XSET, from Tier 2 to almost-international VALORANT representatives
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In September of 2020, Brendan “BcJ” Jensen was playing too much ranked VALORANT. He played everyday and when he eventually stagnated at the top of the ranked ladder, he made another account and started the journey all over again. In the early stage of VALORANT’s competitive landscape, there wasn’t much the former Apex Legends pro could do to further his career without a team.

“I remember I had like three accounts in top 50 Radiant,” BcJ said.

He eventually teamed up with current free agent Diondre “YaBoiDre” Bond and Mike “sharky” Gariti as a free agent squad, playing in tournaments to get their names out there.

But, YaBoiDre and sharky eventually got offers and departed the team, leaving BcJ to hop around free agent squads – with a brief stint on the now-defunct Sedated roster. But in January of 2021, BcJ joined a then-Tier 2 squad in XSET and started a journey with the team to Tier 1.

XSET first came into VALORANT by signing the free agent squad Pretty Boyz. The team, with the addition of BcJ in late December, was filled with five players from four different esports. Jordan “AYRIN” He came from CrossFire, Zander “thwifo” Kim from Fortnite, BcJ from Apex Legends and Bryce “PureR” Lovell from Counter-Strike, with Matthew “Wedid” Suchan joining as the only player who started out in VALORANT.

“I don’t think that’s been done in any esports where five people from five different games come onto the server and are able to work their way up step by step on the way to the top together,” AYRIN said. “So for the first half of that year, that was something that I always thought about.”

Once the VALORANT Champions Tour started in late January, XSET began making a name for themselves past their previous Tier 2 status from 2020.

“Ever since the start of January to now it’s just been constant improvement, constant improvement,” AYRIN said.

XSET shocked most of the VALORANT community in Stage 1, placing fourth in both Challengers events and getting knocked out by Sentinels both times. At Stage 1 Masters, however, they bowed out in the first round of the top eight tournament.

But, just like ARYIN said, they continued to improve and became one of the few teams to appear in every tournament in the North American VCT circuit. While the team did not qualify for any international events, they were one of the most consistent squads in the entire region.

XSET playing VALORANT on the NA LCQ stage
The XSET squad playing VALORANT on the NA LCQ stage. | Provided by Riot Games

“We made our own story,” BcJ said. “We came out here, made our own team from the pits of Tier 2, made a few changes. And now we’re competing with the greats, trying to qualify for major LAN events, international events. So I just want people to remember what we did this year, where we came from, how we kind of came from the bottom.”

For AYRIN, his first year in VALORANT was not as successful as his first in Crossfire as a teenager. While the esport was not that popular in North America, he still managed to make the its world championships at 16 and play in an international LAN in China. The 25-year-old player said that at 16, everything was still new to him and in VALORANT he gets a different feeling competing.

“But now it’s just I feel like it’s something I want to do and something that I’m going to do and I don’t get that same level of tingling feeling, but it’s a different type of excitement,” AYRIN said. “It’s to know that after all these years I can still play against the best in the world and it feels like more of a passion now.”

But, XSET’s year has ended and the team did not bring any VCT titles home. The players did finally get to experience VALORANT in a LAN setting at the North American Last Chance Qualifier, which was the highlight of BcJ’s year.

“I felt so comfortable and I had so much fun, even though we won one and lost one. I still had the most fun I’ve ever had playing VALORANT,” BcJ said.

As for the future for XSET, no one knows how the offseason will shape up for the team. The only ask ARYIN has for 2022 is more LAN tournaments and opportunities to to play in-person.

“Because I think that’s where the game is played best for everyone,” ARYIN said. “It’s the most exciting, it’s the most fun. And it’s where you really build friendships and community.”

Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.