The first leg of the VALORANT Champions Tour is nearly over. But North America’s top eight teams will duke it out over the next two weeks, competing for coveted circuit points and plenty of bragging rights.
After a grueling VCT Challengers Stage One, eight teams are moving on to Masters One starting Thursday, March 11. While it's not necessarily do-or-die, securing circuit points early can help a team cement their place in the world championship later this year.
The competition so far has been fierce, with top teams like TSM and T1 not qualifying for the first Masters tournament. Up-and-coming squads Luminosity Gaming and XSET, on the other hand, earned a spot in the regional event.
Dot Esports staff ranked the eight teams going into the last leg of VCT Stage One. Here are our power rankings for VCT NA Masters One.
1) Team Envy
3) 100 Thieves
4) FaZe Clan
5) Luminosity Gaming
Two kings, only one crown: Envy, Sentinels
After months of stellar play, Envy's success was always marred by one mountain they couldn't climb: Sentinels. But now, that's changed.
The asterisk next to Envy's name is no more after Envy finally beat Sentinels in VCT Challengers Two—twice. Going into last year's First Strike main event, Jake “kaboose” McDonald told Dot Esports that his team weren't underdogs, just "very underrated." And even though players and fans acknowledge their skill, two victories over Sentinels—including a 3-0 sweep in the Challengers Two finals (one win was for map advantage)—firmly puts them at the top of our power rankings.
Victor "food" Wong has been particularly effective as of late, using aggressive duelists Phoenix and Raze to completely stifle opponents. In the one-sided finals match against Sentinels, for example, food racked up a server-high 53 frags. Austin "crashies" Roberts came in second with 30. For Envy to take the crown in Masters One, food's continued success will be key.
Despite getting bested by Envy, Sentinels can never be counted out. This star-studded roster has been together longer than most, working on high-level strats and harmonious synergy for months. And with loads of competitive appearances, no other squad understands the pressure of the big stage more.
One player to watch is Hunter "SicK" Mims, who's typically known for his incredible flexibility. But the former CS:GO pro appears to be focusing on Phoenix and Sage throughout VCT, which is yielding incredible results.
Aside from the matches against Envy, Sentinels have been wildly successful in the Challengers circuit. With recent victories over Immortals, XSET, 100 Thieves, FaZe, Luminosity, and Gen.G, the only squad that stands in their way is Envy.
Contenders: 100 Thieves, FaZe, LG, Immortals
The middle of the pack consists of teams with recent roster shakeups—and FaZe.
100 Thieves shocked the scene when they announced former CS:GO pro Ethan Arnold was replacing duelist Quan “dicey” Tran on Feb. 28. While Ethan took over Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella's Omen smoking duties, it doesn't seem like 100 Thieves are replacing Dicey's Jett Operator role yet. Instead, the team's been supporting star fragger Peter "Asuna" Mazuryk with sentinels and initiators.
Despite the recent roster change, 100 Thieves are the reigning First Strike: NA champions. And with decades of professional tac shooter experience across the board, it's hard to count them out.
After trialing with Luminosity for over a month, Diondre "YaBoiDre" Bond and Kaleb “moose” Jayne were finally signed to the official roster late last month. The move was expected due to the team's recent success against some of the scene's elite squads.
YaBoiDre had a field day during last week's Challengers Three, earning match MVP in the team's semifinals series against TSM. But LG got swept by FaZe and 100 Thieves in the matches that followed. Either way, they're fully capable of causing a couple of upsets and claiming the crown.
Immortals picked up Nicholas "NaturE" Garrison and Rhett "Kehmicals" Lynch in January to bolster their roster. And, similar to Luminosity, this new lineup has been on a tear. Fueled by duelists Kehmicals and Andrew "ShoT_UP" Orlowski, Immortals took out Luminosity, Gen.G, XSET, Envy, and Sentinels during Challengers One. And if they did it once before, they can do it again.
FaZe are the odd team out of this category, having played together since August. While they made it to First Strike: NA's top eight, they made a swift exit in the quarterfinals to Sentinels. And it doesn't seem like they've forgotten.
The squad won four-straight matches during Challengers Three, only losing one map in the process. And their 3-0 sweep over 100 Thieves, led by Andrej “babybay” Francisty's server-high 49 kills on Jett, shows that they're capable of hanging with the scene's most elite teams.
Plenty to prove: Gen.G, XSET
If one thing is clear about North America's VALORANT scene, it's that any team has the ability to beat their opponent. Gen.G and XSET are no different.
Neither Gen.G nor XSET made it to last year's First Strike main event. Yet here they are, beating out teams like TSM and T1 for the top eight in Masters One. But it'll certainly be an uphill battle from here.
Gen.G specifically has yet to beat 100 Thieves, Sentinels, or Immortals throughout the Challengers series. And with their first matchup being against Envy, things will certainly not come easy. But fraggers Shawn O'Riley and Danny Huynh have shown glimmers of greatness, which can easily continue in Masters One.
XSET have also been a thorn in the side of many elite teams. While they haven't won consistently enough yet, they've still taken matchups against Envy, FaZe, and Luminosity in Challengers One and Two. Since they've proven they can beat top squads, it stands to reason that they can also succeed at Masters One.
VCT NA Masters One kicks off with Envy taking on Gen.G on Thursday, March 11, at 2pm CT. XSET vs. FaZe will follow at 4:30pm CT.
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