All teams qualified for the VCT EMEA Stage 3: Challengers Playoffs

12 teams, four Masters spots. Something's gotta give.

Image via Riot Games

Three scorching hot VALORANT regions will collide yet again at the EMEA VCT Stage Three: Challengers Playoffs as some of the best teams from Europe, Turkey, and CIS meet in a 12-team double-elimination bracket. With more teams attending compared to the Stage Two: Challengers Finals, more is on the line. Teams are playing for four spots at the upcoming Masters event in Berlin.

The top four teams in the field receive a direct bye to the second round of the upper bracket, putting them one step closer to that illustrious top-four finish they’re seeking. Prior to the start of matches, let’s take a look at all 12 competing teams, including the four that received byes and the eight competing in first-round matchups.

The high seeds (receiving a bye to the second round)

Acend

Image via Riot, Acend. Edited by Scott Robertson.

As the champions of Masters One, Acend haven’t been derailed by losing koldamenta to the new G2 Esports superteam. Snagging former G2 player zeek in return, Acend rallied off a cold Stage Two performance with a stellar run through the Stage Three: Challengers One closed qualifier and the main event. At that main event, they defeated all three teams that also qualified with them, asserting dominance over their fellow EU squads. So much of their success can be attributed to their Jett superstar cNed, who’s been playing so superbly it could be considered criminal for him not to appear on LAN.

G2 Esports

Image via G2 Esports

Bringing in Acend’s koldamenta was only a small portion of the sudden but massive overhaul that G2 initiated with their VALORANT roster. In June, they supplemented the addition of koldamenta with nukkye and AvovA from Team Heretics, then added French player keloqz, forming an entirely new group around remaining original member mixwell. G2’s decision to surround mixwell with proven winners at the highest level of EU VALORANT so far has been a smart one, as they avenged earlier losses in VCT to teams like Fnatic and Vitality and also won over FPX and Guild.

Gambit

Image via Gambit Esports

Simply put, Gambit have put a stranglehold on the top of the CIS VALORANT scene and are not letting go. Outside of a single quarterfinal elimination at CIS Stage Two: Challengers One, which was a single-elimination bracket, they have finished first at every CIS Challengers event as well as at Masters One. They were just one series win away from Reykjavík, but fell to Fnatic in the EMEA Challengers Finals semifinals. But Gambit shook that off after going home and ran through CIS Stage Three: Challengers One without dropping a single map.

SuperMassive Blaze

Images via SuperMassive Blaze, Riot Games. Edited by Scott Robertson.

Billed by some folks as the “Turkish superteam,” the early results of this team formed just three months ago are living up to the hype, so far. Starting with Izzy and Brave from Kalafar Esports, over the next week they seriously bolstered the lineup with Turko from Oxygen, russ from BBL Esports, and the returning pAura from Team Heretics. An undefeated run through the Stage Three: Challengers One main event saw them lose just one map to Oxygen in the grand final before they would win three straight series to claim a high seed at the EMEA Challengers Playoffs.

The first-round matchups

Natus Vincere vs. Team Liquid

Two organizations deeply entrenched in not just CS:GO history, but esports history will meet in the first set of matches of the EMEA Challengers Finals. Liquid have fared better than their fellow EU representatives from Reykjavík, Fnatic, but not by much. They fell short of qualifying via Challengers One and had to outlast Fnatic in a grueling five-map series just to secure the final EU spot at the Challengers Finals. With the exception of Gambit, the former No Pressure roster had no problems at CIS Challengers One, securing a Challengers Finals spot with a grand finals berth. They were rewarded for their efforts with a pickup by one of the most illustrious CIS esports regions in the world, Na’Vi.

Guild Esports vs. forZe

One of just two EU teams to reach both Masters One and the Stage Two: Challengers Finals, Guild have been a consistent presence at the top of EU VALORANT but are missing that elusive defining win. They tried to replace draken before Stage Three but ended up bringing him back, which turned out to be a solid decision, as they picked up comeback wins over Team BDS and Fnatic to secure their current spot and nearly capped it off against G2, but lost in five maps. After falling short in CIS Challengers One, forZe ran through the gauntlet at Challengers Two to claim the final CIS spot, coming back from 2-1 deficit in the the grand finals against One Breath Gaming to take the series in five maps.

FunPlus Phoenix vs. Fire Flux Esports

FPX share a lot of qualities and accolades as Guild. They’re the second of only two teams to reach both Masters One and the Stage Two: Challengers Finals, and have also come up just short at both those events as well as First Strike at the end of 2020. Their wins over G2 and Liquid at Stage Three: Challengers One were good enough to get here, but they’ll need to do more to reach Berlin. Especially against a resilient Fire Flux Esports team that lost in the first round of Turkey Challengers Two but then won four straight in the lower bracket, and capped that off with a grand finals win against the team that had knocked them down earlier, Digital Athletics.

Giants Gaming vs. Oxygen Esports

While the rest of the competing EU teams (except for G2) found some success during the first two VCT stages, Giants were largely absent. Just two weeks before the final EU event of the year, they added davidp and Ambi as stand-ins, and both additions delivered, catapulting the Giants into the EU Challengers Two grand finals with wins against Fnatic and Team Liquid. They face Oxygen, who didn’t falter after losing two players in May or drop a map against Futbolist, Fire Flux, and SuperMassive Blaze in the first three rounds of Turkey Challengers One.