Best Plays from VCT Stage Two NA Challengers One
The first VCT NA Challengers event for stage two may have been missing some big teams, but it didn’t lack big plays. With the first event concluded, the first four teams to qualify for the Challengers Final have been decided: 100 Thieves, XSET, Team Envy, and Version1.
Before Challengers Two gets underway, we want to look at some of the biggest plays from VCT NA Challengers One. Specifically, let’s look at a single big play from each of the qualifying teams, how they got to that moment, and what it means going forward.
100T nitro’s clutch Omen teleport into a plant and 3K
Heading into Masters One, 100 Thieves adopted the trial by fire method when it came to Ethan “Ethan” Arnold. The team’s newest player, a proven winner in Counter-Strike, was dropped in hot and was tested tremendously at the tail end of the first stage of the VCT. To better ease his transition, they took Omen off of nitr0 and handed the reins to Ethan.
In stage two of VCT, Ethan has shifted over to Sage and is actually thriving in the support role. 100T has found tremendous success with its sole duelist composition, and not just because of Asuna’s unreal output. Nitr0 is tremendous on Omen, and we see that here via a clutch of his against Cloud9 Blue.
The round starts in 100 Thieves’ favor, with an opening pick on B site of Ascent. But Cloud9’s rising star duelist poiz turns the tide with a triple using his ultimate. Since nitr0 is pushed past site with the spike and knows they’re both on B, he teleports to A site after the kill on mitch, rather than risk getting shot from behind crossing defender spawn.
This teleport lets him take his time deploying smoke and getting to his preferred angle, rather than scrambling for cover after running from B. Since he has time, Cloud9 has no idea which angle he’s at, and he baits out both poiz and leaf with ease. This forced a weak buy-out of Cloud9, who were already down five rounds. Omen was made for the dads.
XSET WeDid’s Phoenix utility-driven 4k against 100T
XSET arrived in the second stage of the VCT with something to prove. Certainly more than any of the other teams that played in Masters One. The team narrowly made the cut for the first Masters event. It finished in 4th place in both VCT NA Challengers One and Two for stage one. At Masters, it was the first team bounced via two 2-0 losses, to FaZe and Gen.G, who each finished second at third.
But XSET continued to grind and practice, and the results paid off. Both FaZe and Gen.G didn’t make the latest Challengers event, and XSET got its best finish yet with second place. This run included three three-map series wins in the lower bracket, including a comeback win against Envy, who had beat them earlier. Despite falling 3-1 to 100T in the finals, it was competitive throughout, posting double-digit round totals in each map.
WeDid is still regarded as the team’s primary smoker. But he showed off an incredible amount of agent flexibility in Challengers One. Some of his best-looking games were on Phoenix, and this was one of his best-looking rounds.
He flew out of the garage window on Haven, as his flash lets him get two easy kills. Another well-placed flash out of the garage doors blinded steel, allowing WeDid to get the trade. Left with just Hiko, he firewalls off the mid window so that he forces Hiko into just one angle and won the fight. In Challengers One, XSET proved two things: it is still learning new tricks and can dance with the top-tier teams. Watch out.
Envy mummAy’s smart Cosmic Divide to hold off the Version1 retake
A big point of emphasis heading into this current VCT stage was the introduction of the new agent, Astra. Several teams, including Immortals and XSET, said they were likely to utilize her in stage two. In fact, IMT’s NaturE and Kehmicals both said she was broken and that whoever used her the wisest would establish an advantage.
While her use was not nearly as dominant as some pros seemed to think, with a 28% overall pick rate across Challengers One, that rate increased when the best teams fought in the main event (41%). One of those top teams was Team Envy, who handed Astra to its smoke criminal, mummAy. Coming from Omen is probably the easiest transition for new Astra players. This sacrifices the teleport abilities for additional utility options.
Astra’s ultimate, the Cosmic Divide, is fascinating. If misused, whether placed incorrectly or in a panic, it can do more harm than good to the team. It can allow a team to rotate off-site without walking silently because of its noise-dampening effect. But mummAy used it wisely, walling off one entry point, leaving a corner for him to hide in where he could move freely. As a cherry on top, he used the enemy Omen’s own smoke to cover his movement into an advantageous position.
Expect to see Astra’s usage rates continue to increase as the VCT progresses.
V1 effys’ 1v3 recon arrow-made clutch late in the deciding map
Sometimes all you need to turn a series in your favor is just one momentum-shifting round. Version1 as an org is new to the big VALORANT stage, but its players aren’t. Effys and PLAYER1 were part of the original Gen.G roster from last year. Vanity, Zellsis, and Penny all found success in NA CS:GO before coming to VALORANT.
After failing to qualify for any of the Challengers events in the first VCT stage, Version1 has upgraded its play for stage two. Its monumental win over FaZe Clan in the final open qualifier round propelled the team into the main event. After falling early to Envy then recovering against Built By Gamers, the deciding series against Cloud9 Blue came down to the wire. Late in the third map, C9 Blue looked to grow its small lead.
Then effys happened. After miraculously running through a mitch spray to get the plant down, effys lost his teammate but gained an ally in his recon arrow. On its second pulse, it reveals all three remaining Cloud9 players. the players mistimed their peeks and walk right into a three-person clutch spray from effys. C9 definitely deserves an assist for this play. But it’s still a massive clutch from effys. The momentum from this carried V1 over the finish line in a dramatic comeback. It also carried the team into the VCT NA Challengers Final.
The Challengers Final begins at the end of April. Four more teams must earn their spot via the Challenger 2 event. That open qualifier is stacked with talented teams looking to avoid embarrassment: Sentinels, FaZe, Gen.G, TSM, and Luminosity, to name a few. We’re sure to get some more spectacular plays out of teams that are this good.