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Stories to Watch at VCT Masters Shanghai

Zakaria Almughrabi

VALORANT’s second international LAN event of 2024, VCT Masters Shanghai, begins on May 23. This tournament is a step up in scale from VCT Masters Madrid three months ago. Now, 12 teams instead of eight will be fighting for a doubled prize pool of $1,000,000. The top team from each region has been given a direct Playoffs invitation, while seeds two and three must first battle it out in the Swiss Stage.

Fnatic VCT Champs

Image Credit Riot Games | Colin Young-Wolff

All Teams at VCT Masters Shanghai

Americas EMEA APAC China
100 Thieves Fnatic Paper Rex EDward Gaming
G2 Esports Team Heretics Gen.G Esports FunPlus Phoenix
Leviatán FUT Esports T1 Dragon Ranger Gaming

Return of the Kings

During the first leg of the VALORANT competitive season, we saw a significant shift in the pecking order of multiple regions. Fnatic, EMEA’s best and most consistent team in the world, failed to qualify for VCT Masters Madrid. Their upset loss to Karmine Corp in the EMEA Kickoff Semifinals was shocking. However, what isn’t a shock is how quickly they returned to the top.

Not only did Fnatic sweep KC in their Playoff match, but they also came back from a loss to Team Heretics in the Winners’ Bracket to take the Finals 3-2. Fnatic beat both teams that EMEA sent to Masters Madrid. And seeing as how KC and TH tied for the worst-performing region at that tournament, Fnatic has some work to do.

The two-time VCT LAN champions are still the same roster that took the world by storm last year. They’ve been out of the spotlight for a bit, what with their incredibly disappointing TOP FOUR at Champs the previous year (that was sarcasm). Perception of them was overly harmed after missing Madrid, even though they were only a single BO3 away from going.

Fnatic should still be feared as the Titans they are. Yes, competition is continuously rising quickly in VALORANT, as evidenced by the countless new players and teams rising through the ranks. Still, there’s no reason to think a core this talented and experienced on the LAN stage can’t make a run to the Finals.

NA In Disarray

VCT Americas Stage 1 was a rollercoaster of emotions. The defending Madrid Champions and most loved team in the world, Sentinels (criteria: they sold the most bundles, thanks Zellsis), failed to qualify for Masters Shanghai. LOUD also didn’t qualify, making Americas the only league not sending a repeat team to LAN. In their places rose 100 Thieves and G2 Esports, two teams no one expected to be here.

After coming dead last in Kickoff, stocks were incredibly low on the now Boostio-led 100 Thieves squad. Once they got some play time under their belts and were put into a less unforgiving format, 100T started picking up speed. They finished a respectable second place in their group. Despite a gauntlet of a bracket, 100T bested LOUD, Leviatán, and G2 on their way to the Finals. And in the biggest match the org has ever played in VALORANT, 100T swept G2 to claim the title.

The New Guard

Oh yeah, G2 was there. Last year, they weren’t even in the VCT. G2 was forced to give up their VCT franchising spot after that Andrew Tate drama with their owner, which came at the worst possible time. Still, the organization didn’t give up on VALORANT. They moved their operations from Europe to North America and started competing in Challengers. After their roster of experienced former CS players failed to make a run at Ascension, G2 jumped at the chance to sign the team that did.

The Guard had won Ascension and a spot in VCT Americas. The org then folded from the game entirely. Luckily for the squad, G2 took on their contracts and kept the team together. While G2 wasn’t projected to be the worst team in the new season, the odds of an Ascension team doing well or qualifying for LAN were low. By the skin of their teeth, G2 earned a playoff spot over Sentinels by a +2 round differential.

Everyone expected a one-and-done. Instead, G2 swept the 5-1 Cloud9. They then swept the 5-1 group winners KRÜ Esports. Of course, the team’s first-ever VCT Americas Grand Finals appearance was the cherry on top. G2 has risen to the top of the field in record time.

With Leviatán as the third seed, VCT Americas has sent a brand new list of contenders to Shanghai. There’s no LOUD, NRG, or even Sentinels here to maintain the status quo. If our young trio can perform well, it would establish Americas as a high-level region from top to bottom. If they flop, we’ll have even more questions than answers.

This is APAC’s Tournament (For Sure This Time)

Another shift in the VALORANT landscape happened at Kickoff, this one in APAC. Paper Rex, the best and most consistent team from the region, fell in the Grand Finals to a squad of upstarts under Gen.G. At Madrid, Gen.G crushed PRX in the Playoffs, beat Sentinels in Winners’ Finals, and were just one map short from taking APAC’s first VCT trophy. Gen.G was set to take the world by storm. The news was supposed to usurp the old with a chaotic playstyle and top-of-the-line mechanics.

So, of course, Paper Rex had to make a run through Winners in Stage 1 Playoffs, then beat Gen.G in the Finals to retake the crown. The return of Jinggg to the main roster was a massive boon for Paper Rex. While Monyet wasn’t bad by any stretch, the reliability and star power of Jinggg can elevate any team. He even earned MVP in PRX’s triumphant Grand Finals match.

Despite APAC being the third-best region of the four historically, the respect they command has never been higher. When in form, PRX is a perennial trophy contender. They are VALORANT’s bridesmaids, consistently coming close to glory, but never quite.

VCT Masters Shanghai

It almost makes you want to cry. (Image Credit Liquipedia)

Gen.G has the talent to beat anyone; they just lack consistency. If the mental factor was there, they could have easily taken Madrid from Sentinels. Gen.G will only get scarier as they gain more LAN experience. It’s only a matter of time before APAC finally has a valuable trophy under its belts. The questions are: Who will get the job done, and will it be at VCT Masters Shanghai?