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[EXCLUSIVE] “I don’t think I’ll ever live outside of EMEA again” NA’VI Ardiis predicts a strong year for EMEA VALORANT

[EXCLUSIVE] “I don’t think I’ll ever live outside of EMEA again” NA’VI Ardiis predicts a strong year for EMEA VALORANT

22 Feb
Foo Zen-Wen

As VCT EMEA finally gets underway with their Kickoff, Natus Vincere had their first bout against none other than BBL Esports.

After the intense series, Strafe Esports had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with returning champion Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks of Natus Vincere (NA'VI).

Fresh off an incredible performance, ardiis had plenty of say regarding his time in VCT Americas, as well as the state of EMEA and his new/old team.

The Prodigal Son Returns

In the aftermath of partnership announcements at the tail end of 2022, ardiis made a surprise decision to move to another region to compete.

There, he joined NRG, newly helmed by reputed IGL Pujan "FNS" Mehta and the former remaining OpTic core of Austin "crashies" Roberts and Victor "Victor" Wong

Despite a fairly successful domestic year in NA, NRG would not find much success internationally. At the end of 2023, ardiis moved back to EMEA and rejoined his former comrades of the FPX roster, now on NA'VI.

"We just know each other, and we have that chemistry."

[Interviewer] Thank you so much for this opportunity. Firstly, I’d like to check: how are you doing today?

Yeah, I’m doing good. Tired, but, overall good.

[Interviewer] How are you feeling after that series? Pretty good start from you, especially on Breeze.

A bit rusty overall to be honest. I think we should have won Map 1, but we just did rookie mistakes. We haven’t played for like 6-8 months. Officials have a different vibe from practices - completely different atmosphere. So yeah, a little bit rusty.

But individually, not the best on Ascent as well. So yeah, there were a lot of mistakes that we were doing – individually and as a team.

[Interviewer] Are you referring to Bind the map where you felt you were making the majority of the mistakes, or do you mean in the series in general? Where it wasn’t as clean as you would have liked?

It wasn’t as clean. We were doing like – flashing each other – like […] it was the microplays. Overall, it was fine, but I think the individual small details that would have won us the round, yeah we just messed up, like our timings were off, or […] yeah, I think it was just a little bit of rust.

[Interviewer] Fair enough. But that gets ironed out right, as the season plays out.

Yeah, yeah. [agreeing] I think it’s just literally the first official in like 8 months, so like yeah, stuff like this is bound to happen.

[Interviewer] I’d like to ask you as well, since NA’VI’s revealed when you played at Riot ONE in Japan. You’re playing KAY/O now on Bind, seeing you pivot into another agent. How are the roles kind of shaping up on NA’VI? Are you kind of playing like a supportive role on some maps, where you play KAY/O? And other maps, you are kind of playing the more aggressive Jett and Yoru.

Basically, if we need an OP on the map and we think the OP is super crucial, I’d probably play it. And if not, we kind […], well I don’t want to leak too much. If we think the OP is vital on the map, then we will play an agent for me. If not, it’ll probably be like other agents. I don’t want to go too much into detail but yeah.

[Interviewer] Aww, I see. Also, first game, obviously you did smack them on that last map, won your first series. But how’s the confidence level for the team overall heading into the season? How are the boys doing?

We’ve had chemistry for like a year already. We played for like a year or two before. It just feels good. Everyone has like their own quirks, but we just feel like we just know each other. We just know what to do, what pisses someone off, what doesn’t piss someone off, what makes them happy.

We just know each other, and we have that chemistry. And you only get that from playing a lot – and we have like 2 years, I think it’s nearly 2 years, of just playing together and experience. So, we just work well, as a 5.

[Interviewer] Fair enough. Because I did want to ask you. You did play with them for 2 years, as you said. Then you went to NRG. You went to NA. And then you came back. So, it must feel pretty comfortable then, first of all, sliding back in with your old teammates. Pretty much bringing back the old FPX roster. So, how’s the vibes like? Does it feel like nothing’s really changed? Or does it feel like its familiar but not exactly the same?

I think nothing really changed, I think the org’s more different. In FPX, they were more driven by results. Like FPX as an org only cared about winning. They didn’t care about me, they didn’t care about any other […] like we don’t need this, we don’t need this.

They literally just said, you need to win. If you win, then we’ll be happy. With NA’VI it’s more like overall, like a Tier 1 org. If you play for an Tier 1 org, you have to do media, you have to do this, you have to do this, so it’s like a lot more on top. But yeah, it feels similar, but a little bit more, I want to say more hassle.

[Interviewer] Pretty ironic, an org called Natus Vincere, born to win.

Yeah [laughing].

Of course they care about winning, but like there’s more stuff on top you know? Of course they want to win, have the best team.

A Man of Two Lands

Ardiis has had the opportunity to be one of the first cross-region experienced players in VALORANT. With NRG, he had new teammates, a new culture, and new opponents to face.

"I don't think I really realized how hard it would be."

[Interviewer] Of course, of course. Every team wants that, but it does feel nice when players are a priority for them rather than just results. Also, I’d like to ask: what prompted your move back to EMEA, and more precisely, what prompted your move back to the FPX roster? Was it a sense that it wasn’t really working out in NA? That you wanted to come back, to familiar roots, familiar teammates?

I don’t think I’ll ever live outside of EMEA again. It was a hard year, I don’t think I really realized how hard it would be, living in a completely different country. Completely different timezone.

Even if you wanted to speak to your friends, it’s like it might be 2 o’clock for you, but it’s like 2 o’clock in the morning for them.

It’s like, the timezone […] it was a lot of things. And yeah, I think maybe if I lived on the East Coast, it might have been a bit easier. But since I lived on the West Coast, it’s like completely different timezones and yeah. To speak to friends and family was like near-enough impossible.

[Interviewer] That must have really been rough. Ok, bringing it back then, an overarching question because again, I don’t know much you can tell me. How exactly have the roles been playing out on this new NA’VI? Because I’m seeing Shao’s now more on Controller, and you’re seeing ANGE1 more on initiator. They’ve kind of swapped roles. How has it all been playing out and where do you fit in? You mentioned that if you need an OP, you’re the OPer. What else besides that?

All I can say is that we’re a flexible team. Everyone on this team – maybe minus Suygetsu – everyone on the team has played like 8-9 different agents. I think I’ve seen Zyppan on like everything, Shao played everything. He even played duelist. I’ve played nearly everything. Sage. Gekko. I’ve played everything as well. And ANGE1 again. He’s played smokes, he’s played initiator.

So, first its more about the map, and then how we feel the map will go. If the map will go […]. We don’t really play to our strengths. We are all good on different agents. So yeah, it’s like going to be super map dependent. I wouldn’t say like, just because you see Shao on Omen on one map, guarantee he’s going to be on another map. Or like Suygetsu. Just because I’m playing KAY/O on Bind doesn’t mean it automatically makes me KAY/O on all the maps, like Ascent.

[Interviewer] I see, I see. I ask because Shao has typically been known as a really good initiator. So that’s why we sort of have the questions where it’s why would you not have him on Sova? That’s like the obvious question that the average viewer would ask. So like why would you not have him spamming Sova and spamming Fade on every opportunity you can have him on the agent. So, that’s why we kind of ask how the roles have kind of worked out for you guys.

Yeah I mean. I think it’s with ANGE1 […] with Omen, you’re kind of playing on your own as well. Which I think ANGE1 doesn’t like because he has to call. So, I think ANGE1 wants to be with the pack is all. And we have to do a few changes on some maps… yeah.

[Interviewer] I see! Now that we’re on the topic of ANGE1. ANGE1 vs FNS. The difference in IGL style, what’s your experience been like working with these two guys. Historically they’ve had different IGL-ing styles but they’re both respected in the field.

I think the styles super similar honestly. Because that was one of the things that I was shocked by when I went to NA. It’s that ANGE1 and FNS, they play like defaulty style. Like they want to default, default, default. And it’s all about making as little mistakes as possible.

So, it’s a very similar style. The calling is very similar, but like […] yeah, I’d say it’s very similar. That’s one of things I was scared about, but when I went to NA, FNS really called good. I think he was super similar to ANGE1. So yeah, I was happy.

[Interviewer] Oh, so you didn’t know how FNS’s calling was like, you didn’t scrim with them before you…?

No, no. Yeah, I didn’t.

A Walking Latvian/British Army Knife

Across his years of competing in VALORANTardiis has donned many faces, across many different roles and agents. His talents is clearer to see on some than others, but make no mistake, he's deadly as long as he's on the other side of the server.

[Interviewer] I see, I see. Now that you’ve worked it out, I’m kind of curious on the Yoru pick. Because on Breeze, you typically either see Jett or Chamber. That’s kind of what we’ve seen since Americas kicked off. What prompted you guys that said, Yoru instead?

I think it’s extra flashes honestly. There’s a lot of times where you need extra flashes here or there that Jett doesn’t bring. Obviously KAY/O helps, but we don’t want a KAY/O. So, I think it’s just the flashes, the TP’s useful. I think there’s just a lot of things. Overall, ult is good. Just a lot of benefits.

I don’t think it’s hands down better than Jett because I think Jett also has some plays that only she can do. But yeah, overall I think it’s just solid.

[Interviewer] Fair enough. The way I saw you play it was kind of […] it reminded me of 2022 Chamber style. With the double TPs. Where you just take like stupidly aggressive angles and then you get the kill, and you’re on a completely different side of the map. Am I getting the right read from that?

Yeah… the thing with Yoru TP is that it’s not instant. I think with Chamber, the thing was you could take the ridiculously stupid angles. You could literally push the most absurd angles and just TP away instantly. But now with Yoru, you can kind of play aggressive, but you have to make sure you can still get away.

The TP animation isn’t instant, it’s like half a second. So, good players will punish instantly. I think in ranked, you’re most likely to get away. But in high-pressure situations, pro players will just headshot you instantly. So, you got to make sure you take risks, but, not too risky.

EMEA for Life?

After returning to EU, ardiis is quick to assert EMEA as the best region in the world for VALORANT at the moment - or at least the most competitive.

"This season should be the season that EMEA overtakes."

[Interviewer] You’re also one of the few rare VALORANT players that has transitioned/played in dual regions and experienced pretty good success on both. Can you speak on your experience on the regional differences between VCT Americas and VCT EMEA? Or just in general, the two regions. Kind of settle the debate here a little bit. [9.39]

I think both regions are strong. I think Americas is strong because they have two regions combined. They have North America and South America combined into one. So, it’s like the best of both worlds I think. I think the one difference is the practice in EU is just tenfold better.

I think the Tier 1 scene might be a little bit stronger in Americas and overall. But I think the whole scene together, I think Europe is a little bit stronger.

[Interviewer] So far from what you’ve seen, how do you think EMEA sort of fares as a region? Where do you sort of sit in the pecking order of regions? Where would you rank yourselves?

I think EMEA is maybe top 1 I’d say? Maybe in the past, maybe last year, I think it has to be Americas because they had LOUD. I think this season should be the season that EMEA overtakes. But if we’re going off last season, has to be Americas. Because they have NRG, they have LOUD, so many good teams, Leviatán. Like so many good teams.

[Interviewer] This season you have Leviatán with aspas as well, you have Sentinels obviously, NRG. But you would still stack EMEA over them? Is there a particular reason? Is it based off your expectations and experience in scrims?

I think overall, the teams from practice, from what I understand, have gotten a lot stronger. I think Kcorp are going to be one of the better-looking teams. I think FUT, they have cNed and that’s an upgrade. NA’VI got me back. Fnatic are already strong, one of the best in the world. Liquid have picked up like three up-and-coming players. And two proven already, I think. So I saw so many teams improved.

And then Americas teams are mashed together. Like EG are mashed together with NRG, and then aspas like left LOUD. So, we’ll see how much that affects him. And LOUD as well. I think the teams overall in EMEA have just kind of improved. Even Heretics, Wo0t can’t play right now but he’s an up-and-coming youngster. Very good. So, I think overall we’ve just improved.

[Interviewer] Last question, Boostio has called EMEA the one-team region. Obviously you have a completely different take on it. Do you sort of have a spicy thing you can sort of end on?

Umm, he’s not wrong. Last year, EMEA was a one-team region if I’m honest. I mean, it’s a new year, so, we’ll just see how the new year goes. But, I mean, I don’t think he’s wrong about last year.

[Interviewer] Thank you very much ardiis. Hopefully I get a chance to talk to you again and best of luck for the rest of Kickoff.

NA'VI next faces off against Team Liquid for qualification to Playoffs. In what is anticipated to be a heavy-hitter match, there is a lot at stake in the Winner's circle tomorrow when these two team clash.

Follow the VCT 2024 action on Strafe.

For more information on the VCT EMEA Kickoff, check out Strafe Esports' piece on the Format, Schedule, Teams and more. If one of the other Kickoffs catches your fancy, we also have previews for Americas, Pacific, and China.

As an additional bonus, you can catch the VOD for the interview on our new YouTube channel. Also, check out our tier list for the 33 partnered teams (VCT China notwithstanding) heading into 2024's season.

Credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games

Read More: Strafe's Match of the Week: LOUD Takes on Leviatan For VCT Americas Playoff Qualification

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