VCT NA Challengers 3 Preview – Last Chance for Masters
It’s the final countdown. The last chance for several North American VALORANT to earn just an opportunity to compete at Masters. As phase one of the VALORANT Champions Tour winds down, we head into the final closed qualifier for Masters. The VCT NA Challengers 3 main event will pit eight teams against each other in a rigorous double-elimination bracket.
For some teams, it’s their first time in the closed qualifier. For a couple, it’s their third and final shot. Who will advance? Who will fall and inevitably be subject to roster change rumors? Let’s preview the final VCT NA Challengers event for phase one.
TSM finally get the main event push
Team SoloMid has been a dominant force and constant contender throughout the Ignition Series and First Strike. But throughout the VCT NA Challengers events, they’ve stumbled at the biggest hurdle. Somehow, this is the very first time they’ve reached the closed qualifier.
In the first open qualifier, it was a map three overtime loss to XSET in the qualification round. While it’s still disappointing, XSET’s strong performance across Challengers makes it sting less. Unfortunately, they got got again in the second open qualifier at the hands of Gen.G, who got bounced out of Challengers 2 in four straight maps. Two best-of-three’s that ended in heartbreak.
TSM has obviously benefitted from a weaker class of teams in the open qualifier. Their toughest opponent was Version1, who formed less than a month ago. However, this is still an extremely dangerous team. Their losses in the previous open qualifiers were decided by single rounds. They’ll have to beat a familiar foe in Gen.G, but they haven’t forgotten the scar left by koosta’s dagger.
T1 lose brax, but gain some swag
T1 lost star Braxton “brax” Pierce in the beginning of February right after signing Timothy “autimatic” Ta. While many expected the wheels to fall off in this qualifier, T1 has thrived after giving Ha “Spyder” Jung-woo the keys. Spyder is emerging as one of NA’s best Jett players, and put on a showcase in the third open qualifier.
Under the leadership of veteran IGL Sam “DaZeD” Marine, Spyder has taken a huge step forward. Back in December, DaZeD spoke to Hotspawn about “keeping the game in front” of Spyder, and the former Overwatch pro has been mowing down anything in his way. Helping him out is new addition Rahul “curry” Nemani, formerly of Triumph’s CS:GO roster. He’s been popping off as well for T1, and this duo is carrying the established NA CS veterans.
With these two on fire, once autimatic becomes more acclimated to the game, T1 could stand for Tier 1.
NRG upgrades to ANDROID
An already dangerous team just outside the top tier of NA VALORANT, NRG went all-in with a huge acquisition. In the biggest steal between VALORANT teams so far, NRG added Bradley “ANDROID” Fodor. ANDROID established himself as a rising star on the Andbox roster, and drove that roster into Challengers 1.
Now, two members of our recent rising stars list are on the same team, as ANDROID teams up with Ryan “Shanks” Ngo. This duelist duo has been absolutely filthy throughout the third open qualifier and should light up the main event as well.
With a veteran presence behind them, as well as an organization synonymous with success in various shooters, NRG are playing with a whole new energy. Watch out.
Unsigned but unfazed: DHBK
A consistent trend in the European VALORANT scene has been the breakout play of unsigned rosters. These teams showed up with no organizational backing, played insane, and got rewarded with contracts. SUMN FC made First Strike finals (which featured four unsigned teams) before joining Fnatic. Monkey Business bonked Guild Esports then signed with OG.
Now in North America, we have our unsigned darling: DuhHoonkaBonKuhloos. DHBK is a mix of players inactive on other rosters, as well as refugees from the disbanded Mamba Mode Gaming roster. They had to run through a gauntlet of teams that have been on the cusp of qualification: Spacestation, Built By Gamers, and beastcoast.
DHBK aren’t just playing to earn a spot at Masters, they’re looking to cement their pro VALORANT careers.
Third time’s the charm for Luminosity and Gen.G?
For both these rosters, this will be their third appearance at an NA Challengers closed qualifier. LG actually finished top four at Challengers 1, but after beating 100T at Challengers 2, they lost two straight to Immortals and XSET. Gen.G’s miraculous clutch victory over TSM in the open quals was left moot after losing to Immortals and 100T.
Luminosity don’t want another loss hanging over them, especially after officially adding YaBoiDre and moose to the team. And Gen.G might consider alterations to their original lineup core if they fall short again. They’ve both had lots of time to prepare since Challengers 2; is now finally the time?
100 Thieves stole Ethan from CS:GO, can they steal a Masters spot?
It’s weird seeing the reigning First Strike champions in this position, fighting for one of the final spots at Masters. Ignoring the first Challengers event since they were missing nitr0, they looked back in form leading up to Challengers 2. But 100T did things we didn’t expect from a team of that caliber. They threw away a series against LG despite leading 1-0. Then they got thrashed by Sentinels, which never happens.
Now they enter the final stretch of the first phase with a big question mark: Ethan. The former Evil Geniuses CS:GO player is making his VALORANT debut at Challengers 3, and no one knows what to expect. Even worse, they’ve got the surging NRG ahead of them, coached by Ethan’s former CS:GO coach Chet Singh.
Regardless of whether swapping out Dicey for Ethan is the right decision, you have to question the timing of the move. Is the experience and firepower of 100T enough?
FaZe are still in their aggressive phase
Watching FaZe Clan play VALORANT is an absolutely wild ride. The roster of former Overwatch professional take aggressive peeks and pushes all game long, and it’s gotten them to another Challengers event. Against the very best teams, however, this strategy is frequently punished.
So what’s the solution? Well, back at First Strike, Andrej “babybay” Francisty told Hotspawn that the team was looking to get a coach from Counter-Strike. He said that would push them into the tier with the best teams. But officially, FaZe VALORANT don’t have that coach yet.
Until they do, they’re going to continue struggling against consensus top-tier teams who aren’t going to panic when pushed. FaZe VALORANT is a torqued, high-caliber engine capable of top speeds. It just needs the right driver.
The first series of matches for VCT NA Challengers 3 will begin on March 4.