Though “Valorant,” the new team-based tactical shooter from Riot Games, has been out for just a few weeks, buzz is building around its trajectory as a competitive esport title. And some teams have moved to plant their flag in the nascent competitive scene.

One such organization is G2 Esports, a European esports club and media brand that recently took two big steps to secure its place in “Valorant” history. The organization was chosen to host “Valorant’s” first official tournament, an inaugural competition to kick-start Riot Games’s Ignition Series. And on the day of that announcement, G2 also shared that it had hired Oscar “Mixwell” Cañellas, a former “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” pro player, to be the captain and first member of its “Valorant” roster.

Cañellas’s team swept the G2 Esports “Valorant” Invitational, and cemented Cañellas’s reputation as a top talent in “Valorant.” Since then, G2 has announced the signing of two more players to its “Valorant” squad, a selection process guided in part by the new captain. The Washington Post spoke with the 24-year-old player about burnout, the nascent “Valorant” competitive scene, and his hopes of breaking the game’s stagnant meta.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and length.)

Launcher: Lots of teams reached out and showed interest in you as a “Valorant” player. Why did you choose to go with G2 at this stage in your life and career?

Oscar “Mixwell” Cañellas: So the main thing is that G2 is really capable of building great teams in every game they play. Their main focus is to be the best team in every game they play. I want to be surrounded by the best players. The second thing is that my fans are G2 fans, most of them. So the target is the same.

And the third one, which is really important, is that I can stay in Europe, and I don’t have to go to North America, and I can stay close to my family and my girlfriend. I’ve been grinding in North America for a long time, long time away from home. And that burns you out because you don’t have a life or your life is not complete.

Launcher: That’s what I was getting at when I mentioned this stage in your life and career. When you’re grinding for years on a different continent, it must be hard to settle down and figure out your life.

Cañellas: I think when you’re 19 you don’t care as much. But after you’ve played more than 50 tournaments, you’ve traveled around the world and you’ve experienced almost everything you can as a pro player, you start to realize that you miss other things, and that’s what happened to me.

When I was living in North America, I was living by myself, and I went back home twice a year for Christmas and the player break. And every time I went back home and I experienced being around my friends and my girlfriend, I came back to NA and I was really homesick. And after three years of doing that in my head, I had the thought of “I don’t know if this is what I want.” And when you start thinking that, you’re done.

Launcher: You’ve mentioned that “Valorant’s” meta, at the moment, is just everyone aping what the best players are doing. What gave you that impression?

Cañellas: I’ve played a lot of tournaments and it’s just like I’m playing the same team, even if it’s different players. They play the same way. They pick the same champions, and they do the same things. Once you realize how they play, it’s really easy to counter.

I think people need to realize that the game is new, and you don’t have to copy. We need to be creative and create new strategies and think outside of the box. It seems like people are just lazy.

There are a lot of things that are not being used in “Valorant.” I’m the only player that plays Viper, somehow, because in general she’s not that strong compared to other agents. But if you’re creative, you can really use her well. The thing is, no one wants to work for that. People just want to play the champions that are the most overpowered right now, and copy the pro players so they don’t have to “waste their time” learning things and creating things.

I play the champions that are most self-sufficient or out of the meta because I want to learn things that other people don’t want to learn. I’m trying to think outside of the box.

Launcher: I want to talk a bit about the “Valorant” roster that you’re building for G2. You’ve mentioned that you want players that are going to help you break the meta. What does a player like that look like? What parts go into a team that’s striving to break the meta?

Cañellas: It needs to be a player that knows how the game is being played right now, and a player that can read that and see the weak points. And if he sees a weak points, he can instantly say, “What should we do to counter that?” Because he’s been thinking about it outside of the server and he is really learning the game in a much deeper way.

That’s what I want — people that will watch other teams or other tournaments and while they’re watching, they are thinking “How can I counter that? And how can I communicate this in a game?” Just think three steps ahead before it happens to you. Watch your games to see your own weaknesses. Know how to counter the opponent’s counter, you know?

Launcher: How does it feel playing “Valorant” right now, at this stage in its life cycle, compared to your time playing “Counter Strike?”

Cañellas: I’m having an easier time winning tournaments, because there aren’t many people that have the same experience as me, and there aren’t many people that are putting the hours that I’m putting into the game. Compared to “CS:GO” where everything is super elitist and all the players are super professional and everyone is working tons of hours with analysts and coaches — that’s where “Valorant” is going to end up, by the way — right now, the best players can win the games by themselves. Right now, there are almost no coaches, no analysts. It’s a lot more like street basketball.

Launcher: How do you feel about the inevitable involvement of analysts and coaches and teams starting to play at a really high level? Are you looking forward to that?

Cañellas: I’m having tons of fun right now because I can exploit everything and no one knows what to do because there’s nobody working in the shadows. At the same time, I really want to see how “Valorant” is going to be played with all the resources behind it. I have no idea.

How can I continue to break the meta? We need to surround G2 with the best analysts and the best coaches to be able to do that. They are such an important part of a team. With analysts involved, you need to improve your game every day because your opponents will see how you play, and they will counter you. I remember playing “CS:GO,” and every time I played against a team, I had a document with 10 pages of what the other team was doing. I would read it, and I would have all the answers ready. I could see a smoke coming in the air and know the strategy they were doing. That’s the kind of thing that’s going to happen in “Valorant.”

Launcher: There are players from all sorts of established competitive scenes — “Overwatch,” “Apex Legends,” “Counter Strike” — leaving to play “Valorant.” Are there any games from which you wouldn’t consider a player for G2′s “Valorant” squad?

Cañellas: “CS” players have a huge advantage in this game, because the mechanics are almost identical. But I would never say no to a player from “Overwatch,” for example. I’ve seen “Overwatch” players that are really good. “Apex” players I don’t see as much, maybe because the player base isn’t as big. And “Fortnite” players I’ve seen a bunch. I think they have great aim, but their game sense is a little bit off, so they’d have to work on that.

Launcher: A lot of competitive players, once they’re done with their competitive career, get into streaming or YouTube. How much are you thinking about that at this stage, about setting up your career on a longer-term, for when you’re done with competitive play?

Cañellas: I’m doing it right now. One of the things I’m doing with “Valorant” is taking care of that, because I will not be competing at 40. I don’t know when I’m going to stop. It’s going to be a long career, and my priority is winning tournaments. But one of my mistakes in “CS:GO” was not taking care of my fan base. I didn’t even tweet, or do things like that that are really easy to do. It doesn’t take as much time as I thought.

What I’m doing right now is trying to be the most professional, in both senses. Trying to be the best in the game, but also taking good care of the fan base. And it’s working great for me right now.

Launcher: That ties in with what you mentioned right at the top of the conversation: changing priorities. It makes sense that now you’re thinking about what your future is going to look like. Now you’re thinking about staying in Europe, close to family. All of that feels very cohesive to me.

Cañellas: It’s not something that I’ve done before, and I’m a noob doing this. For me, relearning stuff and growing as a person motivates me everyday, and it’s been a long time since I was so motivated. Every day, I’m talking to new people and trying to improve my streams and trying to improve my game and talking to players about the G2 team and talking to the staff.

In my head there’s tons of things that I have to do. I have the fire in me right now.

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