The biggest North American VALORANT event to date is just around the corner. Hundreds of squads went in and, after all the dust settled, eight remain. But only one team will be crowned the First Strike NA champions.
VALORANT competitive esports is still in its infancy. Teams have shuffled their rosters around, each patch seems to bring about a shift in the meta, and Riot is producing its first VALORANT tournament. But the First Strike final event is the perfect chance for a team to establish early dominance in the scene and snag $40,000 in first-place earnings.
Despite the relatively small sample size, we’ve still seen what teams can do on the (virtual) main stage through third-party events and First Strike qualifiers. But any one of these squads has the ability to clutch out some wins and come out on top.
Here are our power rankings for First Strike: NA.
- Team Envy
- 100 Thieves
- FaZe Clan
The quest for the best: Sentinels, TSM
After successful runs during the Ignition Series tournaments, Sentinels and TSM quickly became considered the two best teams in NA. But they haven’t faced off in almost four months.
Both of their rosters are untouched since they last went head-to-head in August’s FaZe Clan Invitational, which TSM won. Though the rivalry may have stalled due to the absence of a rematch, the First Strike main event may reignite the feud.
So, which team is better? First Strike is the perfect opportunity for either squad to put that question to rest, assuming they match up in the bracket. Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan told Dot Esports in early September he doesn’t think TSM are Sentinels’ “biggest threat.” And maybe they’re not.
TSM have struggled with consistency. Though they’re fully capable of beating any competitor, an off day can send them home. 100 Thieves eliminated TSM from the NSG Closed Qualifier earlier this month, forcing them to compete in the next event. But they came out swinging.
TSM handily beat their opponents at the UMG Closed Qualifier and defeated FaZe in the grand finals, using a three duelist comp to aggress their way to victory. If the team carries that momentum into the main event, they can easily come out on top. And since other teams have been still running sentinels, TSM might be on to something.
But that might not be easy to do against Sentinels. They’re consistent, they adapt well, and they’re usually in sync with one another. Yet they too have shown signs of weakness, falling to Gen.G and 100 Thieves during the NSG qualifiers. A matchup between these two teams may simply come down to who’s hot and who’s not.
Definitely in the running: Team Envy, 100 Thieves
100 Thieves and Envy couldn’t be more different.
Expectations for 100 Thieves are definitely high, with a star-studded roster that includes Twitch star Spencer “Hiko” Martin and two more CS:GO vets in Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella and Joshua “steel” Nissan. The pressure to perform is an understatement for this team that’s great on paper. But with plenty of experience in pro play, it’s unlikely that the pressure will get to them.
Envy, on the other hand, have performed far better than expected and are the first seed going into the main event. Jake “kaboose” McDonald told Dot Esports earlier this month that his team is “very underrated.” While that may have helped them in previous matchups, teams would only hurt themselves if they underestimated Envy going forward.
100 Thieves have beaten elite teams with their new roster, taking out both TSM and Sentinels in the NSG Closed Qualifier playoffs. But then they got swept by Envy in the grand finals.
And aside from 100 Thieves, Envy haven’t shown they can beat an elite team—yet. It won’t matter that they lost to Sentinels, or got beat by Cloud9 Blue, or that they’ve never faced TSM. For Envy, success at First Strike will show that they’re deserving of being the first seed.
Plenty to prove: FaZe Clan, T1, Immortals, Renegades
FaZe Clan, T1, Immortals, and Renegades may be in the bottom four, but they’re still fully capable of claiming the crown. They just have more to prove.
None of these teams have beat the top four squads in a recent matchup. While FaZe have shown they can take out some good teams in T1, Gen.G, and NRG Esports, for example, they lost to TSM twice throughout the First Strike qualifiers. And the story is similar for the other three teams.
T1 beat C9, Immortals, Dignitas, and Gen.G but failed to perform against FaZe, Sentinels, and Envy. The roster is filled with experienced vets and CS:GO retirees, however. If anybody knows what performing in high-pressure situations is like, T1 does.
Immortals had to sub in Ryan “Shanks” Ngo, who previously trialed with Dignitas, during the UMG Closed Qualifier after star duelist Andrew “ShoT_UP” Orlowski had a medical emergency. And the team showed up, climbing through the bracket to earn a spot for the main event. But, like the other squads in this category, they’ll need to finally take out the likes of TSM, Sentinels, Envy, or 100 Thieves.
For Renegades, it’s quite simple. They haven’t beat any of the seven other teams going to First Strike (aside from T1’s old roster in August’s Pittsburgh Knights Invitational). To be fair, the only other top eight teams they’ve matched up with are TSM and Envy. And they lost both matchups. They did sweep Cloud9 Blue in the NSG quarterfinals, however, earning an early spot at the main event.
First Strike will be informative for these teams since they’ll finally get their shot at taking out the scene’s top contenders.
First Strike: NA kicks off this Thursday, Dec. 3.