NA LCQ Preview: Who’s Competing at the North American Last Chance Qualifier
It should come as no surprise that at an event titled the Last Chance Qualifier, several 2021 VALORANT Champions Tour journeys will be coming to an end. These teams have been fighting across three stages for close to eight months now, and it all comes down to one actual last chance in the NA LCQ.
Fittingly, it’s another double-elimination bracket that will produce one singular team to join the field at Champions. In Berlin, the winner of the NA LCQ will join Sentinels and Team Envy in a stacked division of teams at Champions.
This isn’t just the final stop on the road to Champions, but the end of the road for many of the North American teams that have shaped the first full year of VALORANT esports. These are your VCT NA Last Chance Qualifier teams.
The NA LCQ Favorites
It’s hard to envision a team that’s just undergone a drastic roster change as a heavy favorite, but that just speaks how deep and talented 100 Thieves is. Fresh off a semifinals run at VCT Masters 3 Berlin where they were the only team to defeat eventual champions Gambit, 100T made a surprising move by moving steel to the inactive roster. This was a team that just produced two comeback victories against two of the top teams in Europe, but they still felt like a change was needed.
Stepping into his spot is Aaron “b0i” Thao, who made a strong impression on Andbox during the first two VCT stages. He spent the third stage in the sub role for 100T, but didn’t end up getting any playing time. He’ll be relied on in 100 Thieves’ last shot to reach Champions, but joins a roster that’s found tremendous success during VCT. Their comp situation at the NA LCQ will be worth watching; they used triple-initiator in the Challengers Finals and the beginning of Berlin, but dropped it when they got to playoffs.
A bracket side with 100T, Gen.G, and XSET is certainly less than ideal, but you should be high on the new-look Cloud9 Blue roster. After a strong showing in Stage Two, the C9 Blue roster floundered in the third and final stage, but wasted little time in retooling the roster. Just over two weeks after C9’s third stage ended in the open qualifier, they made a big splash in acquiring vanity from Version1, reuniting him with former CS:GO teammates in Xeppaa and leaf.
It seems silly to value one in-game leader so highly, but when you look at what he’s accomplished in his last two stops, it forms an impressive track record. Chaos E.C.’s final year in CS:GO turned out to be their best under his leadership, and Version1 found themselves at Masters just months after forming and after enduring numerous unplanned roster moves. If they get past Gen.G., the early matchup against 100T will be must-watch.
The remaining contenders at NA LCQ
For the first two stages of VCT, XSET was the lovable collection of kids good enough to scrape by Challengers events only to get bodied at the regional final. All that changed in Stage Three, when they stunned both Sentinels and 100 Thieves in back-to-back series to generate a huge amount of momentum going into the Challengers Playoffs. There they would ultimately fall to Envy just one win shy of reaching Berlin. This team had less than a month to get familiarized with playing with new IGL dephh and young rising star zekken, but now have had two whole months to prep for their greatest challenge yet.
After a late but sudden rise to the top of North America at the end of Stage One, FaZe was unable to hold that position in Stage Two, albeit ending up on the wrong end of some unlucky matchups. But following another open qualifier exit to start Stage Three, it looked FaZe might actually be in trouble. However, after some more practice with new addition BabyJ, they showed some of their old self in the final Challengers event, and just like XSET, fell to both 100T and Envy in the Challengers Finals. Their duelist duo of babybay and corey is still prolific, and the added utility that BabyJ provides makes the FaZe offense exceptionally formidable.
Luminosity is kind of in a similar boat as Envy roster-wise, with one remaining piece from the original squad in aproto surrounded by a sea of fresh faces. But while Envy appeared to make calculated improvements over time, LG’s moves have felt more random and responsive, which has resulted in some good but inconsistent results during VCT. It’ll be a tough ask when they start the bracket against FaZe, whom they’ve lost two straight to.
Like FaZe, Gen.G had a strong start to Stage One only to fizzle out in Stage Two. But unfortunately for them, the resurgence in Stage Three never occurred, and the roster has been marred by consistent changes every few months. There’s certainly not a lack of talent on the team with players like Shawn and koosta, but the pieces haven’t aligned perfectly just yet. We’ll see what Temperature provides on loan from Evil Geniuses.
Version1 has the biggest question mark over them of any of the North American teams going into LCQ. Their tremendous rise at the end of Stage Two propelled them into Masters Reykjavk and into the international spotlight. That run was highlighted with a landmark win over Team Liquid, but it didn’t cement the spot V1 was looking for. High expectations for Stage Three came crashing down after four straight losses eliminated them from Berlin contention, and then vanity left. The status of their fifth for LCQ is still officially unknown.
Rise is perhaps the most interesting of the NA teams attending LCQ. A definite late bloomer, they didn’t make it past any of the open qualifiers of the first two VCT stages, but rallied with a late run in Stage Three. That run produced a mix bag of results; wins versus Cloud9 Blue and TSM, losses to Luminosity, XSET, and Sentinels, and split results against FaZe and Gen.G. There’s no doubting the level of firepower and hunger on this team, but it’s still a tough task for them given their starting point.
The Oceanic wild cards at NA LCQ – ORDER and Chiefs Esports Club
I’m going to be blunt with you, I haven’t watched any VALORANT from either of the Oceanic teams playing in the LCQ. This isn’t meant to be disrespectful towards these teams, I just haven’t had the time or been in the proper time zone to watch them. That being said, I bet they’re none too happy about the reported switch to single-elimination for the first two rounds of the upper bracket, given all the travel and quarantine they’ve been through. I have no idea what to expect from them in the LCQ, but an entire region will be behind them.
*Since publication, Riot announced that ORDER and Chiefs Esports club would not be participating in the event due to Covid protocols.