It’s tough enough to make it through a series of National Qualifiers and persevere in a tough finals bracket to be named the best in the country at something. It’s even more rare to do it twice. For Big Pizza, a pickup group (PuG) VALORANT team, that’s exactly what happened for one of their members as well as their coach.
Big Pizza, is a team of Tier 2 and Collegiate players hand-picked by the IGL of Red Bull Campus Clutch Canada’s 2021 winning team, BTR. ToastyUnicorns, who slipped into the IGL slot once again for Big Pizza, was originally going to be on The Winners, the team that came third in this year’s National Finals. The members of his 2021 championship team had all graduated, but he decided to field his own squad instead because he felt he could put together something stronger.
Team Big Pizza:
- James “ToastyUnicorns” Kim, 20, is from Fanshawe College and studies Commercial Aviation. His mains are Sova/Fade. Team Captain and IGL.
- Lincoln “link” Leung, 22, goes to the University of Toronto where he studies Industrial Engineering. He mains Astra/Viper.
- Khaled “Diabetic” Hilal, 20, attends Western University where he studies Medical Sciences. His mains are Jett/Raze.
- Gurinder “Goku” Mahey, 19, also goes to Fanshawe College and studies Police Foundations. Mains Cypher/Chamber. Also plays under the tag “Sworns”.
- Timmy “Kip” Tram, 19, is from Conestoga College, studies IT Innovation and Design, and uses Kayo as his main.
- William “Rejante” Rejante, 22, graduated from Seneca College where he studied Recreational Therapy. He’s Big Pizza’s coach and was BTR’s agent flexing creative back in 2021.
Red Bull Campus Clutch is a worldwide Valorant tournament, spanning 50 countries with over 400 events, exclusive to post-secondary students. Played as a traditional 5v5, students must sign up as a team to participate, either by building a team within their university or college or by combining players from multiple post-secondary institutions.
The Canadian National Finals kicked off on October 15th with 16 teams and were whittled down to four, who played live on stream on October 16th for fans to watch at home or from the Red Bull Gaming Studio in Toronto. Big Pizza secured first place winning a seat at the World Finals in Brazil and a chance at €20,000.
ToastyUnicorns made the decision to form his own team after he was approached by link, who played last year on Team Banana. Banana was the only team that was able to take down Toasty’s old team BTR during the qualifying rounds, so he took it as a sign to put his own super team together.
“He was the only person who gave a loss to BTR and he dropped 30 eliminations against us, and I just thought, wow I really need this guy on my team, I think I can make a greater team,” said ToastyUnicorns.
From there Toasty picked up Tier 2 players Goku and Kip, two talented guys that he knew would also be tough to go up against. As well as Collegiate player Diabetic who ToastyUnicorns knew from his time coaching at Western University, to take on the role of his former team’s main head clicker truo.
“I knew who he was, I trusted him, I realized that he is a smart player,” said ToastyUnicorns. “It's hard to replace [truo], but to be honest I saw a lot of [Diabetic’s] game sense to be similar.”
Big Pizza scored 1st and 3rd place in the Canadian qualifying rounds guaranteeing them a spot in the National Finals. They performed well in the National Finals on October 15th, winning their first two games easily and then beating out McMaster Maroon (2-1) in the quarter-finals for a spot in the semi-finals on October 16th.
The first round of the semis was The Winners versus Saints Green, with St. Clair College beating The Winners (2-1). Big Pizza was surprised by this since The Winner’s were advertised to be the best team and fully expected to meet them in the finals.
“[The Winners] entire team was built up of players who have played competitive at a similar level as link”, said ToastyUnicorns. “But St. Clair College won and we were cheering them on the entire time because it was a lot of respect for that college to just come out on top and they played really well.”
Big Pizza beat Laurier 2-0 in the second semi-finals game and jumped right into the finale against Saints Green. Big Pizza started strong getting a 9-3 lead on Fracture, but as soon as the first half was over St. Clair College ran away with the match beating them 13-10. Toasty said it was a low point for the team but their coach Rejante talked them down and got the team out of their heads.
“I would say to my team, every game, every match, every round, job's not done. It doesn't matter what the score is, it doesn't matter what game we're on, treat it like a new game.” - ToastyUnicorns
The next match was a stomp out for Big Pizza with a 13-5 win on Ascent. The final match was on Pearl, the same one Saints Green beat The Winners on in the semis, which worried Big Pizza a little, but Toasty knew the impact of his team’s attack side on Pearl was going to be enough to win them the game. St. Clair College looked strong in the first half with a lead of 8-4 but as ToastyUnicorns predicted, Big Pizza came back stronger, winning the match 13-9 and were crowned the Campus Clutch Canadian Finals champions.
Big Pizza’s adaptability, experience, gun power and mental toughness got them to the World Finals, but on top of that ToastyUnicorns says that pinpointing the strengths and weakness of each member of the team and using that information to maximize their abilities is what sets these guys apart.
“It's the same concept I kept from BTR last year and applied it this year, where we don't conform to the meta picks, which means the best overall picks that you could possibly have, but I put [my team] on things that they want to do and what would maximize our team's performance,” said ToastyUnicorns.
“It's something that I believe caused us to win and I think that we've done a really good job to identify our strong points and really reinforce that and not let any team exploit our weakness.”
Toasty says this year’s competition has been especially tough compared to last year with new strong teams like The Winners and Saints Green entering Campus Clutch and that the World Finals is going to be even tougher, but he’s confident Big Pizza will be able to take on the challenge and win it for Canada.