Europe’s edition of the VALORANT Champions Tour kicked off this week, bringing another shot at seeing some of Europe’s best in action. It was exciting, with old giants toppled and new squads rising up. Ultimately, four teams punched their ticket to Challengers 2.
The four teams with a bye to Challengers 2 in Europe are:
Ninjas in Pyjamas
G2 Esports and Ninjas in Pyjamas were the first two teams to face off, and, on paper, one of the most exciting matchups of the weekend. G2’s leg of the open qualifier included a victory over Rix.GG, while NiP had a hard-fought 3-map set against VALORANT newcomer 19esports. But ultimately, when it came down to it, Ninjas in Pyjamas pulled off the upset and took down the giants of European VALORANT.
It’s been a tough ride for NiP in this game. They’ve gone through multiple full-scale rebuilds in under a year, and have failed to win anything meaningful. But finally, NiP seem to have gotten things together. This is by far NiP’s best VALORANT roster yet, and they showed it with this huge victory.
It’s hard to understate how good Yaroslav “Jady” Nikolaev has been. He doesn’t even play duelists, usually Sage or Sova, but is an incredibly skilled aimer and brings the big firepower that NiP have lacked. Egor “chiwawa” Stepanyuk was beastly in this match as well, with 334 ACS, and NiP won both Icebox (13-7) and Split (13-10), losing only Bind (13-5) en route to the big upset. G2 will be headed back to the open qualifiers for another round.
The second match of day 1 put Monkey business up against Guild Esports. It’s worth noting that First Strike champions Team Heretics were in Monkey business’ side of the open qualifier bracket, but were upset in a best-of-1 by Entropiq’s new roster, who would end up falling in turn to Monkey business. But the unsigned team certainly showed that they deserved to be where they were, taking down Guild in very entertaining fashion.
Monkey business came into this off an underwhelming showing at Red Bull Home Ground, where they really didn’t look like they belonged as they got bossed around by SUMN FC, now Fnatic. But things seemed totally different here. Dragan “elllement” Milanović was an absolute superstar, putting up 383 ACS (!) on Icebox to lead Monkey business to the win.
As for Guild, they were also underwhelming at Red Bull Home Ground, but unlike Monkey business, continued to look so here. They’re simply falling behind other teams in Europe, and while they’re good, they don’t seem like they can compete with the best anymore. For their sake and the scene’s sake, I really hope to see that change, and there’s definitely time for it to.
The third match pitted Fnatic and Wave Esports against each other. Fnatic had had a rough Open Qualifier run, nearly losing to MAJSTERSZTYK. But they were still considered massive favourites against Wave. The majority-German side came from an incredibly weak side of the open qualifier bracket, with DfuseTeam, the only real high-level competition, getting upset early. Surely they had no chance to spoil Fnatic’s debut, right?
The match started off as expected. On Fnatic’s pick of Bind, they routinely shut Wave down. Despite some good moments from Murat “murii” Korkmaz, it looked like Fnatic would close it out.
But over the next two maps, Haven and Split, Wave routinely out-strategized, out-fought, and out-aimed their more prestigious opponents to send them packing in a massive upset. Murii was an absolute star, showing great poise as he led the way for Wave, picking up 1.28 Rating and 277 ACS playing Raze throughout the match. Wave’s aggressive style, compared after-the-fact to North American teams, seemed to catch Fnatic off guard.
The rest of the squad all played an integral part in the massive upset victory. Wave secured their bye to Challengers 2, while Fnatic’s VALORANT debut saw them lose and go back to the open qualifiers.
Lastly, we got Team Liquid against FunPlus Phoenix. FPX had been looking to be on an upward swing again with Dmitriy “dimasick” Matvienko entering the lineup, while Liquid were on a similar trajectory coming off second place in Red Bull Home Ground. Two absolute top teams, we knew what we were getting. It was just a matter of seeing the slugfest.
Haven was the first map, and Liquid jumped out to a big lead on defense. However, FPX’s defense was similarly stellar. A slick ace round from Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom notwithstanding, we headed to overtime.
After rounds were traded once, FPX managed to pull off an attacking win and seal the map 13-10.
Next up was Split, and things looked to be heading in the same direction. Liquid stepped up with an 8-4 defensive half, and actually brought things to map point quite early. But 5 straight rounds from FPX saw Liquid get more and more desperate, and eventually things were brought to another overtime. FPX took the first round, before the next came down to a 1v1 between ScreaM and Andrey “Shao” Kiprsky. ScreaM won it though, and over the next few overtime rounds would continue to keep Liquid in it. Ultimately, however, FPX managed to snag two rounds in a row to complete the comeback, locking themselves in alongside NiP, Monkey business, and Wave for a spot in Challengers 2.