As the recent Valorant Champions Tour offseason presented an exciting roster shuffle, which moved world-class players to different teams, it dispensed a taxing frame for others looking to find a new home. With a limited number of spots in the Tier-1 level up for grabs, it then enhanced the urgency behind joining a Tier-2 side as those not chosen to join the five North American partnered teams must look for another team that will strive to compete in Challengers and its reformed format. Although a greater number of players would extend–and in essence, salvage–their careers by joining a Tier-2 team, for the rest of the players that weren’t as unfortunate, it left them with little opportunities to spark a comeback, necessitating a change in direction.
Such was the move that Loic "effys" Sauvageau made while navigating this past offseason. Best known within the North American pro Valorant scene as a pioneering and longest-serving member of Version1, effys was teamless following the 2022 season and received little to no inquiries as the offseason wore on. Some time would pass before effys finally received his next chance–not as a player but as a coach and not for a men’s team but a women’s team.
As a result, effys would return to V1 as the head coach of its new Game Changers team which consists of recognizable names like ex-Cloud9 White players Melanie "meL" Capone and Alexis "alexis" Guarrasi, ex-Mistfits Black member Ava "florescent" Eugene, ex-Immortals player Sarah "sarah" Simpson, and former XSET Purple member Nicole "Noia" Tierce. With effys in charge of his first team as coach, V1 started off on the right path by qualifying for Astral Clash 2023 off a perfect 11-0 run in the Last Chance Qualifier, making them one of the teams to watch out for the upcoming GC season.
But just taking charge of the GC landscape isn’t what effys is looking for. As it turns out, in an interview he had with BLIX.GG, he explains he wants to lead his team to perform well in mixed-gender events also. He also discusses how he became V1’s newest coach and what it’s like working with his new group of players.
His name is effys, coach effys
Pedro Romero, BLIX.GG: It's been a different year compared to past years in your career. For 2023, you are now a coach for Version1's newest Valorant roster. How have you been taking in this position so far?
Loic "effys" Sauvageau: I've always known I would be good at coaching because every time I was in a team, and they would talk about making changes, they've always mentioned that they wanted to keep me in as a coach because whenever I was playing, I was also bringing in a lot of things to the server. And I was almost acting as, like, an assistant coach where I would bring a lot of stuff to practice, so it wasn't that hard of a transition to do.
The only thing that's hard is not playing because I kind of like playing. That's the only thing that's harder than I thought it would be. Just sitting there and watching Valorant all day without playing is actually quite hard, but the coaching aspect itself I don't find it that hard because I've been doing it for a while playing.
BLIX: Was there a moment in time you can pinpoint in which you seriously started pondering towards becoming a coach?
effys: It was probably around late December. I basically got one trial as a player. I think I had a pretty good year in 2022 but still, no matter what I did, I only got one trial. Being 30, I can't go on without a salary and a job forever, so I had to settle down and be like, 'I love Valorant and I want to keep working around it, but if nobody's willing to give me a job as a player, I can't really go on and be a free agent for the full year,' especially considering that the season was decided within three weeks and I didn't have time to make a team.
I would just tell myself that I'd rather just keep competing as a coach than go a full year without having a job. Around that time where I didn't get like much offers, V1 reached out in late December and they said they were building a really good Game Changes team and would ask me to coach them, so it was like, 'Okay, well I want to try it' and then I tried it and I kind of liked it.
BLIX: What have been the some of the most surprising things in learning how to be a coach that you didn't think was as important while you were in the shoes of a player?
effys: I think it's believing in your ideas. You watch your team play all day and they're doing what you're telling them to do and I'm lucky because I really think my team respects me quite a lot. When something doesn't work, it's kind of hard to figure out if my ideas are bad or were we just not doing them correctly? You gotta be able to be self-aware and say, ‘my idea for this was pretty bad. I need to like, scratch it.'
And you also have to be very confident like, ‘it's not working but it's not because the idea is bad. It's because we're doing it bad.' It's a very thin margin between being overconfident and sending your team down the meat grinder and also being confident and having a good game plan that you know will work.
BLIX: There must also be some difficulty in managing different personalities. As you alluded a while ago, everyone has their own particular idea on how they want them to go about. Is that also a deeper and more difficult way for you to manage as the coach?
effys: I think, for a lot of coaches, it can be, but honestly, as a gamer, I think I have pretty good social skills. I've had normal jobs before so I have had to work around with people and conflict resolution and stuff like that, so yeah, there's definitely an issue of personality and how to deal with them. We're talking about, like, professionals and people that are the best of the best at what they do so there's always going to be ego involved, but I think my team doesn't have that much of an issue about that.
I think the egos are quite small for how good they are so it does make things easier, but I do have a lot of experience dealing with egos and personalities so it's also not a big deal that much for me. I've dealt with it in the past and I have a good sense of how to deal with it. It's a big factor, you're right, but I think I've managed it pretty well at that part.
BLIX: It's good that you're able to build that rapport with the players from that sort of background. What kind of takeaways have you used from your past jobs (as a software engineer) that you've put into use as a coach in addition to your experience as a player?
effys: I think it's about professionalism a lot. Having regular work experience makes you a lot more serious. I have no problem working hard. I know what life is outside of esports. I feel a lot of esports players don't really respect the job as much as they should because that's all they've known. The fact that I've had these experiences makes me realize how lucky I am so I'm always there to put in the extra effort.: I think it's about professionalism a lot. Having regular work experience makes you a lot more serious. I have no problem working hard. I know what life is outside of esports. I feel a lot of esports players don't really respect the job as much as they should because that's all they've known. The fact that I've had these experiences makes me realize how lucky I am so I'm always there to put in the extra effort.: I think it's about professionalism a lot. Having regular work experience makes you a lot more serious. I have no problem working hard. I know what life is outside of esports. I feel a lot of esports players don't really respect the job as much as they should because that's all they've known. The fact that I've had these experiences makes me realize how lucky I am so I'm always there to put in the extra effort.
Everybody that has played with me won't ever call me lazy and I think that's because of that. In my real jobs, to be honest, I wasn't a really hard working person. I guess I was pretty lazy, but I feel so lucky working in esports that it makes me work really hard. I think that's one thing that it brought and I also brought in seriousness. I respect my bosses and I respect my manager. I respect my coach when I was a player. I think it makes you respect your bosses a lot more when you've had real job experience.
Meeting Version1’s new team
BLIX: This team boasts familiar names like alexis, Sarah, meL, noia, and florescent. What was your first impression of the team before being the official coach?
effys: My first impression was that this team was, first of all, very different from a male team. I feel the players in V1 right now are a lot more respectful towards each other than everything I've known before. Their work ethic also is much better. These girls play a lot and they watch a lot of VODs and they bring stuff to practice. It's very refreshing to see. I think they take their job, like, more seriously than my previous teams as well. I think this is kind of a good surprise for me. The one thing that's hard to work on is the confidence aspect.
I feel like we need to work on our confidence overall. I feel like that's one of the issues that we're gonna have to work on through this year especially if we want to be better in the co-ed scene.
BLIX: From meeting them in the beginning until now, how do you view each player's personality and how have they evolved from a coaching perspective?
effys: meL is playing smokes right now. I think she's been playing sentinel for a while so there's definitely a bit of a curve there. She's also calling with a new coach is always going to be hard because she and I have to see eye-to-eye about strategies, but so far, she's been pretty good at listening to how I want to play, and if something feels wrong, she'll just say it and we'll work on it together.
I think Alexis is a fundamentally sound player but she just needs to work on her confidence a little bit so that's what I'm improving with her. Flor has a lot of raw skill. She's a gifted mechanical player but she just needs to learn how to tone down the aggression. As a Sova player, I'm pretty hard on Sarah because I know how to play the agent at the top level so it's easy for me to spot mistakes that she commits, so I'm currently working with her to make sure that her initiator play is on point.
BLIX: Which player in the lineup best resembles yourself as a player both in and out of the game and why?
effys: It would probably be Alexis in-game because she's super selfless and she plays to win which sounds funny but actually not. She doesn't play for stats. She doesn't really care about her life. She'll go in and plant the bomb 12 rounds in a row. She feels that's gonna win us the game and I like to think that I was a player like that myself. I think Alexis probably resembles me the most as a player. I think Sarah is as well because she's not super emotional. She's very honest and consistent. She's always in a very similar mood and she's there to work so that resembles me quite a bit as well. She won't come on one day not being just angry or something like that. She'll always show up and be ready to work, so I think these two probably resemble me the most.
BLIX: Three days after you became the official coach of V1, the team competed in the Astral Clash virtual qualifiers and you guys managed to qualify for the event. Following the team's qualification, you said on Twitter that your whole life “has led up to [that very] moment.” What was your thought process when you made that tweet and what was your thought process when it came to tackling that event?
effys: This tweet was originally from Sarah and she just tweeted that in a bit of an ironic way in the sense that it felt pretty easy overall. To be completely honest, my focus is to take this team far into co-ed events. It's not that I don't care about the Game Changers scene. It's partly because I see the potential this team has and I don't see why we wouldn't be able to compete with other co-ed teams and that's where my focus is right now.
I know Astral Clash is a nice event in Vegas and it's really cool that we get to experience that, but I expect us to just win these events and anything other than a win will be a disappointment for myself and the team. I don't go to practice every day thinking 'we got to win these GC events.' To me, this is about being a team that is close to the level of all the Challengers team and being an actual threat next year for all the Challengers teams, so I view these events as more of a practice and getting reps than the actual goal.
BLIX: In light of the GC circuit, you're going to be within a very stacked North American field featuring Shopify Rebellion, Evil Geniuses, Misfits Black, and CLG Red. Where do you think your team stacks right now in North American GC?
effys: I think us and XSET are the favorites getting into 2023. They have the experience from the C9 players and they gave us a run for our money. Last time we played them was in the first open qualifier. It was a really tight game and they played well. Like I said, the goal is to not even worry about the GC events. Anything but winning them would be a disappointment. I think we have the most stacked team. I think I can bring these players to a higher level… The whole idea behind this roster is to be better than all their previous GC rosters and to the co-ed scene.
I want us to make finals in monthly tournaments. I want us to win them. I want us to compete next year with the Challenger teams. This is what I have in mind for this team so I view us as the top contender for GC this year.
BLIX: I'm liking the confidence. It's sort of like ex-Cloud9 White's confidence is rubbing off on you given that you have a few ex-members in the lineup.
effys: I'm still very passionate about Valorant. I'm still very passionate about competing at the highest level and anything else but that will be a disappointment for myself as well. I didn't sign here to steal a paycheck. I want to prove a point that women can compete in esports as well.
BLIX: As someone who has been well-known in the VCT since it began in North America as one of the stalwarts within V1, how have you viewed the public's perception of yourself as you moved to GC?
effys: I think the reaction has been really good. I think most people were really supportive. I think people are aware that this is currently a difficult time for the scene. There aren't that many orgs involved and there are not that many spots for players. I really believe I could have kept competing and I will die on that hill that I'm still a good player.
Obviously, I don't know if that's where I'm going to end my career. I know for now my focus is to bring this team to the next level. I can't say for sure that this is what I'll end up doing. There is definitely a world where, in a year or something, I go back to playing once I've achieved the goals that I want with this team. I've set myself some pretty high standards for this team. I feel I still have this urge to compete at some point and I don't know if this is a permanent move.
BLIX: What would you say has been the biggest difference in yourself from when you started competing in Valorant and right now?
effys: I think it's my confidence level. I used to not be a very confident player and not super decisive, but I've played with many great players and I've earned their respect and that gave me a lot of confidence as a player.
Looking back at how I was before and how I am right now, I feel I know a lot about Valorant and I know how to play the game at a high level. I know my worth now which is not something I did before.
On meta and Game Changers for 2023
BLIX: Going back to GC, I want to know your input as to your thoughts on the format of the circuit given that it's going to start in April, roughly four months in the year and six months since the GC Championship. What are your thoughts on it starting in April?
effys: That's one thing that made me choose this team over the other ones because I did have other offers for coaching but this is the one I chose. Let's say I decided to coach a team in Challengers, this season would be over in June so that would leave me without a job for six months, but coaching a GC team means I have tournaments all year long and that's just better for me to develop as a coach.
I get a lot more, like, playtime and I get a lot more, so I really like the GC schedule. I wish the schedule for Challengers was the same, to be honest. I like the fact that it's spread out through the year and it's not three weeks and your season's over.
BLIX: You have been through many events when it comes to your career such as qualifying for Masters and competing within NA Challengers. Should you be able to reach your goal of being the best GC team in both the women's and the co-ed scene, where would it rank in your career overall?
effys: I'd say it would probably be the second-best achievement for myself. Going to Iceland and being part of the first North American delegation to go and represent the region on the world stage and actually beating an EMEA team is going to be hard to beat, if I'm honest. That was really nice and that was probably the highlight of my gaming career.
I would absolutely love for us to like, win the whole GC circuit this year, but to be honest, it would mean more to me if we won a Knights Monthly than if we did that. It sounds weird but that's what I want to do. I want us to beat co-ed teams and show that we're not a joke and we can actually defeat decent teams in the co-ed scene. To me, a small win and a co-ed tournament would mean more than a big win in a GC tournament.
BLIX: I'm curious about your view of the meta right now because we've seen various types of interesting agent compositions such as double duelists, no Chamber, and Lotus getting inserted into the map pool. How have you viewed the meta specifically from last year and ahead of this year?
effys: I think this is the best meta we've had in a while. I think this is nice to see that almost every agent can be played on most maps. I feel some duelists are a bit underwhelming. I feel Raze and Jett are still very strong compared to other duelists.
I would like to see Phoenix, Neon, Reyna, and mayb even Yoru have reworks so that they're not very niche picks and they're viable consistently because right now, I would like to see more variability in the duelist. But aside from that, I think this is a very healthy meta to watch. You can do so many different things now.
BLIX: What do you think people should look out for you as you are beginning this season in competing both in the GC and co-ed scene?
effys: They should probably look out for my team to be a lot more sound fundamentally than what they're used to from other GC teams. I think I have a different approach from the previous coaches they've had— which could maybe backfire — but at this point, I'm very confident in the route I've decided to take.
I'm expecting the level to be a lot higher and to be a lot more flexible from other teams in the past in the sense that it won't be a lot about cheesy strats and cheesing out games. It will mostly be about being a better team in general. It won't be much about prep more than making sure that every player is becoming a better player in an overall sense, if that makes sense.