Right now, Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk is one of the rising stars of VALORANT esports. The 17-year-old has not only proved to his parents that he can go pro, but has proven to be a standout even while playing alongside CS:GO legends Spencer “Hiko” Martin, Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and Joshua “steel” Nissan on 100 Thieves.
Much has changed for him in a year. In March 2020, as COVID-19 began to spread around the world, Asuna was still playing CS:GO, fighting to make a name for himself with team after team. After playing with an orgless team named Asuna’s Anime Aimers (great name, by the way), the pro was picked up by Triumph Esports, who qualified for ESEA Season 33: Premiere Division.
“Then I got cut,” Asuna said. “Even after I made the minor and everything, so I was a little upset. But then I had to move on. I did well with the Triumph roster, and I knew I wouldn’t get on a better team or one even close to it. The thought of me going from a better team to a worse one felt like moving in the wrong direction. When I got cut, it was three days before the release of VALORANT. I didn’t even know the game was coming out, but I got a key. My friend told me he was trying to go pro and I just thought ‘I don’t have anything better to do.’”
Getting cut by Triumph Esports in April 2020 to playing with a team filled with CS:GO veterans took Asuna exactly six months. But, even with the world mostly paused during 2020, Asuna was still racing against a self-imposed timeline.
“I gave VALORANT to the middle of my senior year, that was the deadline I set for myself,” Asuna said. “If I’m not pro, and I can’t convince my parents to let me not go to college, which would take A LOT, then I was going to stop trying to be a pro and play some CS tournaments on the side for some money. My parents don’t necessarily see being a pro player as a long-term career path, they think I need to go to college to build a career after I’m done playing. Luckily, being signed to 100 Thieves was good enough for them to be convinced, at least a little bit.
Esports players having to justify their profession to parents has been common for as long as people have been paid to play video games. That’s gotten easier in recent years with leagues and competitions becoming more structured and salaries and prize pools getting larger. Still, there’s a generational gap to bridge, and even rising stars have parents to answer too.
“Even after I was signed, my parents wanted me to take online English [lit] classes,” Asuna said with a laugh.
While being signed comes with a nice bonus, his team winning $40,000 in First Strike North America probably helped ease some parental concerns as well. After Asuna joined 100T in October, the team didn’t have a chance to compete on a major stage until December. First Strike NA was really the first chance the new roster — featuring the additions of Asuna and Quan “dicey” Tran — was able to show how good they are.
“I think we all thought we were pretty good,” Asuna said. “We didn’t have any tournaments though so it was hard to say. But when you are taking maps off good teams in practice, you know you’re good, you know you’re trending in the right direction. Seeing it all come together at First Strike was seeing the fruits of your labor.”
With new esports, volatility is a certainty. Following First Strike NA, 100T was near the top of everyone’s VALORANT NA power rankings. So when 100T lost 2-0 to orgless Carpe Noctem in the Round of 32 in the first Challengers open qualifier of the VALORANT Champions Tour, most observers were shocked.
“In some ways I think it’s good to lose earlier than later; it highlights what we need to work on,” Asuna said. “First off, we didn’t have nitr0 (he was with his wife and newborn baby), and we were experimenting a lot beforehand. We took a lot away from the composition we were running and how we were playing.”
100 Thieves has returned to form lately, qualifying for the second closed qualifier in the VALORANT Champions Tour without dropping a map last weekend. On Thursday, they’ll be among the eight teams competing to qualify for the first Masters event in the VCT.
100T has a passionate fan base. That’s great when the team is winning, but can be difficult to deal with during losses. Asuna joined the roster following the departure of Diondre “YaBoiDre” Bond who felt the 100T fans turn on him after being cut.
“I don’t know what Dre’s situation was like, it was probably worse than what we felt after our loss,” Asuna said before complimenting Dre on his recent string of successes with LG. “I think if we are losing to teams like [Carpe Noctem], the fans are allowed to call us out.
“If they want to say ‘Asuna is bad at the game, he should be cut’ then that’s perfectly reasonable; that happens in every sport. It’s when the talk goes beyond the game and people are calling out a player’s family or making threats, that’s where the line is drawn for me. I hope Dre didn’t have to deal with any of that. Calling us out for underperforming is fair, my mom even said after we lost OK, well, you’re going to college.’”
While the pressure of thousands of 100T fans is sure to buckle most teenagers, Asuna’s biggest fans have been putting the pressure of balancing school and gaming on him for years. That added motivation might have helped turn him into one of VALORANT’s fastest rising stars, the only thing waiting to derail the rise might be English 101.
Lead image credit: Riot Games