectations for the season, and his departure from Gen.G, reuniting with Subroza, and much more.

Qualifying for the VCT

Thanks for doing this interview, gMd! You and your team are coming off of finally qualifying for the VCT. Many people have been looking forward to a team like TSM to qualify for the VCT, and they finally did so. For your case, you reached this stage for the first time this season after trying to qualify with Gen.G back in Challengers 1.

Rewinding back to the moment in which your team qualified, what was the atmosphere like when you guys punched your ticket to the tournament?

When I was on Gen.G, we were in a worse spot, and I think TSM as a team were in a worse spot, so when I got here, we did pretty well. Obviously, everyone is in a better spot now. Everyone is happy; everyone is motivated. The mood was good since we were happy with the results we've been getting, so it was definitely such a relief when we qualified. And everyone was obviously happy. We worked very hard for this, and we hope we can make the playoffs in the VCT.

In qualifying for the VCT, you obviously had to face various capable teams, some of which already had experience in international LANs and the like (including 100 Thieves, a team that you had to defeat twice). In addition to facing off against 100T, how can you describe the journey while facing the rest of the region for Challengers 2? Was it difficult facing off against your adversaries? Was it easy? Or was it somewhere in between?

I think we played 100T twice, and then we played FaZe and LG once. The LG [match] was definitely the hardest. LG is a very good team, and I think nobody was missing a single shot. It was very hard to play them, in essence. Obviously, it doesn't mean anything when I say that we should have beaten FaZe, but I do believe that we should have beat them in that series, so I wouldn't say it was easy, but they were definitely one of the better teams for sure.

You talked about losing to FaZe Clan in the upper bracket, which decided one of the four official entrants to Challengers 2 in the first open qualifying phase. Following the loss against FaZe, what did the team tried to focus on, if any, to make sure that you didn't fall to the second open qualifying phase?

I definitely think the FaZe loss was — every time we lost so far, we got way better after in a way where I think we learned a lot of mistakes from our defeats, so when we lost to FaZe, it was a very hard game to take. The way we lost since we were winning 12-11, and then we dropped that 1v2 [play] in addition to the [5v3 into a 2v1] situation is tough to have hobby type at intuitive UI that we use. So obviously, it was a tough game to digest, but you had to look at it [in a positive light]. We played well the whole tournament so far.

When we knew we were playing either Knights or 100T in the lower bracket, I think everyone was pretty much happy with it. We thought we matched up well with 100T, and we were happy with that. We tried to fix our little mistakes, such as needing to listen more. These were very small fixes, but because when you lose a game in OT to qualify [for VCT], obviously you don't change the whole thing, right? You need to change in small steps, and I think we did those small things right.

how you talked about it, there wasn't plenty of worry when TSM was bumped down to the lower bracket and faced 100T in that rematch?

I knew that after the way we lost to FaZe, the impetus for us was on how we bounce back and reset. I knew that if we were able to reset and be fresh for the next game, we would qualify. But it's hard mentally to miss out on an opportunity. You were right there to qualify, so you obviously get a bit sad, but you still have to play again. I went back to my apartment to reset for a little bit, and we did manage to qualify because we were able to do extactly that, so I was not too worried.

And it obviously worked out in the end with TSM beating 100T. Talking about before the start of open qualifying, after TSM failed to reach the Challengers 1 group stage, the team attended a handful of third-party tournaments while revamping their lineup (in which case they added you into its ranks) to prepare for Challengers 2.

From your perspective, what did the team particularly focus on ahead of the VCT open qualifying to ensure that they wouldn't experience the same result from Challengers 1?

As far as my pick-up goes, I think they needed someone who's a good teammate and has a good attitude. Obviously, they must also have a lot of experience in this game, so I think they went with a safe pick in me. I was pretty safe for them. I have the experience, and I am someone who was looking forward to playing again and needed some fresh air. I came here with a lot of ideas and the like, so I think that's how it happened.

Additionally, the team signed seven from T1, who is a prospect and we kind of hoped that he would do well, and he did. These were two picks that made sense for them: someone who had prior competitive experience and a "safe pick" and someone who was let go by T1 —which is a mistake by them— to which I hope he shows his best here.

You talked about throwing ideas into the team you for the sake of improvement for the future. Can you elaborate on what those kinds of ideas you contributed so the team could fare better in subsequent tournaments?

On defense, I bring up a lot of ideas, and I make the calls in most of those rounds. Also, I think I am a pretty good support player for them, so when I picked up Breach, I had a lot of good ideas that allowed Corey and seven to get their kills. Honestly, we kind of played a different style with Breach when we qualified, and I think me being on that agent definitely helped in that.

How about your integration with the team? Obviously, it is turning out pretty well for TSM at this point time in the time, given their qualification for the VCT, but how has it been for you to integrate yourself with the team as a new member alongside other teammates that were also signed recently?

I think it's been going pretty well. I know Subroza a lot, and he has helped me feel comfortable on the team, so he has been very helpful in that. And the people here are all friends. Everyone challenges each other and act kind of goofy, which is all in good fun. Their mood is so good, and everyone is working hard and doing their own thing, and that has made it easy for to get comfy, and when you get new teammates to play with, it makes it a little easier on everyone.

Joining TSM

I actually want to cover you joining TSM following your departure from Gen.G. Prior to your move to TSM; it wasn't really difficult for anyone to figure out where you were heading according to social media (such as viewing posts of yourself scrimming with the team). That said, how did TSM approach you? Were they coming to you or going to them, if you know what I'm saying?

Basically, I left Gen.G on a Wednesday, and I told Subroza, who is someone I talk to pretty often, that I was benched, and then the next day, I had a tryout with TSM. As soon as we tried out, they were moving forward with me, and that made [the move] easy for me because I had other teams that wanted to try me out, but they were unsure to do so. They wanted me to play for them in a week or two weeks. They wanted me to wait, so when I saw TSM actively trying to pursue me and try to buy me out, I didn't hesitate joining. I was like, "I'll just go to TSM. It's a good team. It's a good org. They want me, so let's go into this." That was pretty easy.

Were you surprised yourself as to how all of that went down, given that it happened so quickly?

Yeah, 100 percent. I explained in a podcast earlier this week but basically, in my head, whenever I become a free agent, get benched by the team, or leave altogether, I was set on taking a break and think about myself because I've been nonstop grinding for two years. Basically, I had a total of 12 hours of rest, and it went pretty fast. I went out yesterday, and I started practicing right away, so it was definitely fast. I didn't expect teams to want me right away. I expected to receive offers but not that many.

They were obviously no official offers per se, but there were plenty of people talking to me and showing interest which feels good. I'm glad I'm here now, and hopefully, we do well.

In joining a new team, you also become acquainted with a new cast of players and personalities — not to mention new coaches and its staff. In your particular case, by joining TSM, you reunited with Subroza, the team's IGL, and someone you've played with during your days in CS:GO. How has that reunion been so far? Was it quick for both of you to get used to each other's playstyle?

Yeah. We have seen and known each other for a long time. I never had anything bad to say about him and teaming up with him is definitely a fun time, and he's such a smart player and teammate. All in all, it was pretty smooth. I believe we think about the game pretty much the same. Obviously, we disagree on some stuff of, which everyone does. Valorant is a team game, after all.

We don't always have the same ideas, but we talk it out, and we always try to get on the same page, which I really like. He's open-minded, and I'm open-minded too, so it's always a good time to play with him. It was very easy.

s came after you guys have played each other numerous times as rivals over the past few years. I guess that given you guys have been so familiar with each other for quite a while, from CS:GO to now, it has been a pleasant experience to finally team up and share the same colors for the VCT.

Actually, we've been wanting to play with each other for a long time, like I said before, so when we qualified, it was obviously a small step, but we aim for way higher. We want to make playoffs, so we're obviously expecting the best. When you actually achieve small goals, where we were immediately worried the bullet was so had Four years ago, we were playing in CS:GO making no money.

Now we're in TSM making really good money, and we can actually achieve your goals. It was good. We talked about it. It was fun. And we obviously aim for higher expectations.

In between you playing in CS:GO and eventually teaming up with Subroza right now, with you guys being teammates in TSM, plenty of time and things have certainly happened for both of your respective careers.

How do you think you and Subroza have matured amidst playing competitive Valorant since its literal start? I say this because, after all, when the game launched, you were a part of one of the first teams that attended competitive events in any department.

Obviously, our resumes look pretty much the same — not literally, though, since we played in different teams in CS. When we switched to Valorant, we played competitively since the start, so we pretty much had the same ideas and view the game similarly because we've been in the scene the longest. We've virtually seen everything, after all. When he makes a callout, I always agree with him.

There's not a single time where I go, "I should've done that." He thinks about the game the way I see it as well, so it definitely helps that we have the same respect for each other. You build our ideas based on what you see and how you play, and we've essentially played the same. We line up pretty well on that.

Stepping away from your partnership with Subroza, you are also teammates with Corey, Rossy, and seven. Cory and Rossy entered the team before you did in January prior to Challengers 1, but as for seven, you joined alongside him simultaneously. How has it been to work with the rest of the lineup? And from your perspective, how have you guys meshed to perform well in later events ultimately?

I think what happened is pretty much us being very easy to get along with, so that helped. Seven was a quiet kid when he joined the team. He's getting more comfortable now, but he was much more quiet before. It's more on myself, Cory, and Rossy being a bit worn out, but I do agree that we're on the same page, and it was indeed pretty easy to mesh with them together.

Not to mention, we're all in Austin, Texas. We pretty much spend 12 hours together every day, so at some point, you have to mesh with your teammates. We've been watching shows and movies together after practice, talking about the game, and outright chilling. When you are with someone 12 hours a day, you get comfortable pretty quick.

In building that camaraderie, has that been different compared to your time in Gen.G?

Definitely. No shots to Gen.G, but it was different because I had known the scene for so long, and we essentially literally live together. The only time I'm not with them is when I'm literally sleeping in my apartment, and that's it. I then return to practice the next day. Obviously, it's nothing against the players. We're literally together for 12 hours a day. You can't just have bad chemistry or bad team bonding when you're doing everything together. It becomes too hard not to mesh. If you do that, there's no way you won't mesh.

Directing towards the management staff and coaching, how has it been working with them? Preston “Juv3nile” Dornon is someone you started working with since joining the team, so how has it been working with him and the rest of the staff?

It's been a pleasure, honestly. I worked with Juv3nile first, given that he's the team's head coach. I was talking with him for quite a while before more and more coaches came in. It's been a pleasure working with them. I think they all have their own strengths, and I think they complement each other pretty well. I love working with Juv3nile about some stuff, and I love talking with aRubyz (Andrew Seewer). I spend time with all of them.

They're all good coaches. I love working with them. I think they're very useful as well. They make your job easier, and there's nothing a player wants more than that, so I'm definitely happy working with them.

Talking about TSM and its place in competitive Valorant, it's not a surprise to say that the org has been a major talking point within this region since arriving on the scene. As everyone knows, they've been memed incessantly over failures leading up to the present day where you're now a member who contributed to them finally reaching the VCT. In general, attention has never wavered throughout its time environment.

By joining TSM, it would be fair to say that you have undertaken the scrutiny and pressure to succeed. Have you felt that sense of pressure as a member of TSM since joining and competing against the rest of the region for VCT?

Obviously, there is a lot of pressure when you join a big org like TSM. They have a lot of passionate fans. It's hard not to feel the pressure, but I love the pressure. As someone who has been in esports for quite a while, I've been accustomed to the pressure of competing and all that stuff. Though I do admit that it is a bit stressful, but it's still a good kind of stress to have. You want to see it, you want to feel it, but right now, we're doing well compared to before. I don't want to see a bad TSM.

I don't want to feel that. Right now, we're obviously on the good side, and we're doing well, but on the bad side — obviously, it's not fun. Either way, it's still the kind of pressure I like. They have been getting memed on. When you have such a massive org, it is how it is. The same s**t happened when Sentinels started losing. It's the same stuff. People want to take you down while you're already down, so there's no surprise, but I love handling the pressure. I love competing for a massive org like TSM.

Leaving Gen.G

Before joining TSM, you played with Gen.G from its literal start. You were the founding member of that org in competitive Valorant and stayed there until a few months ago when you left. In the beginning, Gen.G was seen as one of the top teams in North America, given that they performed well in Masters 1 of 2021 and have roamed within the top crop of teams, constantly fighting for a spot in international LANs but never quite making the extra step and qualifying.

Taking a look from that initial Masters 1 run up until this point in time, what do you think prohibited Gen.G from reaching the same level of success they achieved in the beginning up until now?

I think there was definitely a mix of a lot of things. I think the org did their best to get the best players and give us the best support. They always did. But I think the players didn't mesh well at some point. We kind of got the best players we could every time, but that didn't always mesh together. I think it's hard to stay at the top, and I think the reason why we're on top with the old Gen.G roster was because we had five friends playing together for so many hours.

And then when we started removing players since we were doing bad, then all the established chemistry goes down, and we had to rebuild on some new foundation, and I think we didn't do well there. We didn't mesh well and didn't have the right pieces. But that's no one's fault. I did not help the team in the end [of my time], so yeah.

nk when people survey what went wrong for Gen.G, on top of not performing to their own expectations in 2021, they had looked at how, during the offseason of 2021, they didn't participate in third-party tournaments at a time when many other orgs did so to refine their lineups. Many people have pointed out that as one of the major reasons why they couldn't do well later on in the 2022 season; seeing as how the team didn't build enough experience ahead of VCT so that they wouldn't enter qualifying with considerable rust with their lineup.

On that deployment, why didn't Gen.G participate in those third-party tournaments before the start of VCT in 2022?

I think some orgs see it differently. I believe they have certainly thought about not showing stuff and preferring to work in the dark, but I definitely do think it's important to play those matches because you would then face issues you normally wouldn't see in practice. Obviously, I don't blame them for doing that. I think it's just the way they saw it, and I don't think it's a bad way to see it. I don't think it would have mattered that much if they played those third-party events.

With other teams entering those events to get better—TSM did it, and I think other teams did it as well — I don't blame them for not doing that. I don't think it would have changed anything, but I do believe playing those matches are important.

There's been a difference between your start with Gen.G and TSM. With Gen.G, you started with a stack alongside your friends (named "French Canadians") and managed to get signed by the org, but with TSM, you were signed into the team as a free agent in the hope of rejuvenating and improving their lineup far better than they have been.

That said, how much of a challenge has it been to familiarize yourself with your new team in TSM compared to the time you entered Valorant as a member of a French Canadians?

It's a different environment. I like both. I do think that being with friends is not always the best option because you don't fix a lot of stuff. You just go with the flow, and everyone is obviously happy, so it makes it harder to fix mistakes. You don't want to point it out as much. I think this [team] is probably a good mix right now. It's a good mix of friends and co-workers or whatever. You have to fix mistakes together, and everyone knows that. Being with friends is fun for some stuff. There are pros and cons, but I think it's good to have a mix of both, and I think this is where I'm at right now with TSM.

Expectations for Challengers 2

From this point of view, we now head towards Challengers 2, where TSM will compete alongside the best of NA to fight for a spot in the upcoming Masters: Copenhagen event. Compared to Challengers 1, TSM is one of the new is one of the three newest teams that arrived at this stage despite them not reaching this point in the previous season. As a member of TSM, where do you think your team stands in this region that is as stacked as it has always been? Do you view yourself as one of the top teams?

There's no doubt in my mind that we're competing for a Top 4 spot in my head, so we want to show ourselves accordingly. I think we don't deserve to be called a top team just yet. I think it's something we have to work hard for, but in our head, we're definitely aiming for a Top 3 or 4 spot.

We're already a few weeks into the split, and it's a certainty that you will play the rest of your group (with XSET, The Guard, 100 Thieves, Ghost Gaming, NRG) in due time. Nevertheless, is there a team that you're looking forward to facing the most in the group stage?

I like playing every team, but I think NRG is the best in our group. I want to make playoffs, and that's all that matters to me.

Do you have a player in mind that you're looking forward to facing — be it in the group stage or playoffs?

I don't think there is any player I'm very impressed with, but yay has been something else in practice and in matches. I like playing against him, and he's fun to face.

At this current point of time, with OpTic winning Masters and being regarded as the top team in the world right now, many people are looking at NA as having reclaimed the throne as the best region in competitive Valorant. From your point of view, is there really a major gap between NA and the rest of the world in consideration of OpTic winning Masters?

I think it's definitely more stacked. I don't know if the top teams are better than the top EU teams, but I think the competition is way harder. If we look at the Challengers 2 qualifiers, there were a lot of good f*****g teams, and most of them missed out. These teams would do well in other regions, so it's too stacked. There are too many teams that are very good. It makes it hard. It makes it really hard. I don't know if the top teams are better than the other top teams, but the general competition is way better, for sure.

Overlooking his career in competitive Valorant

As someone who has been a part of the competitive scene since its start, you viewed its transformation and prominence within the esports scene. This includes watching teams get ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the pack and seeing other teams flounder and fall competitively. It's fair to say you've gained a deep understanding of how the competitive scene works both in-game and out of the game.

During the summer of 2020, you said in an interview that, given the game's infancy, you were still trying to figure out how all of its facets work and what is the best way to compete and win. From then on, seeing as we're two years into the game's existence, how have you refined your understanding of the game?

I think over time, we kind of underwent a mix between playing CS:GO and this game. We definitely understood that. We understood that this game was essentially CS:GO laced with other stuff in there. I think that's how it should be played. OpTic is a top team, and they're mostly filled with CS:GO players. Cloud9, the second-best team in the league, is filled with CS:GO players, and the list goes on, so I think there's somewhere in between where you have to play as if you're in CS:GO and any other FPS title, so that's pretty much it.

Additionally, the meta has evolved considerably. There's been many alterations to the agents, the agents' abilities, maps, and its design, firearms, and how they're included to the game periodically. How do you think the meta has evolved in general?

I think it definitely evolved with the release of different agents. That sentiment makes it all the more prevalent with the constant changes of utility and comps, but yeah, I think it kinda went that way. I think there's just more stuff than when we started to be honest.

Since its inception, Valorant has named each episode with one word to signify its overarching theme [i.e., Ignition, Formation, Reflection, & Disruption]. What would you name this current stage in competitive Valorant with one word?

Adaptation because the meta changes so much in this season.

What are your thoughts on the current meta, and how will that affect the current competitive state in NA? Also, what do you think of the current patch?

I think it's literally who adapts the fastest, so teams that are versatile will do better, I think.

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