Stories to Watch at VALORANT Champions 2023
The biggest and most prestigious VALORANT tournament of the year is soon to be upon us. VALORANT Champions 2023 begins on August 6. The sixteen qualified teams from around the globe will meet in Los Angeles to determine who is the best in the game. The previous VCT Masters event in Tokyo gave us as many questions as it did answers. Even so, we do know a lot about what to expect at VALORANT Champions 2023.
VALORANT Champions 2023 Groups
Fnatic Go for the LAN Sweep
The biggest storyline heading into VALORANT Champions 2023 is Fnatic. The European squad has already had a historic year, winning VCT LOCK//IN at the start of the year and VCT Masters Tokyo in June. Now, they’re looking to pull off the unthinkable by winning Champs as well. No team has ever swept every single VALORANT championship in a calendar year, but if anyone can do it, its Fnatic.
Led by Jake “Boaster” Howlett, this Fnatic roster is top of the class in strategy and gameplanning. Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev on Duelist and Emir “Alfajer” Beder on Sentinel have some of the highest mechanical skill in the world. Leo “Leo” Jannesson is a master in the clutch, and Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov has won VCT titles with two different teams now. Superteam is a fitting word for Fnatic. This is especially impressive as, aside from the 28-year-old Boaster, the team’s average age is below 20.
Fnatic is such a difficult team to beat in a best-of-three. They always win their own map pick, and it seems like they play just as well on their opponents’ map picks as their own. Their run at VCT Masters Tokyo showcased this. Fnatic only dropped a single map all tournament to Evil Geniuses’ Fracture pick in the upper bracket finals.
If any team wants to step to Fnatic and take the title for themselves, they’ll need to have a top tier roster to compete in the server and a top tier coaching staff to prepare them out of it. The number of teams that can hope to accomplish this is small, but there are some candidates.
Evil Geniuses Bring the Schemes
North American VALORANT has seen a new team rise to the top. While LOUD and NRG came into VCT Masters Tokyo as potential grand finalists, it was Evil Geniuses that stole the show. This team ended the VCT Americas League in 6th place, only just qualifying for the playoffs. Once there, EG was able to put the pieces together. While they only earned third place in the playoffs, it was enough to send them to Tokyo.
EG’s Grand Finals run at VCT Masters Tokyo was straight out of a fairy tale. This team which had received criticism after criticism was showing that they were contenders on the biggest stage. Former Overwatch player Kelden “Boostio” Pupello calls the shots while being a fragging threat. Max “Demon1” Mazanov is the hottest OPing prospect the west has to offer. Alexander “jawgemo” Mor and Corbin “C0M” Lee constantly deliver kills in their flexible roles, and Ethan “Ethan” Arnold is one of the most consistent players in the game.
For those that recognize Ethan from Counter-Stike, he’s not the only EG piece that comes from it. Head coach Christine “potter” Chi was a former CS:GO analyst and broadcast talent, and she was one of the most scrutinized aspects of EG prior to their breakout. She’s done phenomenal work, as EG’s run at VCT Masters Tokyo was only possible with their amazing counter-stratting. EG even managed to make Fnatic bleed on a map that they chose earlier in the tournament.
EG is a team with immense mechanical talent, the experience of pros from other top level esports, and the ability to gameplan at the highest level. They have all the pieces to be a contender for the biggest prize VALORANT. If their upward trajectory continues, we could see them raising that trophy.
Paper Rex at Full Power
One of the biggest what-ifs in VALORANT history will always be Paper Rex at VCT Masters Tokyo. Now, their run was incredibly impressive. After losing to Fnatic in round two, PRX ran through the losers’ bracket all the way to the losers’ final. There, they narrowly lost the series to EG 3-2 and ended in third place. Now, what if we told you that they did all that without the Pacific League Grand Finals MVP?
PRX signed Ilya “something” Petrov three days before the Pacific League began. He quickly became a huge part of their success and helped the team win the VCT Pacific League in a 3-2 against DRX. Unfortunately, something couldn’t attend VCT Masters Tokyo due to visa issues. PRX’s listed substitute was Patiphan “CigaretteS” Posri, a 27-year-old former DOTA2, CS:GO, and PUBG player who is most known for his YouTube and streaming career.
Despite missing their star fragger and having to adjust many of their strategies to include CigaretteS’ Gekko pick, PRX still finished as a top three team in the world. The question is, how good are they at full power? The entire VALORANT community has been waiting for something to make his international debut now. The 21-year-old will get his chance to lead PRX to victory at the biggest tournament of the year.
China Hits the World Stage
Due to how China handles video game releases, VALORANT did not officially release in China as it did the rest of the world. The game finally did make it through the approval process and launched on July 12, 2023. Gamers in China could use a VPN to play it, but Riot could not actually run tournaments or support an esports scene. They did however give one or two invites to VALORANT LANs to teams that topped the grassroots scene.
In the past, these Chinese teams were seen as the bottom tier. The esport was simply underdeveloped in the region, and it was surprising to see a Chinese team win a match on the world stage. However, that all changed at VCT Masters Tokyo when EDward Gaming burst through the Group Stage to make China’s first ever VCT Playoffs appearance.
They weren’t done there, as EDG even won a playoff match against Europe’s defending champions Team Liquid before exiting the tournament in 5th-6th place. Notably, EDG’s OPer Zheng “ZmjjKK” Yongkang was the breakout player of the tournament, gaining numerous fans for himself and the team.
Now that VALORANT has officially launched in China, teams and organizations can go all-in on the game. VALORANT Champions 2023 will feature the most Chinese teams in a VALORANT LAN ever at three. There are high hopes for EDG, as well as FunPlus Phoenix and Bilibili Gaming, to make a big splash at this event and make an even bigger name for Chinese VALORANT.
VALORANT Champions 2023 begins on August 6 at 3:00 PM EST. The tournament will last until August 26.