Following their dismal performances in Valorant Champions Tour 2023: LOCK//IN Sao Paulo in early March, Paper Rex quickly made a number of changes with hopes of improving their gameplan and bringing a stability in the locker room.
Fast forward five months later, and the Singaporean turned into one of the most hyped Asia teams in global Valorant competition with their Cinderella run, won the Pacific 2023, finished third in Masters Tokyo, and finished as runner-up in a historic battle against Evil Geniuses in Champions 2023 in Los Angeles, USA.
For Aaron “mindfreak” Leonheart, however, bringing the pride of the Valorant SEA competition to the highest international tournament and finishing as runner-up in Champions does not seem like a big achievement, as he was clearly unsatisfied with the results. Speaking to Ulti Asia, the highly rated controller stated that he personally did not think that his squad had made significant progress this year, and that there is still potential for growth.
“I don’t believe we’ve made significant progress this season. The only difference this year was that we ended higher, as runner-up in champions, than we did previously. However, if you look at our other results, you’ll notice that we clearly repeated some of our mistakes from last year,” said mindfreak. “We just have to keep improving every season. You can’t expect great improvements overnight.”
The former Boom Esports star stated that the intense international schedule that PRX players faced for the first time, more or less, had affected their mentality in every game. Although they were disappointed to return home without a big trophy after spending so much time abroad, he maintained his squad had no excuses for losing in the grand final and had done their best.
“I believe we had to make a lot of sacrifices to reach this level of competition. We also got more training hours, and that was the first time we flew to different countries in a short amount of time and rarely got enough time to stay at home. That was tiresome.” he said. “We played as a team, we decided every game as a team, we went all out, no excuses. In the end we didn’t make it, it was just not our year.”
But it would be unfair to say that PRX has not gained anything valuable this season. With a little bit of luck and head coach Alexandre “Alecks” Salle’s outstanding insight, the team hit a jackpot when they found and signed Ilya “something” Petrov from Japanese league in March.
The 21-year-old Russian quickly showed his worth by winning MVP in the Pacific 2023 tournament and dominating a lot of crucial teamfights in Champions 2023. Some of their fans were concerned, though, that PRX would become too reliant on something because of this amazing feat, and would possibly make people to have higher expectations of them as SEA leader.
Nonetheless, mindfreak responded that the team doesn’t feel that they should be responsible for living up to their high standards.
“Honestly, I don’t really care what they thought about our performance with something. All I know is that guy is really good. I’ve been playing a lot with international players, but in my opinion, something is a perfect fit for our system,” he said. “I know we will be judged a lot after that Champions run. I don’t care about their expectation.”
Mindfreak is expected to keep his regular spot in the next season, along with two other Indonesian players, Jason “f0rsaken” Susanto and Cahya “Monyet” Nugraha, who just joined the team from Global Esports team in India. It will be interesting to see how Mindfreak and his mates adapt to the Indonesian prodigy’s gameplay.