The Valorant Champions Tour off-season can be wild and unpredictable.

Even the best players in their respective roles can face difficulties securing spots within new rosters because there is no way of telling what organizations will do when they start or overhaul their rosters.

To give fans a behind-the-scenes scoop, Evil Geniuses’ Ethan “Ethan” Arnold explained in an exclusive interview with ONE Esports what type of players the top North American franchise league teams are looking for and how EG turned their nightmarish VCT 2023 season into one of the best runs we’ve seen in Valorant.

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Every top team needs a rock, says Evil Geniuses’ Ethan

EDward Gaming and Evil Geniuses greet onstage after their match at VALORANT Champions Los Angeles Playoffs Stage at the Shrine Expo Hall on August 17, 2023 in Los Angeles, California
Credit: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Unsurprisingly, most of the attention in the VCT goes to the flashy top-fragging duelists or the big-brained IGLs of each team. But according to Ethan, organizations are always looking to build their rosters with players they believe could be the pillar of the team.

He shared that he’s always excited whenever he joins a new roster. It creates a starting point for him where his goal is centered on more than just becoming the best player on the team. He also prioritizes excelling as a team player.

“For me, the team comes first,” he said. “And that might be the reason why teams want players like me.”

Ethan has competed in international Valorant events since 2021. He was part of 100 Thieves’ Valorant roster featuring former CS:GO stars that qualified for Masters Berlin, a tournament where they finished in third place. Ethan explained his experience is vital for teams that have up-and-coming players.

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When Ethan decided not to re-sign with 100 Thieves midway through the VCT 2022 season, 100T’s CEO, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag shared a statement that gave us an idea of the NA star’s value as a player.

“I really wish Ethan wanted to stay and win with us, but it wasn’t meant to be,” said Nadeshot.

Ethan explained he didn’t stay with 100T because the new players they scouted didn’t look promising from his point of view. This is why he decided to move to NRG Esports.

“I thought that was the best route for my career,” he said. However, Ethan’s time with NRG was short and he became a free agent again after two months. This move would eventually lead him to join Evil Geniuses before the start of Riot Games’ franchising program. 

At that time, Ethan stood out as the most prominent player that EG acquired. He also explained that teams place more value on players like him because he’s the kind of player organizations can build around.

“Those are the rocks of the teams,” he said. “You can always gamble and find a Demon1, or any one player of that caliber. It’s really hard to find the foundation of your team, especially since I was at the start of Valorant, so you need someone like that, or else it’s a gamble.”

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All Evil Geniuses required was motivation

EG had a rocky start to the VCT 2023 season. They had an ambitious approach before the VCT Americas League, signing a 10-man roster. However, they fell in the standings with a 1-5 match record within the initial five weeks of the VCT Americas League regular season.

The team turned their season around after EG solidified their starting five rosters with the addition of Max “Demon1” Mazanov. Since signing the star duelist, EG has become the top Valorant team in North America, finishing second at Masters Tokyo and making it to the winners’ final at Valorant Champions 2023.

Max "Demon1" Mazanov (L) and Ethan "Ethan" Arnold of Evil Geniuses react onstage at VALORANT Champions Los Angeles Playoffs Stage at the Shrine Expo Hall on August 19, 2023 in Los Angeles, California
Credit: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

“When we got Demon1 permanently as our fifth, that gave people a goal to strive for,” said Ethan. “Before that, it was weird because there were a lot of temporary roster changes being made. Even in scrims, some people played, and others didn’t.”

“It led to a lack of motivation for some players,” he continued. “But once we got that fifth roster spot solidified, everyone knew we could start working on stuff. That, plus we were getting better.”

The surge in motivation united EG’s roster and pushed them to become a top contender at international events.

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