Sentinels were crowned the victors of the first NA VALORANT Champions Tour Masters event earlier this month. But with the second leg kicking off later this week, there’s still ample time for teams to snag those coveted circuit points.
Hundreds of squads will compete over several qualifiers and Challengers events with the hopes of representing their region at Masters Two in Iceland. And after a roller coaster of events, roster changes, and upsets, the next stage should deliver plenty of excitement.
Here are the best storylines going into NA VCT Stage Two.
TSM's potential six-man roster seeks redemption
TSM's VCT run was cut short in the Challengers circuit when the team failed to qualify for Masters. But with rumors and reports that former T1 pro Braxton “brax” Miller may join the team as a sixth man, we might see a different squad in Stage Two.
It's unclear exactly how substitutions for this new lineup would work. During his time on T1, brax mainly Oped on Jett. Since star Oper Matthew "WARDELL" Yu fills that role for TSM, it's not likely that he'll be swapped out for brax. Fans also noticed James “hazed” Cobb was sitting out of scrims, but a report by Rush B Media's Ryan Friend says he's not being benched.
During last year's First Strike tournament, TSM pioneered a triple duelist comp that helped them come in second place. The team went back to a more traditional two-duelist comp during VCT but may bring out some new tricks during Stage Two.
Either way, TSM clearly needs to make some adjustments after a disappointing start to the 2021 competitive season. And as one of the scene's biggest organizations, a lot is riding on the next leg of the circuit.
100 Thieves can dust off growing pains with new lineup
As the reigning First Strike champions, 100 Thieves had a lot of pressure going into the next circuit. Despite some early success, the team decided to go in a "new direction" and replace young fragger Quan "dicey" Tran with former CS:GO pro Ethan Arnold last month.
Team captain Spencer "Hiko" Martin told Dot Esports earlier this month that "getting to the top is hard, but staying at the top is harder." And the team feels like adding Ethan is best for their future. There were still growing pains during Masters One, however.
With Ethan transitioning from CS to VALORANT, 100 Thieves placed him on Omen smoking duties. The team also exclusively ran one duelist comps throughout Masters in an effort to counter the aggressive meta. But it didn't quite work in their favor after they were eliminated in the lower bracket by Gen.G.
But 100 Thieves have been here before. After struggling to perform in the competitive scene, the organization dropped every player except for Hiko. After creating a new roster around the captain, they were able to win Riot's first official event with less than two months of playing together. With decades of experience in tac shooters and more time to develop strats and build synergy, 100 Thieves is poised for a rebirth.
Is FaZe's Smeag-style sustainable?
FaZe absolutely ran over the competition in the latter part of VCT Stage One and nobody saw them coming—except for Sentinels, of course.
With their aggressive, in-your-face style, dubbed "smeaging," FaZe won seven of their last nine matches and came in second place at Masters One. While critics might feel their style isn't sustainable, star fragger Andrej "babybay" Francisty told Dot Esports that he "want[s] people to keep the narrative that [they're] just pugging." And now, they have the opportunity to keep that run going in Stage Two.
But FaZe have to overcome one obstacle if they want to be crowned champions. And that's Sentinels.
As the only team to beat FaZe in their last nine matches, Sentinels clearly have the answer for the Smeag-style. They absolutely dominated FaZe and didn't even drop a map to them in both of their VCT Masters matchups. So what's to stop other teams from looking at how Sentinels were successful and employing the same strategy?
Well, for one, Sentinels are the best team in North America. And even if teams try to emulate them, it won't be easy to pull off against this oppressive FaZe team. But if FaZe want to be VCT champions, they'll need to figure out how to take out Goliath first.
TenZ + Sentinels = TenZinels
It's hard to believe that Sentinels had any more room for improvement. But after they added Tyson "TenZ" Ngo as a Masters One stand-in following Jay "sinatraa" Won's sexual assault allegations, they appear to have gotten even better.
Sentinels rolled through Masters, only losing one map throughout the entire event. And for TenZ, coming from a lackluster Cloud9 squad, it "feels amazing to win." During a virtual press conference following their grand finals win against FaZe, the pro said he has the "competitive itch" and didn't "feel obligated to make superstar plays and try to be a hero every round."
The question marks for this team don't appear to be team synergy or the lack of practice together. Instead, it's the pending investigation involving sinatraa and whether Sentinels will buy out TenZ's contract from C9. For now, however, it seems like TenZ will be competing with Sentinels for Stage Two—and teams need to figure out a way to counter them fast.
The open qualifiers for VCT Stage Two: Challengers One kick off on April 1. The top eight teams will move on to the main event, beginning on April 8.
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