The Valorant Champions Tour Masters Stage 2 is here and flushed with epic storylines to watch throughout the two weeks of play.
The level of competition and number of potential outcomes at VCT Masters Copenhagen feels limitless. VALORANT has gone global. With teams from North America, Brazil, Korea, Asia-Pacific, and Europe all having high hopes of winning a Masters title. Here are my personal favorite storylines to watch heading into the epic conclusion to Stage 2 VCT Masters Copenhagen.
Can OpTic repeat as Champions?
OpTic entered Stage 1 Masters in Reykjavík as an afterthought. Fresh off the loss to The Guard in the VCT NA finals, they weren’t heavily considered to be a threat. Of course, as the story goes, OpTic, who lost twice during their championship run, swept LOUD in the finals en route to lifting their first VCT Masters trophy.
Enter stage 2 OpTic, a team far more prepared for the moment and confident in their preparation. Similarly to stage 1, Optic is coming off a loss to XSET in the NA Finals, forcing them into the group stage. Now facing the daunting task of needing (at minimum) six wins in total to raise another trophy. The question then becomes, can they do it again?
With Victor Wong taking a jump in production in stage 2, Jaccob “yay” Whittaker being a premier Chamber in a Chamber dominated meta, retaining the worlds best in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta and having a coach unafraid to experiment. Optic feels primed for another deep run at VCT Masters Copenhagen. In terms of the most complete rosters in VALORANT, OpTic stands near the top. We could see the first ever back-to-back Masters Champion.
LOUD will play out of Groups in Copenhagen
Unlike Optic in domestic games, LOUD took no prisoners in the Brazilian region. Since losing 3-0 to OpTic in the Reykjavík Grand Final, Loud hasn’t dropped a map. In fact, LOUD had a round differential of +117 in 16 maps against the best teams from Brazil. The average round differential was a staggering 7.31, with no other qualified team coming close to that number.
As for the main difference for LOUD in stage two, simply placing Felipe “Less” de Loyola on Chamber has opened up a world of possibilities. While keeping Erick “aspas” Santos on the Jett, the team has a more flexible playstyle. Utilizing Less on Chamber has given them the ability to put immense pressure on defenses and play deeper angles. It's a team with otherworldly individual skill, now with the ware withal to freely hunt for duels. Although, we’ll need to see if coach Matheus “bzka” Tarasconi has baked up any counter-play for the Neon and Fade compositions at VCT Masters Copenhagen.
XSET Passes Group stages with win over Optic
The discourse around The Guard heading into Reykjavík was centered on an inexperienced team passing groups and heading straight in playoffs. Unfortunately, after losing to OpTic in the upper bracket, they fell down to play the least meta-dependent team in Paper Rex. The results went as expected with The Guard not having an answer for their unorthodox playstyle.
As for XSET, a team starting potential breakout stars Matthew “Crycocells” Panganiban and Zachary “zekken” Patrone, they don’t feel as vulnerable as The Guard. Despite eerily similar situations, XSET has shown the ability to adjust their approach and have a massive agent pool. Of course, a team like Paper Rex does provide issues if they happen to see each other in bracket, but XSET has as much firepower as any team in Copenhagen.
Is Northception’s ceiling as high as Zeta Divisions?
Zeta Division’s breakout was the story of VCT Reykjavík. The team that sent commentator Josh “Sidwshow” Wilkinson spiraling caused a wave of enthusiasm to swallow Japan whole. In turn, the region made wholescale improvements and even knocked the third place Stage 1 finishers out of Copenhagen qualifications and potentially Champs.
The question turns to how high is Northeption’s ceiling after eliminating Zeta in front of a raucous crowd? The one game of LAN experience does give them a slight upper hand, but it’s the teams ability to play out of defaults and switch up pacing with faster executes, that could take them to playoffs. Northeption’s Kim “Meteor” Tae-O as Japan’s best Chamber (261.8 ACS in 102 rounds) feasted on teams early rounds. He could be a problem in Copenhagen too.
Paper Rex: The team no one wants to face at VCT Copenhagen
The teams have a couple of weeks to study the Paper Rex tapes with them getting a bye straight into playoffs. Regardless, it’s one thing to prepare for Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto and Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie, it’s another thing entirely to put that study into application.
The Singapore Tornado haven’t played much Yoru during APAC Challengers. However, there’s been no shortage of innovative compositions and ideas coming from coach Alex “alecks” Salle. Jinggg continues to run the Reyna, f0rsakeN has dominated on Neon and the rest of the team can pivot into meta compositions as well. It's the wildcard element of their playstyle and teams unfamiliar will want to avoid at all cost.
DRX Hitting their ceiling or breaking it?
The world has acknowledged the talent on DRX with their star power and team synergy. The results are close to being noteworthy in International competition. Yet, they’ve never been quite able to get over the hump. With losses to OpTic and Zeta at Reykjavík, Cloud9 at Champs, and Gambit previously at Masters Berlin, they’re constantly one win away from possibly winning the event.
As one of four teams with four Masters appearances, the results have been underwhelming compared to the others. The lack of a top three finish, despite having all the necessary ingredients, shows serious underperformance. It’s never been an issue with compositions. In fact, DRX is known for being one of the few teams constantly pushing the meta forward.
The onus is on DRX to break through that ceiling prove this is a world class roster at VCT Masters Copenhagen.
Best Chamber’s heading into VCT Copenhagen
Welcome to the Chamber meta where no angle feels safe. Back at Reykjavík, teams were slowly applying Chamber into compositions with a mere 44% pick rate. Today, his pick rate hovers around 66% with some regions picking him closer to 75% of the time. So, this raises the question, which Chamber will be the biggest difference maker at Copenhagen?
The mind immediately goes to OpTic’s yay, LOUD’s Less, DRX’s Yu “ BuZz” Byung-chul, XSET’s Cryo, and Fnatic’s Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev when concocting best Chamber. These five put up region high ACS scores and are highly considered the best players on their respective teams. Nonetheless, it’s a deep roster of Chamber players across the globe. Even players like Guild’s Saif “Sayf” Jibraeel and Northeption’s Meteor not far behind, ready to make an impact.
Alfajer and Derke elevate Fnatic to tournament favorites
The emergence of Emir “Alfajer” Ali Beder onto Fnatic has elevated a consistently successful Fnatic roster to new heights. According to betting odds, Fnatic sit third overall at +275 behind LOUD (+250) and Optic (+225). Yet, Fnatic being this dominant in an extremely tough region like EMEA signifies massive potential. for a run.
The previous runner-ups at Masters Reykjavík in 2021 have never had this much talent at once. Between Derke and Alfajer, the fire power is uninhibited and explosive. Even more so, the in-game calling from Jake “Boaster” Howlett, with this many weapons at his disposal, has greatly enhanced in Stage 2. On top of individual improvements, the team has a ridiculous deep map pool and will limit what teams can play compositionally against them.
In terms of a favorite, LOUD and OpTic certainly deserve a look. But Fnatic’s in prime form looking destined to beat the top teams.
The action kicks off on July 10th at 9PM PST with LOUD vs KRU Esports.