In his first match at the main event of the Intel Extreme Masters Season XIII, Michael “dapr” Gulino went for one of his patented knife kills. Up against Natus Vincere’s Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, the current best player in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, dapr and his eUnited teammates had already secured the round. They just needed to kill s1mple and take away his sniper rifle to make their next few rounds that much easier.
Dapr had a teammate flash him out of the ramp entrance to the A bomb site on Mirage, blinding s1mple. He took out his knife and tried to stab the Ukrainian for a stylish end to the round, but the play ultimately failed, as s1mple pulled out his secondary to take out dapr instead.
“You cheeky gamer,” said caster Jack “Jacky” Peters about the failed knife attempt.
Dapr’s teammate at the time, Will “dazzLe” Loafman, said he remembered the play as an iconic moment from their time together.
“We had a commanding lead for sure,” dazzLe said, referring to the 10-3 round score in favor of eUnited. “But the game was definitely not over yet, and he’s just going to try to knife s1mple, which is never a good idea.”
This kind of disrespectful (but hilarious) play is what the 22-year-old North American player became known for in Counter-Strike, along with his aim, and this legacy has transferred over into his career playing VALORANT for Sentinels.
Dapr started his esports career in the amateur Counter-Strike system, working his way up through the ESEA system. As a high school graduate, he got his first break on Denial Esports in 2017. The New York native moved out to Los Angeles and started his career surrounded by new faces, all at least five years his senior.
“I was just like living in a spare room with a mattress on the floor, just like a LAN setup where my computer is next to all their computers,” dapr said about the house he shared with Denial.
During this time, he also developed a label as a toxic player. According to dapr, his competitiveness came out in ways that his teammates found disrespectful.
“I think at the end of the day, my toxicity … I didn’t really view it as me being toxic at the time. I think I had good intentions,” dapr said. “Like in my head, I was like, ‘Oh, let me point out what’s wrong, so we could get better.’ But, in reality, what I was doing was being really condescending to my teammates.”
Dapr’s issues with teammate relationships continued through his time on eUnited as well, as a younger player trying to bum a drag off his colleagues vapes, according to dazzLe. But his former teammate agreed that dapr’s heart was usually in the right place.
“It just comes from a competitive drive I think,” dazzLe said of dapr’s intentions to evolve for the better as a teammate. “I feel like it’s shown the more he’s grown as a player and even into VALORANT, he’s gotten better with it. It’s made him a better player for sure, a better teammate.”
Dapr on the server
Dapr’s competitive drive also comes out in his play in-game. Whether it’s in CS or VALORANT, Dapr wants to win.
“He kind of knows how the game is supposed to be played, like everyone’s role,” dazzLe said. “I think that’s just the thing about him where he wants to understand the game in and out even if it’s things he’s not doing.”
On Sentinels, dapr’s current squad, even with all of the praise teams and analysts give the captain and in-game leader Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan, dapr still sees himself as a secondary caller of sorts.
“I try not to over call, but I usually throw out a whole bunch of ideas on what we could be doing, what the enemy is doing,” dapr said.
In VALORANT, dapr became known for his early set ups on Cypher and innovation in the role. While the more flashy Duelist combinations and plays were always on display for his teammates, dapr would sit behind a wall with his camera and wait as the enemy walked into his web of Trip Wires and Cypher Cages.
He is also a proficient lurker on offense and defense, catching players off-guard on the flank or taking space that the enemy will need to reclaim if they want to change their plan mid-round. From his time with Sentinels, he rarely lets his team down in tense situations. He generally plays up to his level and has yet to have a truly bad tournament, statistically.
“I think if the game is 12-11, you probably want dapr in that situation,” Gen.G Esport’s IGL Anthony “gMd” Guimond said. “I think he’s someone that they can definitely rely on.”
Dapr is probably the player most Sentinel mains look to most for inspiration when they lock in the agent class, especially Cypher. While the Sentinels role has expanded its roster since the beta, the groundwork had to be set for how professionals would utilize the position.
“What [dapr] does and what all these Sentinels still do right now is what everyone used to do in beta, and the ones that started that are [Michael “MkaeL” De Luca], from our old team, and dapr from Sentinels,” gMd said. “All the older players are the ones that kind of created that for the U.S. Sentinels. Nobody showed Dapr how to play Cypher. He had to be creative and he had to do it by himself.”
Same person offline
Dapr’s propensity for antics during professional matches also translates to an offline environment. With eUnited, dazzLe described his former teammate as a “goofball.”
The Sentinels content team has taken advantage of this as well, using the young player and his infectious laughter to grow his stream and make videos for the organization.
But dapr is also into banter, whether it’s on the international stage at a major tournament, or with his teammates at a restaurant after a match.
“He’s really easy to make fun of but then he can dish it back,” dazzLe said.
DazzLe also said he could always count on dapr to “say something that’s just like so stupid, you couldn’t believe it.”
When LAN tournaments and crowds become the norm for VALORANT, other pros and fans may get the in-person dapr experience as well.
GMd said Dapr is easily likeable outside of the server and would describe him, as he said many in the community would, as a “troll.”
Dapr hasn’t changed much
In the grand final of the 30bomb Summer Cup in August of 2020, Sentinels and TSM went up against each other in one of their classic matchups before the VALORANT Champions Tour began.
Sentinels had dispensed with all but one of TSM’s players in the first map on Split. With a Phantom in hand, Dapr hunted down the final player. And, instead of taking a normal swing to fight the remaining enemy, he turned the corner with a 360 degree jump and sprayed them down.
Did he just do it to 'em like that?
— Sentinels (@Sentinels) August 3, 2020
Whether it’s a 360 peak, trying to knife the best player in the world or teabagging enemies on the international stage, dapr is going to make the most of his moment in the spotlight.
Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.