spoke with Ethan of NRG after the opening match of VCT Americas Kickoff 2024, discussing his new role, new team, and more.

The 2024 season has officially begun for VALORANT. The first match of the VCT Americas Kickoff tournament saw NRG take on FURIA. Led by new IGL and world champion, Ethan "Ethan" Arnold, NRG started the season with a victory.

As one of several rosters that made changes in the off-season, everyone still expects this team to perform well. Thus, we requested time to speak with Ethan following the series. He went into details regarding the transition to NRG and the IGL role, and what the team is doing to stay cohesive.

NRG in-game leader Ethan on opening victory and meshing with new teammates

(Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games)
(Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games)

"You’ve got to love a tech pause to kick off the 2024 season. Did that bring back any nerves you might have shaken off before making it out to the stage?"

Ethan: "Nah, not even nerves. We were all just so eager to play. It's kind of annoying, because we were all ready to play the first match back in a couple months. Then you're in the dreaded tech pause that everyone's familiar with. So, like okay, we'll just sit here a little longer, I guess."

"In traditional sports, if a team wins a championship, they often want to stay together to try and run it back the following year. Is it weird to be here with NRG, in a brand-new role, with just about everyone from EG last year somewhere else?"

Ethan: "If you look at it from like a outside POV, it's definitely super weird. We're kind of all sprinkled around. Obviously, I would've liked to stay with that team and to have everyone together in a perfect world, and run it back.

"We were at the top of last year. So, it just makes sense. Nothing's perfect, and things happen. You kind of have to roll with the punches, and I'm used to joining new teams. It's nothing new for me. So, it's not the end of the world."

(Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games)
(Photo by Tina Jo/Riot Games)

"Well, let’s go with a simple one to follow that up. The new-look NRG’s debut. How do you think you guys did?"

Ethan: "For our first showing, it was good. It wasn't perfect. It wasn't pretty, for sure. But it was a 2-0, and we know that we could have definitely done better. There were a lot of things. Breeze especially, there was so many close rounds. We even reiterated it in the game.

"We were like, 'We're playing so good right now, but the end of these rounds, it's so close.' And those are really the only ones they're winning. These super close ones. So, it was just, keep our foot on the pedal, and I'm sure we'll be able to close it out.

"And then Ascent, same thing. They hit us with a couple curve balls on their defense. That caught us off guard. And then our defense was clean. So, I think we showed how we were supposed to look like at the end there, I guess."

"That brings me right to my next question, about the calling. We saw FURIA make a bit of a comeback on Map 1 and keep things close throughout a lot of Map 2. How well were you able to adjust to their successes?"

Ethan: "We pinpointed it pretty quick, what was winning them rounds and what was losing us rounds. So, if you can identify that really quick in a game, especially a game like VALORANT, where you don't have that many chances.

"If you can identify it really quick, then you have a good chance of winning. Thankfully, we have a lot of vocal people on the team and a good coach. So, if I don't see it, someone else will. They made it really easy for me these two games, thankfully."

"Scrims are one thing, but when it comes to the official match, that can be a different beast. Has being surrounded by the players on this team made your swap into the IGL role an easy one?"

Ethan: "I'd say so, yeah. It's a challenge for all of us. I have to learn how all four of them play, or I guess three. I already know how Demon1 plays. And they all have to get used to how I call and what I like to do, little tendencies, stuff like that.

"It's a learning experience for everybody, and thankfully they're all, like I said, super talkative, super vocal. We've made a lot of progress in like the month and a half-ish that we've had to practice.

"So, it's looking good so far. And I think the best thing for improvement is matches. Because you see your true colors and where you shine. What your weaknesses are. So, the more matches we play, the better we'll get."

"So, I talked with Chet before the season and he was very happy with the ideas and experiences you brought into practice. It’s no secret that he and FNS are one of the most iconic coach/IGL duos in VALORANT history. With him exiting the team, he leaves that behind along with crashies and Victor. Do you feel like there are big shoes to fill there at all?"

Ethan: "For sure. Replacing someone that's been an IGL their whole career with me, who has done it for two months. Yeah, there's huge shoes to fill, but there's not really much pressure, in my opinion, from me. There's not really anyone expecting much from me as an IGL. Maybe my teammates.

"And that's okay for me. I think the whole team knows we're in this together. I'm not going to mastermind them to victory right now. It's a big learning experience for everybody, and as long as everyone's on the same page with that then, you know, we're chilling."

"You mentioned the team needing to learn how you call, how you play. Was there a system in place that you first had to fit into then with the aforementioned pieces in place? Or how open were they to the ideas and changes you might have presented when this roster first came together?"

Ethan: "We brought a lot from EG. Not even strats, just wording, different styles of round. I showed them how Demon1 likes to play. I showed them how I like to support him and what works, what doesn't. And they brought a lot from their old team with a certain ideology of the maps, what they like.

"I asked them a lot what they liked from their old team. Because that's super important, too. I don't want to make it all about me and adapting. I want them to have some comfortability in that, too. It was a lot of just sharing information, sharing different ideas.

"And everyone's super moldable still. It's pretty rare when you have a lot of like seasoned players. It's rare that they're still able to be molded, and taught, and have them learn still. So, it's really good. I won't say it's been easy. It hasn't been an easy road, but there's been a lot of learning and a lot of progress."

"Now, about the current VALORANT meta. Both maps had mirrored comps. We’ve got the new map pool and some Agent changes heading into the year. Do you think we’ll see a lot of innovation, stuff outside of the norm this year?"

Ethan: "Yeah, just from scrims that we've seen. I think you guys are in store for a lot of different stuff this year. Unfortunately today, those were maybe the two maps that are super bland comp-wise.

"But I think today, in the C9 game, they're running some crazy stuff. With the limited number of matches people are playing, they maybe think that you might have to gimmick yourself to a win. With how little games there are, we'll see how that goes."

(Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)
(Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

"In the post-match interview, you mentioned that there is a big question mark over every team right now. What do you feel were some of the questions for NRG heading into the season, that you hoped to find the answers to?"

Ethan: "It's just super important that if I can find out the strengths of every player, and really get in tune with that, get them super confident with a certain play style, then that's that. I think it's GG. We'll be insane.

"That's how we won last year, to an extent. Everyone found their stride. We knew how everyone liked to play. And I only have to learn three players right now. I already know how to make Demon1 insane, so I just have to do three more."

"And what teams do you feel like are the biggest unknowns in VCT Americas without having seen them in action?"

Ethan: "I think C9. I mean, we've scrimmed a couple of franchise teams, so, I'd say C9. I'd also say probably LOUD actually. That's it. I want to see EG play, too. I just want to see if they can do the same thing they did last year. The same coach and Jawgemo still on that team. I think they have a lot of potential."

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