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In the post-match press conference after XSET won North America Stage 2 Challengers, the team was asked who they were looking forward to playing against at the upcoming Masters Copenhagen in their respective roles.
Brendan “BcJ” Jensen chose DRX’s Kim “stax” Gu-taek.
“Everybody always says he’s the best initiator in the world, and I say ‘Hell no,'” BcJ said in the press conference. “He is somebody that is from a worse region and he is getting way too much credit. This guy is doing nothing special, and I do believe that me and [Austin “crashies” Roberts] are the best two initiators in the world by far.”
BcJ’s teammate, Zachary “zekken” Patrone, took a much different approach to his answer.
“I want to play [Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto],” he said, a goofy smile plastered on his face. “I think it’ll be fun.”
XSET is a team composed of five very different players. The roster is helmed by the 30-year-old British Counter-Strike veteran, Rory “dephh” Jackson. His right hand is Jordan “AYRIN” He, the longest-tenured member of the team. Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban is the newcomer, still finding his voice on the team. BcJ is a showman who isn’t afraid of adversity and seems to take pleasure in disproving his doubters. Lastly, there’s zekken; at only 17 years old, he’ll be one of the youngest players at Masters Copenhagen.
The one thing uniting these five players? A resolute desire to win.
XSET go international
Until recently, XSET were a team as much defined by their limitations as by their triumphs. They were the team that always fell short at the final hurdle. The ones that could never quite make it to the international stage. The team that placed fourth at five different North American Challengers events.
XSET ended that narrative on June 25th when they beat FaZe Clan and booked their ticket to Copenhagen.
“I think after the first map I realized that my shots were hitting and I felt really confident,” zekken said. “I also took a nap before the game.”
Words of a Champion. REP THE F**KING SET. ❌ pic.twitter.com/1SKo8gUdyy
— XSET (@XSET) June 27, 2022
In fairness to OpTic, who many still consider NA’s top dog, the team was dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 during the grandfinals.
“The OpTic we got today obviously had COVID going on, and some other factors,” dephh said. “I definitely don’t think we got full strength OpTic.”
In any case, there’s something about OpTic being the second seed at Masters events that makes it look like their comfort zone. More than that, being the first seed isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be — something The Guard learned the hard way at Stage 1 Masters Reykjavík. The young team suffered for having a bye directly into the playoffs, losing out on potential stage experience. They then lost two consecutive matches and were immediately eliminated.
“I think [XSET] are going to be similar to The Guard … they might find trouble because they skipped the group stage,” OpTic’s Victor “Victor” Wong said after the grandfinals. “They might run into some experience issues, especially at the start of the LAN, but if they get over that, I think they’ll be fine.”
There’s no shortage of comparisons between XSET and The Guard, but even still, these are two very different teams. For starters, XSET have dephh’s wealth of experience to lean on. They also foresaw issues of LAN inexperience, and took proactive steps to remedy it; steps like attending the Nerd Street Gamers: Summer Championship in Philadelphia to give the team some stage experience.
“We did that with the intention of … ‘We want to get these guys as much LAN experience as possible because we are gonna qualify to Masters, we are gonna qualify to worlds and we need these guys to be ready to be up on a stage.'” XSET’s coach, Don “SyykoNT” Muir, said.
Doubters be damned
XSET are hitting their stride just in time for Masters. For once, the chatter that typically swirls around the team has settled to an equable rumbling.
“Everyone can get annoyed when people say stuff about our team, but we know we’re the hardest working team on the server,” AYRIN said. “We know we had the talent to do it.”
And while every team claims they’re the hardest working but, in XSET’s case, it may just be the truth.
“We know from the scrim booking website that we practice harder than just about every other team in the region,” SykkoNT said. “And it’s truly showing right now. We’re really hitting our stride.”
oopsies 🤷♂️3-1 @OpTic and take 1st seed from NA from CPH. ❌
— XSET dephh (@dephhgg) June 26, 2022
Even though the team has loftier goals than winning NA Challengers, it’s still vindication after a long road. The team has been together for a year now, with the exception of Cryocells; they fought and fell short over and over, listening to the critics say they didn’t have what it takes.
“I said in an interview, it’s always something else,” dephh said. “‘Oh, you get carried by this guy or this happens. You just fail in the last four every single time.’ We hear something else every single time we play … It’s great to put down the naysayers and finally achieve what we’ve been working towards for so long now.”
Now, XSET finally have the chance to prove themselves on the international stage with the world watching.
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.