It’s certainly a strange time for all of us. But for James “Mistic” Orfilla it’s been a hectic year to reach his new position.
Mistic has fought his way to the top level of Riot’s new First-Person Shooter, Valorant, and has signed with Fnatic, one of the biggest Esports Organisations in the world.
Valorant was released at around the peak of the pandemic, meaning there has been little opportunity for Mistic to obtain the full Esports experience.
Without in-person LAN events, and the ability to meet teammates, James has had to compete, practice and interact with his team from home.
So how are elite esports athletes dealing with lock-down whilst training as a ‘distributed’ team and performing at the highest level? Mistic provides some insights on training and performing in isolation….
Valorant Interview With Fnatic's James 'Mistic' Orfilla
Oscar Dobbins: Do you think the Pandemic has helped or hindered your team’s performance?
If anything, I guess it has helped as all we do is play from our homes, therefore allowing us to have more time to improve as a team as opposed to having to continue with other life activities i.e school and work.
Oscar: How important do you think factors like Mental Health, Sleep and Nutrition are when it comes to your performance?
When competing in any Esport title, especially in high-stress situations, it’s very important to be able to handle it mentally and physically. It ultimately allows for us to be able to perform to the best of our abilities, further trying to minimise the other factors that may hinder the performance.
Oscar: Do you feel you get stressed? If so, about what? Do you have coping strategies to deal with stress?
Of course, there are some stressful situations, it's typically expected in high-intensity atmospheres. SUMN as a team had investigated this by hiring a sports phycologist just before our VALORANT FIRST STRIKE main event. Through this help, we had learnt how to attack mindfulness through multiple techniques, these are typically helpful when trying to calm ourselves / accept outcomes during competition.
Oscar: Do you have eating and drinking strategies/plans, particularly for long training / competing sessions?
Previously it just came down to me drinking a lot of water, getting a good amount of sleep, and ensuring that I try to eat healthier. Hopefully, in the future we will gain access to a wider range of facilities and help with everything to do with diet, looking into things like caffeine regulation, sleep, including potential for sleep tracking, mindfulness, and stress.
Oscar: What is a typical training day like, and do you have both individual and team training plans?
The team has both individual and team practise plans, it usually consists of 6-7 hours a day of practising as a team, and then in our own individual time, we work on what has either been set for us by the coach or what we think is the best thing to improve on.
Oscar: For training, do you simply play the game, or do you work on specific aspects of the game, specific position/player skills, etc?
When it comes to our typical schedule it usually consists of the coach and in-game leader (IGL), coming up with new ideas at the beginning of the day, the team then gets on the server and reviews games we previously played or practice new strategies etc. The best way to practice is to apply these things in a realistic situation, i.e practice games against other teams. This usually consists of 4-6 practice games a day. We make sure we record/stream these practice games so we can use it for later review etc.
Oscar: Do you watch training/game replays to improve your performance?
VOD reviewing is a vital part to team progression, not only does it show what went well, but it also displays a lot on how we can improve whether its fundamentals, such as communication, basic team play and game knowledge. To team strategies, new in-game ideas and compositions.
Oscar: Have you used any training tools like eye tracking to assess game performance? If not, do you think this would be helpful?
I think when it comes down to training tools it depends on the player, personally, the best practice I get is to play the game as it is, whether it’s in a deathmatch to improve my aim, or in a competitive environment to improve my game knowledge. However, there are some people who like to use aim trainers to improve/warmup, but I just don’t feel like it’s needed for me personally.
Oscar: Do you have an overall plan designed to improve your performance?
The main plan we have at the moment is to follow the everyday schedule, as I stated earlier it just consists of the coach providing us with the content to work on and implementing this into our gameplay to the best of our ability. It’s just a lot of hard work and determination really.
Oscar: What unique attributes do you think your team brings to the competitive Valorant scene?
Our team has prevailed as “unique” just by the way we approach the game. We think very methodically when it comes strategies and setups etc., and alongside we provide the firing power and the individual prowess to back it up. We feel as the scene is still in its early days, having this structure and ability in the team has led to the success we have achieved so far.
Oscar: What was the main thing you learned from playing in the European finals?
From the First Strike EU finals, personally was a good experience for me, it allowed for me to work on my flaws and allow for me to have an understanding of what it feels like to be in the finals of a $100,000 tournament. For the future, I think I will be able to handle myself a lot better and hopefully ensure that I make less mistakes moving forward.
Oscar: What benefits do you think an Organisation will bring to your roster?
I'm excited to be involved in a community allowing us as a team to be the best we can be. Hopefully, we will gain access to everything we can hope for becoming top athletes. This is a big step up from having very little support which is the nature of being unsigned.
Oscar: What 3 tips would you give to those looking to make it in the competitive Valorant scene (or competitive gaming in general)?
Find yourself a team of dedicated players, always important to have everyone on the same page when it comes to the competitive scene. There is no point of being held back by someone with a low amount of drive and determination for the game.
Ensure that you are learning and reviewing your gameplay, think to yourself how a scenario could’ve been played better etc. Look to other pros on how they play and see what you can improve to be on that top level.
Ensuring that you keep to a healthy schedule, be able to put in the time and hard work as it will be required.