NA VCT Stage 3: Challengers Playoffs—TSM vs. Envy preview

Each team wants to make it to Berlin.

Image via Riot Games

The NA VCT Stage Three: Challengers Playoffs are just a few days away, and the first round of matches are guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat. One of the most exciting matchups is between Envy and TSM, two top-10 teams fighting for a chance to finally make it to an international event. 

Envy have earned their spot as one of the best VALORANT teams in North America, but they have yet to establish themselves with a significant win. The team has consistently qualified for the main event of major tournaments, like First Strike, Masters One, and the final Challengers event in each stage. The team won the VCT Stage One: Challengers Two main event but were eliminated in the Masters One lower bracket. 

TSM, on the other hand, started as one of the best North American VALORANT teams, winning multiple events like the FaZe Clan Invitational and the Knights Invitational Gauntlet Series. The team struggled in the VALORANT Champions Tour, but a recent winning streak secured their spot in the Challengers Playoffs. 

Envy and TSM are two talented teams ready to break into the top echelon of North American VALORANT. Their matchup in the first round of the Challengers Playoffs will be an explosive experience and an excellent opening to the tournament. To better understand the impending matchup, let’s look at both teams’ recent performances and their previous encounters.

The road leading to Challengers Playoffs

Qualifying for a Challengers main event is never easy. Each team must fight their way through the open qualifiers before they get a chance to earn a spot in the Challengers Playoffs. TSM struggled in the first Stage Three open qualifiers and did not make it into the Challengers One main event. They lost to Noble in the Round of 32 and were forced to try again for Stage Three: Challengers Two. 

This led to TSM benching Taylor “drone” Johnson, one of the team’s original members, and to Aleko “LeviathanAG” Gabuniya, a former member of Noble that was on the roster when they beat TSM, filling the spot. The roster change worked in TSM’s favor, and the team went on a nine-game winning streak, defeating notable teams like Andbox, Gen.G, T1, Luminosity, and FaZe Clan along the way. 

Envy secured its spot in the Challengers finals in the Challengers One event, although the team also hit a few bumps along the way. They made it through the open qualifiers without losing, beating T1 before entering the main event. They started strong against Pioneers but were sent to the lower bracket after losing 0-2 against 100 Thieves

Envy bounced back with a 2-0 win over Gen.G, but Sentinels sent them home with another 0-2 loss. Envy’s performance was enough to earn a spot in the Challengers Finals without having to fight through the Challengers Two main event. 

TSM was not the only team to make roster changes before the Challengers Playoffs. Envy moved Anthony “mummAy” DiPaolo to the inactive roster earlier this week, replacing him with former Andbox player Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker. Yay is an excellent addition to Envy’s roster and makes the upcoming matchup against TSM more exciting. 

A look at the past

TSM and Envy have faced each other two times in the past. TSM beat Envy in the Pax Arena Invitational quarterfinals 2-0 and swept them again in the First Strike North America main event semifinals. 

While this might be concerning and lead some to conclude the third win for TSM is inevitable, both teams have made significant roster changes since their last matchup. TSM now has LeviathanAG and Sean “bang” Bezerra, who are already proven excellent additions to the team. 

Envy also has Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen and yay on its roster, meaning the new iterations of both teams will face off the first time in the Challengers Playoffs. There have also been several changes to the meta since the teams played each other, so fans should not expect a repeat performance. 

During the PAX Arena Invitational, Envy forced Haven into overtime and only lost by two rounds. They also kept Ascent within two rounds, but their next match during First Strike was more one-sided in TSM’s favor. There are now two more maps in rotation, several new agents, and both teams have had a lot more VALORANT experience. 

Get ready for a slugfest

TSM and Envy are ranked second and fifth in North America, according to vlr.gg. They both want to be one of the three teams to advance to Masters Three Berlin, and maintaining a spot in the upper bracket is essential. The Challengers Playoffs feature a double-elimination format, but dropping to the lower bracket in the first round is hard to come back from and devastating for morale. It also requires them to win three matches in a row to secure the third-place spot. 

Neither TSM nor Envy want to be in this scenario and will play to their advantages to win. Envy has FNS and secured yay just in time for this event, who was an excellent Duelist for Andbox. This extra firepower should give Envy a competitive advantage, although TSM are no pushovers. 

TSM are still on an impressive winning streak, and its most recent win against FaZe Clan was an excellent boost before the Challengers Playoffs. Wardell is one of the best Jett players in North America and has consistently performed well during Stage Three. He has also been using Sage on Ascent, which has been a successful change of pace for the most part. Bang also put on an incredible performance against FaZe, showing just how powerful Astra and Sage can be in the right hands. 

Envy might not be on the same winning streak as TSM, but the team’s most recent losses were against Sentinels and 100 Thieves, the first and third teams in North America, respectively. The updated roster might be enough to take on TSM, and fans are guaranteed an incredible opening match.

TSM and Envy will face off in the NA VCT Stage Three: Challengers Playoffs on Aug. 11 at 2pm CT. The winner will move on to the upper semifinals and face the winner between Sentinels and Rise.