Envy no longer ‘underrated,’ but not yet elite

by Bill Baer

Shortly after winning the NSG First Strike qualifier in early November, Team Envy’s Jake “kaboose” McDonald said to Dot Esports about his team, “I don’t think we’re ever underdogs, we’re just very underrated.” Teammate Austin “crashies” Roberts echoed kaboose’s sentiment, saying, “As a team, we can all pop off at any time.”

Envy bolstered their roster with the duo of crashies and Victor “food” Wong in September after the two had spent a four-month stint with T1. Adam “aKis” Kisseberth and Abdo “c4Lypso” Agha were pushed to the reserve roster and later parted ways with the team as crashies and food continued to gel with in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta, Anthony “mummAy” DiPaolo, and kaboose.

Going into the First Strike qualifier, Envy were seen as a step behind the likes of Sentinels and TSM, two powerhouses in VALORANT. Despite a close loss to Sentinels, Envy made it out of their group and into the playoffs. In the knockout stage, Envy beat Complexity and Renegades before sending 100 Thieves packing with a dominating 3-0 victory that included a 13-2 opening map win on Bind.

Envy had put themselves on the map, but that was just one tournament. Were they really here to stay?

They showed they were. In December, Envy placed 3rd-4th in the First Strike North America tournament, beating Immortals 2-0 before TSM knocked them out in the semifinals. 

Also last month, in the Cloud9 To The Skyes tournament, Envy won their first tournament, beating FaZe Clan in the quarterfinals, then T1 in the semis and Renegades in the grand final without dropping a map against either of those teams.

That brings us to Nerd St Gamers’ VALORANT Winter Championship this past weekend, where Envy was one of four invited squads to the 16-team tournament. Envy opened up with a convincing 2-0 over 2D. While each player on the team had his own moment, mummAy was the star of the show, registering 21 kills against 10 deaths on Haven, followed up with a 17-11 performance on Ascent.

In the Group C winners’ match, Envy squared off with XSET. Envy fell behind early, but they quickly bounced back on their map of choice, Bind, pulling the series to an even 1-1. They sealed a series win, going 13-9 on Split in the third game. Once again, it was a total team effort rather than one player shining more brightly than the rest. Crashies was +8 on Bind with an absurd 40% headshot rate. MummAy was +7 on Split, part of a huge turnaround on defense by Envy.

Read more: LG beat Sentinels at Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship

In the playoffs, Envy faced a familiar foe in Sentinels. Entering the Winter Championship, the two teams had faced off a total of seven times in tournaments with Sentinels coming out on top all seven times, going 14-2 on maps. Envy dropped a close 2-1 set to Sentinels on Saturday. It started with an ugly 13-4 loss on Icebox, but Envy rallied for a 13-5 turnaround on Ascent, sending the match to a decisive third map.

The two sides went the distance on Split, splitting the first 22 rounds. The 23rd round featured Jay “sinatraa” Won pulling out some heroics with three kills and a defuse for Sentinels. Following that clutch play, Sentinels wrapped things up in under a minute in Round 24 to advance into the semifinals. 

Envy were just a couple of maps away from not only slaying a personal demon but taking down one of VALORANT’s elite teams. Such a win would likely have put Envy into the “best team” discussion.

With a handful of matches under their belts since kaboose’s “underrated” comment two months ago, Envy have proven they’re a force to be reckoned with. However, they haven’t done enough yet to join the upper echelon of squads, struggling against tougher teams. 

Along with their difficulties with Sentinels, Envy are also 1-2 against TSM and 2-2 against 100 Thieves. Additionally, Envy lost to Cloud9 Blue in the First Strike open qualifier when C9 still had Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and Josh “shinobi” Abastado.

With the VALORANT scene still burgeoning, there will be plenty more opportunities for Envy to test their mettle against the best, starting with the upcoming VALORANT Champions Tour. Their roster already had a tremendous amount of promise and is one that can continue growing together and improving. As rosters continue to evolve, signing a star free agent might be just what they need to become elite.

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