The road to Masters Berlin is a difficult one. And for eight North American VALORANT teams, it’s only a few matches away.
The VCT Stage Three: Challengers Playoffs kick off on Wednesday, Aug. 11, where eight of NA’s best squads will compete for a spot at Masters Berlin. This event culminates the Stage Three NA regional circuit, with only three teams advancing to the international competition. While the typical household names want to continue their VCT success, a few underdogs are hungry to prove themselves on the big stage.
Dot Esports staff ranked the eight teams going into the NA VCT Stage Three: Challengers Playoffs. Here are our power rankings.
- 100 Thieves
- FaZe Clan
The big three: Sentinels, TSM, 100 Thieves
It’s been a long time since these three teams were talked about in the same sentence. But the big three might be back.
In an unsurprising unanimous decision, Dot Esports ranked the Masters Reykjavík champions first in the power rankings. Sentinels have proven themselves to be North America’s best shot in an international setting, strolling through Iceland without even losing a map. To put their incredible success into perspective, Sentinels have won 32 out of 35 matches since TenZ replaced sinatraa. Though their recent loss to XSET showed they’re not completely unstoppable, they’re pretty damn close.
For TSM, these Challengers Playoffs will be telling. While their roster has gone through various iterations in the last couple of months, TSM seem like they’ve finally crafted a winning team. This new lineup boasts plenty of competitive experience in WARDELL, Subroza, and hazed, and some young firepower in bang and the on-trial LeviathanAG. And they’re coming into this event red-hot, having won their last nine matches. Even though they beat Gen.G, T1, Luminosity, and FaZe, they’ve yet to take on Envy, 100 Thieves, or Sentinels. If they can prove themselves against NA’s elite squads, the reign of TSM can easily make a comeback.
Like the other three teams who qualified for playoffs in Challengers One, 100 Thieves haven’t played a match in almost a month. While that might lead some squads to come back rusty, it may work in 100 Thieves’ favor. Made up of big-brain veterans, this experienced squad can use the extra time to game plan, create anti-strats, and scout their opponents’ recent matches. Team captain Hiko and company are sure to bring some surprises into this competition, and can easily find themselves in Berlin in one month’s time.
Middle of the pack: XSET, Envy, FaZe
Once a tier-one gatekeeper, XSET are now top-tier competition. Since IGL dephh and fragger zekken joined in June, XSET seemed to have found their niche. On their way to qualifying for Challengers Playoffs, XSET bested Rise, Sentinels, and 100 Thieves. And while they eventually fell to Sentinels in the Challengers Two main event grand final, they still gave NA’s No. 1 team a hard time. With a favorable first match against a Luminosity’s new lineup, two wins is the only thing stopping them from a plane ticket to Germany.
Envy were once one of NA’s most dominant teams. But after some recent struggles, the organization replaced fragger Kaboose with FaZe loaner Marved. Though their Challengers One run was a bit tenuous, Envy still qualified for the playoffs. With more time to integrate Marved into their gameplan, Envy’s first match will be against a streaking TSM. And there would be no better way to re-cement themselves into the scene than by putting out TSM’s fire.
FaZe and their ever-so-popular “Smeag-style” are looking more like themselves as of late. And new recruit BabyJ, who replaced Marved on the starting lineup, has fit in nicely and is doing a great job of locking down sites. After being swept by Rise in the Challengers Two main event, FaZe bounced back with four lower bracket wins and made it to the grand final. This resiliency is exactly the mentality they need to bounce back from a rocky couple of months. And this is the perfect time to do it.
Plenty to prove: Rise, Luminosity
It’s painful ranking this Rise team seventh, but they’re among excellent competition. Made up of players that have either played for or trialed for pro teams, Rise is the latest Cinderella story. Though they’re underdogs going into playoffs, they’ve given top-tier teams some trouble. They bested Gen.G and FaZe to prove that they shouldn’t be taken lightly. But now they have to prove that they’re a consistent team that belong in the conversation—and a trip to Berlin is the perfect way.
Luminosity are in the ideal situation going into this event. They’re sporting a new lineup with dazzLe and ban, while keeping their mechanically gifted vets YaBoiDre and aproto. And while they’ve achieved relative success in the past, there isn’t any huge pressure on them to perform. Like every team at the event, Luminosity obviously want to qualify for Masters Berlin. But with this iteration of the lineup only a month old, they can still focus on working out any potential issues that crop up. And if they win a few games in the process? Perfect.
The NA VCT Stage Three: Challengers Playoffs begins Wednesday, Aug. 11, at 2pm CT.