One solid default strategy on attack and an adaptable approach on Defence was all it took for T1
T1 back at it again. During the Twitch Rivals North America tournament this past weekend, the team built around the former iBuyPower CSGO core only dropped one map the entire event, losing only Haven in the finals against TSM. While some caveats have to be made for the nature of the tournament, which involved teams being built around streamers (who for T1 was conveniently brax, also a T1 player) the victory was nonetheless impressive, beating the Immortals core, Team aceu with the Sentinels core and EliGE, and TSM (without hazed but with a well-playing Myth) in the finals. Most impressively, the team never had to break a sweat on the new map Ascent, showing one of the earliest comprehensive defaults for their Attack and being incredibly adaptive to their opponent on Defence. That said, strategic sophistication is a long shot away. Let’s break it down.
The team composition
Throughout the tournament, T1 only played two different team comps, both sharing Sage, Cypher and Breach as their core and switching between Raze and Brimstone for Bind and curiously Omen and Reyna for both Haven and crucially Ascent. Banking on the synergy of Omen and Breach to make plays happen between brax and AZK, as well as requiring less smokes to cut off crucial points on the primary bombsites with this comp on Haven and Ascent, Omen shines in brax’s hand as he showed stellar individual performances this weekend.
- Read more: T1 Brax Might Be The Best Player In VALORANT
General observations & philosophy
On attack, T1 wastes no time to take advantages over positions or Ultimate Orbs and don’t spend time to waste their opponent’s utility (stark contrast to for example Korean playstyles, that run the clock while forcing out Defence utility and roll in late)
T1 is comfortable in taking trades, allowing their individual skill to take over when the numbers on both teams dwindle
Due to their quick playstyle, they leave ample time for outplay potential in the mid and late-round when they’ve forced the global player number to around 6 players or fewer
T1 rarely sit on their ultimates, using them even when they are ahead in numbers (4v3, and 4v2 mostly)
T1 distribute ultimate orbs mostly between Omen, Breach and Sage with the one closest to the ultimate taking the Orb
Defending Ascent is a challenge, as it shapes up to be a clearly attacker focused map and while this still holds true for T1’s round winrate, their Defence still looked like the most robust approach this weekend. Their Defence default setup on Ascent is rather liquid, with agents being exchanged on different positions. However, the standard default looks like this:
Breach in Mid Cubby played by AZK, who will Fault Line (E) either to Mid Top or Mid Link, taking aim duels together with food on Reyna or allowing the middle player to peek into the middle. Brax on Omen will set up on A-Site and will position according to his opponents expected weaponry while switching up to not be predictable. Depending on the propensity an opponent shows in the site they want to hit or which early objectives they are trying to achieve, the team will discuss Tripwire positions either around A-Main and Cubby or B Main and Mid Bottom. Sage will hold down B-Site as she excels at delaying pushes, allowing for their A-site heavy default to rotate either through Defender spawn or middle, also depending on the game state.
As the round unfolds, they try to be proactive and get safe picks early in Mid Top or Mid Link with Fault Line. When T1 notices that they are losing control of mid, which given the effectiveness of utility for the attackers happens often, they fall back one or two angles on each position that pressure is being applied to wait for reinforcements while consistently trying to be unpredictable in the specific angle they will hold. One of these examples is Breach and Reyna who will contest Mid Cubby early falling back into A Link and later A Garden, gathering information and calling rotates quickly, delaying with utility if needed. If T1 can help it, they will not engage in a duel until a teammate would be able to trade even though their firepower would probably allow for it anyways. Crashies on Cypher will rarely contest around the entrance into Mid Bottom but will rather stay safe around Pizza and Market unless AZK specifically calls for a Fault Line that he can peek off of. If the opponent does decide to rotate through the middle, Cypher will use his utility to delay and will fall back to B-Site, closing the door to further take momentum out of the offensive push while food will likely already be in Defender’s spawn and contest in order to shut down pushes through this position.
T1’s strategy is best summarized by looking for early opportunities and falling back in order to allow their positions to team up with a teammate and take fights. This push and delay mechanics works wonders in the heavily aggressive North American metagame. A team that wants to beat T1 decisively when they are defending will likely have to have a more cautious approach which forces as much utility as possible and invalidates their delay tactics, capitalizing on possible fakes and giving into their push and pull but rotating in a smarter way. No team at Twitch Rivals was able to do this consistently.
The VALORANT map metas are in their infancy and some limitations were revealed, even for the possibly best team in the world at this point. T1 only seemed to have one attack default for Ascent but the one they had was a beauty. Making use of VALORANT’s unique utility and win conditions, T1 showed a heavy focus on ultimate orbs and power plays through the ultimate economy, which enabled them to repeatedly hit A-Site especially utilizing a neat combo of Breach and Omen’s ultimates when available.
Rolling out from attacker spawn, Reyna and Cypher moved in front of B Lobby while setting up Trip Wires to protect the team from backstabbing rotations. After the initial fortification, Reyna will rotate back into either mid or A-Lobby to team up. Cypher will lurk around in Mid Link and adjacent areas, trying to find picks on the rotating opponents or team up with the others depending on which execute T1 decides on. Crashies does a marvellous job at that, reading the game’s flow well and got a lot of value against most teams.
- Read more: Reyna Enters VALORANT as a Juggernaut
The action happens in front of A, with brax and AZK contesting Orb using Fault Line in the entrance to A and brax using his smoke to cover it too. Gaining consistent ultimate advantages, T1 will either rotate into middle and either wrap through Mid Cubby into a but most often, once they are in mid, commit to a push through Pizza and Market. Due to the relatively repetitive nature of their default, T1 often has to improvise based on the individual firepower of their roster, very often bringing it down from a disadvantaged position such as in this 2v4 clutch in which both Skadoodle and brax show their team play and calm collected veteran chops.
Their speciality that separated them from other teams, however, was their execute onto A-Site from A-Main using Omen’s and Breach’s ultimate onto A, a site that’s notorious for the amount of spots opponents can hide in. Covering almost the entire site, Brax times his teleport in a way that he doesn’t get hit by AZK but will teleport onto the left side behind the generator, allowing him to hit vulnerable targets who have been dazed. In one instance where they try this, the execute fails as their opponents are trying to go for a cheeky push into mid with none of them defending A. As the value of their ult evaporates, brax completely turns the fight in an incredible 1v4. Notably, he only used one Phantom magazine to kill all five opponents while also having to shoot a Leer, coming away with possibly the best play of the tournament.
Overall, T1 showed their individual player strength and didn’t really break a sweat through most of this tournament, with only TSM giving them a decent match. Getting away with many rounds which they probably shouldn’t have won, their experience showed but also revealed their current strategic ceiling with no hard designated caller and only one default on most maps. Often executing quickly rather than on complete information, T1 chose an approach that allowed them to dominate the tournament with relative ease but left alert viewers wondering if a team with a more sophisticated strategic approach that would likely come from teams playing with their full line-ups. It was the type of performance that signalled that T1 had a ways to go if their goal was to become VALORANT’s first dynasty, while still showing that they are most likely the strongest team of 5 in North America.
Image via T1 and Blitz.gg