Northeption are a Japanese VALORANT team competing at the VALORANT Champion Tour Masters Copenhagen event. They started slow with a disappointing loss to DRX. From there, they’ve leveled up, taking down their next opponent and looking more solid doing it.
Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the exact same as ZETA DIVISION’s miraculous run at the 2022 Stage 2 Masters Reykjavík. Or at least the beginning of it.
Northeption may have beaten ZETA to qualify for Masters, but that doesn’t mean they’re done with their regional rivals. The weight of the Japanese community’s expectations are heavy on the shoulders of Northeption, and ZETA are a monkey on their back.
“It has more of a negative pressure [on us] since the expectations are incredibly high after [ZETA] placed third during Masters,” Northeption’s Tomoki “xnfri” Mariya said. “And most of the fanbase in Japan is leaning towards ZETA DIVISION.”
For Northeption, VALORANT is, above all else, a mental game. The team spoke about how one of the most important factors in their success is maintaining a positive attitude. In practice, that often manifests in kind words towards teammates and a healthy dose of “NIIIIIIICE!”
“Just like how we played for the Saitama Super Arena for the regional finals, we made sure that we keep having fun,” Kohei “BlackWiz” Mikami said. “At the same time, we are really strongly wanting the win. To do that, we needed to make sure that our mental is stable.”
Nothing can be more demoralizing than being on the receiving end of a thrashing.
That’s how Northeption began their Masters Copenhagen run after being run over by DRX. Northeption coach Lee “bail” Sung-jae claimed some responsibility for that loss, saying he told the team to stick to their game plan after the first match instead of adapting their strategies.
Ahead of their Group B loser’s bracket matchup versus XERXIA, the team was more organized.
“We had an analyst report,” Daichi “Derialy” Doi said after his Northeption squad beat XERXIA. “And with that we were able to construct a strategy for this match.”
The team was also able to keep a better reign on their emotions.
“Of course I was disappointed after the DRX match,” xnfri said. “But today, for the fans that are watching and supporting us, I tried to not look disappointed and not show the negative feelings and acted positively.”
The best-of-three against XERXIA was nothing short of a slugfest. Northeption came in as the underdogs. They went down 0-1 on Split, but the team stayed composed the next two maps. In overtime on Bind, Northeption finally closed out the series.
“At first we thought we were better than them, but after we played them we realized that we are actually the same level,” XERXIA’s Itthirit “foxz” Ngamsaard said about Northeption. “We want them to do well. I think they can make it to the grandfinal.”
As is the case in most of Northeption’s wins, Kim “Meteor” Tae-O went nuclear.
“We did a really bad job of controlling him,” XERXIA’s Thanamethk “Crws” Mahatthananuyut said of Meteor’s Chamber performance on Bind. “That’s why it resulted in a loss.”
Northeption are an unorthodox team, and it’s not just because of their reliance on Meteor’s Jett — an agent that has fallen out of favor in some VCT regions. Meteor and the team’s in-game leader, Byung-yeon “JoXJo” Cho, are Korean on an otherwise Japanese team. JoXJo acts as the go-between for Meteor, whose Japanese isn’t fluent, and the rest of the team.
“Rather than translating communication, it’s more about making calls,” JoXJo said. “I have to speak Korean to Meteor and Japanese to our Japanese players, but that’s possible because our Japanese players really listen to our communications even though we’re not fluent in Japanese.”
Even though his stats aren’t comparable to Meteor’s, JoXJo is just as important to the team. The initiator-player takes on the brunt of the team’s planning. Even in timeouts, bail said he often just converses with JoXJo, giving him time to form a game plan.
“As the IGL, I have to keep thinking about the next move so I couldn’t afford to be nervous,” JoXJo about the stressful overtime situation on Bind.
Now that Northeption have overcome XERXIA, they look ahead to the decider match against FunPlus Phoenix.
“We’re a team that’s actually growing as we play during the tournament,” JoXJo said. “So we’re just going to focus on the game by game and really focus on growing up and being more complete as a team. And hopefully that will help us grind our way up to a better tournament result.”