C9, TSM, FaZe, Immortals - T1 x NSG had it all.
The T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown was such a talent dense showcase, it was difficult to imagine it being a flop. For a while now we’ve seen the signs and markings of a good esports title, even with Riot stepping in and introducing the Ignition Series, the seeds of an early esports were sown. As the first harvest in what looks to be a long and prosperous season, the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown will be considered the first large scale event in the game’s history, and won’t be the last. With organizations finally placing early bets on the table, teams like 100 Thieves and FaZe Clan stepped into the ring, this surely marks a step in the right direction for VALORANT esports across the board.
TSM Separate Themselves From The Pack
With repeated wins over the only team to evade them, TSM not only won the title at the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown but now they are undisputedly the best team in North American.
The stars on this team shine almost every game and their consistency is impressive. Taylor "drone" Johnson easily is the best anchor, has some of the best pistol rounds in the game’s early history, and is just an overall great player. Holding the title of best Operator in North America has to go to TSM’s Matthew "Wardell" Yu. On top of that, you have a young talent like Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik who not only can fill in as a lurker but also a potent rifler and sniper? How do you tackle this team? It is no wonder the only real competition that they’ve run into has been T1.
The Team with the unfortunate luck to draw them in a tournament need to recognize this fact; you cannot afford to lose a pistol round against TSM. Wardell will buy a Marshal and your lives will never be the same. Losing the pistol round is bad enough, usually, teams will be forced to eco the following round which puts them at an inherent disadvantage. However, a free round win off of just the pistol round is absurd. TSM does this constantly. While we could spend hours doting on what could be the best in the world, at the moment, it’s also important to recognize some of the new talents we all need to keep our eyes on.
Not only did the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown showcase many top esports organizations, but we had the first glimpse at some of the contenders climbing the ranks. Together we are terrific was set to due well in our power rankings and they lived up to expectations. Counter-Strike veteran Pujan "FNS" Mehta has assembled a strong team and will likely be one of the next teams to be signed to a notable esports organization looking to enter the VALORANT space.
With the core from Highground and with North American Counter-Strike legend, Spencer "Hiko" Martin, 100 Thieves is going to be a dangerous team. While this was their first outing together, the team not only managed to make it out of groups but also made a fairly deep run in the playoffs. Coming out of Group C behind T1, 100 Thieves suffered a narrow loss to FaZe Clan in the Round of 8. In the losers’ bracket, they topped together we are terrific 13-7 and took Immortals, the eventual bronze medalists, to overtime in a 12-13 loss on Bind. If this is the first showing from a new team, it’s hard not to be excited to see them in the future. Again, 100 Thieves is going to be a headache for the top teams by the next big tournament.
It is clear at this point that Tyson "TenZ" Ngo needs help on Cloud9. Bowing out of Group A with a 1-2 record losing to together we are terrific and Prospects, two of the teams that had to qualify for the event and were not invited. To Cloud9’s credit, Group A was easily the most difficult group due to the dentistry of good teams. While together we are terrific and Prospects had to fight through the open qualifiers, they still have a track record of taking top teams incredibly close. What’s even more confusing is the fact that C9 was the only team to beat FaZe Clan in their group. So whether it is a consistency issue or something greater, it is clear that something is not clicking with this team.
Good individuals don’t make good teams, however, it is difficult to ignore how talented TenZ is. That said Cloud9 isn’t finished recruiting for their official roster, but they have played with the same core in their last few events which could be cause for alarm.
It feels dismissive to simply say start looking for better talent, but when someone like TenZ or Skyler "Relyks" Weaver can drop massive K/D spreads and the team still loses, it’s hard not to think that way. That’s not to say that they don’t know what they’re doing, Cloud9 actually has an interesting view on the game.
Going back to Immortals’ First Light tournament, Cloud9 showcased many different and interesting set positions that they would regularly play. They are one of the few teams still using Viper on Split, which highlights this point perfectly. Often C9 will have TenZ play Mid-Mail with Viper to abuse her one-way smoke. This locks down the position and makes traversing into B Site from mid incredibly difficult. It’s that unique take on positioning and agents used that should give hope to Cloud9 fans as they advance deep into VALORANT esports. This is a team that has some of the most potential to be great, they just need time. There is a world where in the next six months, Cloud9 could be contending TSM for the best team in the world.
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Sage Down? Phoenix Up?
Throughout the course of the tournament, both Sage and Phoenix have had talking points in and around the current metagame. The biggest advocates for Sage-less compositions were TSM. Rookie team FaZe Clan also mimicked them in this sense but did not find the same success. All through the group stage and in their dominant run in playoffs, TSM refused to use Sage on VAORANT’s newest map, Ascent. Instead, they opted for a double-smoke composition, featuring both Omen and Brimstone.
The added smokes open them up to being able to flex Wardell’s Operator through mid while controlling angles for the rifles too slowly and methodically. This not only gives them valuable information on where the weak side of the map is and adds attack paths. With deep mid-control, TSM now has the ability to send pieces through Market to attack A Site or through Tree to attack B Site. This also makes it difficult for the enemy team to quickly rotate through their half of the map.
While many teams utilized the fact that Phoenix is a good entry agent, no one did it better than TSM’s own Taylor "drone" Johnson. From playing your traditional entry fragger or flashing for Matthew "Wardell" Yu’s Operator on Haven, drone clearly finds the most value on the agent. What looks to be a step away from Brech, Phoenix fills a similar role without having to learn the geometry and wall interactions on all four of VALORANT’s maps. While Breach theoretically might be better in the grand scheme of things, we cannot discount the impact that Pheonix can have on the game.
Far from a solo, ladder agent, Phoenix statistically is a strong choice for any team composition at the moment. According to CypherCam.org, Phoenix has a 57.18% round win rate when using his ultimate. This is the second most impactful ultimate in the game only topped by Cypher’s Neural Theft. With that kind of entry power, sites become infinitely easier to take over. This is one of the big reasons why we’ve seen a slow shift away from Breach. While his ultimate Rolling Thunder can be obnoxious, it is going to take a lot of time and a lot of film reviews to see teams find massive use out of it. Contrast that to the plug and play nature that Run It Back has, how you’re always guaranteed something with Phoenix’s ultimate, then you start to see the picture.
Images via Riot Games