The virtual stage is set for the North American VALORANT First Strike main event, where eight squads will battle it out to prove they’re the best team in the region.
The first Riot-produced VALORANT event boasts a hefty $100,000 prize pool and plenty of bragging rights, kicking off on Dec. 3. Hundreds of teams competed through four grueling qualifiers, but only eight advanced—Team Envy, 100 Thieves, Sentinels, Renegades, TSM, FaZe Clan, T1, and Immortals.
Some promising squads didn’t make the cut and were eliminated from contention, like Cloud9 Blue, Gen.G, and the unsigned Moon Raccoons. But there are still plenty of captivating narratives to look out for in the final tournament.
Here are a few of the biggest storylines to follow during the First Strike main event.
Team Envy: Underrated, not underdogs
Envy earned the first seed at the final event after sweeping 100 Thieves in the NSG Closed Qualifier earlier this month. And yet they still feel like they’re not given the credit they deserve.
Jake “kaboose” McDonald discussed those sentiments with Dot Esports last week, claiming Envy aren’t underdogs, just “very underrated.” A lot of conversations may revolve around the scene’s biggest teams, leaving Envy out of the mix. But they attribute that to not having a big streamer on their roster.
While having the first seed at the main event is impressive, there’s still a tiny asterisk next to Envy’s name. They have yet to beat three titans in the scene—Sentinels, C9, and TSM.
We won’t see a rematch between Envy and C9 anytime soon since the latter failed to advance in last week’s UMG Closed Qualifier. But C9 came out on top when the two went head-to-head in October’s NSG Open Qualifier grand finals, 2-1. Sentinels swept Envy during the NSG Closed Qualifier group stage, relegating them to climb through the losers bracket. And Envy haven’t run into TSM with their new roster yet.
It’s a very real possibility that Envy will face TSM or Sentinels (or both) at the main event—and they need to be ready. They’ve already identified Sentinels as their biggest threat because they’re “really unpredictable and know how to adapt really well,” according to Austin “crashies” Roberts.
But Envy finally has the opportunity to put criticisms to rest and cement their place into any VALORANT conversation. They just need to show up.
100 Thieves’ new roster came out the gate running
100 Thieves’ competitive VALORANT roster did a complete 180 after its rocky start, parting ways with four former PUBG pros in August and constructing a new squad around captain Spencer “Hiko” Martin.
CS:GO vets Nick “nitr0” Cannella and Josh “steel” Nissan were signed, followed by former Immortals pros Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk and Quan “Dicey” Tran. Now, 100 Thieves boasts what Hiko calls “big brains” and a “lot of experience,” as well as a couple of young rising stars. And it’s clearly working.
They finished in second place at the NSG Closed Qualifier and were in the first four squads to advance to the main event—and they took out some top teams in the process. 100 Thieves swept TSM in the quarterfinals, forcing them to compete in the next qualifier, and then beat Sentinels in the semis. While they suffered a crushing defeat to Envy in the grand finals, the newly formed roster showed plenty of promise.
But 100 Thieves’ success isn’t exactly a surprise. Hiko and nitr0 played CS:GO together on Team Liquid for a year and a half, and steel’s been in the tac shooter scene for over a decade. Pair that experience and chemistry with young talent and the expectations for this roster are dangerously high.
Hiko told Dot Esports in August that his intentions were to build a roster that can “perform at the highest level.” And right now, they are. But they also were swept by Envy in the NSG grand finals. So 100 Thieves must avoid succumbing to any pressures that come with being one of the most hyped teams in NA.
Will Sentinels and TSM get a rematch to reignite their heated rivalry?
Sentinels and TSM are arguably two of the best teams in NA—and they haven’t faced off in almost four months.
What was once a budding rivalry between the two teams has now grown stale since TSM bested Sentinels twice at the FaZe Clan Invitational. While other teams might’ve made extensive changes to their rosters over the last few months, however, both TSM and Sentinels haven’t. The same players who matched up against each other in August have the chance to once again duke it out in December.
But both teams have some concerns.
Sentinels’ Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan told Dot Esports in September that his team was the best in NA “by far.” Though that may have been true then, Sentinels have shown some signs of weakness in the qualifiers.
They were swept by Gen.G in the NSG Open Qualifier and lost to 100 Thieves in the closed qualifier. But they also beat Dignitas, Envy, and T1 to qualify for the main event early. And their ability to adapt to anything enemy teams throw at them makes them an elite squad.
The powerhouse known as TSM has struggled with consistency. When they’re on fire, they’re unstoppable. But an off day for their star players could easily have them packing their bags.
TSM didn’t qualify for the First Strike main event during the first qualifier after losing to 100 Thieves, for example. Instead, they had to participate in the second qualifier and smurf their way to a first-place finish. And they suffered two embarrassing losses to Dignitas in August’s Pop Flash tournament despite being the clear favorites, failing to get out of groups.
But TSM opted for a triple duelist comp during last week’s event, leaving behind sentinels and absolutely destroying their competitors. This new and potentially innovative tactic could give them the edge going into the final tournament.
It’d be a major blow to fans of both teams if they don’t match up at the main event. But simply the prospect of TSM vs. Sentinels in the grand finals is enough to keep fans watching.
The NA VALORANT First Strike main event kicks off on Dec. 3, where the first-place team will earn $40,000.