Heading into Challengers Finals, there were still plenty of outcomes and storylines for which 2 NA teams would determine who represents North America at VCT Stage 2 Masters – Reykjavík, the first international VALORANT LAN. These two teams would be among 10 teams from across the world to battle in Iceland. Let’s get into determining which teams would travel across the pond for North America.
The first match of the event, was 100 Thieves taking on the up-and-coming roster of Andbox. With the first map pick, Andbox decided to try their hands on Ascent. This came as a shock as 100 Thieves has an excellent win rate of 70% on this map, as Andbox only had a 67% win rate. From the beginning, it looked as 100T would pull away decisively, handling the first 3 rounds with ease. But Andbox fought back, winning the next 5 rounds of their attack side only to lose the last 4, giving Spencer “Hiko” Martin and company a comfortable 7-5 lead. In the end, the Thieves would close out Ascent with a 13-9 victory, and one of the craziest walls from Ethan “Ethan” Arnold you will ever see.
Moving onto Icebox, a map that 100T normally did not play leading into the Challengers Finals, they decided to pick it as their own. They clearly had something up their sleeves as Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella whipped out the Viper for the first time ever in competitive play. Clearly, whatever plan they had worked. After a 6-6 attack side for the Thieves, they picked up the pace defensively as they would go on to secure the series victory.
Next up was the ultimate favorites Sentinels taking on Version1 and their shiny new toy Maxim “wippie” Shepelev. In the first map, it appeared as if all Sentinels had no more juice to power on, losing Ascent by a decisive score of 13-4. Between maps 1 and 2, Sentinels must have tipped the bottle to find the last bit of juice at the bottom, as they just manhandled V1 on Haven and Split, finishing with scores of 13-6, and 13-3 respectively. Despite a rather down day from star duelist Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, the team came together to find a way to make it to the semi-finals where they would be taking on their biggest competitor, 100 Thieves.
XSET and NRG Esports were next on the main event card in this one. Unlike the previous two matches, this one would not see a 3rd map. On the first map of Ascent, both teams would find themselves with 12 rounds, sending it to overtime. After splitting the first 2 overtime rounds, Damian “daps” Steele had finally had enough and decided to push the issue on attack side.
After delivering a devastating morale blow at the end of Ascent, NRG ended things much faster on XSET’s map pick of Bind, defeating them 13-6 to make a date in the semi-finals.
In the final quarterfinal matchup, Envy took on Cloud9 Blue. Despite bottom fragging, the MVP of this match has to go to Son “xeta” Seon-ho, as it seemed like whenever the team needed him in the clutch most, he would show up. Almost as if he had his own symbolic batman symbol. On the second map Ascent, it was much of the same xeta show, pulling off clutch after clutch to win much needed rounds. Cloud9 would go on to win Ascent 13-9.
Moving onto Semifinals, everyone finally got to see the two highest rated teams match up against each other for the first time in over a month and a half. Whew, do you like VALORANT? If so, keep reading to find out what happened in one of the best matches of 2021.
For their pick, Sentinels decided to play Ascent. Despite the Thieves having a win rate of 69% on the map, Sentinels have an astonishingly 73% win rate. True to the percentages, they squeaked out the victory 13-11. After a dominating attack side mowing down whatever defensive look was given to them, they looked rather sluggish on their own defense. In the end, they took their own map. As for 100Thieves, they once again pulled out Icebox and the Viper on Nitr0. Just like versus Andbox, 100T dominated both attack and defense versus Sentinels, finishing the map rather quickly in a 13-3 win. With the last map being Bind, the clear advantage went to Sentinels, as they had a 69% win rate compared to only 62% for 100T. Just as happened to them the previous map, Sentinels would win in great fashion to secure their spot in the upper bracket final.
Moving on to Cloud9 versus NRG, plenty hoped that we would once again get a 3 map match. However. those fan were left disappointed as Cloud9 finished out NRG on Haven and Ascent to get themselves into a matchup against arguably North America’s greatest team Sentinels.
Upper Bracket Finals
In one of the most anticipated matchups to date, Sentinels would take on Cloud9 Blue. TenZ would once again face off against his former team, as just a week ago Sentinels would sweep C9B 3-0 in the Grand Finals of Challengers 2 to secure the number 5 seed for this event. This time around, things were a little different, even if TenZ was his usual self. On Haven, Cloud9 were one round away from sending it to overtime, but after lurk extraordinare Michael “dapr” Gulino was able to plant, the rest of the team was eliminated giving Sen the win. As for Split, Sentinels looked like they didn’t even belong in the talk for best team, as they got completely embarrassed 13-1, only winning a singular attack round. To close out the series and to secure their ticket to Iceland, Sentinels would win Icebox 13-6.
In the lower bracket, we quickly saw XSET eliminated by Envy in a day 1 match no one would have expected. Version1 also progressed with a 2-1 win over Andbox. These two teams would then continue to progress over their opponents coming from an upper bracket semifinal loss – Version1 beating NRG comfortably and Envy dashing the hopes and dreams of 100 Thieves fans. Then, in an incredibly tight series, V1 took down Envy, setting up a massive showdown with C9 Blue for NA’s last Masters Reykjavik slot.
V1 would open things quickly on Haven. Despite this being C9’s map pick, they couldn’t get anything going against the setups of their opponent. V1 opened up a 6-1 lead and never looked back, taking the map 13-5. On Ascent, though, C9 roared back in similar fashion. Son “xeta” Seon-ho had a fantastic map and they looked like the C9 that had nearly beaten Sentinels in their own 13-5 win.
With that, it all came down to Split. One map to decide who was NA’s second and final representative in our first chance at international competition. Version1 began to open up a lead on their defense, but some nice clutches from C9 kept things close. But on defense, with their backs against the wall, C9 just couldn’t make it happen. Version1 are headed to Iceland in an outcome that few would have predicted, but one that’s sure to be exciting.