In the organization’s first professional VALORANT match, Natus Vincere handed a stunning upset to last stage’s EMEA Challengers Finals winner Team Liquid to open the Stage Three Challengers Playoffs today. Na’Vi signed the No Pressure roster from the CIS region after the players qualified for Playoffs back in July and now put themselves in a promising position to reach Masters Three Berlin.
Liquid looked poised to spoil the debut early by jumping out to a massive lead on Na’Vi’s map pick of Icebox. Na’Vi were only able to successfully plant the spike less than a handful of times in their opening attack side while soulcas and ScreaM led a dominating defensive half for Liquid. But Na’Vi answered back with an even more devastating defensive showing. Of the seven spike plants that Liquid achieved in the second half, Na’Vi successfully defused all of them and only surrendered one attacking round to Liquid. After trailing 9-3 at halftime, Na’Vi fought back to reclaim their map pick 13-10.
Despite the collapse on Icebox, Liquid rallied on their own map selection of Bind, finding much more success on their attacking side on the shoulders of more great play from soulcas and ScreaM on Raze and Sage. Na’Vi’s first gun round of the second half came after losing the first three rounds after halftime—and losing that round to Spectres and a Judge broke the CIS side’s momentum and economy. Liquid dominated both sides of Bind, 13-7, to tie up the series and send it to Split.
In the third and final map, it was Na’Vi’s turn to jump out to a significant lead, shutting down the Liquid offense in the first six rounds of Split. Liquid mustered four rounds on their attacking side, but Na’Vi turned up the pressure after halftime with a blistering start to the second half, fueled by a massive performance from Artur “7ssk7” Kyurshin on Reyna. Liquid flirted with a comeback, keeping Na’Vi’s victory at bay as long as they could, but a hectic site take on A in the final round of regulation solidified the upset.
This win is a significant stepping stone for the Na’Vi roster, but the job at EMEA Challengers Playoffs isn’t complete yet. Their next task is a daunting one. They’ll face the smoking hot Acend roster, Europe’s No. 1 seed, led by arguably one of the best Jett players in the world in Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek. Liquid fall down to the lower bracket and must wait an extra day before playing again with their opponent currently undetermined.