Among the teams taking part in the 2023 VCT LOCK//IN tournament, NRG is one that presumptively carries the most anticipation and intrigue for the event. As one of the five North American teams accepted into their regional partnered league, NRG collected a group of world-class players that previously won Masters tournaments in their past teams. This includes three members of the former OpTic Gaming lineup in FNS, Victor, and Crashies as well as ardiis: the ex-duelist of FunPlus Phoenix, who collected the Masters: Copenhagen crown last season.
With one spot left to fill the NRG lineup for 2023, the team opted to stick with Sam “s0m” Oh by moving him from the flex position to the controller role to accommodate with the new core of players. On top of having to adjust to a new role with NRG, by staying with the org for the 2023 season, s0m received an opportunity to appear in an international VCT event, which he eventually did at LOCK//IN.
And it was in the city of Sao Paulo where s0m stood out in his international debut as through his 24/13/4 KDA and 1.42 rating performance in Icebox, which critically paved the way for NRG’s comeback from 9-3 down in that map, he helped NRG defeat KOI in the first round of the tournament. If there were people who weren’t aware of s0m before the tournament, they are now.
Following NRG’s victory over KOI in the first round of LOCK//IN, BLIX.GG spoke to s0m to discuss his experience in Brazil, what it’s like to integrate with the rest of the new lineup, how he will approach the tournament, and more.
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: Congrats on the win, s0m. It's your first-ever appearance in an international event in Valorant and you started off on the right foot against KOI. I want to know your thoughts on this series and how it played out.
Sam "s0m" Oh: It was a close 2-0, definitely very close. It finally feels great to play on an international stage. It's my first time doing so in Valorant and it feels very nice to perform the way I did.
BLIX: In playing in an international event, did you feel any nerves beforehand?
s0m: I don't want to say it was nerves or pressure. I want to say I was more excited to play. It's been forever since I've been to any LAN even in my past game of Counter-Strike so it definitely feels like I was way more excited than I was than feeling any nerves or pressure.
BLIX: Talking about the series in particular, for the first map, you played as Viper. It's the first time you ever played that agent in your career and it's in line with you being the controller for the team for the season. How have you integrated into the team under that new position alongside your new teammates?
s0m: I played controller in past NRG rosters before. It wasn't a very long time. I think it was around six months-ish when I last played controller. but throughout and even during the offseason, I've been playing ranked and using multiple different characters and I think that helped a lot. So with me filling in that controller and Viper role, it honestly didn't even feel new. I've done it so many times in ranked and it just felt like second nature to me.
BLIX: In Icebox, you mean you definitely popped off with the highest rating and the best KDA among everyone in the map. How did you view your performance in Icebox given that you played so well?
s0m: I'm very proud of myself. I knew I could do it. I just kind of had to just prove it to myself and everyone else. There were a lot of doubters, a lot of people hating, and a lot of supporters as well so I was kind of excited to play and ready to show my worth and I did.
Playing with new teammates and rediscovering his confidence
BLIX: In a post-match scrum interview with FNS, he talked about how confident you were in playing with the team and also how you took the lead on a few occasions during that series against KOI. Where did get your confidence from and how were you able to be so confident with this team and also throughout your career up until this point?
s0m: For just confidence in myself, I think that's a big thing and a key thing for all players. I have a lot of confidence and respect in myself and I want to make sure I live up to it so I have some expectations for myself. I think the biggest thing is how my current teammates and even all my past teammates have believed in me and supported me in what I wanted to do and helped me out throughout my whole entire career. They've all been nice and let me do my thing.
BLIX: Although we're basically although you just finished your first refers series with this team for the season and we have a long way to go until the seasons and communication wise how does this compare to your past team to teammates within the NRG?
s0m: Communication-wise in-game. it's honestly the same if not a little bit better. The biggest thing is the chemistry that we have. There are a lot of times when we honestly don't even need to say much because we know exactly what to do off each other and what we're going to do, but there are a lot of key moments where Victor will say something to push something together. Obviously, everyone chimes in but I think the biggest thing is our chemistry is very good.
BLIX: How has your stay in Brazil been so far? And considering how you guys flew on in roughly a week ago, how has the team prepared for this sort of tournament in which it's single-elimination and everybody has to play at their best from the outset?
s0m: I think we prepared ourselves pretty well. I think we've only had six days or maybe a week here in Brazil since we first landed. Again, I want to shout out Chet, our manager, and our planning manager for helping us outside the game by scheduling things. They've been making everything pretty smooth, and I think we were prepping well.
BLIX: Specifically again on the game, you matched up with Koldamenta, someone who's as experienced as you have so far as Valorant is concerned and appeared in numerous international tournaments beforehand. What was your approach and what did you think of facing him?
s0m: From my whole entire Valorant career, I've only played NA players and NA teams because I never got to the international LANs. Everyone has their own unique style wherever they're from so honestly, it felt great to experience it firsthand in a match server and on the international stage. Everyone has a unique play style.
s0m’s approach to LOCK//IN
BLIX: Although it's the first series, what has been the biggest takeaway you've seen between playing in NA and playing internationally so far?
s0m: As I said, it will probably have to be the playstyles. Mostly in NA, you only scrim each other in the region so everyone has kind of a similar playstyle because other NA teams are trying to copy other NA teams. But being on the international stage, I think that's the biggest thing. All these playstyles are completely different from every region.
BLIX: As I mentioned before with the tournament format, each team is going to have a different approach as to how they're going to tackle this event whether they're going to like look for strategies or survey the rest of the teams. For you specifically, how are you going to approach this tournament?
s0m: I'm going to probably do the same thing I did for this match. Kind of just talk to myself kind of just know what to expect, know what to do and kind of just live up to my own expectations.
BLIX: The next series is against either Giants or DFM. They're playing right now as we speak. What do you think of both teams in the lead-up to your next series?
s0m: Like I said before, everyone's here to show their best. Everyone knows it's single-elim so everyone's pulling out everything they can and they're both really strong teams. I'm just excited to play whoever
BLIX: I want to pull up something you posted on your Twitter. You posted a screenshot of yourself listening to the Hakuna Matata song from Lion King. What was the idea behind making that tweet?
s0m: I woke up one morning and listened to music and I forget what happened but something was brought up where Hakuna Matata was brought up so I just started listening to it, and when I was listening to it, I thought I might as well just share with everyone else.
BLIX: Yeah because everybody saw that and thought it was going to be the main theme behind yourself in how you're going to tackle this event. Is there a deeper meaning behind that in your eyes?
s0m: Not really but I guess it kind of is. No matter what happens, it'll all be okay or I'll be fine. Other than that, not really.