The first stage of the VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 wrapped up last weekend, crowning OpTic the winners and treating us fans to some very exciting gameplay.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the event was the lack of EMEA teams finishing in the top 5 – a twist almost no one saw coming given previous outstanding performances coming out of the region. However, it must be noted that there were certainly extenuating circumstances affecting the teams that qualified, which we’ll go into later.
In this article, we’ll be going region by region to evaluate their VCT Stage 1 showings and let you know what to expect from Stage 2.
What is VCT?
VCT stands for VALORANT Champions Tour, Riot’s flagship esports product for the game. Unlike some other esports like CS:GO, the developers take an active role in delivering tournaments and building wider competitive infrastructure. It was announced in November 2020 with the first event being held in March 2021.
The tour is divided into three main series – Challengers, Masters and Champions. Performance in the first two gain a team circuit points which are later used to decide who qualifies to the annual Champions event.
Riot is still crafting the Valorant esports ecosystem, with big plans for the coming years. We won’t go into more detail on their proposals in this article but you can read more about them here.
|Masters Stage 2 – Reykjavik 2021||Sentinels||Fnatic|
|Masters Stage 3 – Berlin 2021||Gambit||Team Envy|
|Masters Stage 1 – Reykjavik 2022||OpTic (ex-Team Envy)||LOUD|
Circuit points up to date as of 29/04/2022
Of course, we have to start with the winners! OpTic have been one of the best Valorant teams in the world since the early days of the competitive scene, and have shown remarkable consistency to not only hold onto this reputation but to look scarier as time goes on.
OpTic’s star is undeniably yay, sticking to Jett and Chamber and putting up some monstrous performances. He came out of the event with the highest K:D ratio – 1.31! However, every player on the team is capable of great things. Marved deserves special mention for the finals in particular.
In summary, all evidence suggests OpTic aren’t going anywhere soon. We can almost certainly expect a deep run in VCT Stage 2.
It’s hard not to like this young team. The Guard have pretty much come out of nowhere and won over many fans – everyone loves a good underdog story, and almost everyone loves watching an insane trent clutch too.
Despite finishing 7th-8th, Sayaplayer posted the third highest K:D ratio, hitting a crazy 1.26. Being knocked out of the playoffs by OpTic and Paper Rex is certainly a respectable performance and with luck, we’ll get to see this team grow further in Stage 2.
As one of the best teams in NA, Cloud 9 will certainly be disappointed to have missed out on a VCT Masters slot this time round. Their roster is certainly stacked, with the likes of Nathan “leaf” Orf looking truly terrifying on Jett and Raze. They’ll be coming into Stage 2 Challengers looking to take their revenge on The Guard and prove themselves. The fact that only two teams can make it to Masters will certainly lead to some exciting qualifiers!
Unfortunately for XSET, despite being a solid team, their chances aren’t looking too good to make Stage 2 Masters. The truth of the matter is that NA has some amazing teams right now and they’ll have to pull off some serious upsets to snatch one of the qualification spots. Never say never though – they’re 4th in the region for a reason, and have potential as a roster.
Other Notable Teams
The absence of Sentinels in this article, and to an extent 100 Thieves, would feel remiss given their history in competitive Valorant. However, the sad truth is that in recent times they have been, to put it bluntly, disappointing. Both organizations are desperately trying to reform their rosters to find glimmers of that past spark and it’s difficult to judge yet whether they’ll once again be able to keep up with NA’s best.
Our advice? Don’t count them out, but maybe don’t get your hopes up just yet. They have a long way to go to get back to that #1 spot.
G2 have come away from the first Masters with the highest points tally, which will come as a surprise to many given how stacked EMEA should be. They even beat ZETA DIVISION 2-0, who eventually came third overall.
Not all of their roster were able to show their previous level, but a 5th-6th finish is certainly nothing to be worried about! They have the advantage of a stable roster compared to some other teams in the region and look well-positioned to put up a solid run in Stage 2 Masters.
FPX dominated the EMEA Stage 1 Challengers despite playing with multiple stand-ins, one of which replaced their legendary IGL, ANGE1. Sadly, they weren’t able to take up their deserved place in Reykjavik as their Russian players couldn’t travel to Iceland.
It’s hard to say how things will play out in this region as there is so much uncertainty around the Russia-Ukraine war, which seems likely to continue to affect CIS players for some time. Though FPX deserve the chance to show international teams what they can do, they might have to wait a while. We can only hope they don’t lose their spark in the meantime.
Team Liquid was lucky to make it to Stage 1 Masters in the end, qualifying as a result of FPX dropping out. In spite of this, they topped their group with a 2-0 record (before promptly going 0-2 in playoffs with losses to LOUD and ZETA DIVISION).
With players like ScreaM and Jamppi, TL have a high skill ceiling and will likely believe they could have taken it further, even though they didn’t originally qualify.
Unfortunately, Fnatic had quite a disappointing performance at Reykjavik, going 0-2 in groups. Of course, this wasn’t really their fault as they had to play with two stand-ins, Fearoth and H1ber, in place of their star players!
Losing Derke to covid isolation guidelines and braveAF to travel restrictions in light of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine situation was some incredibly bad luck, and also forced their hand in making some roster moves, benching both braveAF and Magnum.
Given their past raw potential and the genius IGL’ing of Boaster it feels wrong to say that Fnatic might struggle to make it to Stage 2, but it’s difficult to judge how strongly they’ll come back from these challenges. Regardless of how they do, just remember that Derke was the only player who didn’t die throughout the entire event!
Other Notable Teams
The obvious teams missing from this list are ACEND and M3 Champions (formerly Gambit). ACEND crashed out of Challengers whereas M3 looked exhausted after needing to play so many Bo3s on back-to-back days, including a very long overtime loss against Fnatic which knocked them into the lower bracket to begin with. With a full Russian roster, they face further barriers to a comeback for Stage 2 Masters if travel restrictions continue.
|2||Ninjas in Pyjamas||185|
Though NiP made it to Stage 1 Masters with the help of the LATAM vs Brazil playoffs, LOUD appears untouchable in their region. If their competitors want to challenge them, roster shakeups look inevitable which could stand to benefit LOUD even more as teams settle into new dynamics.
The Brazilian team may be wondering what could have been after beating OpTic 2-1 in the upper bracket final before losing the grand finals rematch 0-3. Aspas shined with a 1.25 overall K:D ratio, while Sacy was ranked the best player in Brazil in 2021 by multiple sources.
However, the pressure will be on LOUD to prove they can repeat the showing, and with teams undoubtedly spending time analyzing their games to understand how to counter them, it will take some doing to achieve a top two finish a second time. That’s not to say they aren’t capable – it’s just time for them to show if they can handle it.
Not only did they qualify in place of the favorites Crazy Racoon, ZETA made it all the way to third place! Against the trend of duellists, their highest rated player was controller main SugarZ3ro who averaged a 1.15 K:D ratio.
Like LOUD, ZETA will need to prove they can handle increased pressure and that they have the tactical depth to prevent getting easily anti-stratted. It’s not completely decided whether them or Crazy Raccoons will make it through Stage 2 Challengers, but ZETA have definitely proved their strength.
DRX was another (pleasantly) surprising showing, placing 5th-6th. Their controller player Mako narrowly missed out on the highest K:D ratio of the tournament with a rating of 1.3, just 0.01 behind yay! With just one slot available to this region, the other Korean teams will need to step things up if they hope to challenge them.
They face the same pressure as other teams who performed much better than expected, but are unlikely to face many obstacles on their way to qualify for Stage 2 Masters.
APAC is looking like a very exciting region – Paper Rex just about qualified for Stage 1 Masters with a 3-2 win over XERXIA, then made it all the way to 4th, beating teams like G2 and The Guard. 18-year old F0rsakeN (no, not the CS:GO player) had the 7th highest K:D ratio of the event, and was notably the only person to play Yoru.
Their performance was a stark contrast to their Thai competitors – it will be up to them to show they can play like that consistently.
XIA started strong with a win against OpTic in the group stages, but couldn’t take it any further, being eliminated with a 1-2 record. They will definitely back themselves to do better next time, and are definitely capable of it with players like sushiboys on their roster.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about KRÜ this event, as they were immediately eliminated 0-2 from groups. After knocking out Fnatic and coming 3rd-4th in VCT Champions 2021 many will have hoped for more (none more so than the players themselves!)
Was their Champions performance merely an anomaly? Or will they come back to show just how good they are in Stage 2 Masters? Only time will tell, but they’ll need to do a lot more to reach their previous peak.
That’s it for our Stage 1 Masters roundup and Stage 2 predictions! Do you agree with our opinions? Let us know!