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The Europe, Middle East and Africa VALORANT scene is more competitive than ever. With a new league system implemented since the beginning of 2022, the 12 teams competing in VALORANT Champions Tour EMEA Challengers now have more time, ways and resources to raise their gameplay. 

FunPlus Phoenix were rather underwhelming in 2021, but they’re now one of the teams leading the charge in Challengers thanks to a couple of roster swaps as well as a new approach to their preparation for their opponents week in and week out.

FPX were already changing up their team compositions and playstyle throughout the Commonwealth of Independent States qualifiers but they’ve continued to do so throughout Challengers too, bringing out five different compositions across the five maps they have played so far – including running a double Duelist comp on Bind.

“I still think double Duelists is not the best way to play VALORANT but in some situations the best way to play VALORANT is not the way the enemy expects to, especially in league matches when everyone has a week to prepare for one best of three,” FPX in-game leader Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow said. “They have a whole week to focus on beating you, think about vetoes and prepare for maps they think you’re going to play. So in this sort of format, it makes much more sense to switch your comps and the way you’re playing because your opponent is heavily focusing on that.

“I already have experience playing in leagues in the past like ESL Pro League which is kind of the same format in [Counter-Strike: Global Offensive] four years ago so I have experience in switching things up.”

As a result of FPX’s newfound flexibility, they’ve been able to take down Gambit and are currently the only team in their Group that hasn’t dropped a series yet. FPX have always been a slow and methodical team with tactical depth, but the added layer of their ability to adapt to their opponents makes them incredibly scary and ANGE1 gave some insight on how they’re able to achieve this.

“I’m looking at possible maps our enemies might want to play, I look at their comps and then I’m thinking about the best ways to counter their playstyle,” he said. “I’ll make sure what I want to do isn’t so far that it doesn’t make sense for our players, it has to fit our players and then I make a decision about which comps we’re playing.”

But it isn’t always easy to implement such a high level of flexibility. FPX are one of the only teams that use Sova on Split — an unorthodox combination many tend to shy away from in the current meta.

“It was not easy to convince the team to bring in Sova on Split,” ANGE1 said. “We played a few praccs and I explained why Sova is good against certain opponents and it was working. Obviously in officials it’s a bit harder because there is pressure and enemy teams always push less in those games compared to praccs. Teams play completely differently in pracc than they do in officials which can create problems in our preparation.”

Most of the other teams in VCT EMEA Challengers have yet to switch up their team compositions to the degree of FPX and it’ll be interesting to see if their approach will pay off in the league. They will face LDN UTD, Na’vi and Team Liquid in the remaining weeks of Challengers. 

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