Havan Liberty started to feel the pressure of qualifying for VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 3 Masters the night before their match against Furia Esports in the Brazilian Challengers Playoffs.
The team had no expectations of qualifying for the international LAN at the start of the tournament. Their goal was to secure enough circuit points to compete in the Last Chance Qualifier for Champions.
“We are going to win against these guys [Team Vikings] 2-0 and we are going to last chance okay?” said Havan Liberty’s strategic coach Saymon “Hiromi” de Sousa to his team before their first match. After they won against Stars Horizon, going further seemed possible.
The morning before the match that would qualify them for the tournament, the team had a conversation with the organization’s psychologist, Anahy Couto. She told them to treat this like just another ranked game: shoot the guys and kill them. This mindset change seemed to alleviate the pressure.
The team also did something new in their pre-game huddle by looking each other in the eyes and promising to make it to Berlin together. Their previous huddles consisted of expressing confidence in each other, but they said nothing about the tournament beyond the horizon. Why would they? They just wanted to make it to the Last Chance Qualifier.
Well, that was before.
“We are going to Berlin,” said Havan Liberty Head Coach Ricardo “rik” Furquim in the huddle. “No one can take this from us.”
You know them from TikTok
Out of the field of VALORANT teams in Brazil, Havan Liberty are not one of the more popular squads. They don’t have the highlight plays of GameLanders Blue’s Leonardo “mwzera” Serrati, or the brand awareness of a Furia.
The only places fans may recognize the organization from are their semifinals berth at First Strike: Brazil and a top four finish at the region’s VCT Stage 2 Masters qualifying tournament. Havan Liberty bombed out of both events in a 0-2 sweep to paiN Gaming and Furia, respectively.
Despite this, the team has built a name for themselves after TikToks of their training regiment spread to the VALORANT subreddits. The videos show the players training with tennis balls and Uno cards, a mixture of what looks like Steph Curry’s basketball training and when your high school gym teacher hits the “alternative” part of the lesson plan. Cup stacking also makes appearances.
How Havan Liberty play VALORANT
The Brazilian squad, led by Counter-Strike veterans Marcelo “pleets” Leite and Gabriel “shion” Vilela, dealt with Furia in the first two maps of the playoffs with their triple initiator composition and slower style of play. In contrast to the fast rotations, pinpoint aim and precise mechanics of the other teams in the region, Havan Liberty play a more controlled style.
“We basically want to force, and we know that the other team will make an error,” rik said. “So we basically play by what is given to us.”
Thanks to their new composition, those errors became easier to find and exploit. They simplified the information game with Skye and Sova’s recon abilities that scout for the enemy, then brought in Breach with his stuns and flashes to punish the enemy team’s rotations.
But in the final rounds of the third map, the pressure of Berlin came creeping back into the team’s collective mind. Shion, in particular, started whiffing shots, and the communication became muddled as everyone started talking — cluttering the coms with too much information and noise.
Havan Liberty used one of their time outs and an unexpected voice, the team’s 16 year-old Duelist Felipe “liazzi” Galiazzi, calmed their nerves before play resumed.
“From nowhere liazzi said ‘ok guys calm down, we can do this, calm down. You guys are complicating things so much. Let’s just do this,’” rik said.
Havan Liberty wants athletes
There is a methodology to Havan Liberty’s training. While lifting and general exercise has been adopted as standard for esports pros, training focus and dexterity seems to fall by the wayside when it comes to practicing in scrims or general aim trainers.
The exercises they do are similar to what Formula 1 drivers go through to remain focused while racing, tennis balls and all.
According to pleets, the training is different from anything he has ever done before on a professional team, but it does help him in game. He said, translated through rik, that he is more alert when holding angles, trading kills and overall concentration in the game thanks to the new training.
The Havan Liberty staff not only employs a personal trainer, but also a physical therapist, the aforementioned psychologists and a general doctor to keep their players in peak physical and mental form.
“Havan Liberty doesn’t want pro players,” rik said, echoing one of the organization’s mission statements. “Havan Liberty wants athletes.”
Their winning moment
After the pause, with Furia just needing one more round to push the map to overtime, Havan Liberty let their opponents take the bomb site. Then they launched their utility to strike while Furia cleared out the area, killing the spike planter and whittling down Furia’s numbers before the retake.
After the dust settled, Havan Liberty stormed the bomb site and overran Furia to take the series and book their tickets to Berlin. The team felt the relief of victory after agonizing over the result the night before and in the final rounds. They embraced and congratulated each other, some cried as they realized they would be attending their first international LAN ever.
“It was a mixture of different feelings because a lot of us try to play competitively,” Hiromi said. “Even me and [rik], and we never qualified to an international event, so that, for us, was pretty different.”
The victory, and subsequent Masters Berlin qualification, was so overwhelming that the team was too busy preparing to travel to get ready for their grand finals rematch against fellow Brazilian representatives Vivo Keyd.
“We needed to get our passports, we needed to pack, we needed to say goodbye to our families,” rik said. “We’re going to Berlin, so we kind of forgot about the finals.”
As for the tournament that lies ahead of them, rik, pleets and Hiromi all said they wanted to test their skills against the best, mainly by playing against Sentinels. However, they also shared their excitement at the prospect of battling against Gambit Esports, Acend and Vision Strikers.
They may have their shot at some of those teams, if they win some games. But if these Brazilian upstarts have proven anything in their recent run to Masters Berlin, it’s that they should not be underestimated — even when they underestimate themselves.