This week Connor Gill and Michael “Mikes” Hockom had the opportunity to sit down and talk about how Mikes got involved within the VALORANT coaching scene, his time so far with Team Envy, getting Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker, and other competitive VALORANT regions. With this being a friendly conversation and not a usual interview, some parts have been edited for transparency however, the response are untouched.
Introduction to Envy and coaching
The conversation started by asking Mikes about his thoughts towards his current role within Envy as he talked about how the journey has been an overall positive experience along with the process of developing Envy’s playbook.
Rush B Media: So you have been with the Envy squad since June 2021, how have the 3 months been with Envy so far?
Mikes: “It’s been good. I’ve been really enjoying working with those guys. Everyone can work well together and we all come up with good ideas every day. And I think we’ve been progressing really well, especially with the new lineup. We’ll just need a bit more time to see how things fully work out, but I think we have the entire staff here to do really well in the international scene.”
Since Mikes took over the coaching role, He has only been involved at two events with positive results achieving top four at VCT Challengers 1 and VCT Challengers Playoffs. Both defeats came from NA two other representatives at Masters in the form of 100 Thieves and Sentinels.
How did you get involved in coaching and how did Envy approach you?
“So mostly I was just doing the Immortal mind’s content was only real VALORANT stuff I was doing besides playing the game, in between the pros that we had on and just other people I met in the scene. I just made a lot of connections from that. Cause they seem to think that I knew what I was talking about, which opened doors like G2 for a while.”
“I think some of the NV guys had heard of me from there as well when they first trialed me, back during the end of winter. So I think that’s really how I got into it, cause I don’t really have any intention of coaching VALORANT until, DDK kind of pushed me into doing it. After all, he thought I would be able to do a good job.”
Getting Yay and Challenger Playoff
As Envy went into Challengers Playoffs having little practice with Yay, Rush B Media asked about how this transfer came about and why the sudden urge to make the change so close to the event.
Before we discuss VCT, I want to talk about yay and how he arrived on such short notice. Was it you pushing the org to sign him or was it the player’s decision?
“It was like five or six days I think it was officially announced. it’s just a group decision. Generally, we just decided when we heard that he was available, it would be something that we wouldn’t be able to pass up on because he would definitely be gone very quick off the market since he’s like a superstar level player.”
“So we knew if we waited after the qualifier and just wait to see what results we got and make it the change off that it would probably be too late. We took the risk of not having enough time, really to play with them, but we felt like that we could still do well with them, with the role swap.”
The short notice move pay dividends for the team as former Andbox star player finished as the second highest-rated at challenger playoffs just behind Luminosity’s Diondre “YaBoiDre” Bond. Yay was not the only factor as great individual performances from the entire team but in particular, Austin “Crashies” Roberts who had an average combat score of 207 helped push Envy over the finishing line.
Obviously, your team finished 3rd in the event behind Sentinels and 100 Thieves, which is a result good as you qualified but how did you feel the event went?
“We all thought that we would make it to Berlin even with the short amount of practice time and were kind of putting things together last minute. Everyone was obviously pretty down after we had that Sentinels match. Cause it really felt like we could have 2-0’d them and just qualified the Berlin on that first day.”
“We realized afterward the reason we lost that match was just a lot of our own individual mistakes. And we knew if we could clean those up going forward, that would be able to just go through the lower bracket and make it cause we knew as a team, even though we were just a six-day-old team that we’re probably better than all of these other teams.”
Teams at Masters Berlin
Since Masters is coming up soon, is there any team you really want to play against?
“I want to play all of the European teams. Honestly. I want to play Ascend, Supermassive Blaze, Gambit, G2. I want to play all of those guys. I definitely want to play Sentinels again because I think we could beat them even on the international stage. And then outside of that, honestly, just vision strikers, because they were supposed to be like, everyone was hyping them up as like the number one team in the world and how Korea was going to take over the game.”
“And then they kind of fell off. But now it seems like they’re back. So definitely wants to see how they stack up, compared to the other best teams in the world. But some of these other regions, I’m not quite sure what to think yet of the Japanese teams, SEA teams. I’m not sure on those yet.”
The current state of VALORANT
VALORANT is a year old esport and has gone through a lot of changes. This is the second international LAN with the plan is they’re going to have the champions event in the new year. The question here is what is your opinion on VALORANT as it stands right now as an esport?
“One of the major positives, I think at least is like, even though sometimes we complain about the changes, I know everyone’s kind of annoyed about the spam box changed recently, on the bomb sites or different agent changes, Skye being super powerful. Now I prefer that coming from Counter-Strike because at least every few months, if not sooner, I’m gonna have something new to think about or a new problem to solve or we need to change something to catch up to meta rather than like the game just becoming super stale. And I think it’s gonna be interesting because obviously like neither Riot nor the teams are always going to hit the mark on the meta, Riot not always going to be able to balance in the right way and the teams aren’t always going to be able to adapt.”
“I think it just makes it interesting to see which teams, cause there’s going to be teams that work hard and are able to adapt to the meta and come up with cool stuff. Cause they are flexible and smart players. I think there are some teams that are like the meta just going to kind of fall into their lap. They’re just going to have the right roles, the right players for it. And they’re going to do super well during that meta. And then after that, it’s just going to kind of disappear. I think in terms of other aspects of the esport, they’re still a bit of catching up to do in terms of, VOD review, demo systems are a big thing that needs to come through even just for teams, but for content creators as well. That could be a big boost to people that post content, especially with people like Sideshow or Sean Gares or any of the Aim Labs stuff people are doing could be pretty huge to have a demo review system for that.”
“It’ll be interesting as well to see what the format looks like for next year because I do think it needs a bit of tweaking if they’re gonna continue the circuit system, because the start of the year it went from, you had matches every week for a few months in a row. I think it was January through March, maybe April, even. So that was oversaturated. And then you went to a period where no one has anything going on for a month and everyone’s just scrimming for a month. So I think they could definitely balance out the circuit a bit more to have a bit more balanced. So, even if you have matches every week or something super balanced out instead, having five days in a row for this open qualifier, then you get to next week another five days in a row for the closed, it just gets very draining, and then you switch off completely just you have a month off until the next qualifier.”
Completely agree with you I think the current circuit is definitely a priority that they need to look into.
“A good balance between the start of the year and now would be, just spacing out the matches enough. So it’s not every week there are matches, but at the same time, not having a month break, some sort of circuit, like that would be nice scheduling wise.”
The future of VALORANT esports
What do you think the future looks like?. Will it end up being a franchise league like the LCS or will they try to continue the open circuit model?.
“Well, I think it’s a really hard question to answer because everyone obviously a bunch of people wants to jump for the franchise league immediately, but that obviously has effects on the tier two scene in different esports it kind of kills it off depending on what type of events there are because it’s pretty hard for tier two teams to even do anything. Cause most of these, like it’s not like traditional sports leagues where it’s like, they might have relegation or slots or anything like that because what org is going to pay however million for a slot and then, oh yeah, you still have a chance of getting relegated. So that doesn’t really work. And at the same time in CS, you had the open circuit system, but then like we talked about there are the saturation issues and kind of like the tournament organizer wars that go on.”
“Since it’s so open and Valve is so hands-off with it, it’ll be interesting to see what riot does, because I don’t think anyone’s really figured out the right answer for like is franchising better? Is an open circuit better?. I think there needs to be a more structured system than either of them, which I have no idea of how in-depth that would even have to be. But I think there’s a better solution than what’s currently out there. I think everyone just gets stuck between the two options that exist.”
I think what people want is that sweet spot of having these massive international events with the biggest organizations in esports as well as a foundation of small events in which lower-tier teams can compete and further develop.
“Because that’s the thing with this game as well. Like right now, obviously there’s the whole thing where teams that make it to the closed of challenger playoffs or masters, can’t play in these NSG $25K tournaments or whatever. It kind of feels like there’s already a form of tier division already to keep both scenes healthy. Because I know a lot of people are saying, “oh, tier-one team should play in these tier two tournaments. ” Well then all the tier two teams that aren’t salaried or whatever, don’t make much money that actually could compete in these tournaments are now screwed because the team comes in to play them because they’re like knocked out the qualifier or whatever. So there’s definitely ups and downs to all of out.”
Yeah, it’ll be interesting to see what they do I have no idea what they will do, but time will tell.
Goals with Envy
Rush B Media closed the interview by asking Mikes about his short and long-term goals with the team.
What are the goals with Envy now obviously you have Berlin in mind, but what‘s the long-term goal?
“Obviously short-term do well at Berlin. I think we have the potential to win the whole thing going in, long-term would be trying to win champions at the end of the year. First, we gotta figure out which way we’re going to get there though.”
Envy currently sits second place in the North America circuit points standings with Sentinels winning the previous Masters guaranteeing qualification at Champions.
Do you know what needs to happen to qualify for Champions?
“Basically if NA wins Berlin or if we placed above 100 Thieves, we’re fine and we’ll make champions. So that’s obviously the first priority we’re going to make the end goal so we can play another event in the year, especially since it’s the big one. I think we have the potential now to, and all the necessary assets to be a number one team, not only in NA but internationally, I think at least before Berlin going in.”
“I think we’re probably the only team that consistently push Sentinels, at the highest level at the highest pressure. So I think we’re probably the closest to them right now. It’s just kind of ironing out how we’re going to play on some of these other teams with different play styles and gain our system more fleshed out.”
Sounds good. Thanks for taking time out of your day to talk to us.