After several days of best-of-3 open qualifier action, 8 top North American teams have qualified to the region’s Challengers 1. The event promises to be exciting, with a $50,000 prize pool and a bye through the next open qualifier to Challengers #2 on line for the top four teams.
The qualified teams are:
NRG Esports have been a very interesting team to watch lately. They’re somewhat inconsistent, but when they’re on, THEY’RE ON. With 100 Thieves getting upset earlier in the bracket, their path to qualification was much clearer than it was for some of their opponents in the upcoming event.
Gen.G Esports recently added Kenneth “koosta” Suen, but Shawn “Shawn” O’Riley was Gen.G’s big carry throughout their qualification path. He seems to have finally gotten comfortable playing Raze, and it’s showing in Gen.G’s good results. While Pittsburgh Knights and Renegades aren’t the highest tier of competition, they’re both more than competent squads that Gen.G will be happy to not have gotten upset by.
Envy have had a rocky few weeks lately, but going up against a hot Equinox Esports that I thought had serious upset potential, they handled them quite easily. Envy are still Envy, and perhaps this is the start of an uptick for them after some disappointing performances recently.
Immortals also took new players on board lately, namely Nicholas “NaturE” Garrison and Rhett “Kehmicals” Lynch, but it’s very difficult to get a read on them as none of their games have been broadcasted. Kehmicals has been playing Jett for the team and NaturE sentinel/IGL, and Kehmicals’ stats have certainly been good, though it seems Andrew “ShoT UP” Orlowski has been putting up some ridiculous numbers against the lower-tier open qualifier opposition. But it’s difficult to really tell without gameplay footage. We’ll see where they stand when we can actually watch them.
One of the big upsets, though one that could be seen coming, was XSET’s victory over TSM. Matthew “Wedid” Suchan’s pocket Viper pick was all over the First Strike finalists. XSET have been somewhat of an inconsistent team historically – falling out of the second UMG First Strike Open Qualifier in an upset and more recently failing to exit groups at the Nerd Street Gamers – Winter Championship after winning the NSG x Complexity Invitational – but this could be the start of XSET solidifying themselves as a major team to watch.
If there’s any team that does come into this as a favourite, it has to be Luminosity Gaming. Coming off a massive Winter Championship victory, they didn’t skip a beat in qualifying for Challengers against one of NA’s better orgless teams in Penguin Sledding as well as FaZe Clan. While FaZe took a map off them, the other maps in that series were quite one-sided in Luminosity’s favour. Is this team the best in North America right now? We’ll find out.
Sentinels had a rough path to qualification, nearly dropping a map to Techno Monks and almost completely getting upset by Team Serenity, but ultimately they did make it through. The once-dominant squad has been shaky lately, and it’s doubtful whether or not they even come in to Challengers as the favourites. But they’re still the team with the most pedigree, and now plenty to prove. They can’t be counted out.
Lastly, Andbox have been finally getting Tier 1 matchups at their full strength. They faced Sentinels at the NSG Winter Championship, and now took down T1 to qualify for Challengers #1. The latter team had completely swapped roles, but it didn’t faze Andbox. The duo of Jaccob “yay” Whitaker and Bradley “ANDROID” Fodor continue to run over teams, and Jake “POACH” Brumleve’s ability to play Viper unlocks a lot of options for ABX. They still have a ton of potential coming in to the event.
With teams all over the place in North America lately, and so many upsets happening during the open qualifiers, it’s hard to tell who’s the favourite to add a Challengers trophy to their case. But we’ll certainly learn where some teams stand, and see some great VALORANT action along the way.
North American Challengers #1 kicks off next week Thursday, February 4th. The event can be watched on www.twitch.tv/valorant_esports_na or www.twitch.tv/nerdstgamers. Get ready to watch the conclusion of the first round of top-tier North American action that we’ll see over the next few months, and follow along with everything on THESPIKE.GG!