The first week of North American VCT Challengers Stage 2 has concluded with a number of new names and faces taking center stage

With the first week of VCT North America Stage 2 Closed Qualifiers in the proverbial books, we take a look back on the biggest surprise team, disappointment, which favorites took care of business and the best performers of the week.

Biggest Disappointment: The Guard

Murmurs started about The Guard scrims during open qualifiers, with teams noting a dip in play since Rejyakvik. Entering week one and facing a much improved 100 Thieves side who have ironed out their early issues, the team was on upset alert. 

Moving into the 4.08 patch, roles for The Guard weren’t in question, but with the Jett nerfs, Ha “Sayaplayer” Jeong-woo’s effectiveness was up for debate. He primarily played the Chamber in the 100 Thieves series and was the lone Guard member that finished positive in k/d. Sayaplayer was able to find kills in off-angles, but rarely traded, ending with a 59% KAST.

Examining the rest of the team, it was a massive underperformance compared to the end of Stage One. The team ended with a week low -15 in round differential. On top of underwhelming individual performances, the team had no cohesion on executes and struggled gaining map control throughout the series. The defensive sided halfs were especially troubling with a mere 55% team KAST.

Biggest Risers: 100 Thieves

On the flip side of The Guard, comes 100 Thieves and the emergence of William “Will” Cheng and Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk. In the first open qualifier, the team fell victim to time as the team was assembled only weeks before their first match. However, the talent is shining through and since losing to TSM and failing to qualify, they’ve gone on a ridiculous tear of a winning streak.

100 Thieves dropped one map to NYFU, but other than that, they haven’t received a single blemish on the record. Even against the previous VCT NA champions, there was no crisis of confidence and the new core of 100T continued to gain experience and improve. There’s a clear, concise game plan on how they approached the map pool against The Guard and executed that plan to perfection. 

It was the most lopsided loss in The Guard’s short history. The ability to stifle Guard’s executes in early rounds and then make the right adjustments in their mid-round calls completely shut down their role players. Simply denying plants and running at certain players on the attack side were a major factor in 100 Thieves success. 

As broadcaster Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson alluded to during the game, 100 Thieves are entering their honeymoon period. No expectations for a new team and allowed to enter the server with a much more carefree playstyle. It’s also a boost to see Asuna uninhibited by forcing roles and top-fragging with huge numbers on Raze and Skye.

Business as usual: Optic Gaming

The Masters Reykjav√≠k champions showed no signs of a title slump. Facing a revamped FaZe Clan roster, they limited Andrej “BABYBAY” Francisty and Quan “dicey” Tran after a filthy qualifying run that had many considering them a proper threat to the top four. 

In quick order, OpTic squashed any upset bid. Despite a lackluster showing from Victor Wong on the Neon, Jacob “Yay” Whittaker abused his elite positioning and aim to tear apart the stars of Faze. His Chamber continues to put up monstrous numbers and it’s clear Pujan “FNS” Mehta is in a groove with his calling.

The Underdogs: NRG Esports

Since bringing on 100 Thieves holdover Ethan Arnold to play the flex role, NRG hasn’t dropped a single map. And the 2-0 win over TSM only solidified their improvement from the open qualifier stages. With matches against XSET and The Guard upcoming, we’ll find out soon if this team’s for real or just pretenders.

Best VCT North American Week One Performance

Graphic via vlr.gg

Yay and bdog proved in a limited sample size their destructive power on Chamber. Asuna, for the first time in a year, finds himself in the top three of Attack Combat Score (ACS). Despite the loss of 100 Thieves, Sayaplayer continued his world class form and showed his skill ceiling is one of the highest in the region.

Furthermore, Ethan being in the top six with Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, Asuna, and yay brings back major early 2021 vibes. All these teams in players will get another chance to prove themselves this weekend starting on Friday March 20th at 1pm PST.

Blake Van Poucke -

Blake Van Poucke

| Twitter: @TokyoDown

Blake Van Poucke is a Valorant writer at esports.gg. He found esports through the early days of MLG and the Super Smash Bros Melee scene. He's been competing and writing about esports dating back to 2008. He has written for several publications and wishes to return to in-person esports events in 2022