Paper Rex is one of the most dominating Valorant teams in the APAC region who recently ended up in the fourth position at VCT 2022 Stage 1 Masters Reykjavik after taking down some of the top NA and EMEA teams, including The Guard and G2 Esports in the Playoffs.
Currently, Paper Rex is competing in the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) 2022: Malaysia & Singapore Stage 2 Challengers without losing a single match in the Group Stage. The team has made it to the knockouts and is a single win away from making it to the VCT Stage 2 APAC Challengers next. Later, in the VCT APAC Challengers, the team will be exposed to some of the top teams from the region, competing for their slots in the VCT 2022 Stage 2 Masters Copenhagen.
Paper Rex has some talented Valorant players including Jason "f0rsakeN" Susanto, Benedict "Benkai" Tan, Wang Jing "Jinggg" Jie, Aaron "mindfreak" Leonhart, and Khalish "d4v41" Rusyaidee, who are guided by their head coach, Alexandre "alecks" Salle.
Paper Rex's coach Alecks talks about their experience at Masters Reykjavik and preparations for upcoming VCT APAC Challengers
In an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda Esports' Pratiti Dhang, Paper Rex's head coach Alexandre "alecks" Salle spoke about his esports journey and his experience as the head coach of Paper Rex. He also discussed the team's performance at the VCT 2022 Stage 1 Masters Reykjavik and their goals for upcoming VCT tournaments.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation.
Q: Many know you as the coach of Paper Rex. However, many fans are unaware of your origin story. Please tell our readers what got you into esports.
PRX alecks: I've been playing for a long time since I was 16, competing in 1.6, but at that time, there was no professional circuit, so to speak. CS 1.6 was very exclusive. If you're in Asia, you get one tournament a year to qualify for, and it's like world cyber games. If you don't qualify for that, you basically just play local tournaments or maybe some tournaments in the region.
After that, CS: GO came out as switches go, maybe we played for three years before I was offered my first professional contract with B.O.O.T-dream[S]cape, which was a Chinese organization at that time. I joined the organization and met Benkai, who has been my teammate for a very long time. So after that, we played in B.O.O.T for three or four years, yes. During this time, I also had a chance to link up with d4v41. I also coached them at one point before I became a player again. So I've done, like, a player-coach thing. Player-coach has pretty much been my trajectory in CS: GO.
When Valorant came out after a year, we decided to switch because the prospects of Valorant in SEA were a lot higher. There was more international support. So, that means that you could actually have a viable career in the game, and we switched to Valorant. When we switched to Valorant, I was already coaching the team. So here we are, I guess.
Q: You had a career in esports, both as a player and coach. How has been the experience different from being a player and a coach?
PRX alecks: Significantly, it is more fun to play, for sure. But I don't know. I guess it's just about helping the team in any way I can. I wasn't that good at playing. I was pretty good, but I wasn't world-class or anything of the sort. I guess being able to help them as a coach is something that's fulfilling for me because I can still use my experience and so on to relate to the team and help them with whatever difficulties they're having. And I still get to be part of the team. I celebrate when they win. I feel sad when they lose. I'm still like a teammate, so to speak.
Q: As the head coach, how do you help Paper Rex in planning and building up strategies? What is your role in guiding the team during the matches?
PRX alecks: Strategy wise, I tried to build a goal for the whole year and I didn't just match. We have a goal to hit and it's my job to get the team in the right direction. As a coach, I basically plan the entire training schedule so I try to manage their burnout, I try to manage their personal practice time, their stream time and so on. I try to encourage them if I see someone lagging behind, I will give him a heads-up, that kind of thing. With regards to match-to-match kind of stuff, I watch Valorant almost 24x7. I have a second monitor. So, I watch every single region so that I can get as much knowledge as possible and I try my best to use that to give us a leg-up over the competition.
Q: Paper Rex outperformed last time in the VCT 2022 Stage 1 Masters Reykjavik after ending up in the Top 4. Then, in VCT 2022: Malaysia & Singapore Stage 2 Challengers, the team didn’t lose a single match, maintaining a winning streak. The team has made a remarkable performance in the VCT 2022 season. What are your thoughts on the team’s performance this year so far, when compared to last year?
PRX alecks: Obviously, we did a lot better. Last year, I think people forget that we played for a very short period of time before we actually made it to VCT 2021 Stage 3 Masters - Berlin and we were still in the midst of our learning process. I think by the time VCT LCQ rolled over, we were ready to do a good amount of damage, but we fell short, unfortunately. So, we managed to use the time to effectively practice and reset mentally so that we could come fresh this year and it paid off for us in Iceland. But right now, it's a new tournament, and we're starting from scratch again. So, as much as our performances have shown that we had a decent Valorant team among the top in the world for the last VCT tournament, I think our approach for this tournament is just to understand the inspect to zero again. We start from where everyone else started and now we have to gain. Now we have to give every single team the same amount of respect as we did the last time. Hopefully, you can repeat the performance or do one better, if you actually make it.
PRX alecks: I think our biggest fear was the bottom of the tournament again because they invited us directly into the top eight. So, there was a bit of pressure there. Thankfully, after our loss against DRX, we managed to beat two of the better teams in the tournament. They were absolutely delighted to do so. Yeah, I think we could have gone further. We probably should have won the Zeta game, but I mean, props to them. They were incredible and they had a perfect game plan against us. It was very difficult.
We would have liked to go try our best to make it to the finals, because I think it's sometimes about the meta, and if the meta keeps changing, you lose your opportunity. We were on top of the meta the last time, so to speak. I mean, I thought that we had a very good game plan going into the VCT tournament, now that the tournament is switched and that the meta has switched to Chamber. Now, this new age is coming in, possibly a new map. It's hard for us to constantly stay on top without being really dedicated in practice. It's been a great experience, and I hope that we can replicate it again.
Q: Up next, there are the APAC Challengers. How much is the team prepared for it and which regions are you looking forward to competing from the APAC region?
PRX alecks: As for practice, I would say we are under prepared this time. The schedule is kind of squeezed together, so the checkins supposed to be in November will instead be in September. If I'm not wrong, that means that the schedule is really tight. We came back from Iceland. We just had a one-and-a-half week break because everybody was exhausted.
When we came back, we had pretty much three days worth of practice before we threw it into the deep end. We're struggling to actually find some quality practice time. So, I mean, we're going to try our best to win the VCT Stage 2 MY/SGI Challengers, of course, but I have no expectations. And then if we go to VCT APAC Challengers, obviously, we'll love to play against anyone. To be honest, I'm sure that while we were in Iceland, everyone was practicing their socks off. So, I expect the competition to be extremely fierce from every region, in fact.
Q: Do you follow the Indian Valorant esports scene? What are your thoughts on the Indian Valorant teams?
PRX alecks: Of course, but it's very hard to tell because unless you play instantly in the official match, everybody just looks incredible in their own region, like the top teams such as Global Esports. I followed that Skyesports LAN. It was very nice to see a live audience kind of situation. I also noticed that I thought Velocity was the best team in the tournament, but then, they kind of lost. So, I think it's competitive. There's a new roster that has been shaking the scene somewhat, Enigma Gaming. I think it's very competitive in your region for most teams currently. It's going to be interesting.The top four or five teams are really good right now.
Q: Is there any goal or objective that you have set for the team as their coach for the VCT 2022 season?
PRX alecks: The main goal for us is to qualify for Valorant Champions.That was it. All we wanted to do is we make sure we get enough points to qualify for Valorant Champions and do the best we can in that time. So far, I think we're on track. Hopefully, we shape up for the coming VCT Stage 2 MY/SG Challengers Playoffs and then, we'll see from there. We tend to take things step by step in Paper Rex, so we don't really look too far. We have a big goal, of course. To qualify for the Champions, but we're not really thinking about it.
Q: Lastly, any words for the Paper Rex fans who have supported the team extensively for so long?
PRX alecks: Thank you to all the sponsors and the fans. We wouldn't have a career without having people support us in all forms, watching our streams, engaging with us on Twitter, so on and so forth. So, I'm really thankful for their support.