Interview with EXCEL player Egor “chiwawa” Stepanyuk
Carriço: The first question would be how did you get into esports?
Chiwawa: I started playing CS1.6 when I was five years old. My sister was going to the computer club to play GTA, and you know some need for speed games.
So I instantly started playing CS 1.6. I was born in Siberia by the way, deep in Russia, we had no chance to play online, we had no Internet, so I just played local tournaments in Siberia.
When I was 12 I participated in my first LAN, it was really nice, I was an AWP player. After I got internet I started to play CS:GO, I was an account booster, I was just playing to boost people to Global Elite for the money.
I tried to go the Esports route for the first time in my life but it was impossible. I had like 120,150 ping on Faceit, and it was just impossible. I’m a more rifle player than AWP and with a ping like this, you can only play with an AWP.
After that, I switched to Warface. It’s a really popular game in Russia and it’s a big Esports. I was successful in Warface, and two years ago when I had the chance to switch to Valorant I just left Warface, tried Valorant, and well now I’m here.
Carriço: Why did you choose to become a professional Valorant player?
Chiwawa: My dream was to be an Esports player, in a big Esports game like CS:GO. When Valorant came out I just realized it’s my game, I should do everything in order to become a big player in the scene.
I started to grind from the first day Valorant launched, I played 24/7 and it worked for me. There weren't any doubts in my head about doing this.
Carriço: Can you talk a little bit about your path in VALORANT before joining EXCEL?
Chiwawa: When I switched over to Valorant I meet some good Rusian players, dimasick, and pipsoN who is right now G2 Esports coach. They helped me a lot, we created a team called Worst Players, it was one o the best team’s in Europe at the start. We won a few tournaments, and unfortunately, we disbanded.
After that, I signed my first trial contract with Entropiq, I played for them for two months, and then I got invited to NIP. That was the team where I spent the most time in my career. I had a really good time there, I enjoyed it. I played with a Legend like Ex6TenZ, I got a lot of experience from him and I learned a lot from him. To be honest I also learned a lot from dimasick and pipsoN.
At the start of this year, I joined EXCEL, which was in 50th place on the VRL rating. I had a lot of tryouts and for me joining this team was the best option. It’s about feeling how the team is and works, and now we are in top 8 so we did a great job, and I don't know where we will stop.
Carriço: How is it to work in Excel? How would you describe EXCEL as an organization?
Chiwawa: To be honest I’m always speaking with the players from for example League of
Legends. Right now I'm living in Berlin with them, and EXCEL is a really good and comfortable organization. Everything that an organization should do they are doing.
They manage the staff around you, your computer, monitor, whatever you want they try to make that happen as soon as possible. Sometimes in some organizations, at least that is what people say I don't know, you are under pressure for example, and we are not. We are working, trying our best, and it just feels good, I have nothing to complain about.
Carriço: You play as a flex what are some things that make a good flex player at the pro level?
Chiwawa: The most important thing is being flexible, being able to change the roles. It’s similar to football, it’s nice when a player can play multiple positions, it’s the same in Valorant.
To be honest, maybe flex is one of the hardest roles. Because it’s just hard to change the tempo of how you are playing. For example, right now I’m maybe a Sentinel/anchor player for almost two years, and it’s kinda easy because you have to do almost the same things on every map.
You are anchoring site, on the attack you are lurking, but on flex, it's much more complicated. I think being flexible, and having a big Agent pool is important. You should play a lot of solo queue to master each Agent.
Carriço: How is it to work with this group of players in EXCEL?
Chiwawa: I feel really comfortable with them. We have really high-tier players right now. Everyone understands each other, you don't need to tell them how to play. We have a job, and everyone knows what their job is, and we trust that we all know what our individual job is.
I’m just enjoying it right now. I'm practicing and working to make our team better. To perform well in tournaments, and to win tournaments.
Carriço: How do you as a team prepare for opponents in general? What is your preparation method?
Chiwawa: You know when you are going on stage for tournaments, like playoffs in the Northern Europe league, or like we are going to the VRL Finals. In my opinion, it’s important to practice against teams with very different play styles.
For example, we are playing against a Turkish team in practice, it’s something crazy in my opinion. They wide swing every angle, it’s hard and annoying, but you are already adapting versus them, and adaptation is really important in Valorant.
After you practice against a team like Fnatic, or FPX, who is really structured you are also adapting. It’s my logic. You should practice against a lot of different kinds of teams, to adapt against them.
When you come to tournaments like the VRL Finals, you are going to face teams from different regions, with everyone probably playing differently for sure, and you are starting to adapt in-game.
Of course you watch VOD’s, prepare about the Agent pool, and I think that if you are grinding Valorant you already played against every Agent, and you kinda know what to expect.
Carriço: How important is it to have a great team environment, do you think in order to find success a good team environment outside the game is necessary?
Chiwawa: I think so, for sure. When the mood in the team is bad, and people don't like each other, how can you play if you don't like each other?
I think it’s even better when this good team environment is fake you know, you should be a professional player. I’m pretty sure that in some professional teams, like Basketball or Football, people hate each other, but they are professionals. On the Football field, they respect each other, they will never say anything bad and will always help. In Hockey, they will fight for their teammates, and that’s how you should be.
You should always be professional. If you are whining and you are complaining, you are not a professional player in my opinion. You have no excuse to be like this, you should always try to make the most with your team. The team environment is a big and important part to perform.
Carriço: What do you think about the other teams that will be in the VRL Finals?
Chiwawa: I like how Case Esports play. We practiced against them a lot of times, and I feel like they have the structure and good team play. They are going to be an interesting opponent for sure.
Team Vitality, I can say the same thing about them. They have an IGL that was World champion. You should expect something from them. We should prepare for them. Also an interesting opponent.
Falcons, I don't know what to expect not going to lie.
TENSTAR, these guys are young, crazy, and have a really confident playstyle. I think it will be also interesting, to adapt to this kind of playstyle.
FUT Esports, these guys have big balls, I don't know how else to describe it. They pick every corner, but to be honest, I played with them almost two years ago, it’s a team that compared to the other Turkish teams they have a much better structure. It’s a mix of pure skill and tactical.
It’s going to be a very good tournament for sure, and it will be very interesting to watch.
Carriço: Is there a particular team that you are looking forward to facing?
Chiwawa: To be honest, every league is different and you don't know exactly which league is the best. It’s impossible to say until we all meet each other. So you don't know what to expect.
Who is the best team? We will find out. I hope we are the best team.
The only thing you can judge is when you are reading social media or VLR forums. That everyone is hyping Vitality and Case Esports because they have a big fan base, so they are just saying “ow our team is better”. EXCEL is shit usually it's what everyone writes, but maybe not. We will see.
Carriço: How would you describe your playstyle?
Chiwawa: I’m playing as an anchor/lurker as I said earlier. I don't understand how people are using their free time on the map, in my role.
For example, my logic is, that when I leave the traps on the edge of the map, I have a lot of free space and time to do whatever I want. Depending on the pressure of my team I always try to find some 1v1 situations. To then have some good mid-game calls.
Other players in my role for some reason like to really chill. I can't describe it in a different manner. They just place the tower, and the traps, and just chill behind them while doing nothing.
In my opinion, it’s wrong, and it’s what makes the difference right now. Because if you watch the teams who are really high tier and attending Masters, you will see that players in this role should take the space themselves and make the difference.
Because you are kinda the star player on the team if you are playing this role. Because your hands are free to do whatever. It will come for sure to the pro scene, that a plater in my role should do a lot of work with the space on the map.
I describe myself as a really aggressive lurker. I’m not passive, I’m not sitting on spawn, I’m just going and trying to find 1v1. Because I’m really confident on these 1v1, most likely I’m winning these. And it’s just changing the outcome of the round, for example, if the enemy team is over rotating.
Carriço: What are the main goals for Excel Esports for the remaining of this year?
Chiwawa: Winning the VRL Finals is the biggest goal, to prove that we are a VCT caliber team and that we are right under them, we are waiting and want to go up, that's the most important.
Overall I think there are going to be more tournaments this year, so we want to win these tournaments. We should just play and prove ourselves.
Carriço: What are your goals as a player for the remaining of this year?
Chiwawa: I think the same goals as the team. I hope everyone one of my teammates thinks the same way. We want to win everything possible, and I hope we will get into the franchise league, it’s the biggest goal. But I would like to do this step by step. First, we need to win everything we can possibly win, to show that we are ready for it.
Carriço: Is there anything else you want to say to the Excel Esports fans or to your own fans?
Chiwawa: Everyone that is supporting us, cheering for me, and watching the streams, thank you guys. I really appreciate this and keep your eyes on us we are not even close to stopping right now. Just support and I love all of you guys.
Carriço: Chiwawa thanks you a lot for agreeing to do this interview, it was a pleasure talking with you, and I wish you the best of luck in the VRL finals, I hope you guys can go far. I hope I can interview you again in the future maybe after you win the VRL finals.