Another VCT Masters trip to Reykjavík, another trophy in the cabinet for North America. OpTic picked up the flag after The Guard faltered, and while OpTic’s journey to and through Masters was not flawless, they showed up when it mattered and claimed victory.
Now the eyes of the world rest on NA yet again, ahead of the all-important NA VCT Challengers Stage Two main event. For the teams that didn’t perform well in Stage One, making a run here is a necessity if they have any hope of competing for a title at Champions this year.
The NA VCT Challengers Stage Two main event will consist of 12 teams: the top four from Stage One, the top four from the first open qualifier, and the top four from the second open qualifier. Here’s a look at all the qualified teams.
The Guard (No. 1 in Stage One)
The Guard’s meteoric rise to prominence was the dominating storyline of Stage One, from their 4-1 group stage showing that included a dismantling of 100 Thieves, to a playoff run that saw them beat NA’s best in Sentinels, Cloud9, and OpTic en route to a first place finish. Yes, their Masters Reykjavík performance left plenty to be desired, but their improvement from underperforming youngsters to regional champions in just a matter of months is almost unheard of. With an abundance of youth and a revered coach calling the shots, The Guard has a bright future, and they’ll look to put the past behind them in Stage Two.
OpTic Gaming (No. 2 in Stage One)
It wasn’t easy for the members of the Green Wall. After falling in the NA Challengers grand final, they found out they’d missed out on a bye to Masters playoffs. And in Masters, they faced an elimination match in three separate scenarios before reaching the grand final. But OpTic went 10-0 in the combined maps played during the group stage elimination matches, the lower bracket final, and the grand final. When their backs were against the wall, they answered the call, and finally slayed the international beast to redeem their lackluster VCT Champions 2021 showing.
Cloud9 (No. 3 in Stage One)
During the NA VCT Challengers One group stage, Cloud9 was just one of two teams to notch an undefeated record prior to playoffs. They capped off that stage with a big victory over The Guard, and C9 taking one of the two NA spots at Masters seemed all but inevitable. But a narrow loss decided by just a couple rounds to OpTic sent them to the lower bracket, and their lower bracket run ended with arguably this C9 team’s worst-ever loss, a three-map sweep by The Guard that dashed C9’s Masters hopes. The C9 boys have always had fun together, and that’s not going to change, but don’t be surprised to see them come out swinging early to make a statement.
XSET (No. 4 in Stage One)
XSET finished fourth during Stage One, just like they did at last year’s NA Stage Three playoffs, and at the NA Last Chance Qualifier. It was enough to reach Stage Two this time around, but this team is one of the consistently-best teams in NA that has yet to reach an international event. Maybe they finally break through this stage.
NRG Esports (Open Qualifier One)
NRG reclaimed their spot in the 2022 NA Challengers main event as the first team to qualify from the first open qualifier. The return of Ethan to the organization has breathed new life into the roster, and the trio of Ethan, s0m, and tex has a lot of potential.
FaZe Clan (Open Qualifier One)
FaZe has pulled out of their year-long tailspin. They went from being the most exciting and dangerous team in North America to start 2021, to a fringe regional contender, to not even reaching the main event of 2022’s Stage One. After another rebuild around babybay, the new trio of supamen, poised, and POACH could be the best team FaZe’s smeagin’ superstar has ever played with.
TSM (Open Qualifier One)
Another team back from the dead thanks to a collection of new parts is TSM. Rather than betting solely on young and unproven talent, TSM went with an experienced and flexible player in gMd, a former long-time member of Gen.G. But they also snagged a very young talent in seven, and will look to develop what 100T and T1 let go. When is TSM playing? When the Stage 2 Challengers main event starts.
Luminosity Gaming (Open Qualifier One)
Luminosity has fought their way back into the main event, after falling short of automatically qualifying through the Stage One playoffs by just a single series. They’re one of the few teams outside of the NA top four to make no roster changes, but the org’s belief in this team was rewarded with impressive back-to-back wins against Sentinels and Version1 in the open qualifier.
100 Thieves (Open Qualifier Two)
100 Thieves went with an almost complete overhaul of the roster and structure of their VALORANT team between stages, bringing in an entirely new staff and replacing most of the original main roster. After a pair of losses against TSM in the first open qualifier, 100T rallied in the second qualifier with an impressive run, capped off by some impressive performances from young superstar Asuna.
Evil Geniuses (Open Qualifier Two)
Two core members moving on? No problem for Evil Geniuses. EG filled in the gaps left by Pho and YaBoiDre with a couple of young, unproven players in C0M and Apotheon, from Akrew and Renegades, respectively. But the driving force behind EG has been the breakout play of Jawgemo, who has the highest ACS, K/D, and ADR of any player in the second qualifier’s double-elimination portion. Is he the next great American duelist?
Ghost Gaming (Open Qualifier Two)
You best start believing in Ghost stories, you’re in one! Ghost Gaming finally has captured some success in VCT, after falling short in qualifiers in all three stages last year. The difference maker has been Aproto, the former long-standing foundation of the 2021 Luminosity roster. His presence has brought out the best in his teammates; both NiSMO and koalanoob finished top 12 in ACS for all players in the second qualifier’s double-elim portion.
Sentinels (Open Qualifier Two)
It took them longer than anyone could have expected, but the re-tooled Sentinels roster finally made it back to the main event via the final spot out of the second qualifier. The players, featuring new addition Kanpeki from Akrew, saved their best for last with a 10-0 map record across five straight lower bracket wins to requalify, and the cohesion that led them to dominate the first half of 2021 appeared to resurface. The self-described “main characters” of VALORANT are back to write another chapter.