How XSET VALORANT Beat Sentinels and 100T Back-to-Back
Good enough, but not great. That’s been the XSET story for the entirety of their VALORANT Champions Tour run. They’ve never been eliminated in the open qualifiers. Any time they’ve had an opportunity to qualify for the regional event that ends the stage, they’ve made it, barely. But at those regional finals, whether it’s Masters One or the Stage Two Challengers Finals, they’ve been eliminated first.
Looking to jump up that extra level, they brought in UK veteran dephh, and the potential-filled 16-year-old Zekken before the start of Stage Three. After another successful open qualifier, they defeated Rise in the first round of the main event, setting them up with a match against Sentinels. Sentinels had destroyed XSET in both their prior meetings, and had the chance to deny XSET that pivotal, landmark win yet again. But that’s now what happened at all.
Slaying Sentinels, or, How XSET Survived a Godlike TenZ Performance
The first punch of XSET’s two-piece combo landed squarely under Sentinels’ jaw, disorienting the reigning Masters Reykjavik champions. What makes XSET’s upset even more impressive is where it started, on Haven, where Sentinels had won 14 straight. Between ShahZaM and TenZ’s aggressive play on long A, and dapr’s anchoring of C with Cypher, the Sentinels defense is almost impenetrable. Almost.
On previous tries against Sentinels on Haven, XSET’s style and composition was fast and aggressive. They used Raze and Omen and Jett to blitz on sites, really only utilizing Cypher on defense or to slow down retakes. This time though, they opted for more info gathering and utility, taking out Omen and installing Astra, and swapping out Raze for Skye. It looked like the result would be the same early, however, as Sentinels took the first three rounds, and XSET won their first on a chaotic half-buy that relied on brute force instead of strategy.
But after Sentinels took a 4-1 lead, XSET answered with seven straight successful attack rounds to close out the half. How? Well, two rounds in a row came directly from BcJ, first by winning a clutch 1v1, then using all his ultimate, his drone, and his shock arrows to create three kills needed to take the C site. Overall, XSET just did a great job of taking sites, especially on C, knowing they had to be quick and efficient doing so with an aggressive TenZ coming up behind them. On defense, XSET had an answer for Sentinels’ offense on all three sites, taking map one 13-9.
On Icebox, Sentinels’ aggressive style of defense paid off for them, feeding both TenZ and ShahZaM extensively throughout the first half. Not only did Sentinels put up a figurative wall on both sites, but they consistently kept the XSET economy in shambles. Despite a 9-3 deficit at half-time, XSET fought back via their own strong defensive side, beginning with the pistol round and through the bonus round, establishing a great economic advantage. Sentinels still escaped with the 13-11 win, but considering TenZ’s 30 kill performance, coming up that close isn’t a total loss for XSET.
The two sides split the first half of Split, with XSET’s defense narrowly coming up on top, 7-5. XSET did a great job of pinching Sentinels’ attack points across the entire map, and consistently punished the attacking side nearly every time they force bought. After switching sides, Sentinels took the first two rounds to tie the map 7-7, before XSET’s blistering attack side paved the way for the upset. They outplayed Sentinels’ utility use, timed double peeks really well, and capitalized on a really rough performance by ShahZaM.
Stealing One Away from 100 Thieves
With their victory, XSET had secured their spot in the NA Challengers Finals. At the very worst, they would finish fourth if they lost their next two series, but it would still be good enough to qualify for the next event. In previous events, this is typically where XSET would fall out of the bracket. That’s been their calling card; able to hang around long enough to qualify, only to quickly get bounced. The only exception was Stage Two Challengers One, when they reached the grand finals after an impressive lower bracket run where they defeated Immortals, V1, and Envy. In the grand finals, they lost a very close 3-1 series to, you guessed it, 100 Thieves.
Even though 100 Thieves hadn’t played this version of XSET yet, they found themselves in another tight contest. Despite XSET defeating Sentinels on Haven, 100 Thieves picked that map as well, having won their last four tries and given they’d beaten XSET on it in the past.
Like Sentinels, they played an aggressive style defense, and again XSET’s dephh used Astra’s utility really well to get on site and hold off retakes, especially on C. After a 6-6 tie at halftime, both teams traded rounds in the second half, leading to a 12-12 tie. There, in overtime, the sixteen-year-old Zekken made his biggest impact yet. All three of his Skye flashes on the attack round were perfectly timed, letting his team get onto B site, plant, and win duels during the retake. On defense, his gun did the work with a gorgeous 2K via a spray transfer after jumping through the garage window. Then he looped all the way to long C and put Hiko down from behind to secure the 14-12 win for his team.
Again just like the series versus Sentinels, XSET struggled in their first half on Icebox on the attacking side. Instead of TenZ picking them apart, it was Asuna who devoured them on Reyna, punishing missed XSET opportunities and ending the first half with 19 kills. Unlike their first run on Icebox, there was no second-half comeback to keep the map interesting, and 100T cleaned up map two 13-4.
On Ascent, dephh’s Astra usage was yet again the difference-maker, helping XSET take the first three rounds, but lost the next two rounds because of some great rifling/lurking from steel. XSET did end up taking the lead at half-time, 7-5, on the shoulders of some insane Operator plays from PureR. On their attacking side gun rounds, XSET were able to win virtually all their opening duels, and AYRIN was spectacular at winning post-plant fights. 100T couldn’t keep XSET off the sites, and couldn’t fight their way back on via retakes to any considerable success, and XSET closed out Ascent 13-10.
XSET’s next challenge at Challengers Playoffs
So it’s not the big win at the final regional event of a VCT stage that XSET are still seeking, but these back-to-back wins are their most important yet. For a young team that doesn’t have the same CS:GO background level as the rest of the top NA teams, beating two of the region’s best teams back-to-back is vital to building confidence. Even in their losing rematch against Sentinels, they took Haven off of them again, and really only looked lost on Breeze.
Now they’re two wins from a spot at Masters 3 Berlin, and looking at the bracket, they don’t even have to play Sentinels again to do so. And they’ll play the lower seed compared to 100 Thieves. The work isn’t over, but the message has been sent. XSET are no longer content just being good, and at Challengers Playoffs, they have a real chance to become great.