Diana “diana” Zhang started on her professional VALORANT journey about seven months ago, after getting a taste for competition on a casual co-ed team. As one of the youngest players to attend the VALORANT Champions Tour Game Changers tournament, the 16-year-old Duelist player was the point of entry for Moon Raccoons Black.
The Georgia native was unknown to the wider VALORANT community before the announcement of Moon Raccoons Black on March 12. Before VALORANT, she was a casual Counter-Strike player with good aim. A few years earlier, she was a regular on Roblox or Minecraft servers.
“She’s the Zoomer,” Kevin “Lelicious” Le, then-coach of Moon Raccoons Black, said. “We want to go ahead and generate all that youthful energy into something very powerful.”
Diana and her Duelist partner Lorrian “lorri” Elad are often the ones generating aggressive plays for their team. The duo were a major factor in the team’s deep run in the Game Changers tournament. They bowed out of the event in third but made a name for themselves as the only unsigned squad in the top four.
Diana’s path to Moon Raccoons Black
Lelicious saw talent in the teenager when he coached her previous team, Sakura Esports for a brief period.
“Right off the bat I knew there was something special about her,” Lelicious said. “She was going in there head first and just dropping bodies left and right.”
The other members on the team remembered diana from the Gen.G x Galorants Proving Grounds Tournament that they won in February. A previous iteration of built butter, the team’s name before and after Moon Raccoons Black, faced off against her. The team would beat her 13-10, and eventually win the event, but the match left an impression.
In the best-of-one game on Ascent, diana put up the most kills and highest Kill/Death ratio on the server. She also finished with an average combat score of over 300 on Reyna.
“She kind of slapped us really hard when we went up against her,” lorri said. “We were like ‘we have to pick her up.’”
With Moon Raccoons Black assembled, diana became acquainted with the teammates that she describes as bonded together like sisters. Her and lorri, in particular, have an aggressive synergy. The two often queue ranked together or joke around while in deathmatch games.
“First impression, troll. And I like that because we’re both really troll,” lorri said.
Moon Raccoons Black would then compete with the young gun in the Game Changers tournament where diana would go up against players she admired since her Counter-Strike days.
From admirer to admired
Moon Raccoons Black went up against CLG Red in the semifinals of the upper bracket. The team swept the Benita “bENITA” Novshadian-led side 13-10 and 13-6. Lorri and diana topped the server together, leading in kills and ACS across both maps.
In the final round of the series on split, lorri and diana wiped CLG Red as they tried to execute a fast take on the A site. Lorri picked off two players early with the Operator and a Jett ultimate knife. Then, diana finished off the last three on the bomb site as the enemy failed to clear the corner she was holding.
🚨VALORANT CLIP FRIDAY🚨
— Daniel Menna (@SavedCasting) April 2, 2021
Diana knocked one of her idols, bENITA, into the lower bracket and would go up against Cloud9 White in the upper bracket final. Cloud9 White also has players that diana looks up to like Melanie “meL” Capone and fellow teenager Jasmie “Jazzyk1ns” Manankil.
Those two players knocked diana, and her team, into the lower bracket. Cloud9 White swept Moon Raccoons 2-0 and CLG Red did the same to knock them out of the event. The losses hurt the team but they made an impression on those watching from home.
Fans sent diana messages over Twitter. She became a role-model like those that she looked up to before her run at Game Changers. That night, she said, her eyes struggled to stay dry.
“Hi diana, wanted to let you know that my little sister and I enjoyed watching every single one of your matches,” wrote one fan. “Thank you for inspiring my little sister to get better, I love playing VALORANT with her. Now she can’t stop talking about how awesome the Moon Raccoons are.”
i just cried over my first dm from a fan. pic.twitter.com/o3kHDYtIbm
— diana. (@1dianazzz) March 28, 2021
From her computer setup on the first floor of her family’s home, in front of her father’s workout machine and a few feet away from her brother’s computer, diana inspired many fans in the same way that bENITA and Mel influenced her.
“As one of the younger players in the scene, I really want more females to look at VALORANT as not just a casual game but also a competitive game, and help grow the female scene,” diana said.
The team and diana post-Game Changers
The team recently parted ways with the Moon Raccoons brand, bowing away from the amateur organization with a wink towards a brighter future. They now compete under their former name, built butter.
Another chapter of the Moon Raccoons legacy have been written and closed!
Let's all wish the BEST to the MR Black squad as they pursue their future opportunities in Valorant 😉 pic.twitter.com/awuIRTWvMm
— Moon Raccoons (@MoonRaccoonsgg) April 17, 2021
Since their run at Game Changers, built butter are now recognized not just in ranked, but also in casual game modes as well. The team might queue for a Deathmatch together and come away with fans wishing them luck in their next tournament, or wanting to confirm if they are in the same game as the squad.
But even with the increased attention from the tournament, diana and lorri keep the banter flowing and never stop cracking jokes.
“Yo she has that workout machine but she has noodle arms,” lorri said.
“You did not have to bring that up bro,” diana responded. “I’ve got these guns man, you’re just jealous.”
Built butter, and diana, have not signed to an organization as of the publication of this article.