TSM announces new VALORANT team full of ex-Counter-Strike pros

Provided by Riot Games

When questioned what their goal is by joining TSM, members of the newly announced VALORANT roster didn't mince their words, getting straight to the point of the team's creation and signing with the storied North American esports organization.

"I want to dominate the VALORANT scene," Yassine "Subroza"' Taoufik told ESPN about joining TSM. "[We want to] be able to consistently be the No. 1 team and bring as many trophies as possible."

"I want to be the best team," Tayler "Drone" Johnson said.

"I have a drive to compete and win," Matthew "Wardell" Yu said. "I don't care or focus on what is at stake, I just want to win each game we play."

"I want to be the best," Stephen "reltuC" Cutler said.

"I want to prove that age doesn't matter when it comes to esports," 30-year-old Counter-Strike veteran James "hazed" Cobb said of his ultimate goal of joining TSM.

Read more: Overwatch League MVP Sinatraa leaves game to become VALORANT pro | Top South Korean Counter-Strike squad switches to VALORANT | Everything you need to know about VALORANT

At the start of the VALORANT closed beta in early April, the now-TSM roster began playing together, a majority of them announcing their exit from the professional Counter-Strike scene, eyeing a future in Riot Games' new tactical shooter. Although the quintet all came from the same first-person shooting game background, they were a mixed bunch. Wardell had been perpetually standing on the edge of being picked up by a top North American Counter-Strike team, while hazed and reltuC, 30, are pillars of the scene, both having played CS professionally even before its current iteration Global Offensive released in summer 2012.

Even the team's name before being picked up by TSM, mouseSpaz, was a homage to the roster's eldest statesmen. Hazed and reltuC left their team of NetcodeGuides in 2014 to play for the mouseSpaz organization for five months alongside their friends before ultimately leaving the now-defunct Counter-Strike team to join Counter Logic Gaming together.

The name mouseSpaz will once again fade away, but hazed and reltuC won't be creating a team for CLG. Instead, they're going the opposite route. The veterans signed with CLG's archrivals in Riot's flagship esport title, League of Legends, where the two franchises have clashed for almost a decade. As part of CLG, the closest hazed and reltuC got to a world championship was in 2016 at MLG Columbus, where the team fell in the quarterfinals to fellow North American organization Team Liquid.

On TSM, they want to go levels further and win a world championship of their own.

"Valorant is a new opportunity," reltuC said. "I've been playing pro Counter-Strike for 11 years and feel it's time for something new."

Soon after the closed beta's start, with Wardell and Subroza announcing on social media that their futures would lie with VALORANT, various North American organizations began pursuing the two star players. And as mouseSpaz continued to dominate and perform well in online tournaments in the beta, those offers continued to find their way to the entire team -- the pedigree of the team obvious to any owner wanting to get off to a successful start in Riot's newest game.

Yet, even though historic organizations with rich histories began contacting individual players, the stance for mouseSpaz was the same: They wanted to play together, as five, with no substitutions or replacements. The players knew that it would be tougher to sell a tier-one organization on picking up an entire starting-five instead of selecting one or two players to put around other well-known names, but Subroza and his teammates believed in their philosophy of sticking together.

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For mouseSpaz, they all trusted each other's skill and background coming from Counter-Strike, the world's most popular first-person shooter esport. They knew that if they took the easy route and signed as an individual or duo on another team, there was a strong chance they would be paired with players from other FPS backgrounds. The group believes that their method of pairing experienced CS pros together will in the long run defeat the melting pot "super teams" formed by piecing together star players from various FPS histories.

With that mindset through free agency, mouseSpaz finally found their new home with TSM. Over the past month, the team has been at the forefront of the North American VALORANT beta scene, competing in everything from daily invitationals to what is the largest tournament up to this point, the T1 Invitational x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational, where the winning team took home the grand prize of $20,000.

The team that ultimately won the tournament and took the bulk of the $25,00 prize pool was made up of only players with backgrounds in Counter-Strike, but it wasn't mouseSpaz. Announced earlier that day, the French-Canadian team coming from relative obscurity in Counter-Strike won under their new banner of Gen.G Esports, ousting mouseSpaz in the upper-bracket before Team Brax, a squad also made up of CS-background players, eliminated them from the event.

Now, as part of the TSM organization, their goal is to improve on their results and surpass the teams that have given them trouble in VALORANT beta tournaments. Wardell remarked it was one of the main reasons the mouseSpaz team joined TSM, saying that they were one of the few teams that would commit to a long-term process instead of threatening changes to the roster if things didn't go as planned right away.

On Thursday, Riot Games announced that the official release for VALORANT would be on June 2, adding a new map, agent and game mode when it comes back online after the closed beta ends on May 28.

The announcement of a full roster being built by a well-known organization won't be the last, as in the coming weeks experienced esport companies take their swing at striking gold.

Former pros from Counter-Strike, PLAYERUKNOWN's Battlegrounds, Fortnite, Apex Legends and more are all converging on VALORANT, using Riot's new game as a chance to create (or extend) a career. TSM teammates believe their job will be to become dream destroyers, climbing up the ranks of North America while ending the aspirations of everyone who gets in their way.

Oh, and in the words of Subroza, get paid while doing it.

"I think the current Counter-Strike scene is over-inflated with struggling orgs and players grinding to make it big," Subroza said. "I have been playing for so long that I felt it was time to be a part of something new. I also like money."