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The Fall of LOUD at VALORANT’s VCT Masters Tokyo

Zakaria Almughrabi

VCT Masters Tokyo is the second international LAN event of 2023. Only the strongest teams in the world were given the opportunity to play at Japan’s first major VALORANT tournament. Of those teams, few were rated higher coming into the event than LOUD.

Image Credit Riot Games - Colin Young-Wolff

Image Credit Riot Games - Colin Young-Wolff

LOUD is a Brazilian team that first rose to fame ahead of the 2022 Stage 1 VCT Masters LAN at Reykjavik, Iceland. The squad, previously known as Pancada e Amigos, was signed by LOUD ahead of Stage 1. After crushing the Brazilian Challengers League, LOUD got a chance to show the world what they could do. They ran through the playoffs, taking down titan after titan.

While they did lose in the grand finals, their second-place finish firmly put LOUD on the map, and they were hungry for another shot at the crown. They’d get their next chance just four months later at VALORANT Champions 2022, the biggest tournament of the year. This time, LOUD got the best of their rivals OpTic in the grand finals, claiming VALORANT’s biggest prize.

LOUD’s 2023 Begins

LOUD’s streak of LAN grand finals appearances continued at the 2023 LOCK//IN tournament to open the new season. This time however, LOUD were in front of a home crowd in São Paulo, Brazil. Even though they had acquired two new playoffs in the off-season, LOUD still looked like world beaters. In the grand finals however, Fnatic gave them a rude awakening. The map five tiebreaker went the way of the European squad in overtime, forcing LOUD to watch as someone else raised the trophy in their home country.

Despite this disappointment, LOUD went back to winning ways immediately in the VCT Americas League. They went nearly undefeated in the regular season, only suffering one loss to NRG (who now fielded the former OpTic core). Come playoffs, LOUD once again made the grand finals and swept NRG to claim the regional title and a guaranteed playoff spot at VCT Masters Tokyo.

LOUD obviously had high expectations for this tournament. They were staples in the grand finals at minimum for a year now, having made it at three consecutive LANs. With the group stage over, LOUD prepared for their first match of VCT Masters Tokyo: a regional bout against Evil Geniuses. LOUD were the heavy favorites of course. However, they would not play like the team that had beat EG twice in the Americas League.

A Cold Start

Fracture was EG’s pick for map one. The first pistol round went in EG’s favor after LOUD lost a 4 vs 2 retake situation. When LOUD got their guns out in round three, EG crunched them on the B site while not losing a single player. The Brazilians got a round back after, but were then forced to give up round six as EG perfectly manipulated their movement with the Killjoy and Breach ultimates.

LOUD should have won round seven, as they flanked onto EG’s B execute and earned four kills. Unfortunately for them, Max “Demon1” Mazanov lined up LOUD’s remaining players in a 1v2 post-plant.

The sloppiness from LOUD came to a head in round 10. EG were on a save round with pistols only and managed to take the B site with only a Raze ultimate. The rest of the rounds went in the North American’s favor, putting them on a 9-3 lead.

On LOUD’s attack side, they got some early momentum with a pistol round win. In the gun rounds however, it was clear that they didn’t have as complex of a gameplan as EG. A good example was round 17, where LOUD set up for an early push onto B and got stalled by a smoke. They then recontacted up main and were once again stalled by a barrage of utility. With no plan left, they lost the round.

LOUD had nothing left to bring to Fracture, as they lost the map 13-7. This was EG’s map however. Surely on LOUD’s pick of Ascent, they would be more tactically up to par. That ended up not being the case.

On Ascent, LOUD lost both pistol rounds, both of EG’s bonus rounds, and one half-buy round. In terms of raw full buy vs full buy, LOUD were 5-2 on attack. Their issue was that they couldn’t win anything else. Round 15 was the epitome of this, as LOUD lost a defense round to two Sheriffs, two Stingers, and a Guardian, putting them down 10-5.

One lost full buy round later, and the match had ended. EG’s 12-5 domination of Ascent left LOUD with many questions to answer. EG had quite frankly anti-stratted the hell out of LOUD on both maps. The LOUD playbook looked shallow and easy to read. Credit to EG for the expertly crafted game plan and great mechanical execution, but LOUD never looked in this series for a moment.

The double elimination format of VCT Masters Tokyo afforded the Brazilian giants one more shot. Their lower bracket opponent would be EDward Gaming, the first Chinese team to ever make it to a VCT playoffs.

A Moment of Silence

With Ascent banned, LOUD’s map pick was Lotus. While EDG did win the pistol round, LOUD managed to secure the bonus this time. However, things didn’t get any easier for LOUD. They lost the first full buy round after their A Main fight were awry. In the following round, LOUD had a 5v3 situation that got turned against them thanks to a collateral Vandal headshot 2K to entry the B site.

EDG employed a variety of openers on their attack. From early fighting in A Main, to slow playing for rotations, to just taking borderline disrespectful 1v1 peeks, LOUD were on the back foot the whole time. This game plan culminated in round 12, where EDG sent a knockout punch straight into the B site to earn an oppressive 8-4 lead.

LOUD did win their second pistol round of the tournament after. Then, in what caster Lauren “Pansy” Scott called “LOUD’s biggest mistake yet,” LOUD lost to EDG’s save round. This morale-destroying loss was essentially the beginning of the end. EDG won four of the final five rounds of the game on defense, stealing LOUD’s map 13-6.

EDG, seeing LOUD’s weakness on Fracture against EG, chose the map next. Credit to LOUD, they did manage to put up their best half of the tournament at seven of the 12 rounds on defense, their first and only winning half. They even won the pistol round and anti-eco this time. Unfortunately for LOUD, their issues in the macro game were not resolved.

EDG constantly called out LOUD’s defense with timings, either catching aggression in its prep phase or sneaking in behind enemy lines. It’s not like LOUD had nothing planned, they were just once again read like a book. Round 18 saw LOUD try for a standard B Main push which was dismantled in an instant.

LOUD’s hopes ended in round 22, when they tried to use Breach ult to push into the attacker’s spawn for some early kills. Instead, Wang “nobody” Senxu pulled off one of the best plays of the tournament so far, a 1v3 while fully stunned.

Battered and bruised, LOUD lost Fracture 13-10. The 0-2 loss signaled an unceremonious exit from VCT Masters Tokyo, ending their streak of grand finals appearances. LOUD won zero maps in the tournament and only 28 of 80 rounds played. Their average rating was 0.862 which would land a player in the bottom 10 performers at the tournament overall.

Goodbye to LOUD for Now

With LOUD now eliminated from contention, the door opens for several teams to claim a grand finals berth. Clearly, the Brazilian powerhouse was not up to the task this time around. A combination of poor game planning, a one-dimensional strat book, and weak overall mechanical play caused this result which is a far cry from what they’re capable of.

This tends to happen a lot in sport in general. Whenever a team has a dominant year, everyone starts to aim for them. Your strategy, philosophy, and tendencies are on display for the world to see. LOUD have received the wake-up call loud and clear. They’ll have about a month and a half to go back to the drawing board and refine their play. VALORANT Champions 2023 is set for August 6, and LOUD will need to show a new side of themselves if they hope to defend their title.