VCT NA Challengers Two Preview – The Road to Reykjavík
Some of the mighty North American VALORANT teams have already fallen, with Masters Two in Reykjavík still a ways in the distance. FaZe Clan, Luminosity, and Gen.G all fell in the final round of the open qualifiers for Challengers Two. That’s three teams that competed at Masters One, including the second and third-place finishers, out of the running for Iceland with a couple stops still to go.
Sadly, we won’t see more Smeag style, more YaBoiDre warming up to Jett, or more of the gMd breakout show in Challengers Two, but that’s the nature of open qualifiers. The positive takeaway is that North America is becoming more and more stacked. FaZe, LG, and Gen.G didn’t get worse. The region as a whole just got better.
We see a diverse set of teams making up the upcoming Challengers Two field. There are teams that failed to capitalize on early momentum now re-awakening at the perfect time. Teams that have gone through a myriad of roster changes to now arrive at a squad that they are, for now, happy to bet on.
Four teams will advance to the NA Challengers Final, alongside 100 Thieves, Envy, XSET, and Version1. Four teams will fall and will watch the remainder of VCT Stage Two from home. The Road to Reykjavík nears its end. Who will crash spectacularly? Who will slowly run out of gas? And who will be one of only two NA representatives at the first-ever international VALORANT LAN?
The Challengers One teams – Andbox, Built By Gamers, Cloud9 Blue, Immortals
The Andbox team is one that many, including us, didn’t think would be here. Losing a star player should be back-breaking in a scene with so many talented teams and players. When Andbox lost ANDROID to NRG, that should’ve been it. This came right after the team released POACH. But Andbox did what many other teams have done during the VCT: take a shot on some players on trial, and strike gold.
In late March, it brought in vice and mada. This was mada’s second trial, after previously standing in for Luminosity when they were making changes in 2020. Vice had spent the past half-year with Cloud9, a team that had struggled mightily in the first stage of the VCT. Andbox made it through the open qualifiers of Challengers One but failed to make it past either 100 Thieves or Immortals. The NYC-based organization was happy with the progress, though, signing the two trial players to full-time deals. Now the team will wait and see if the investment is worth it, as they need to start delivering against the upper-tier teams.
Built By Gamers
BBG has carved a path almost identical to Andbox’s and did so using Andbox’s former talent. The team brought in the previously mentioned POACH on trial and Rarkar, who spent time with the China Nguyen roster pre-Equinox. The two have proven invaluable to the team, which caught all kinds of attention when it dropped Sentinels in the final round of the Challengers One open qualifier.
Again like Andbox, the team couldn’t capitalize on the momentum in the Challengers One main event, falling to XSET and then Version1. But if Rarkar can continue to improve and become the game-changing caliber of Jett player that currently dominates NA, the talent around him can carry BBG to even greater heights. Maybe even to another matchup against Sentinels.
Cloud9 Blue’s path to Challengers Two is such a bizarre one that we’re not sure it could even be replicated. The team’s first-ever player was TenZ, but despite his unreal output, the team couldn’t generate the results they wanted. The Cloud9 roster without TenZ is a unique collection of talent. Former CS:GO pros like mitch and leaf, a Korean import in Xeta, and a young poiz who quickly graduated from sixth-man to starter. And on top of that, C9 brought in floppy and Xeppaa from the disbanded CS:GO project just days before Challengers Two.
While Cloud9 Blue has a lot to figure out now, this doesn’t mean it’s due for a thrashing. The trio of xeta, poiz, and leaf was tremendous during the team’s Challengers One qualifier. If not for a few clutches from Version1, C9 Blue could already be in the Challengers Final. Poetically, the task ahead of the team requires it to defeat two players ingrained in the Cloud9 legacy: ELEAGUE Boston Major winners autimatic and Skadoodle, now with T1.
Immortals truly lives up to its name, refusing to die despite taking some absolutely brutal shots. It has always hung around with the top tier of teams, but has never notched that big win to carve out a permanent spot there. Immortals has done well enough to stay in the conversation and give itself a chance, and its chances rest on the duelist duo of jcStani and ShoT_UP.
The two have led the way for their side in almost all their recent matches. They’ll need to be on fire again to compete with a resurgent TSM. Immortals recently beat TSM in the Challengers One open qualifier, but it can’t count on another easy win. The path is open for Immortals to get to the Challengers Finals, but it has to step up to prove they belong.
The Challengers Two qualifier teams – Sentinels, NRG, T1, TSM
It’s astonishing to see Sentinels take this long to finally reach a Challengers event, but that’s open qualifiers for you. The champions of Masters One stumbled at the finish line of the Challengers One qualifier and fell face first when it was smoked by BBG. But the team rallied back in the Challengers Two qualifier without dropping a single map in five straight series.
Sentinels’ performance at Masters was nothing short of masterful. It proved that its core foundations were more than solid and that anyone on the team is capable of big performances. On top of that, the pure firepower that comes from TenZ would be a boost to any team. But add that on top of one of the best-constructed lineups in VALORANT, and you get a team that could very realistically make it all the way to Iceland.
For the time being, NRG is thriving off of the output of its two duelists in ANDROID and Tex. The two were each acquired this year from Andbox and Equinox, respectively, and their aggressive playmaking fits in nicely next to the savvy play of the team’s ex-CS:GO pros.
In its last test in the open qualifiers, NRG had a tremendous 2-0 performance against Luminosity, a breakout team from the first VCT stage. Tex was almost as destructive on Sage as he was on Raze, proving he doesn’t need a duelist to still impact the server. He was a menace early in rounds, with 11 first kills against only one first death. NRG will look to fix itself a spot in the Challengers Final if it can first overcome Built By Gamers.
After a plethora of roster changes and a little bit of controversy, T1 has finally arrived at the big kids’ table. In doing so, it also kicked out one of the bigger kids in FaZe Clan, defeating them 2-1 in the final round of the Challengers Two open qualifier. The team’s win in map three was quite astounding, with DaZeD producing with battle Sage and having just been thrashed 13-1 on Bind.
The whole team is firing on all cylinders. Skadoodle has carved out a neat agent rotation of Astra and Skye, providing tons of flashes, smokes, and all kinds of utility for the team. Spyder is a smoke master, adapting his style to both Jett and Omen and producing every map despite what role he’s playing. Curry is cooking on the sentinels and is bringing Viper back as well. Autimatic can swap between sentinel and Raze, while DaZeD switches between Sova and Sage. Each team member can play different roles depending on the map, and their compositions have got them trending back in the right direction.
There’s the TSM we remember from 2020. After a tough start to the first stage of the VALORANT Champions Tour, TSM called an audible with bringing in brax as a sixth-man. Many expected TSM to swap him in immediately, but its recent string of wins has actually come from the original lineup.
Its final test in the open qualifiers was against Gen.G, a team that famously broke the team’s hearts back at Challengers Two in the first stage. But there were no lengthy maps or Gen.G heroics, as WARDELL returned with an absolute vengeance. WARDELL dropped 52 kills over just two maps and looked like the same force on Jett that terrorized teams less than a year ago. Look out, everyone, TSM is back.