Going into the start of 2022, Trent “trent” Cairns didn’t have a Liquipedia page for VALORANT. Now, after reaching the top twelve and winning The Guard their first three games of North America Challengers 1, Trent has made a name for himself as a top Sova player and one of the future stars of NA VALORANT.
From unknown to top talent
Trent’s rise throughout the VCT with The Guard is all the more surprising when considering how little experience he had in tactical shooters when going into VALORANT. In fact, he received his first PC for Christmas in 2019. His experience in video games beforehand was all on Xbox in popular multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Rust and Rocket League.
After getting used to his new PC in 2020 his friends recommended he play the VALORANT beta with them. By the second act of Episode 1, trent hit the rank of Immortal 3, the final tier before the top rank of Radiant. That’s when he realized that he had what it took to play against the best and chose to pursue VALORANT esports.
“I fell in love with the game and started to play nonstop,” he said.
Known online at the time as “Habib,” trent was working with a mediocre-at-best PC and internet connection problems.
“When I was at home, I had a bad PC with 50 or so ping,” said Trent. “I wasn’t able to fully develop myself as a player with those competitive disadvantages.”
But, as he fought through the minor scene, he caught the eye of The Guard’s coach Matthew “mCe” Elmore.
“One time, we faced him in a practice and he just dropped 30 kills on us as Viper on Bind,” mCe said of trent. “At the time, Bind was a really good map for us and it didn’t matter. Playing against us, he played around our lurk timings and did everything he needed to. Our staff joked at the time that we should pick him up right away.”
The Guard needed a new fifth player after they put Harrison “psalm” Chang on their inactive roster. Originally, they needed a Sova player, but according to mCe, trent didn’t come to mind because they saw him on Viper. However, after facing off against him again in a minor NA tournament, mCe looked into trent’s stats and saw his experience on Sova. As soon as that happened, Trent was on The Guard’s list.
“Noticing that he was in a bad situation PC-wise and ping-wise, I told the organization that he was going to pop off with us,” mCe said of trent. “He’s young but mature for his age and, as he started to come out of his shell in scrims, his personality meshed with our team. A lot of things had to be adjusted quickly to move him into the roster, but I can already see the decision is the right one with our results so far.”
A match made for VCT
Trent had found a team that wanted him on their roster as much as he wanted to compete at a higher level. The first true test with this new roster was the Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship: Open 14 in Jan. 2022, and Trent proved that he was a talent to fear. The Guard won that tournament, beating teams like Third Impact and T1 to get there.
“I really enjoyed playing with The Guard and I felt like we could be better with time,” said trent. “Since they let me in, I’ve been balling out. I feel like I’ve proved myself. To join this team and reach the closed qualifier for the top 12 NA teams so quickly feels really good.”
This win was an impressive start, but that was just a practice session in comparison to their next tournament: the VCT 2022 NA Stage 1 Challengers’ first Open Qualifier. Now, The Guard would face many experienced VALORANT organizations — like T1, TSM, Rise, Version1 and XSET — in an attempt to qualify in the first four open slots for Challengers 1.
Starting in a tough bracket, The Guard fought their way to their upper bracket finals, ultimately losing to XSET. But, in the lower bracket, they won against Akrew and qualified for the VCT on their first attempt.
“I remember, before casting a match with The Guard, I looked into their roster,” said Ethan “Sully” Tran, one of the VCT casters. “With trent, he was only a young Tier 3 player, asking for trials from so many teams. But when I saw him play for The Guard, not expecting them to win, they all surprised me. [Trent, Michael “neT” Bernet, Jacob “valyn” Batio] … they all did so well coming out of lower-tier NA VALORANT. Especially for Trent and his backstory, it made the rise even more unfathomable.”
The Guard surprised the VALORANT community when — new, underdog team that they were — they reached Challengers 1. But that was only the start.
Just like in their open qualifier, The Guard started their VCT debut facing off against Luminosity Gaming. They swept them 2-0, with a clutch highlight from Trent making the rounds on social media. It was yet another clutch moment from Trent, this one happening just as a round ended for The Guard.
— The Guard (@TheGuard) February 13, 2022
A new challenge brings new highs
The Guard’s first true test was their second match of VCT Challengers 1 against 100 Thieves. In comparison to their match against Luminosity, this opponent was stronger. The Guard almost gave up a 10-2 lead on Map 1, but they still won that first map. 100 Thieves took them to a map three after winning on Split. However, a statement 13-0 win on Map 3, Ascent, cemented victory for their second match. This put them at the top of their group alongside Cloud9.
Trent had great stats across the entire match, including an 81% KAST, which is short for the likelihood in a round that a player gets a kill, an assist, survives or trades. At the same time, he led the lobby in kills at 55 and plus/minus at +23.
“When you’re a duelist, you’re expected to be good at fragging,” said Sully. “Those agents’ kits revolve around that, but Sova isn’t that. It is harder to stand out as a top Sova than a top Jett, for example. Trent does that, which is awesome. The level-headedness, the consistent growth … it all stands out.”
Their consistent growth was apparent as the team beat XSET and finished top of Group A on Saturday. With the 3-0 lead they hold against the rest of the group, their position is relatively safe. It is still too early in the VCT 2022 season to know who the top contenders are, but Trent is someone to watch. If The Guard can keep up their form, Trent and their young roster will be responsible for their triumphs. And Trent knows that he can continue to impress on The Guard as long as he believes in himself.
“I know that I’m one of the more aggressive Sova players out there,” said trent. “But, that’s due to my confidence being high. Right now, I know I can win most of my gunfights. That doesn’t mean I swing everything, I just know when to. VALORANT is very confidence-based, and being able to have a lot of confidence now is really good for my future.”