The final European-only Challengers event of the inaugural VCT year is right around the corner. Eight VALORANT teams will compete in the Challengers Two double-elimination bracket with only two EMEA Challengers Playoffs spots left on the line.
Comprised of the bottom four teams from Challengers One and four more squads from a fresh set of closed qualifiers, this is the last opportunity for any of these rosters to make a run at either Masters Three Berlin or Champions. Let’s meet the teams.
In April, Fnatic broke up the original SUMN FC roster signed at the beginning of the year, adding both Derke and Magnum in place of tsack and Moe40. That swap provided the missing ingredient the team’s chemistry needed since they ran through almost all of the domestic and international competition throughout the rest of Stage Two. From Challengers Two through Masters Reykjavik, they won 11 of 14 matches, losing only to Liquid in the EMEA Challengers Finals grand finals and twice to Sentinels in Iceland. Throughout this run, Derke rose to the top of Europe’s leaderboards, while IGL Boaster’s infectious energy struck a chord with fans worldwide.
But the start of Stage Three hasn’t gone according to plan for the Fnatic roster. The rest of Europe has stepped up tremendously and the rise of a new potential super team in G2 Esports has already left a mark. Fnatic have fallen twice to them already and also surrendered a comeback win to Guild Esports. They now risk missing out on the EMEA Challengers Playoffs, which could very well have serious Champions implications for Boaster and crew.
Fnatic’s first-round opponent at Challengers Two is Alliance, an international roster stuck way down in the EMEA circuit points rankings. Like Fnatic, they entered VALORANT in early 2021 prior to the VCT, building a roster around in-game leader Fearoth, formerly of Ninjas in Pyjamas. They were able to reach EU Masters One but were eliminated first from groups after losses to DfuseTeam (future Team BDS roster) and Guild, only picking up 10 VCT points.
Stage Two didn’t go much better. They lost in the first round of Challengers One, then didn’t even make it out of the qualifier in Challengers Two. With their trial of former French CS:GO pro xms over, Alliance sought a stand-in from the Emerald Isle, adding Irish player Elric “juseu” Belland for Stage Three. In the Challenger Two closed qualifier, they broke through with a win over BIG and could climb back up the EMEA rankings with a run into the Challengers Playoffs.
Like Fnatic, Liquid’s stellar late Stage Two run hasn’t ensured a strong start to Stage Three. Prior to the start of Stage Two, Liquid swapped out ec1s for the young Finnish CS:GO prodigy Jamppi. And after a couple more Challengers events, everything clicked at Stage Two Challengers Two. The Scream and Jamppi show proved to be successful, reaching the EMEA Challengers Finals where they finished first to qualify for Masters Two Reykjavík.
Liquid finished fourth in Reykjavík, although they struggled against other Western teams, falling to NA’s Version1 and fellow EU squad Fnatic. The two sides met for the fourth time in the past three months in the first round of Stage Three Challengers One, where Fnatic came out on top again for the third time. Just as Fnatic did, Liquid stumbled in the face of G2 and now need to finish top two at Challengers Two to avoid missing out on the next Masters event.
Vitality stand in Liquid’s way in round one. And like Vitality’s CS:GO roster, its VALORANT team hasn’t had the best 2021 campaign. They signed the FrenzyGoKill roster in early February and swapped out two players by the end of March. Just over a month later, they swapped out their coach, then benched one of the newer players that they brought in just a week ago.
For what it’s worth, their newest addition in shalaby, an Egyptian player formerly of Anubis Gaming, has filled various roles quite well during their Challengers Two closed qualifier run. His play on Skye, Raze, and Sage has been an important aspect of the team’s three straight wins over WAVE, NiP, and First Strike winner Team Heretics. Those wins have landed them in the Challengers Two main event, and now, they’re a few wins away from their first VCT points.
The former Opportunists can’t afford to squander any more opportunities. Prior to their acquisition by the rapidly growing French esports organization, the players (competing under DfuseTeam) reached Masters One and were a couple of rounds on Haven away from making the playoffs. But they still earned 20 VCT points and a month later capped off qualifying for Stage Two Challengers Two by signing with Team BDS.
They came up just short in Challengers Two. If overtime on Bind against Liquid had gone a different way, BDS would have been the ones to join Fnatic at the EMEA Challengers Finals. After qualifying for Stage Three Challengers One, however, they fell in back-to-back series to Guild and Liquid, missing the easier path to EMEA Challengers Playoffs. If they can’t make it through Challengers Two, they’ll certainly be done for the year.
Team BDS will face off against TENSTAR, one of several teams in Challengers Two representing a strong British player base. The U.K. organization entered VALORANT just this past May by signing the Tarren Mill roster, a group of players who had yet to make any serious rumblings in VCT play.
That changed in Stage Three, though, when they started in the open qualifier and nearly beat Vitality in the closed qualifier to reach Challengers One. But that close result earned them an invite to the Challengers Two closed qualifier, where they won all three of their matches against WAVE, Team Queso, and Team Heretics to make it to Challengers Two.
Like TENSTAR, Giants Gaming is another team that’s finally broken through in VCT play. The Spanish organization got involved in VALORANT last June, but at the beginning of 2021, it announced an entirely new roster and has since made several roster changes due to players being acquired and because of lacking results in the first two stages.
Giants had to play through both sets of open qualifiers in Stage Three. And like TENSTAR, they won three straight matches in the upper bracket of the closed qualifier against BIG, Vitality, and Alliance. In fact, they were the only team in that closed qualifier not to drop a single map.
Rix.GG Thunder is another roster consisting of multiple U.K. players, like Fnatic, Liquid, and TENSTAR. Much like Giants Gaming, they parted ways with their previous roster from 2020 but struggled to produce any notable results with the new 2021 lineup, which actually includes some of the original 2020 players in Luzuh, frei, and coach weber. They failed to make it to any Challengers main events in either Stage One or Two.
But in Stage Three, they successfully made it through the open qualifier to reach the closed qualifier and were the only open qualifier team, along with G2, to make it to the Challengers One main event. Fate wasn’t on their side, however, and they lost to both eventual grand finalists Acend and G2. But that means they secured a Challengers Two spot. And now, with two of arguably the best teams in Europe at this time out of their way, they look to do better in this final EU-only bracket.
EU VCT Stage Three Challengers Two begins on July 28.
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