Sentinels sign Rawkus as coach ahead of Valorant Champions
By Dhylan Patel
One of the most prominent things about Sentinels is that they were the only major salary paid team that did not have a coach. All the strategies and standard coaching methods were helmed by in-game leader ShahZaM, who was at the forefront of Sentinels’ success over the past year.
The team dominated the Valorant scene throughout most of 2021, in which the first major competitions started to take place, as the game is relatively new and was only released last year. There was initially heavy controversy surrounding one of the Sentinels players back in March - Sinatraa, now a former member of the team, was suspended from the roster and banned from playing the game competitively after sexual abuse allegations came to light. This happened only a few days before Masters 1, the first major tournament of the year.
Due to the team’s success before the tournament, Sentinels were effectively able to sign any player that was available, and it came as a shock to the community when they signed TenZ on loan from Cloud9. TenZ was and still is widely regarded as the best Valorant player in the world due to his aggressive playstyle and robot-like aim. Sentinels went on to win Masters 1 and Masters 2, making them the first ever global Valorant champions. TenZ’s contract was then bought out for him to permanently become a Sentinels member in what was a seven-figure deal.
It was no surprise that Sentinels also qualified for Masters 3, the second major LAN tournament of the year, and they had already qualified for the end of year Champions tournament through VCT points from winning Masters 1 and 2. Sentinels were the favourites going into Masters Berlin (Masters 3) and it seemed like they were looking to create an early dynasty by winning all major tournaments in 2021. The biggest shock of the tournament was when Sentinels took an early exit from none other than North American neighbours Envy, who beat Sentinels 2-0. The end of the second game became a folklore-like story after Lauren ‘Pansy’ Scott said the infamous line “They say when you come for the king you best not miss, and Envy, they didn’t!”. It was the first time that Sentinels had lost a series without winning a map since April (Masters 3 was in September).
Since the arrival of TenZ, Sentinels have played a total of 44 games (best of 3 or 5 series), winning 39 and losing only 5. 4 of the 5 losses did not matter as they were in qualifiers or the team had already qualified, but the loss to Envy was significant as it was the first time Sentinels were knocked out of a tournament. The loss prompted the Valorant community to say that Sentinels needed a coach. IGL ShahZaM heavily disagreed and argued that the team simply had a bad tournament and that it can happen to teams in esports. While ShahZaM felt that a coach was not a necessity, the team eventually hired Rawkus to develop and adapt the strategies that Sentinels already have in place, rather than traditionally coaching the team like other rosters.
ShahZaM wanted a coach that fit into Sentinels’ already established dynamic, the five players are very good friends and are able to communicate effectively in and out of games. Rawkus is someone who fits into that dynamic. Coaches in Valorant are mostly influential through practice against other teams (known as scrims) because in tournaments, coaches are unable to talk to their roster unless it is half-time, or a timeout is called.
ShahZaM on Rawkus: “I value his opinion, I value his input in practices, and it’s very healthy to have someone that fits the team dynamic, that helps with discussions. You can funnel criticism or any sort of conversation through a coach as well.”
“It’s hard to find a coach in a new game. People always speculate and create this random narrative about who would be a good coach without knowing anything. Usually coaches in other games are ex-players - we’re really lucky to get an ex-player to be our coach. Someone that just played high level Valorant.”
Rawkus was previously a member of the FaZe Clan roster, and he last took part in the North America last chance qualifier with FaZe, where they failed to win a single series and were one of the first teams to be knocked out of the tournament. The FaZe Clan Valorant roster boasted strong talents such as BabyBay and corey, but as a team they were unable to advance to any major tournaments since reaching the Masters 1 final in March, where they lost 3-0 to the current Sentinels roster.
Rawkus mainly played Sova on the FaZe team, and he was known for his support play, a role that in-game leader ShahZam plays for the Sentinels. With the addition of a new theorist in terms of creating new strategies, it is something that can only make Sentinels better. If the dynamic between the players remains unchanged, there is no doubt that Rawkus will have a positive impact on the team.
Rawkus: “I’m gonna be with them for their Berlin (Champions) run so they can win Champs, we’re gonna win Champs, I’m excited for it. They don’t need anyone to hardcore coach them. I think I can help them with cheesy strats, new ideas. I want to have someone to hold them accountable for anything.”
Sentinels have now travelled to Berlin, where they are preparing for Champions, which begins on December 1st. The prize pool is $1 million, and the winner receives $350,000. Sentinels are looking to reclaim the throne and make history by capping off an incredible year with a win in the biggest tournament yet.