The first round of qualifiers for the Challenger Finals is over and the first four teams have qualified for the Challenger Finals. (Image: Riot Games)

The first round of qualifiers for Challenger Finals has wrapped up, with four teams making the cut from VCT Stage 3 Challengers 1. Sentinels, Xset, 100 Thieves, and Envy will all have a shot at competing for a spot at Masters Berlin. This time around North America will have three open spots. With intense competition returning from the first international LAN, seeding may be the difference between qualification and an extended vacation.

Qualification for Masters Berlin is imperative for any teams hoping to make Champions, read more about the VCT roadmap here. VCT points and a trip to Berlin are on the line, and here are the teams that did (and did not) rise to the occasion.

Xset play kingslayers in VCT Challengers 1

Xset have been an up-and-coming team for quite some time now. Since April, Xset have consistently contended with top teams, though largely have failed to take the next step. After making a drastic roster change, benching Matthew “Wedid” Suchan for Zachary “Zekken” Patrone, doubts swirled around Xset’s potential. In this Challengers 1 qualifiers, Xset took down giants in both Sentinels and 100 Thieves.

In their first matchup against the reigning World Champions, Xset snapped Sentinels 17 game winning streak. The efforts of Xset’s veteran members, Bryce “PureR” Lovell and Brendan “BcJ” Jensen, enabled both their upset win over Sentinels as well as much of their success in VCT Challengers 1 generally. Purer specifically had an incredible tournament personally, finishing with the most total clutches (8), a 55% ESR, 1.14 KD, and the fourth highest ACS (226).

Xset managed to make every map contentious, no matter their opponent. Xset have been in this position before, performing well in the qualifiers however falling flat in Challengers Finals. This simply can’t be a one-time performance if Xset hope to find a ticket to Berlin.

Sentinels flex fraggers and Agent

Sentinels have returned from their international title run just to show they are still the domestic kings of North America. Though Sentinels suffered their first series loss in a quite awhile, but they are still far and away NA’s best team.

Sentinels showed incredible confidence this tournament, experimenting far more than usual. In Masters Reykjavik, Sentinels showed only four unique compositions. In the VCT Stage 3 Challengers 1 qualifier however, the team heralded 7 different compositions, finding a winning record on 6 of them.

Alongside expanding their potential compositional pool, Sentinel’s fraggers also got a chance to show off. The top four fraggers of the tournament all belong to the Sentinels organization. Tyson “TenZ” Ngo (345), Hunter “SicK” Mims (267), Michael “Dapr” Gulino (259), and Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan (223) all lined the kill feeds. In the grand finals, TenZ found 83 total frags with 156.6 ADR, the highest of the tournament. 

Version1’s absence – Can they make it through Challengers 2?

Although one North American representative from Masters Reykjavik made the cut, Version1 could not take the first step to Berlin. Quite shockingly, Version1 not only failed to win a single game in the VCT Challengers 1, but only took one map against the Kansas City Pioneers.

Version1 was once against plagued by roster troubles, as though Maxim “wippie” Sheplev was able to rejoin the roster, V1 had to play with another substitute. In light of Jordan “Zellsis” Montemurro’s suspension, Brady “Thief” Dever (formerly of Luminosity Gaming) filled the vacancy. This time around, V1 did not do as well with a stand-in.

V1 were able to make their games close though failed to closed out almost every time. Version1 appeared incredibly disjointed, only a visage of the team that defeated Team Liquid in Masters Reykjavik. Though parts of their roster have shown promise, as Loic “effys” Sauvageau had an impressive showing, the entirety of the V1 squad need to rekindle their success should they hope to attend another international LAN.

Other teams such as Cloud9 and TSM fell victim to upsets in the open qualifier, though will pose challenges to V1 in both the open and closed qualifiers. As teams have increasingly fell to ‘minor’ teams, it has become increasingly apparent that no team is guaranteed a spot. Version1 will likely have a much more difficult time qualifying in Challengers 2 than VCT Challengers 1. Whether V1 moves ahead with Thief or reintegrates Zellsis back into the roster, it is clear that they must recapture their signature aggressive playstyle. 

First four Teams qualified for the VCT Stage 3 Challenger Playoffs:

  1. Sentinels
  2. XSET
  3. 100 Thieves
  4. Team Envy

There are still four places up for grabs in the VCT Challengers 2 event. A total of eight teams will compete in the playoffs for just 3 slots at the Masters Berlin in September.

Blaine Polhamus -

Blaine Polhamus

| Twitter: @BlainePolh

Blaine is an esports journalist and has been a fan of multiple esports scenes ever since 2015 Worlds. Since graduating from College of Charleston, Blaine has written news and stories for League of Legends, VALORANT, CS:GO, and Call of Duty.