The final team heading to VCT Masters Copenhagen has been decided. KRÜ Esports, after beating Ninjas in Pyjamas in the BR/LATAM playoff, 3-0, earned their fifth straight Masters ticket.
In a VCT landscape categorized by inconsistency, with previous Champions falling out of favor or forced into roster turnover, KRÜ has been one of the few organizations able to stay consistent. In their five qualifying runs, KRÜ has managed to stay above the rest of LATAM and book a ticket to every single Masters LAN dating back to Reykjavik in 2021.
The only teams that come close to that level of consistency are the current champs, Optic Gaming, Europe's Fnatic, Korea's DRX, APAC's XERXIA, and the two Brazilian studs Gustavo "Sacy" Rossi and Matias "Saadhak" Delipetro on multiple teams. However, these teams made it to four events. And only KRÜ, who through the virtue of a BR/LATAM playoff, are the one team to qualify for all five Masters LAN events.
The Unique LATAM vs. BR playoff structure
Unlike other regions, Riot instated a third Master's spot to be shared between Latin America and the Brazilian region. For the first time in KRÜ's history, they lost a LATAM final, with former head coach Rodrigo "Onur" Dalmagro and rival, Levitian Gaming, dismantling KRÜ in front of a live audience 3-0.
The loss shocked the VALORANT world. In one swoop, the third place Masters 1 Japanese region champs, Zeta Division, went down, followed up by KRÜ being forced into the playoff. Thankfully for them and unfortunately for Brazilian champs LOUD and Japan's Zeta, they had a shot at redemption against NIP.
NIP vs KRÜ for the final Masters Copenhagen Spot
In the inaugural BR/LATAM playoff, NIP fended off the current champs Levitian and made it to Reykjavik. After a second consecutive finals loss to LOUD in the Brazilian Stage 2, they fell down to the playoff but this time with a much more daunting task in front of them.
Despite KRÜ having their worst stage yet, the name alone carries weight in the VALORANT world. It's a beast facing the likes of Roberto Francisco "Mazino" Rivas Bugueño and Angelo "keznit" Mori. Remember, this is a team that finished third at Champs. So, nevertheless, facing them elimination game is a soul crushing task.
Contrary to the LATAM finals, the playoffs were played in a studio setting without a crowd. KRÜ looked and felt a bit more at home and their play reflected that comfortability. After what amounted to a slow start on the first map pick Breeze, KRÜ quickly adjusted to NIP's aggressive minded playstyle. In particular, they punished NIP in the first kill department (26-2 in FK) and suffocated them in the chokes.
In a similar fashion to North America's 100 Thieves, NIP doesn't have a main Operator player. When facing an aimbot in Keznit, who put up one of his best performances in stage 2 against NIP, that's a cause for concern. His Operator abused them in early, mid, and late rounds putting up a staggering 218 ADR in 63 total rounds.
Regardless of Keznit, KRÜ overall looked far more prepared for NIP than they did for Levitian. NIP struggled to gain reads on their rotates. They showed sloppy defensive setups that kept their playmakers on an island away from support. When one team wins 75% of their full-buy rounds, it shows the opposition not effectively trading or finding value out of utility.
Masters Rejyavik Runner-up LOUD into groups
Controversly, there is one unfortunate side effect of this playoffs system. The fact that the region champs are forced into groups if their region loses in the playoffs. Despite narrowly losing out on a Masters trophy at Reykjavik, LOUD will now play from the group stages. While the newly crowned Levitian get a direct bye into the playoffs.
KRÜ will also fight from out of the groups for the fifth straight time. For a team as talented strapped as KRÜ, finding their footing in groups has previously helped generate momentum. In Copenhagen, they'll have to play with the same mentality. So, regardless of recent results, KRÜ should still be regarded as a sleeping giant.