In the post-match press conference after FunPlus Phoenix secured their first Masters trophy, no tears were shed. The emotion was understated. More than anything, FPX were breathing a collective exhalation after a grueling Masters and an even tougher journey to the event.
FPX played every possible match they could have played on their road to the Masters Copenhagen grand final. A total of 554 rounds of VALORANT. Throughout it all, the team was unflappable in their resolution that — at full strength — they were capable of winning it all.
“I knew we had all the potential to win it,” FPX’s in-game leader Kyrylo “ANGE1” Karasov said in the press conference. “We didn’t have confidence we’re winning this tournament, but I knew for sure we can do it.”
The grand final delivered one of the most electrifying best of fives in the short history of the VALORANT Champions Tour. In the end, FPX overcame Paper Rex in the first ever international VCT event with a live audience.
“It felt like the crowd helped us a lot,” ANGE1 said. “There is a really really big chance that the people who supported us today played the key role in us winning.”
There was no more appropriate way for FPX to have won the Masters Copenhagen grand final than a massive 4K from Dmitry “SUYGETSU” Ilyushin. The team fought tooth and claw with their stand-in Mathias “SEIDER” Seider to stay alive in the tournament. And then SUYGETSU joined and FPX went undefeated on their way to their first ever Masters trophy.
“I think he’s proved to a lot of people that he’s up there with the best players in the world,” FPX’s Ardis “ardiis” Svarenieks said.
Ever since FPX added ardiis and SUYGETSU at the end of 2021, the team has only gotten better and better. But the theme of their progression through the Europe, Middle East and African region was the difficult external circumstances that plagued them.
It hasn’t just been travel issues that FPX have had to contend with. The Russian and Ukrainian players on the team have been impacted by the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
A moment came after the grand final concluded where ANGE1, who is from Ukraine, spoke directly to a fan in the audience that was representing him with a Ukrainian flag. In the post-game celebrations, ANGE1 wrapped himself in the flag as he signed autographs and took photos.
“It meant a lot,” ANGE1 said. “It felt like I went home. I missed this flag so much. It’s unfortunate that Riot doesn’t allow us to wear it.”
It puts into perspective just how professional FPX’s players are. The team’s focus on the game is absolute, even in the face of the hurricane of difficulties thrown their way.
“Our team has been through some really difficult times this year,” coach Erik “d00mbr0s” Sandgren said. “As a team, but also as individuals. I’m glad we get to work through it and come out on top, even though there’s so many things that are happening around us.”
Throughout all of Stage 2, FPX have wanted nothing more than to prove themselves. That opportunity was denied to them in Masters 1. It looked like they wouldn’t get the chance in Copenhagen either, but the team battled on and eventually claimed the trophy.
“I’m just glad that we finally get something for all the hard work we’ve been doing even though sometimes things were looking pretty down,” d00mbr0s said. “I’m just happy. And relieved.”
FPX become Masters victors
VALORANT fans have been eager to crown a definitive best team since the VCT spun up in 2021. Thus far, that’s been difficult. For a time it looked as though OpTic Gaming would claim the mantle. That was before FPX sent the North American team home from Masters Copenhagen. Before FPX won the event.
“I think at this moment, at this minute, we’re the best team in the world,” ANGE1 said. “And it’s very hard to prove me wrong.”
Paper Rex were less willing to crown FPX with the title. In the losers press conference, Paper Rex’s in-game leader Benedict “Benkai” Tan pointed to the fact that no team has been able to win back-to-back international events.
“If [FPX] win Champions, then definitely I’ll call them the best team in the world,” he said.
Champions 2022 is the end-of-year culmination that the world’s top teams all have their eyes on. It will also be an opportunity for FPX to put to bed any doubts and firmly place themselves as the best team in VALORANT.
FPX are confident they can make that happen. The team felt their play was sloppy in Copenhagen; consequently, they aim to tighten up their gameplay and become more disciplined before Champions.
“I don’t think you saw the best FPX,” ANGE1 said. “That’s for sure.”
For now, FPX can at least be content with finally earning some hardware for their shelves.
“My feelings about this tournament [are]: It’s about time,” d00mbr0s said.
Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.