Coming into the first VALORANT major, who will come out on top of the stacked field?
After weeks of gruelling qualifiers and intense matchups, it is finally time to see who will come out on top of the first official VALORANT major in North America. Will it be a tournament favourite, or will a dark horse come out of nowhere and shock everyone?
Can the old guard stay strong?
Since the beginning of the competitive VALORANT landscape in North America, there have been two main teams on everyone’s lips as the best teams in the game - TSM and Sentinels. After winning multiple Ignition series events between them, the teams developed quite the rivalry early on in the game, constantly trash-talking on Twitter whenever they would beat each other in the finals - which occurred very often. The two teams played in what is considered the best game of competitive VALORANT so far, with a thrilling five-game series in the FaZe Clan Invitational final in which TSM came out on top.
However, in order for these teams to compete and win the First Strike event, they will definitely need their star players to turn up when it matters most. In the initial qualifier for the event, TSM star player Matthew “Wardell” Yu, who usually carries the team with his insane Operator skills was rather absent when it mattered in the deciding match against 100 Thieves, only posting a 1 K/D, not close to his normal ratings. As for Sentinels, former Overwatch league MVP Jay “sinatraa” Won will be the player to look out for with his performances usually dictating the outcome of Sentinels games.
Can the 100 Thieves and Envy hype continue?
After placing first and second in the First Strike closed qualifier, both 100 Thieves and Envy will have all eyes on them to see if they can replicate their performances. Since dropping a majority of their roster apart from Spencer “Hiko” Martin after a string of poor results, and picking up old Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) players Joshua “Steel” Nissan and Nicholas “Nitr0” Cannella alongside young superstars Quan “dicey” Tran and Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk from Immortals, it is fair to say the overall community response was that this team, on paper, should be competing for titles.
With Nitr0’s experience playing for arguably the best North American team in CS:GO history (Team Liquid), along with Dicey and Asuna’s obvious skills on VALORANT, it seems to be a match made in heaven - and so far, so good. With little practice, the team managed to achieve second in the closed qualifier, beating teams such as TSM and Sentinels along the way.
As for Envy, they appear to have reached the top of the pyramid for competitive VALORANT, beating 100 Thieves comfortably in the finals of the qualifier 3-0. Since the beginning of the game, Envy have always been a competitive team, however, never looked likely to win events until they acquired Austin “Crashies” Roberts and Victor “food” Wong; formerly of T1. This move seems to have instantly made them title contenders, adding the much-needed star-power to enable them to compete with the best teams in the game.
For both of these teams, however, the community still needs to be shown that the closed qualifier results weren’t a fluke, and that they are here to stay at the pinnacle of NA VALORANT for the foreseeable future. Many people believe this could be a possible finals matchup, and with both teams being on opposite sides of the bracket, let's see if it will be a repeat of the closed qualifier finals, or if the hype train for one, if not both of these teams, will be derailed.
Will a dark horse shock everyone?
Whilst there are clear favourites based on previous results, the outcome of the event is definitely not a foregone conclusion, and the door could be open for a team to produce an upset. This is helped with the format of the tournament being an eight-team single elimination bracket. If a team has a slow start and the underdog is firing on all cylinders, it could produce a number of shock early exits for teams.
One team that could be a dark horse for the event would be T1. Since acquiring in-game leader Sam “Dazed” Marine and adding Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham back to the starting roster, it would appear that the team seems to be slowly improving under the new leadership. Led by star player and former Counter-Strike prodigy Braxton “Brax” Pierce, who holds an impressive 1.2 K/D so far during official VALORANT matches, there is no doubt that this team has the skill and experience to be able to stay calm during crucial moments, which may allow them to cause a few upsets on their way to glory.
Another possible dark horse team for the event is Immortals. Since losing dicey and Asuna to 100 Thieves, many people in the community saw that as a sign that the team had no ambitions of competing for championships in VALORANT. However, shockingly, the team still managed to qualify for the major over teams like Cloud9. For them to have any chance of winning the event, they will be reliant on their newest pick-up and star player Andrew “ShoT UP” Orlowski to perform to the best of his abilities, which he does often, posting a 1.27 K/D and absurd 262 ACS.
Whoever wins the event, it is bound to be a high-quality event with the best teams North America has to offer competing for their share of the $100,000 prize pool and title as the First Strike NA major champions.
Images via Riot Games | T1 | Blizzard Entertainment