“We didn’t have our identity, I would say. We were all over the place. But we got our stuff together, got a coach and that helped us do that.”
For the length of its tenure in Valorant, FaZe Clan has been known both for the sheer mechanical talent of its players as well as their overaggressiveness and discoordination. But throughout the first Valorant Masters tournament, FaZe looked like a team reinvented, working together and coordinating utility to unlock their immense potential.
FaZe Clan superstar Andrej “babybay” Francisty took the time with Stropse to discuss FaZe Clan’s run through Valorant Masters, which spanned all the way to the Grand Finals, where Sentinels proved to be the only North American team capable of taking down the mighty FaZe.
“We kind of found the Smeag just by playing the game and not going over anything,” babybay told Stropse.
FaZe Clan’s iconic “Smeag” is simply the unique playstyle resulting from its aggressive, like-minded roster of ex-Overwatch pros. The FaZe guys love throwing caution to the wind and running head-first into duels, just like the good old days on Tracer or Widowmaker.
“Now that we realize what the meaning [of the Smeag] is, it is easier to add stuff to it. And that’s how you’re going to like evolutionize the Smeag even more, you know, you basically take good things that other teams do, and you put it into the Smeag. And you get this crazy playstyle that I know has to be entertaining to watch.”
While the Smeag used to be fairly one-dimensional, FaZe Clan has since reinvented it, adding in elements like utility coordination and learning ways to adapt to the opponent’s playstyle. As babybay explains it, they now have “a sophisticated Smeag.”
Babybay’s individual playstyle means he must constantly find new and creative angles to shoot the enemy from, which is something the Jett main excels in. Babybay is always landing shots from unexpected angles, making him one of the most frustrating players to deal with.
“I know my playstyle is very, very hard to play against… I don’t necessarily go out of my way to find new things to do. It kind of just comes natural to me, and I think that’s why I’m such a great Jett player right now. Everything I do is very instinctual.
“I was always like this in all the games that I played. In Crossfire, I was an entry fragger. I just have these instinctual feelings where, like I know certain timings somehow. I don’t know how to explain it, it’s just like an instinctual feeling. With an [Agent] like Jett, if you have these instincts, and ideas in your head on the fly, you’re just disgusting, you just dominate. And I think that’s why a lot of other Jett players are struggling right now is because they play a style that’s almost like, too structured or too safe. And I’m always here to test my boundaries and test the limits.”
This limit-testing, as babybay describes it, has given him an upper-edge as Valorant evolves. “If I do something, and it’s too much, and I mess up, then I know not to do it again, and I can learn from it. And a lot of these people don’t even take the risks in the first place. So I’m already ahead.”
The Impact of Coach Trippy
“What he did that was so amazing that no other coach did, was instead of trying to change the way we play, which a lot of people were trying to do, he incorporated things that would help our play style. So we didn’t have to change our play style completely and not Smeag; he made it better.”
Anyone who has seen the before and after of Thomas “Trippy” Schappy’s work as head coach knows the impact he’s made on FaZe Clan. In tournaments past, FaZe often acted as five individuals as opposed to one team. But Trippy has taught the players to coordinate with one other while still retaining the incredibly punishing Smeag. If babybay gets too aggressive trying to Smeag, Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo or someone else is there to back him up with utility.
Dying alone due to overaggression was a big theme of FaZe Clan’s past, but today, proper coordination has put that narrative to bed and unlocked a new form of this team.
“I’ve been friends with [Trippy] for a very long time,” babybay said. “I’ve known him since Crossfire. So I’m the one that just gave him a shot. I was like, ‘Hey, you want to just do this for fun?’ And he came in and ended up being a great fit.”
The Smeag Was Stopped. Now What?
While at some points throughout Valorant Masters, it seemed as though no team knew how to stop FaZe, Sentinels proved formidable enough to sweep FaZe Clan in two straight series, winning the event and sending FaZe home.
Although it’s a disappointing ending to the first Masters, Stage Two is now beginning, bringing with it new opportunities for FaZe Clan to develop its strategy. “If a team figures out a way to beat us, then we will adapt,” babybay said confidently.
“The crazy thing is that Jett is a hero that can go into aggro spots and get out safely no matter what. So you could have all the structure in the world, but what if I’m just picking you from a random angle, or if I mix up my timings? What if I don’t rush right away?
“What if I wait like five seconds? What if I wait 10 seconds? What if I don’t rush at all, and you’re expecting me to rush? I think it’s very unpredictable.”
Despite the brutal losses to Sentinels, babybay is confident in his ability to adapt to whatever Sentinels or anyone else throws his way. “[Now], I know I have something to work on. And I know I can find a way around it and beat it.”
FaZe began Stage One of the Valorant Champions Tour as a middling team, incapable of getting out of its own way. But the progress made has been night-and-day, developing into the FaZe Clan which finished the Stage as the number two team in all of North America. As Stage Two progresses and the teams scramble to qualify for Masters 2 in Reykjavik, babybay and FaZe Clan will be leading the way, Smeagin’ on the competition the whole way through.