Teams to Watch in VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 3
The clock is ticking on the first year of the VALORANT Champions Tour. The first international LAN was a great success, and Riot hopes to build on that success in Berlin in September. Following that, Champions will crown the first official VALORANT world champions at the end of VCT Stage 3.
But not every team has already effectively booked their ticket to Champions like Sentinels. Most have a long way to go, as the teams who attended Masters 2 earned a huge trove of VCT points just by attending. Ahead of VCT Stage 3, we look at some of the teams with ground to cover heading into the final stretch of the inaugural VALORANT circuit.
The old adage is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But if it ain’t working, you gotta change something. TSM had a strong start to the beginning of their time in VALORANT. They were considered one of the strongest in North America on the shoulders of insane Jett play from Wardell. Aiding him was a fiery duelist play from drone and unreal agent versatility from Subroza. Hazed and Cutler rounded out the roster with solid support play bolstered by years of experience from Counter-Strike.
But eventually, the rest of NA improved and caught up while TSM did little to alter their formula. After a disappointing start to the first two VCT stages, they’ve now made multiple changes. Benching Cutler, adding brax to the starting roster, bringing in accomplished coach Chet, then reportedly dropping brax. They are starting a run to VCT Masters 3 Berlin and Champions from scratch, with no VCT points and little momentum to work with.
Chet has made it clear he isn’t just running the same old strats. In an interview with Dot Esports, he said plans to “bring a structured, efficient approach” to the TSM VALORANT roster. For too long the team has relied on fragging and playmaking when sound strategy has helped teams like Sentinels and V1 rise to the top. With their talent, a structured TSM should be a dangerous foe in VCT Stage 3.
Cloud9 Blue’s rise to prominence mirrors that of Version1’s; they just fell a step short. Like Version1, they were absent from any of the NA Challengers events of stage one, falling in qualifiers three times. In what looked like cruel irony, TenZ was sent on loan to Sentinels, and immediately thrived to close out the first NA VCT stage.
After an improved showing in stage two’s first Challengers event, the team made a surprising move. Parting ways with Relyks, and then transferring in their former CS:GO player in floppy. While floppy was considered a great talent by consensus, there were questions of whether or not a roster move just days before the Challengers 2 main event was a good idea. But C9 got it to click just in time. Thanks to floppy showing he was more than capable on Omen with the rest of the team thriving. Former sixth man poiz had a breakout performance on Jett, and that carried them into the Challengers Finals. There, they swept both Envy and NRG, and took a map off both V1 and Sentinels, finishing third. Had the Masters format been 16 teams like it’ll be in Berlin, they would have made it to LAN.
This impressive rise was made possible, like many others, by an influx of talent leaving NA CS:GO behind. Cloud9’s plan is to continue to cultivate talent from within, as it’s been reported that they may be moving poiz into the starting lineup. Back at the Challengers Finals, leaf didn’t shy away from how high the team is on Xeppaa’s potential, despite the impressive showing from poiz. If Xeppaa is so talented that they’re willing to put poiz back on the bench, then Cloud9 Blue will be even more dangerous real soon.
Between the first two stages of VALORANT Champions Tour, there have been numerous performance trends to follow around North America. TSM and T1 have struggled to gain any momentum. Cloud9 and Version1 can be considered late bloomers. Only Sentinels can really claim to be consistently successful throughout. A few teams started strong but have stumbled, and no one took a bigger tumble than FaZe Clan.
FaZe were the darlings of the final act of the first stage, going on a tear starting in Challengers 3 all the way through Masters 1. Outside of Sentinels, no one had an answer for Smeag style, and considering Sentinels’ eventual Iceland conquest, it’s actually even more impressive in hindsight. But in stage two, things changed. FaZe fell in the open qualifiers for Challengers 1 to Version1, which was considered an upset then, but in hindsight is less concerning. Then they lost to T1, whose potential with the curry/Spyder/autimatic trio is criminally underrated.
People have been sleeping on FaZe because they’ve been out of the spotlight, but don’t expect them to come back without some surprises. The team is reportedly going to be benching Marved and has been trialing replacements, adding an ounce of unpredictability to a team already hard to predict.
G2 Esports and Team Heretics
A year ago this would be the most obvious entry on a “teams to watch list.” This would be like putting Sentinels on the list now. Back then, G2 was untouchable in Europe, with their only blemish in all of 2020 being an early exit at First Strike. Otherwise, they were running through brackets and collecting trophies. Team Heretics took on the crown with their win in First Strike, and their strong run in the first stage of VCT was still impressive despite the narrow loss to Acend in the grand finals.
But for G2, they haven’t found any notable success in all of their VCT play, and Heretics’ play in stage two fell far below the team’s expectations. The two “best” teams over the past year of EU VALORANT didn’t even make it to the EMEA Challengers Finals, with Heretics not even making it to Challengers 2. With both teams needing a change, they looked to each other and made a swap. G2 signed nukkye and AvovA away from Heretics, while also adding koldamenta from Acend. Needing talent, Heretics grabbed the now released ardiis and paTiTek from G2.
Both teams are now bringing almost entirely new rosters to VCT Stage 3, with three new players to G2 and four players to Heretics. All the new players are top-tier talents, and with weeks still to prepare, both squads should come out firing at Challengers 1. Both teams will have high expectations, with aspirations of making last-minute runs toward Champions contention.
When The Undertaker’s legendary streak ended at WrestleMania, his career didn’t go with him. He responded with a win, then lost again, then went away for a while before returning. The untouchable aura around him faded, but he still retains a mythos of dangerousness. Vision Strikers followed a similar story; their streak was broken, they rebounded, then lost again, then disappeared from the spotlight before Masters. Now, it’s time for the return.
They’ve pulled the trigger on an injection of youthful talent, signing BuZa and MaKo after their Korea Challengers 2 loss. But they get to keep their elder statesman and veteran presence in Kim “glow” Min-soo, who’s moved to the coaching role. Vision Strikers are embracing the new while still holding on to the old that made them great, like The Undertaker did at the well-received Boneyard match at WrestleMania in 2020. If this move works out long-term, Vision Striker can remain atop the growing Korean scene, and bury their opponents alive in VCT Stage 3.