In what many would call an upset, Luminosity Gaming beat Sentinels in a grueling five-match VALORANT series during the Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship grand finals earlier this month.
The series spanned several close games and an overtime on Icebox. Both teams volleyed back and forth until Luminosity won the tiebreaker to become $15,000 richer.
Some teams might ride that high into the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT), Riot’s year-long global circuit that kicks off this week. But Luminosity’s Alex "aproto" Protopapas understands that there’s still much to improve on.
“Sentinels are one of the best teams and they clearly weren’t playing to their normal level,” aproto told Dot Esports. “Although it’s still great we beat them, there is more that needs to be done so we can continue to beat teams of their caliber on a consistent level.”
The 21-year-old is definitely confident about the power this roster holds. And while expectations and morale are high heading into the VCT qualifiers, aproto said he won’t get “complacent over one tournament victory.”
Aproto’s conservative mindset is understandable since there are, after all, a few unanswered questions going into the first open qualifier. For one, these players haven’t competed together for long. Their first event was the Complexity x NSG Invitational earlier this month, where they placed third. Aside from Sentinels, this lineup hasn’t faced off against some of North America’s best teams, like 100 Thieves, TSM, and Team Envy. And Diondre “YaBoiDre” Bond and Kaleb “moose” Jayne are still stand-ins who have yet to be upgraded to the official roster.
Though those concerns will be put to the test soon, it’s hard to deny something is clicking for this young team. When discussing their recent success, Luminosity coach Benjamin “trainer” Bravo attributes some of it to “patching up” micro-level mistakes during scrims. And playing the right agents is key.
“One of the most important things when it comes to a team is getting people on the right agents and roles,” trainer told Dot Esports. “Once everyone got put on agents they wanted to play we started to see much greater results.”
Luminosity interestingly took turns playing Omen against Sentinels, with YaBoiDre, moose, and Brenden “stellar” McGrath all picking up the mysterious controller on different maps. Trainer said this was to “get other people on the agents they want and the team needs.” And with the team “almost there” with solidifying set agents on every map, the coach thinks their improvement will continue to grow.
To take out Sentinels, the game plan was simple—play their own game.
“One of the reasons we struggled in past matches was due to our communication starting to dip when we started losing,” trainer said. “I felt with the amount of firepower we have all we just had to make sure we stayed communicating, as it's what brought us this far.”
While communication may have helped them stay focused and avoid the reverse sweep, spectacular mechanics and precise aim were very much on display.
In one incredible outplay on the final map, aproto held down Ascent’s B site with Cypher on his own. By channeling his inner Clint Eastwood, the 21-year-old used the Sheriff to get four kills and help his team steal a round. He began by peeking out of logs and hitting a collateral headshot, instantly taking out two players at the same time. Aproto then clicked a couple of more heads before being gunned down by the fifth Sentinel.
Since aproto plans on maining sentinels like Cypher or Killjoy, despite flexing Raze on Icebox, defending sites on his own will likely be a common occurrence.
“I’m very confident at being able to hold and get kills on a site when I’m alone, I’d say that's normally when I play my best VALORANT on CT side,” he said. “I’m not sure If you could call that round a turning point for us, but I’d say it helped out our mental a bit being able to steal a round like that.”
With the Champions Tour kicking off on Jan. 27, Luminosity have a working list of things to improve on. Trainer identified consistency, communication, and making games less close as a starting point. But for a young team with little experience playing together, they’re off to a promising start.