Valorant phenom nAts enters free agency, leaving M3C cover image

Valorant phenom nAts enters free agency, leaving M3C

The 2021 VCT Masters 3: Berlin Most Valuable Player, Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin, has announced his departure from M3C as a free agent

M3C, formerly under the Gambit name, defined the early portion of VALORANT’s competitive landscape. The win at Masters 3 established this roster as world-class and capable of taking the ultimate prize at VCT Champions. Despite falling one map short against Acend in the Champions Grand Finals, most analysts considered the Russian side the best team of 2021. 

Fast forward to 2022, After narrowly missing out on the final EMEA Last Chance Qualifier spot against Liquid, M3C (Masters 3 Champs) has begun releasing players. Ayaz "nAts" Akhmetshin is the first player to go public and will immediately top any available free agent list. The release marks the end of an era in Valorant where the roster's dominance was an example for others to follow.

Moreover, nAts being a free agent status signifies the M3C is on course for a break. After unsubstantiated rumors were being floated that Moist Esports was interested in picking up the full M3C roster. The nAts announcement points to the team splitting. The status of the remaining M3C players, including star names like Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov and Bogdan “Sheydos” Naumov, is still unknown.

The only other bit of free agency information received was through Igor “Redgar” Vlasov’s Twitter, poking fun at the idea of Singapore's Bleed Esports picking up the Russian IGL

M3C nAts will set the free agent market

The talented 20-year-old Controller/Sentinel main carved out a path for a new meta in the later portion of last year. On the Cypher or Viper, nAts presented a litany of issues for opposing teams to deal with. He pioneered a number of aggressive lurking strategies that changed how teams had to watch flanks. 

Combine world-class mechanical skill with the ability to play defensive agents in an unorthodox attacking style and teams weren’t prepared for his onslaught. He impressed with his high kill-to-death ratios and made teams constantly stay aware of his presence on the map. Players often complimented his aim and reaction time too.

In two years, nAts earned the title of the best player in the world. He won the CIS Region Stage 1 Masters Tournament, Masters 3 Berlin, and of course, finished second at VCT Champs

M3C fail to qualify in 2021

However, with Cypher falling out of the meta and the introduction of Chamber, the game moved away from nAts' strengths. Regardless, he had a solid year stats-wise. He ended with a staggering 260.6 ACS in a season marked by his team's underachievement and roster changes.

The fact that M3C failed to make one International LAN after a dominant 2021 showed a slight decline in play. M3C was no longer leading the meta, but playing catch up. The teams struggled to find the right role for nAts and got lackluster performances from former Duelist Nikita "d3ffo" Sudakov. Furthermore, the team dealt with the ongoing Ukranian war and the fallout from that.

 (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)
 (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

Nevertheless, the M3C players will command a high price on the open market. Even if the team underperformed, it’s clear that there’s still untapped potential with these players. The idea of nAts singing on a franchise team among Europe's best should terrify opposing organizations. Among them, nAts and Chronicle will likely drive the most interest as both players were the top performers throughout both 2021 and 2022. 

It’s a rarity to see talent like the former M3C roster available. And, wherever nAts signs next will undoubtedly shake up the EMEA region.