NA VCT Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs Preview
Outside of the Last Chance Qualifier, the NA VCT Stage Three Challengers Playoffs is the last all-North American event of the VCT year. After such a hot start at Masters Two Reykjavik, all the competing teams look to build on the foundation Sentinels created when it comes to international contention.
Eight teams meet in a double-elimination bracket, with three spots at Masters Three Berlin on the line. But there’s more than just a trip to Germany up for grabs. Teams like TSM and Rise will look to secure LCQ spots, and outside of Sentinels, there’s only one more direct spot at Champions for an NA team. Additionally, NA could increase their Champions presence if one of the region’s teams wins in Berlin.
Ahead of this final NA Challengers event of the year, we take a close look at all four of the first round matchups of the Challengers Playoffs.
Sentinels vs. Rise
If their loss to XSET in Stage Three Challengers One raised any questions about Sentinels’ dominance, their rematch in the grand finals promptly answered them. Since adding TenZ prior to Masters One, Sentinels has only lost three total series, and was able to secure revenge in the rematches versus XSET and Envy. This superb run included an undefeated run through Masters Two, where they didn’t drop a single map during the entirety of VALORANT’s first international LAN.
Forged from the remnants of previous rosters for teams like Immortals, Dignitas, and NRG, Rise has risen to prominence during this final VCT stage. After honing their craft in tier-two tournaments, Rise added supamen in early July, then promptly made an impression in Challengers One open quals, defeating BBG then Cloud9 Blue to reach the main event. Despite a quick exit there, they rallied in Challengers Two, winning series against FaZe and Gen.G with 13-2 wins in each of the opening maps.
Both teams’ field rosters stacked with players able to have big performances; no player is consistently carried on either team. Sentinels does enter the series with both more momentum and a better track record, but it would not be wise to completely write off Rise. Keep your eyes out for great Jett plays from TenZ, ShahZaM, and Shanks.
Team Envy vs. TSM
Team Envy has been a consistent fixture near the top of the North American ranks. Ever since adding Victor and crashies from the T1 lineup in September 2020, the team has been consistently good. Envy has 4th place finishes to their name at First Strike, NA Masters One, and the NA Stage Two Challengers Finals. Those finishes at VCT event combined for 75 VCT points, and with Version1 out of the running in Stage Three, Envy are currently in the best position to snag the second direct NA spot at Champions.
TSM, the grand finalists from the aforementioned First Strike event, has had the exact opposite of a consistently good VCT run. During the first two stages, they only advanced through two of the five open qualifiers they played in, finishing 5th/6th at the only two Challengers main events they reached. Stage Three got off to a rocky start, with another open qualifier loss to Noble. Without any more chances to spare, TSM finally put a run together in Challengers Two, winning seven straight series over the likes of T1, Gen.G, Luminosity, and FaZe.
TSM’s latest additions have been critical to their recent run. Bang is a huge source of kills, on a variety of agents like Astra, Sage, Raze, and Reyna. Stand-in LeviathanAH is making a strong case for a full-time position, with his ability to play two different essential agents in Viper and Sova. Envy just got bolstered by a new addition, in Jett demon yay from Andbox. These two teams haven’t met since the First Strike semifinals; can the consistent Envy handle a TSM team finally heating up?
XSET vs. Luminosity
XSET’s stock has steadily rose throughout the entire VCT campaign, capped off with a huge recent upward swing. Throughout all three stages, they have never been eliminated from an open qualifier, and always finished top four in Challengers events. However, they would fall short at the final NA event of the stage, finishing last. They look to change their trajectory after a massive set of victories in Stage Three; beating Sentinels and 100 Thieves back-to-back.
Luminosity has undergone several changes during their VCT run. After the first two Challengers events of Stage One, they fully signed YaBoiDre and moose from trial. Following that, they finished 3rd at Challengers Three and finished 5th/6th at Masters One. After a disappointing Stage Two, they benched stellar and thief before signing ban and dazzLe, while also adding TiGG as a stand-in.
TiGG answered the call in the place of the injured moose, while YaBoiDre willed Luminosity through the final Challengers event into the Challengers Playoffs. XSET has taken another step up since adding British IGL and CS:GO veteran dephh, as well as sixteen-year-old rising star Zekken. XSET will look to finally breakthrough in the last regional event of the year before the Champions Last Chance Qualifier.
100 Thieves vs. FaZe Clan
Outside of the very first Challengers event when nitr0 was missing, 100 Thieves have been a familiar face at every single main event. But like XSET, they’ve fallen shorter than expected at both Masters One and the Challengers Finals. Additionally, those shortcomings came after some pretty dominant looking runs in Challengers’ main events. 100T would lose a match to XSET in the first Challengers event to Stage Three, but this came after they’d already secured a Playoffs spot following wins over V1 and Envy.
FaZe Clan’s run during VCT has been wild. They started quietly in Stage One, but reached an unreal level beginning at Challengers Three. They went on an unstoppable run through Masters One, with only Sentinels being able to stop them at all. But in Stage Two, they fell in both Challengers open qualifiers, first to Version1 and then to T1. But even with losing Marved to Team Envy, FaZe filled the roster void with BabyJ, and returned to form in Stage Three Challengers Two. Their lower bracket run included revenge against T1, and they punched their ticket to these Challengers Playoffs.
The duelist duo in babybay and corey have been the catalyst for the revitalized FaZe Clan roster. Adding to their production has been a very capable BabyJ, providing tons of utility as Killjoy and blinding the enemy team with Breeze on Bind. 100 Thieves have ridden the coattails of some dominant duelist performances from Asuna, who’s equally destructive on both Jett and Reyna.