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EMEA and China Completely Wiped at VCT Masters Madrid, Americas and Pacific Advance to Playoffs

Zakaria Almughrabi

The Swiss Stage of VCT Masters Madrid has come to a close. The eight teams are now only four as Playoffs loom at VALORANT’s first LAN tournament of 2024. VCT Masters Madrid is a unique event in how teams from the four Major regions all qualified, placing a heavy emphasis on regional rivalry. As the dust has settled, two regions appear to stand above the other two.

VCT Masters Madrid Playoffs

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

Both teams from VCT Americas and VCT Pacific have advanced to the Masters Madrid Playoffs. This leaves EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and China without representation at the highest level of VALORANT. Additionally, the number one seeds, Sentinels and Gen.G, both went 2-0, while the second seeds, LOUD and Paper Rex, advanced to 2-1. A clear hierarchy has been formed, but the question is how long it will be maintained.

Disappointment for the Newcomers

Karmine Corp and Team Heretics must watch as someone else takes the grand stage at Madrid. KC and TH were supposed to be the new generation of European top teams, replacing Fnatic and Natus Vincere. Europe’s previous top dogs were beaten decisively by the young guns in the EMEA Kickoff, which raised concerns for the region’s strength. Were KC and TH truly great teams so early in their lifespan, or were Fnatic and NAVI simply playing worse?

While neither team managed to qualify for the VCT Masters Madrid Playoffs, they put up a decent fight on their home turf. Despite their 0-2 record, Heretics won a map against both Sentinels and Paper Rex. Heretics were the youngest team in the tournament, so they should have the most room to grow. Their result is nothing to be ashamed of.

Karmine Corp, on the other hand, had a great chance to make it through. In their final deciding match against Paper Rex, both teams took their map pick, and a tiebreaker was needed. On Ascent, KC won both pistol rounds and took an 11-8 lead. However, PRX’s experience and determination were enough to force overtime and clutch the match out. This is the kind of close match that the more tenured squad tends to win.

While it’s not surprising that PRX came out on top, it’s still very disappointing for fans of EMEA VALORANT. Make no mistake, though: TH and KC will be back. With actual threatening competition, squads like Fnatic and NAVI will be forced to elevate their play as well. Hopefully, EMEA will improve as a whole throughout the rest of 2024 and show back up at a VCT Masters Playoffs.

China Still Ramping Up

The least impressive region at VCT Masters Madrid has to be China. On one hand, they’re the newest fully-fledged members of the VALORANT esports ecosystem. On the other, EDward Gaming had the community incredibly hyped with their showing at Champs last year. Many thought that with more practice and strategy development, they’d stand side by side with the best soon.

To address the elephant in the room, yes, EDG had the most difficult draw of any team. They’re the only squad that had to play against three eventual Playoff teams and even beat Paper Rex in their opener. Still, the real disappointment came in their decider match against LOUD. The Brazilian squad absolutely steamrolled EDG in the most one-sided match at VCT Masters Madrid. They only won five rounds total and fell by the wayside in a heartbeat.

VCT Masters Madrid Playoffs

EDG ran out of gas, losing 13-2 and 13-3 to end their run at VCT Masters Madrid (Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff)

Unfortunately, the other Chinese team, FunPlus Pheonix, was the worst team at the tournament. They’re the only squad that didn’t win a single map while only playing against one eventual Playoff team (the 2-1 LOUD). This isn’t a huge surprise. FPX did have a reasonably different roster for the new season, and China as a region is still notably behind when EDG isn’t mentioned.

Chinese VALORANT is still in its infancy, and it shows. Still, the fact that EDG can at least take maps off of some of the best teams in the world bodes well for the future. They’ll need to go back to the drawing board for now and invest in some higher-level strategy so that their mechanics can truly shine through.

Americas versus Pacific, Who Will Win?

With the way seeding was done for the Swiss Stage, we still haven’t seen very much interaction between Americas and Pacific teams. Their one meeting was a Gen.G vs LOUD round one matchup. LOUD had a chance to steal Gen.G’s Icebox, but the Pacific first seed held on. The series tied at one apiece after LOUD’s comfortable Breeze, leaving Ascent as the tiebreaker. LOUD are typically comfortable on Ascent, which is why it was so notable that Gen.G handled them easily 13-5.

Gen.G is heralded as the next top contender in international VALORANT. This team made waves at Kickoff and has been only looking better and better at their first VCT Masters event. They quite frankly looked above both LOUD and EDG, teams that have VCT Masters Playoffs experience. As a whole, they easily pass the eye test in mechanics and strategy. Now, Gen. G wants to make a run for a trophy at their first VALORANT LAN.

On the other side is Sentinels. The Americas first seed waved the flag high as they took down both European teams to qualify for Playoffs. NA > EU memes aside, Sentinels looked to be continuing their peak form from the Americas Kickoff, especially against KC in the qualification match. The Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and Zachary “zekken” Patrone duo has not slowed down in the slightest and is now looking to take home a second consecutive VCT trophy for America.

And, of course, we can’t forget about Paper Rex and LOUD. The second and third place finishers respectively at VALORANT Champions 2023 are in as good form as ever. Despite having each lost a game, they can easily take down any team on their day. With a couple of days break, planning and counter-strutting will be key for them to take down the teams that bested them at Kickoff.

The VCT Masters Madrid Playoffs begin on March 21 at 11:00 AM ET / 8:00 AM PT. The Semifinal matchups are:

Gen.G Esports vs Paper Rex

Sentinels vs LOUD