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Anthony “vanity” Malaspina announced his switch to VALORANT on Jan. 1, 2021. The 22-year-old in-game leader for Version1 had lost interest in his previous title, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. He also didn’t want to go through the process of finding a new team after his previous organization, Chaos Esports Club, had folded.
Vanity’s options were limited to the North American Counter-Strike scene. He could either hope that a top organization — like Evil Geniuses or Team Liquid — picked him up, or that he’d be at the mercy of an organization wavering on their interest in the Valve title.
“You’re just kind of hoping you get lucky, maybe you get paid,” said vanity. “But then, you can be doing as good as you want, then your org just decides ‘yeah, I don’t want to be in esports anymore.’”
He also found Counter-Strike to be increasingly boring as meta shifts and changes are sparing. Titles that change consistently, like VALORANT or Call of Duty, are more interesting than the static tactical FPS to vanity.
Vanity before Version1
Before his jump to VALORANT, vanity was an ESEA and FACEIT Pro League player. Before Chaos, he bounced around amateur teams like Swole Patrol and organizations like eUnited. The community knew him as a leader with a confident calling style and personality.
“It was kind of clear that he had a good leader personality,” said vanity’s former teammate Nathan “leaf” Orf. “I think one of the big things about being a good IGL is you have to have the personality for it.”
That confidence and style drew the attention of other players. Vanity’s current teammate, Jordan “Zellsis” Montemurro, said that playing vanity’s teams in Counter-Strike was a nightmare. He never defeated the cat-ear wearing IGL at tournaments. The Duelist player for Version1 wanted to link up with vanity before VALORANT but didn’t get the chance.
The two teammates are friends outside of the game and joke around in other games, like Warzone and Team Fight Tactics, when not grinding VALORANT. For Zellsis, vanity’s confidence and honesty in and out of the game contrasts his trollish personality.
“I wouldn’t wear cat ears, that’s his thing but I appreciate my boy,” Zellsis said. “I feel like he’s just a cat troll honestly.”
Zellsis said that he is elated to play with vanity now, as it feels like a fresh new experience. The two combine well in-game. Vanity plays Controller agents, using smokes to control areas of the map, and Zellsis runs in off of that utility on a Duelist.
“I like to think I’m a confident player but playing with him makes it even easier to play with confidence,” Zellsis said.
That confidence, and the affinity for change, is something that vanity has instilled in himself mentally and physically. He has a tattoo on his left forearm, a Japanese proverb, that stands for continuous improvement and change for the better. The Texas native says that he lives his life by that philosophy, and his tattoo can be directly compared to his VALORANT career thus far.
Vanity’s VALORANT journey
Version1 came into the VALORANT Champions Tour in Stage 1. The team did not qualify for any main events in Stage 1, losing out to FaZe Clan twice. At that point, vanity and some of his teammates had only played at the highest level of VALORANT for a few months.
For Stage 2, they decided that some things needed to change. When it came to overcoming FaZe in the qualifying stage, Version1 and vanity took the lessons from their previous losses and scrims and implemented parts of FaZe’s game into their own.
“Before we decided to play like FaZe, we were trying to play, I guess, Counter-Strike but in VALORANT,” Zellsis said.
Vanity was already known as a confident, and almost disrespectful, IGL. He would call for plays and strategies that work if his teammates could outplay their opponents. So, adding in the loose style from the former Overwatch players on FaZe was a natural transition.
“We played really fast in CS and, like, no respect and that goes into the way that he plays in this game,” Leaf said of his time on Chaos with vanity. “No respect, like ‘we’re better than these guys let’s just kill them’ type of way of playing. And you can have a lot of fun with that.”
The transition proved to be fruitful as Version1 got past its proverbial bracket demon, beating FaZe in the final qualifying round 2-1 to make Stage 2 Challengers 1. From there, vanity and company finished top four and qualified for Challengers Finals. The months-old team then had a chance to represent North America at Masters 2 in Iceland.
About three weeks later, Version1 and vanity did just that. They qualified through the losers bracket, defeating a plethora of teams to make the first international LAN that VALORANT has ever had.
From his room in Austin, Texas, wearing Version1 branded cat ears, vanity joined the analyst desk for a post-game interview. His team just defeated Cloud9 2-1 to lock in their spot at Masters 2. He played Astra across the entire series, using her utility and smokes to create plays for his team.
“It’s hard to put the words together,” vanity said. “Because it’s just so sudden. I genuinely did not expect to see success this fast.”
The Version1 IGL, with his cat ears and confidence in tow, will represent North America at Masters 2. As the event begins on May 24, vanity will continue to live by the words written into his skin, changing for the better and constantly improving.
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.