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Fnatic Fall, LOUD Rise at VALORANT Champions 2023

Zakaria Almughrabi

Only two matches remain before a winner is crowned at the VALORANT Champions 2023 Finals. The sixteen teams that came to Los Angeles have been narrowed down to just three. Our final competitors have already claimed a podium finish and a minimum $250,000. Come Saturday, that prize money will quadruple for the first-place finishers alongside the biggest trophy VALORANT has to offer.

VALORANT Champions 2023 Finals

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

LOUD In, Fnatic Out

The biggest story of the day comes from the lower bracket. Back-to-back VALORANT LAN winners Fnatic have fallen to LOUD in three maps. The European side was pegged as the tournament favorite coming into Champions. Their fourth-place exit comes as a huge disappointment for a team that had aspirations of a full trophy sweep in 2023.

Fnatic cruised their way through the Group Stage, taking down ZETA DIVISION and BiliBili Gaming both in two maps with a massive +31 round differential. Their form was phenomenal and it looked like Fnatic were a lock-in for at least the upper bracket finals. That was before they met their match.

Round one of the playoffs saw Fnatic face off against LOUD. The fan-favorite Brazilian squad’s previous performance at VCT Masters Tokyo caused the general VALORANT community to lose some faith in the 2022 Champions. They also lost their opener to DRX and only just qualified to the playoffs by winning a close 2-1 against NAVI in Group D’s decider match. LOUD’s stock was as low as could be going into this matchup against the title favorites.

That’s why it was such a shock when LOUD confidently swept Fnatic aside 2-0. Not only that, LOUD 13-6’d them on Lotus, a map that literally won Fnatic VCT Masters Tokyo two months prior. All of the sudden, LOUD rose from the ashes as a title contender once again.

Their next match against Paper Rex was a close one. After losing their Lotus pick in overtime, LOUD crushed PRX on Split before failing to close out the decider of Pearl. Still, a difference of two rounds was all that kept them from a guaranteed top three finish at VALORANT Champions 2023.

All or Nothing

In the meantime, Fnatic was doing their best to battle back in the lower bracket. They easily passed regional rivals FUT Esports, then came back from a 13-1 thrashing on Bind to beat DRX 2-1. Just like that, Fnatic vs LOUD was due for a rematch. Winner moves on, loser goes home.

Unlike their previous meeting, this match would go the distance. LOUD didn’t have the advantage of a knock-out punch this time, as Fnatic banned the Lotus that embarrassed them before. Instead, they chose Split which went just as poorly. LOUD wiped the floor with Fnatic, taking a quick 13-4 map victory and a 1-0 lead.

Now on Ascent, LOUD threatened to sweep Fnatic once again and end the series. However, the back-to-back champions still had something to say. After a modest five round defense, Fnatic got to work in the second half. They outclassed LOUD completely, winning eight of the ten rounds played. A 13-9 victory guaranteed a third map.

Haven was back and forth early, with both teams tying up at four apiece. A late half surge by LOUD afforded them three site retakes in a row to claim an 8-4 lead. Fnatic managed to win the second half pistol, but couldn’t keep the momentum going. LOUD won five of six of their attacker rounds, closing out Haven 13-7 and moving on. Now, LOUD face regional rivals Evil Geniuses for a spot in the VALORANT Champions 2023 Finals.

Paper Rex Shine, Evil Geniuses Stumble

The upper side of the bracket featured a much-anticipated matchup between Paper Rex and Evil Geniuses. The Pacific first seed had finished top three at VCT Masters Tokyo without their star player. Now at Champions as a full squad, they were expected to do some damage. EG also had high hopes after their runner-up performance at Tokyo. The North American underdogs had firmly become the top team in the region and now had title aspirations.

Both teams quickly and easily ran through the Group Stage. In Group A, PRX swept KRU Esports and EDward Gaming with the second highest round differential at +19. Group C saw EG sweep FunPlus Phoenix and FUT Esports with the third highest round differential at +16. It was readily apparent that both PRX and EG were primed and ready for a deep run at Champs.

PRX made quick work of FUT in their first playoff match. EG took a bit longer to put away EDG, but they confidently got across the finish line with two 13-5 wins after losing map one in overtime. They made up for it with a dominant 2-0 over DRX, showing strength on their signature Fracture and Lotus. PRX had that close run-in with LOUD, but came out on top nonetheless.

The Golden Road

Dropping only one map each up to this point, PRX and EG squared up in the upper bracket finals for a shot at a guaranteed top two finish and a huge map advantage in the Finals. Map one was EG’s Ascent. The home team got off to a weaker start, only securing five of their defense rounds with three coming from retakes.

The second half saw the teams trading rounds early. Then, EG launched an all-out offensive nearing the end of the game. They took the last five rounds in a row to come back from an 8-10 deficit and win map one. EG rode that momentum into PRX’s Bind pick. This time, they were the ones who earned a 7-5 halftime lead. EG even won the second pistol as well, going up 9-5.

From there however, it was a one-way street for PRX. The home team won every single round on their defense, completely shutting out EG for a 13-9 map win. The stage was now set for the tiebreaker on Pearl. After an even 6-6 half, EG moved onto the attacker side. They won their fifth pistol of the match and used the momentum to take a huge 11-6 lead.

PRX wouldn’t give up and put together a streak of their own. The result was an 11-11 score turned 12-12 after a last spurt from EG. The North Americans were well and truly out of gas by this point. They managed to escape from the first overtime thanks to a fantastic post-plant 2v2. In the second OT however, it was all PRX. They convincingly put EG away 15-13 to claim the first spot at the VALORANT Champions 2023 Finals.

The Final Stop

With only two matches left in the 2023 VALORANT season, the stakes could not be higher. The tournament favorites have been knocked out and the trophy is truly anyone’s to take. Will it be the giant slayers in LOUD, the Cinderella story in Evil Geniuses, or the last dance in Paper Rex? The Lower Bracket Finals between Evil Geniuses and LOUD begin on August 25 at 3:00 PM ET. The VALORANT Champions 2023 Finals begin on August 26 at 3:00 PM ET.