Eight North American VALORANT squads will go head-to-head in this week’s Challengers Finals with one goal in mind—qualifying for Masters Reykjavík.
Hundreds of grueling VCT matches have culminated in this week’s Challengers Finals, where two teams will get a chance to represent NA in Iceland. And while some big organizations are missing from the action, like TSM, T1, and FaZe, underdog teams have the chance to elbow their way into the spotlight.
staff ranked the eight teams going into the NA VCT Challengers Finals. Here are our power rankings.
- 100 Thieves
- Team Envy
- Cloud9 Blue
Nothing new here: Sentinels, 100 Thieves, Envy
Not many teams have enjoyed consistent success within VALORANT’s short history. But Sentinels, 100 Thieves, and Envy epitomize it.
Sentinels have only lost two series since star fragger Tyson “TenZ” Ngo replaced Jay “sinatraa” Won in the lineup—out of 19 matches. They have incredible talent on the roster, with any player capable of carrying the match. And they’re probably the best option to send to an international tournament if you want to bring the title home. But they’re not exactly invincible.
In both of their losses, Sentinels were swept by teams that most people would consider underdogs. Built By Gamers eliminated them from the Challengers One Open Qualifier, forcing them to start the qualification process all over again in the next event. And Andbox took them out in the Challengers Two quarterfinals. But they went on to climb the lower bracket and eventually take first place.
You can easily chalk those two losses up to flukes since Sentinels’ track record in every other match is incredible, only losing three maps in their 17 victories. But with Andbox also in the Challengers Finals looking to qualify for Masters, a rematch may be in the cards.
100 Thieves have shown incredible resilience throughout their VALORANT tenure, quickly solving issues so they don’t impact their next showing. After rebuilding an entire squad around captain Spencer “Hiko” Martin, they were crowned NA First Strike champions last December. When things weren’t going their way in the VCT, they replaced Quan “dicey” Tran with former CS:GO pro Ethan Arnold.
And when things looked shaky with their newest addition on Omen, they went back to the drawing board and have won their last eight matches. Ethan has been remarkable on Sage, putting up a server-high 84 frags in their Challengers One grand finals match against XSET. If that momentum continues, they might as well purchase their tickets to Iceland now.
Envy round out the top three as a team that boasts intellect, skill, and consistency. They have a boatload of experience playing together since their current roster was formed in September—and they’ve shown they can beat elite teams.
There are a couple of concerns that can potentially knock them out of the race to Iceland. The first is they failed to topple 100 Thieves in their last Challengers One matchup, losing the series 2-1. Secondly, they have yet to take on the “TenZinels” with their new lineup. While they bested the elite team in their last two matches, it was in the pre-TenZ era and the slate should be wiped clean.
Another obstacle could simply be playing time. Envy’s last match was a loss to XSET on April 10. With other teams getting more practice time in, Envy might be cold going into one of the biggest tournaments of the year. But they have the smarts and skills to make that a non-factor.
Contenders: Cloud9 Blue, XSET, Andbox
It’s been a long road for Cloud9 Blue, who have struggled to make a dent in the pro scene for a while. After TenZ stepped down to pursue content creation in January, followed by a couple of more roster changes, the team appears to be melding well despite not playing together for long.
Though C9 lost to Sentinels, Version1, and 100 Thieves throughout Stage Two, they put together a nice run against T1, Andbox, and NRG. And expectations are relatively low for a team that officially started playing together on April 19 when Ricky “floppy” Kemery joined the squad. Without the pressure that comes with being a seasoned VALORANT squad, C9 can easily pull the rug out from under their competitors.
XSET and Andbox were head-to-head in ‘ rankings, with the former beating out the latter by a nominal margin. While XSET have yet to beat Sentinels or 100 Thieves in the VCT, they’ve bested Envy and FaZe and made it to Masters One in March. And behind the versatility of Matthew “WeDid” Suchan, who’s recently played Astra, Phoenix, Viper, Sage, and Skye, XSET have plenty of flexibility.
The team was also among the first four squads to qualify for Challengers Finals, beating out squads like TSM, Sentinels, C9, and others. They consistently qualify for these big moments and it’s only a matter of time before they take the next step.
Where XSET have had some good winning streaks against pretty good teams, Andbox have not. But New York’s VALORANT team does have one ticket to fame—they swept Sentinels in the Challengers Two quarterfinals. And even though they lost to the star squad in their following matchup, Andbox still took a map from them. While it’ll be a difficult road ahead, Andbox have the potential to play spoiler and prevent other squads from making it to Iceland.
Undeserved, underdogs, or underestimated: Version1, NRG
There’s no question about it. Version1 and NRG have a lot to prove.
Version1, formerly NeverDone, came close to qualifying for a major tournament in VCT Stage One but weren’t quite able to get the job done—until now. The squad was one of the first four teams to qualify for Stage Two Challengers Finals, a big feat for a team that’s only been competing together since January. They’ve won matchups against FaZe and C9, while also losing to Envy and XSET.
The unfortunate part of Version1’s Challengers Finals berth is that they might have the hardest path to the grand final. They start the bracket against Sentinels. And if they’re able to take down Goliath, they can potentially face off against 100 Thieves followed by Envy.
NRG have an easier road, starting off against XSET and then potentially taking on the winner of Envy and C9. And after Ryan “Shanks” Ngo’s departure in March, the organization picked up Equinox Esports’ Ian “tex” Botsch. Pair him with former Andbox fragger Bradley “ANDROID” Fodor and NRG have plenty of firepower. They just need to show up when it counts.
NA VCT Challengers Finals kicks off on Thursday, April 29 with 100 Thieves vs. Andbox and Versus1 vs. Sentinels at 3pm CT. Envy takes on C9 at 5:30pm CT, along with XSET and NRG’s match.