Two teams qualify to Masters. Who do you think make the cut?

Valorant esports is kickstarting for its second season with the VCT Challengers 1 events. The Challenger events run for multiple weeks with the best teams qualifying for the Masters event in April. Here’s a quick rundown of the North American Challengers 1. 

Most of the teams in North America have not played official matches since the VCT Championship Event in Berlin. As such, the best way to judge their form and potential is via the Berlin performance. However, VCT NA Challengers 1 is an online event, which is bound to impact some teams’ performance and results.

The Favorites: Cloud9, Sentinels and OpTic

NA has had many teams favorites enough to win international events but North America did not impress towards the end of last season. Despite big names and hopefuls, there was not a single North American team in the top four at the VCT Champions Berlin. Cloud9 came close, but a 2-0 loss to Team Liquid in the quarterfinals was the end of the C9 run. 

Cloud9

Despite not making it to the top 4 at Berlin, Cloud9 has been in fabulous form. The team added Vanity to its roster in August last year, a move that has sparked a string of successful results for the squad.

Winning the Nerd Street Gamer Summer Championships, Cloud9 also secured its spot in the VCT Champions via the NA LCQ. They had a decent run at the Champions, but were stopped short by Team Liquid. One of the only teams to have some game-practice in 2022, Cloud9 won the Knights Arena Valorampage, a tournament which featured map vetoes. 

Cloud9 is definitely a favorite to make it to the playoffs. The team is in Group A, which has little in terms of competition for Vanity and co. 100Thieves is probably the only team that can throw a real challenge to Cloud9 in the group stage. 

Sentinels

Arguably one of the most popular teams in Valorant, Sentinels is still one of the strongest teams in North America. The team’s last official match was at VALORANT Champions 2021, where they had a sub-par performance by their own standards.

The early exit at the VCT Champions Berlin came as a result of Sentinels 1-2 loss to Kru esports and Team Liquid in the group stage. The team’s only win at the event, versus FURIA esports, was not convincing either.

It will be interesting to see which Sentinels turns up in Challengers 1 this year. Despite the results last year, the Sentinels roster has potential to outperform their opponents. 

OpTiC Gaming

Another disappointment at the VCT Champions Berlin was Team Envy. The team went into the Champions event after a few changes to its roster. But the biggest change was the addition of a new coach, Chet “Chet” Singh.

Known for his acumen in CS: GO, Chet brings a new perspective to Envy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for Team Envy to qualify out of the group stage in Berlin. OpTic has not played any official match since December. 

Comprising a star-studded roster, OpTiC has the firepower needed to win the Challengers 1. However, the team lacked in other aspects of the game, and with time, hopefully, they have improved the depth to their gameplay. 

Top Five Valorant teams in 2021

The first year of Valorant saw competition between different regions. Sentinels from NA, Vision Strikers from Korea, EMEA's Gambit and Acend, every team had a chance to secure their name as the first Valorant champion. Ultimately, only one managed to do so, but here are the top five teams of 2021.

Top Five Valorant teams in 2021
Valorant

The Challengers: 100Thieves, XSET and Version1

While every team participating in this event is (technically) a challenger, these three teams have the best chance of defeating some of the favorites. 

100 Thieves

The winners of the VCT NA Stage 2 Challengers 1 last year did not even make it to the Champions event. The team has seen a few roster changes, mainly the addition of Hunter “BabyJ” Schline and the team’s new captain Adam “ec1s” Eccles.

The roster is a mix of experience and firepower, coupled with two newcomers who are yet to prove their worth. Hiko, Ethan and Asuna will have to lead the new players from the front if the team is to make it far at Challengers.

Version1

Version1 had a dominating run through the open qualifiers. The team did not lose a single map, limiting its opponents’ movement and flexibility. No team managed to score double-digits through the open qualifiers against Version1.

The team has had one change to its roster after it added Xander from SoaR Gaming. This year, the team started slow with a 9-16th finish at the Knights Arena Valorampage. They followed it up by qualifying for the NA Challengers event and later the Nerd Street Winter Championships (they finished 5-8th at the event). 

XSET

XSET had to face some strong opponents in the open qualifiers. The team had some close games but managed to come out ahead. 

XSET won 2-0 versus NRG and The Guard, two teams that also qualified for Challengers 1. XSET will face The Guard in Group A, and a similar result might just be enough for the team to reach the playoffs.

The Underdogs

The rest of the teams are pretty much the underdogs. Evil Geniuses has a brand new roster and impressed everyone with its performance in the open qualifiers. With some spectacular plays and coordinated attacks, Evil Geniuses would have made it into the Challengers list, if not for its performance in the very next event.

The team finished last (20-24th) at the Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship. Losing to XSET and a team named Moon Raccoons, Evil Geniuses inconsistent performance does not inspire confidence. The Challengers 1 is a perfect opportunity for the new roster to prove its worth. But until then, it stays in the underdog tier.

Other notable teams in this tier are NRG and The Guard. Both teams have had impressive runs in the open qualifier and could potentially cause an upset or two.

The VCT NA Challengers NA starts on February 11 and will continue till March 27. The top two teams from the NA region qualify for the Masters event soon after. 

Stay tuned to esports.gg for the latest Valorant news and updates

Rohan - Content Editor

Rohan

Content Editor | Twitter: @rohan_esports | Twitch: rohan_3105

Started esports with Dota, moved to CS, then OW, back to Dota 2 and now a bit of Valorant. I love city-building games, have spent hours in Cities:Skylines only to have the traffic defeat me. Love travelling, an admirer of fine movies, writing a sci-fi novel in spare time and coding (Javascript)