T1 was supposed to be one of the top contenders in the North American Valorant scene. But after nearly three months of disappointing performances, T1 has fallen off the rankings.
T1’s Valorant roster announcement definitely helped build hype for the game in its early stages and legitimized the level of talent the competitive scene was forming.
T1’s roster had former CS:GO stars like Braxton “Swag” Pierce and Keven “AZK” Larivière, together with ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018 winner Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham. These three players were the biggest names in the Valorant beta, and seemed to be setting the curve for how competitive Valorant would be played. Additionally, all three played for a dominant iBUYPOWER team, which meant they already had existing team chemistry.
T1 then enlisted two top ranked Valorant players in Victor “food” Wong and Austin “crashies” Roberts. Even though both players didn’t enjoy the same level of success in CS:GO compared to Swag, AZK, and Skadoodle, food and crashies made the most out of their switch to Valorant, quickly reaching the Radiant rank and dominating their matches against high-level opponents.
Despite having so much talent, T1’s roster has clearly underperformed. But why?
One thing that may have hurt T1 is a lack of dedicated player roles. Due to T1’s shuffling agent pool, they’ve failed to capitalize on Valorant’s current competitive meta.
For example, Brax played Omen and Raze early on, two agents who play very differently. After a few lacklustre tournament performances, the team decided to move him to the support Cypher role during the FaZe Clan Valorant Invitational.
Meanwhile, food was asked to play as the team’s main fragger, switching from Brimstone to Raze. And crashies relinquished his Cypher to primarily play Omen.
Is Skadoodle the problem?
Recently, Skadoodle, has been something of a scapegoat for T1’s issues, and he was actually subbed out for head coach, Daniel “fRoD” Montaner, at the Pittsburgh Knights tournament.
To be clear, we do not think Skadoodle is the problem. He hasn’t been kicked off the team, and his recent benching is probably due to him trying to learn Jett.
Skadoodle was known for his AWPing skills in CS:GO but he built that reputation off a patient, methodical, and extremely passive playstyle. That doesn’t work in Valorant, with the best Operator users, like Matthew “Wardell” Yu and Oscar “Mixwell” Cañellas, all utilizing aggressive active playstyles with Jett.
Ska originally mained Sage, which doesn’t really fit well with an Operator, as losing her utility to an early dry peek can be catastrophic for a team. Ska now mains Sova, but that only happened during the PAX Valorant Invitational tournament.
Ska has the aim to be a top Jett player, but it will take time for him to change his playstyle.
The other issue that Ska has been called out for is a lack of communication.
In an interview with HLTV, Skadoodle’s former teammate Jake “Stewie2k” Yip mentioned, “At the time, I think Ska was pretty burnt out from CS, and his communication was at an all-time low and far from the high standard he had set at the Major.”
To be fair, this feels like an issue that affects T1 as a whole.
While other teams have clear-cut in-game leaders, no-one on T1 really fills that role. AZK has served as their in-game leader so far, but he’s not known as a natural, take-charge leader, and with Skadoodle and Brax both being quiet, passive types, it’s clear that he hasn’t been able to get the most out of them.
Prior to signing with T1, Skadoodle decided to follow the path of his former teammate Mike “Shroud” Grzesiek and stream full time. But as one of the only players in North America to ever win a CS:GO major, the expectations for him are extremely high. Skadoodle has the skills to be one of the best players in North America, but he needs to focus on being the best player in T1.
Moving forward, T1 needs to finalize each player’s role, so they can implement better strategies and team rapport, and they need someone to step up as the in-game leader. AZK has tried, but maybe it’s time for someone else to give it a go.
T1 already has extremely talented players; they just need to build on their team chemistry and confidence to go up against the top teams in North America.