Players to Watch at VALORANT Champions
Every time the world’s best congregate for a LAN event, someone manages to put their stamp on it in ways we hardly thought possible. As the biggest moment in VALORANT history draws near, here are some of the players who could take Champions and make it theirs.
Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker (Envy)
Where better to start this list than with the player who took the world by storm at the VCT’s last international event. His Jett set the standard on the most important agent in the meta at Masters Berlin, especially during the Group Stage where he led all players in both ACS and ADR.
An up-and-down performance during Envy’s 0-3 Grand Finals showing may have taken some of the shine off his tournament, but he’s still elite. Even against Gambit, he put up 27 kills on Haven, nearly keeping Envy in the series and showing why he’s such a fearsome duelist. For Envy to reach their championship aspirations yay must be that player from start to finish.
Tyson “TenZ” Ngo (Sentinels)
Before yay, there was Tenz. The Sentinels duelist had long been hyped as the first great VALORANT prodigy, but it wasn’t until Masters Reykjavik that he got the chance to live up to that reputation. He did so with impeccable style, dominating the game’s first international LAN and blowing his closest competitors out of the water.
Sentinels may have fallen off at Masters Berlin, but Tenz really didn’t. His stats took a slight step down, but that’s to be expected given their quarterfinal exit. If they can regain the form that made them the best team in the world, Tenz will once again be heralded as the best player in VALORANT.
Kim “stax” Gu-taek (Vision Strikers)
Looking at the statistics, stax isn’t the type of player you’d expect to see here. He was fifth on his team at Masters Berlin in both ACS and ADR. He won’t blow you away mechanically either even with a higher than average headshot percentage.
What stax brings to the table, however, is exactly what makes Vision Strikers a great team. For starters, he’s the brain behind it all, the in-game leader for one of the most unique teams in the tournament. Korea has long had an affinity for Breach and the tactics he unlocks, and on that front stax does it better than anyone.
He won’t often top frag, but stax seems to show up when it matters. Even as they were eliminated by Gambit in Berlin, stax had his best showing of the tournament, going +5 against the future champions. Now, he looks for another chance to lead Vision Strikers to glory.
Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom (Team Liquid)
When you think of Team Liquid, the first name that probably comes to mind is that of Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom. He’s been with the team since the beginning, and he’s the type of player you notice: the superstar duelist with a track record of monster performances. For over a year, ScreaM has been carrying Liquid, but until recently they never lived up to expectations.
Nivera might not have the raw fragging power of his older brother, but he has been exactly what Liquid needed to get over the hump. His mechanics are a big step up for Liquid, especially given the supportive role he’s settled into with picks like Viper and Killjoy. If Liquid can finally fulfill their potential, Nivera will have been the key that unlocks them.
Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek (Acend)
It would be easy to write off Acend coming into this tournament. Their performance at Masters Berlin left a lot to be desired, not because it was terrible but because so much was expected of them. Barely scraping through groups and a quarterfinal exit won’t cut it when you’re among the pre-tournament favorites.
Despite their collective struggles, one constant for Acend was cNed. The Turkish hotshot has looked like the best player in the world at times and showed bits and pieces of that potential at his first major international event. Still, it felt like there was more of him waiting to be unleashed. If he and his teammates can shake off the LAN nerves, he could be the next Jett to take over the VALORANT world.
Leonardo “mwzera” Serrati (Vivo Keyd)
This isn’t quite the context we expected to see mwzera in at his first international LAN. He was supposed to be the duelist with unreal fragging potential and that trademark Brazilian aggression. Instead, he’s going to be playing… Sova. At least, that’s how Vivo Keyd plan to use their newest addition.
On the surface, it’s a weird fit, but it makes sense if you dig deeper. With Gamelanders eliminated, this is the one way for mwzera to make it to the international stage. Sure, he has to take a backseat to Olavo “heat” Marcelo and Murillo “murizzz” Tuchtenhagen, but that speaks to his competitive drive.
For Vivo Keyd, it’s a chance to raise their ceiling and unleash a wild card on the world as they look to prove what Brazil is capable of. It’s a risk, for sure, to upset team chemistry for a player learning a new role. If anyone can make it worth it, it’s mwzera.
Nathan “leaf” Orf (Cloud9)
The final member of North America’s trio of star Jett players, leaf is a late addition to the guest list. Before C9 made their LCQ run, leaf wouldn’t have been mentioned in the same breath as Tenz and yay. He was a promising talent, but his team was never able to put it all together in a way that let him shine.
At LCQ, he was a supernova, opening 23% of C9’s rounds with a kill. The team was firing on all cylinders with a combo of solid fundamental play and innovative new strategies around Erick “Xeppaa” Bach’s KO utility. They created space effectively, and leaf popped off like the superstar he can be. For C9 to go far, he must continue to elevate his game even as the competition takes another step up.
Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin (Gambit)
No list like this would be complete without the man who lifted the MVP trophy at Masters Berlin. The teenaged phenom racked up the second-best K:D ratio at the tournament (behind only yay) while playing Viper and Cypher. No other player in the world can match what he does from such a supportive position.
Throughout the event, nAts was unmatched in terms of his consistency in finding massive lurking plays. It takes more than just incredible aim and mechanics to excel in that role. There’s no denying that nAts has those in spades, but he also has a sense of timing and awareness that takes him to another level.
At Masters Berlin, he was able to come in with hype, but without being examined and studied like he will be now. Everyone has been watching nAts to dissect what made him so special. If he can deliver a similar performance at VALORANT Champions, we’ll just have to accept that he’s a different breed.