Although Leviatan started their VCT Americas Last Chance Qualifier run on the wrong foot, losing to KRU Esports, they were able to rebound, taking down Sentinels and reaching the lower bracket finals against Cloud9. The team was one map away from qualifying for Masters Tokyo and Champions.
By taking down C9, LEV would be one step closer to qualifying for Champions and finally fulfilling the expectations most fans had of them as a top-tier Americas team. However, through consecutive losses in Lotus and Pearl, Leviatan found themselves in a 2-0 hole and in prime position of being eliminated via a clean sweep. As such, LEV were required to complete the herculean task of winning through a clean sweep and overcoming all the historical connotations that are associated with it.
Not only were Leviatan staring down the prospect of a clean sweep—a monumental task in and of itself— they were doing so amidst an unfavorable historical shadow. Throughout the existence of the VCT at the international level, there have only been two best-of-five reverse sweeps. The first came from G2 Gozen, who took down Shopify Rebellion GC in the 2022 Game Changers Championship grand finals, and the second from Paper Rex, who did the same against DRX in the 2023 Pacific League grand finals.
In order to become the third team to accomplish the feat, LEV needed to take down their North American rivals on Split, Haven and Bind, three maps that have not been kind to the org throughout its history. Nevertheless, with a display of fortitude that could rival the world’s best teams, LEV dispatched C9 3-2 to advance to the grand finals of the LCQ, go one step closer to qualifying for Champions 2023, and set up an all-LATAM contest between themselves and KRU Esports.
Following Leviatan’s comeback victory over C9, BLIX talked to Agustin “Nozwerr” Ibarra about how the result became possible, what was the team’s mentality when they were in that 2-0 series deficit, his performance on Raze, what their victory means for LATAM’s place in competitive Valorant and more.
The interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English by our interviewer.
Pedro Romero, BLIX: Congrats on reaching the grand finals off an incredible comeback over Cloud9, Nozwerr. This marked the second time that a reverse sweep happened in a best-of-five international series, so I want to start off with that. When the series ended, what was the first thought that crossed your mind?
Agustin "Nozwerr" Ibarra: Honestly, I think we all had the feeling of having nothing to lose, so every time we came on stage, it gave us a chance to have that emotion. For each team member specifically, that feeling was especially prevalent through all the work we have done. If it so happened that we lose our matches, then we were going to be happy and finish our LCQ run in the best way possible until the last round. It didn't matter who we faced or what we did. We simply maintained that type of firm attitude while having the belief that we can win any match, round, or situation.
BLIX: When the team fell to that 2-0 series deficit, I imagine that the team's mentality was at a significant low point. When and how did the team's subsequent mental shift happen?
Nozwerr: Honestly, it first happened when we lost the first series against KRU, and we knew our next match would be against Sentinels. I think, from the first map in that [SEN] series onwards, we had that mentality and focus of always staying positive and, as I said before, giving our all to win. We kept that attitude in the series against Sentinels, but I felt this was surely at its peak when we were actually down 2-0 because this was our last chance so we knew we had to leave everything on the server. It was the third map. It didn't matter if we were down 2-0.
If we were capable of winning three straight maps, then we're capable and we still had that capability when we were 1-0 and 2-0 down, and perhaps, in the last map, in a situation that was really complicated for us, that sentiment helped motivate us and it accompanied us during the series. And sure enough, that belief helped us turn the corner in Bind and the rest of the series.
BLIX: I want to talk about the first two maps of the series, in which the team lost to C9. What do you think caused the team's fall in Lotus and Pearl?
Nozwerr: It's not that we fell as a collective in those first two maps. It's just that things didn't fall in our favor. There were certain rounds and situations where we couldn't win, but the attitude was beginning to mold during the rest of the series, and it was precisely in the first two maps that we couldn't resolve those things well. Those were two maps that, besides Pearl since we won six straight times up to that point, we were less focused on for the event, but Lotus was a complicated first map for us because I felt, as it transpired, I think we were letting go of our focus. We had to give more intensity, pressure, and reason to the things we did and that started to improve later on in the series.
BLIX: With Leviatan beating C9 in the lower bracket final, the grand finals are set between your team and KRU Esports, which will decide LATAM’s representative in Champions 2023. For both teams to reach this point, what do you think it says about LATAM's place in competitive Valorant at this point of the season?
Nozwerr: I think, with these games, the region put itself in the best position, and that's the good part. We're representing LATAM, and there will be a Latin representative at Champions so it's something important for the region, and it's for that specific reason that we'll need to prepare for tomorrow. There's so little time to get into the best state and mentality possible and be united as a group to show the kind of Leviatan we aspire to be.
BLIX: Looking at your performance against C9, you finished with a series-high 84 kills, 1.16 VLR rating, and 219 ACS by playing agents such as Sova, Skye, Fade, and, most interestingly, Raze. Looking at Raze, it's an agent you've been playing more often in this LCQ. What within the team led to you playing that agent?
Nozwerr: On the matter of Raze, I'm an initiator but I played as sentinel and duelist in the past, but these decisions were made for the betterment of the team. For example, in Split, kiNgg is excellent as Viper, and I know that he's great at Raze also (Tacolilla too), but as the composition was devised, we felt comfortable playing with those agents and the same happened in Bind. KiNgg is good with Raze too and, with the possibility of Chamber being present on the map, Taco is incredible in Chamber also.
We had a different composition for Bind, but as for me, I gave what the team requires me to do. Everyone and Onur knows my agent pool, so it's not like initiators are the only agents I play. I can play other roles as well, so honestly, I just gave the most I could for my team. Regardless if I show either my best or worst at a given day, that's not the main focus for me. Rather, I try to do the most for the team. In one match, it can happen like the C9 series where I frag out and distinguish myself from the rest of the pack, but in another match, I can frag and generate space for my teammates and do what needs to be done.
BLIX: Finally, directing the focus back to KRU, it is a team that's in a similar headspace as Leviatan with their tenacity of playing without pressure and having fun during matches. How do you view KRU given their change in form from the regular season up until now?
Nozwerr: Obviously, KRU is a strong team. I remember when there was negative talk about KRU and how it was a team that didn't receive a lot of respect, but I feel it's a team that always had the potential to do well. Obviously, KRU is a team that got stronger in the LCQ and the same can be said for us as well. They're a wonderful rival and it's going to be a wonderful series. It will be a magnificent series to watch and it will be one that both teams will enjoy because I'm glad that the finals will be played against them and not with anyone else. It will be a good one.