Late to European VALORANT? There’s no better time to join than now!

17:53, 15 Jul 2020

The WePlay! Invitational has begun with the best teams Europe has to offer. If you’re late to the European VALORANT scene, there is no better time to get in than now. A new super team has formed and almost every top tier team on the continent is in this tournament to deny them the crown. On top of that, the event features former Counter-Strike:Global Offensive (CS:GO) superstars, several dark horses, dramatic turn of events and talent forges. Come, come! It’ll be fun! 

Can the star-studded G2 Esports (G2) roster become the first European dynasty?

The first super team in Europe has formed. Made up of some of the finest individual players in European VALORANT throughout beta, the team stepped onto the scene in impressive fashion, winning the Vitality European Open. The roster is so deep that Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas Colocho, former CS:GO AWPer extraordinaire, might not even be the second-best player on his team and most likely only the second-best Operator.

They have their work cut out for them though, as several teams gun for their head. In terms of pure rankings in recent weeks, PartyParrots should be considered the most successful team in Europe. Fish123, the team that dominated the European beta is also back. Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) has merged with HypHypHyp, another top tier team during the European beta. There’s no shortage of teams for G2 to prove themselves against.

While the roster looked scary from an individual standpoint, it was quite clear that the team play still left a lot of room for improvement and most of their strategies and tactics reminded one more of a pick-up style than textbook executions and cohesive groups of two or three.

A victory at the WePlay! Invitational could lay the cornerstone for the first European dynasty after release but it seems by no means guaranteed at this point. A team of highly skilled players that win by their pound by pound comparison is likely to meet a similar fate to a team like FaZe did in CS:GO, in which highly strategic teams can counter human aimbots. What will it be, G2?

Can Fish123 find a working structure with their new player - and what does that look like?

Fish123 was without a doubt the most successful roster in the European VALORANT beta, winning multiple high profile events and rarely missing the final. Since their star-player Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks left the team for an opportunity to play for G2, the team had to do some soul-searching. Adding Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom to the team, a former CS:GO superstar and also top player in VALORANT, the role of ardiis wasn’t entirely filled.

In an interview with GGRecon, team captain Adam "ec1s" Eccles hinted towards a shift in roles that would be necessary to find to the old form. After a short break which made Fish123 miss out on the Vitality European Open, the WePlay! Invitational is the first showing of the team.

In their first map against Prodigy, ScreaM played Breach out of all agents, moving him away from entry positions and duelists, the implicit logic here being that Fish123 wants ScreaM to remain alive deeper into each round to have more impact. ScreaM had by no means been a hard entry on Reyna and played her in a much harder carry position in their past games. The team seems to have realized that the agent lacks a punch against top tier opposition and have removed her from their rotation.

While virtually everyone on Fish123 has shown to be able to pull their weight, the potential issues arising from a mismatch of strength and resulting trouble in role allocation could prove troublesome for this roster. Potential aspirants to sign this roster like the reported Team Liquid could be holding out with the signing of contracts until they’ve seen hard results of what this constellation of Fish123 is capable of.

Two teams become one - How good is the new NiP?

NiP were one of the first organisations to make a move in the European market. Esports history teaches that talent that excels in the early stages of a game often experiences a harsh drop-off, abiding by the Lindy effect. Just so, the first NiP roster didn’t work out and changes had to be made, fusing the best parts of their old line-up with three French players of team HypHypHyp, including former Overwatch League player Damien "HyP" Souville.

On paper, the roster is an ambitious amalgamation of two solid teams but just like in G2 and in Fish123, there are questions around synergies and how quickly they can grow together for the WePlay! Invitational. That said, the team looked quite a bit more advanced in their strategic progress and they are therefore a dark horse for this event, capable of improvising to adopt counter-strategies on the fly.

Hyp during his time in Overwatch League | Image via Blizzard Entertainment

A ship of Theseus with tailwind - Can the Prodigy stack pull another miracle?

The player agency Prodigy has fielded a mixed stack of players throughout VALORANT’s early competitive history, with 30 different players having played so far for this “team”. While that isn’t necessarily impressive, the results of those stacks very much are, almost always being able to compete with the best teams, getting into several finals and winning about half the tournaments they participated in. This speaks in equal parts to the quality of talent selection of Prodigy as it does to the relative importance of team play at this point in time in VALORANT

In their first map against Fish123, they got blasted 13:2 on Haven, with ScreaM and Travis "L1NK" Mendoza repeatedly taking their lunch money. Perhaps the well of talent has finally run dry.

How good are the open bracket teams?

The two teams who have made it through the open bracket, need more DM and nolpenki, could also provide a surprise. In a single-elimination best of one qualifier bracket, the evolutionary pressure of natural selection is on and only the strongest emerge. Those two teams, in particular, have made it through open qualifiers on several occasions and it seems only a matter of time until the Hungarian roster of need more DM or the Lithuanian team of nolpenki find a breakthrough performance.

Images via Riot Games

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