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A look at the first year of competitive VALORANT

Jalen Lopez

VALORANT celebrated its first anniversary on June 2nd, which created the perfect opportunity to look back at the highlights from the first year of its competitive scene. The exciting first-person tactical shooter has grown into a global esport with thousands of teams across several regions competing to be the best in the world.

VALORANT year one

the first year of competitive VALORANT was successful and an excellent introduciton. Image via Riot Games

Some teams, like Sentinels, have established themselves as the top teams in the young esport, while others like Vision Strikers went on unprecedented winning streaks. There have also been several notable tournaments that served as highlights during the first year and have laid the groundwork for the future of VALORANT.

Let’s take a look at three significant events and tournaments during the first year of competitive VALORANT.

First Strike

The best teams in each region got to show their skills in the first significant tournament in VALORANT history: First Strike. Each team earned their spot in the event by fighting through one of two qualifying events for their chance to compete against the top eight teams in their region.

In North America, 100 Thieves won the first major tournament. They had a roster full of former CS:GO professionals and two young rookies that dominated the competition. The team had a close series against TSM, but ultimately walked away with the win.

In Europe, Team Heretics beat SUMN FC in the grand finals. this earned their spot as the dominant team during the early days of VALORANT. A team that would later gain attention for an incredible win streak, Vision Strikers, won the Korean First Strike tournament, which was their first of many significant wins.

First Strike was a massive success for Riot Games. First Strike: North America peaked at over 300,000 viewers during the grand finals and maintained an average of 95,000 viewers. VALORANT players were clearly interested in watching the best teams compete. And this was only the first step in Riot’s plan for a thriving competitive scene. They followed First Strike with the VALORANT Champions Tour, which would feature several regional events culminating in the first international VALORANT LAN.

And to everyone’s surprise, a North American team would dominate the Champions Tour and establish the region as one of the best in the world.

Competitive Valorant 100 Thieves First Strike

100 Thieves set the tone foe VALORANT Esports, winning First Strike (Photo via 100 Thieves)

Sentinels domination

Not mentioning Sentinels while discussing the first year of competitive VALORANT would disservice the team’s incredible performance.

Sentinels were knocked out of First Strike by 100 Thieves. But they quickly bounced back by winning the JBL Quantum Cup and making a deep run in the Nerd Street Gamers Winter Championship.

The team is led by CS:GO veteran Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan, who established himself as a talented in-game leader. He was also supported by Overwatch superstar Jay “Sinatraa” Won, who helped the team dominate.

Sentinels went on to qualify for the VALORANT Champions Tour Stage One Masters tournament after fighting through two Challengers events. But the team encountered a massive issue just before the massive tournament.

Sinatraa was suspended by Sentinels and Riot Games in response to sexual abuse allegations. This left the team scrambling to find a replacement. Luckily, one of the best North American VALORANT players, Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, was available.

TenZ stepped away from the Cloud9 Blue roster to focus on streaming and content creation. But he returned as a stand-in for Sentinels. He was already considered one of the best players in the region, if not the world, but most fans did not expect Sentinels to make it through the tournament undefeated with a new roster.

VCT Stage Two was a similar story as Sentinels made it into the Stage Two Masters tournament. This time they were facing the best teams from around the world in the first international VALORANT LAN. But the team outdid themselves once again as they made it through the tournament undefeated without dropping a single map.

Sentinels have already secured their spot in the VCT Champions event at the end of the year and are on track to continue their dominant run. The organization has reportedly secured TenZ in a reported seven-figure buyout. Fans will likely see them in the Masters 3 Berlin tournament alongside another round of the best teams in the world. Hopefully, we will also see Vision Strikers make their international debut in the tournament.

Vision Strikers unprecedented win streak

While Sentinels were dominating North America, Vision Strikers were doing the same in South Korea. But they also pulled off an incredible 102-1 win streak as they dominated the region for months.

Vision Strikers started their onslaught by winning dozens of matches in smaller events before the First Strike: Korea tournament. Vision Strikers won the first significant tournament without losing a series and established themselves as a powerhouse. They then made it through the VCT Stage One Challengers One undefeated and only dropped one map against NUTURN.

Masters One was a similar situation. They once again obliterated the competition and only dropped maps against NUTURN, who slowly turned into their regional rivals. But Vision Strikers finally staggered in VCT Stage Two as they received their first loss against F4Q. Vision Strikers won two more matches in the Stage Two Challengers event. But they lost against NUTURN in the semifinals, which prevented them from making it to Masters 2 Reykjavik.

Vision Strikers did not make it into the first international VALORANT LAN. But they still have a chance for Masters 3 Reykjavik as there will be two spots available for Korean teams. They still achieved the longest winning streak so far in VALORANT history. They are also still one of the top teams in the world.

Vision Strikers undefeated streak

Can Vision Strikers turn their Korean dominance into worldwide success? (Image via Vision Strikers)

Bright future

The first year of competitive VALORANT was exciting and eventful. Each region defined its own meta before clashing on an international stage in front of thousands of fans. Riot Games intends to support the game for years. And fans can expect the professional scene to continue to grow and expand.

If Riot can recreate the excitement featured in the first year of VALORANT, fans can expect a healthy and robust competitive scene for years to come.