The VCT North American power structure has shifted, with former regional champions Sentinels, Cloud9 and The Guard sitting at a combined record of 2-7 in the group stage.
In what amounts to a bizarre couple weeks for VCT results, week three followed suit with more wild upsets. Outside of OpTic Gaming's dominance at 3-0, the rest of the groups have essentially flipped since stage one. Starting with arguably the most surprising teams to be sitting atop group A after three weeks.
100 Thieves and Ghost Gaming Lead Group A
The two teams in group A that entered through Open Qualifier #2 are looking like legitimate threats. 100 Thieves have now beaten XSET and The Guard. The heavy favorites entering the stage. Ghost Gaming sit at 2-1 with wins over The Guard and NRG - showing major improvements along the way.
In fact, 100 Thieves have only lost three times in their last 14 VCT matches (all three losses to TSM). Adding XSET and The Guard to the hit list solidifies this young roster even further. It shows their ability to make a deep bracket run, despite their relative inexperience. The activation of William "Will" Cheng and Sean "bang" Bezerra have proven to be huge difference makers. Few teams have as much firepower as 100 Thieves between bang, Will, and Peter "Asuna" Mazuryk.
However, Ghost Gaming with Marc-Andre "NiSMO" Tayar deadlifting on the Raze are looking terrifying. In his last four maps (93 total rounds), NiSMO has a ridiculous +39 KD and a combined ACS of 321. Against NRG, he contributed a multi-kill round in 37% of total rounds, including four separate 4k rounds. In terms of best performances of stage two, NiSMO against NRG stands alone.
The Roadblock of VCT North America Group B
After the Masters One champs OpTic, the field of group B teams gets razor thin. The brand new Cloud9 roster, Evil Geniuses, Luminosity, and FaZe Clan enter the final stretch separated by one game. Only Sentinels, who trotted out former FaZe Clan member and current Head Coach Shane "Rawkus" Flaherty and substitute Dani Hashweh against OpTic, have fallen out of the playoff race.
The major story of group B being Evil Geniuses at 2-1. The tonnage of disrespect felt by EG players has to be immense. Yet, they continue to put up promising results and move closer to a top four placing, despite many vocal doubters on their path. Between Kelden "Boostio" Pupelloon on Chamber and Alexander "Jawgemo" Mor on the Raze, the explosive skill on entries and the ability to play aggressive on defense has unlocked this team's potential.
Cloud9 currently sit on the outside of playoffs
The growing pains with the introduction of Rahul "curry" Nemani onto the roster are starting to show. With Anthony "Vanity" Malaspina forced onto the Initiator role and curry on smokes, the team composition feels in limbo. After losing to the winless FaZe, being unable to slow down the Andrej "BABYBAY" Francisty, C9 fell below a .500 record. Now, Cloud9 currently sit on the outside of playoffs for the first time since Tyson "TenZ" Ngo moved to Sentinels.
Week Four Matchups and Tiebreaker Rules
Looking ahead, week four is the make it or break it weekend for most teams. The marquee matchup being The Guard vs XSET, with The Guard on the verge of dropping out of the playoffs with a loss.
Furthermore, it will be interesting to see whether EG can continue this streak of strong showings against OpTic. Gaming, EG and 100 Thieves can secure a spot with a win next week, but with this many teams log jammed, it will likely come down to tiebreakers.
And for a refresher, here's how tiebreaker rules work:
- Head-to-head match score
- H2 map differential
- Head-to-head round differential
- Overall map differential
- Overall round differential