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The 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour will be more competitive than ever, with new tiers, leagues and qualifiers providing more opportunities for players to stand out in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa region. The first VCT EMEA Challengers qualifier begins Jan. 10, followed by the second qualifier on Jan. 17.

Four teams from EU, alongside two from CIS and Turkey, will join Acend, Gambit, Fnatic and Team Liquid in the main VCT event in February. With all that in mind, these are the five players to keep an eye on for the first VCT EMEA Challengers.

pAura — BBL

Turkey is guaranteed two spots in the first VCT series, and there are a lot of incredible teams in the region. Their most popular team, BBL, have underperformed since their victory at First Strike back in 2020 — but a rebuild during the offseason brought new firepower to the squad.

The most notable new asset for the all Turkish squad is former Team Heretics and SuperMassive Blaze in-game leader Melih “pAura” Karaduran. PAura made a name for himself in Europe and Turkey throughout 2020 and 2021 as a sentinel IGL, but since he now shares an agent pool with Hüseyin “aimDLL” Kabişteke, a role switch-up is in someone’s future. PAura has already picked up agents like Reyna, Viper and Sova in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see if remains versatile enough to try other things.

As someone who has had a lot of experience playing in Europe and on the international stage, pAura will be expected to have significant input on the team under the leadership of head coach Berke “Vlad” Kantürk. The pair have the potential to take BBL to the VCT main event.

— Yinsu Collins

Jady — Natus Vincere

Similarly to Turkey, CIS gets two spots for the first VCT season. With Gambit already qualified for the event, there’s room for new players and teams in the region to shine. That being said, our player to watch from CIS Challengers is a very familiar face — Na’vi’s new signing, Yaroslav “Jady” Nikolaev.

Jady has always been recognized as an outstanding player as early as his HSDIRR days, and after getting picked by Ninjas in Pyjamas he quickly established himself as a flexible fragger. Although NiP couldn’t quite make any of the major events in 2021, Jady was consistently one of the best players on the team.

Now, moving from Europe to CIS, Jady has the potential to become one of the region’s star players. Na’vi are undeniably the favourites from CIS to qualify for VCT and there is no doubt Jady will be at the center of their success.

— Collins 

Meddo — G2 Esports

After joining FunPlus Phoenix as a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive veteran (one of many in the VALORANT scene), Johan “Meddo” Renbjörk played against G2 Esports in three finals throughout 2020 and lost every single time. In his own words, “It’s G2 and FPX. The rivalry is meant to be.”

However, while G2 continued to reach greater heights,  the 22-year-old star did not have the chance to challenge them after he left FPX in 2021 to join Giants Gaming. His team won plenty of B-Tier tournaments but did not do well at the level above.

As someone who knows what it’s like to play against titans, how it feels to succeed and take it all or fail right when the victory is almost at your grasp, Meddo is now a part of his fated rival team G2 in 2022. After a year in the lower rings of VALORANT, he’s back to prove himself as the promising sentinel player and informational carry he always was.

This is his biggest chance after all the finals he lost against G2. Now it’s time for him to take them — and himself — higher.

— Aykut Sapaz

PaTiTek — (inactive) Team Heretics

From a current G2 Esports player to a former G2 Esports player, this year is a fresh start for currently inactive Polish player Patryk “paTiTek” Fabrowski. Reports indicate that a move to British team Excel is in his near future, putting him back into play within Europe.

Out of all the high potential players to come out of Poland, paTiTek was among that group that included Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński and Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt. However, it hasn’t helped that those players went on to win Champions in 2021 while he remains inactive on Team Heretics — but at least another opportunity is on the horizon.

His time on G2 Esports in 2020 was great, leading to many tournament wins, most notably defeating Team Liquid in the finals of the early 2021 Red Bull Home Ground tournament.

Now, with Excel building an entirely new roster (aside from British player Muhammad “Moe40” Hariff), paTiTek has the chance to get back to his 2020 form and even show more of that ‘best player in Europe’ mentality he had.

— Michael Czar

mcnuggets — Movistar Riders

The UK scene has always struggled when it comes to producing world-class talent, but those that moved over from UK Counter-Strike have found a lot of success in VALORANT. From representing Fnatic and Team Liquid to Rix.GG and Tenstar, there are plenty of players from the UKCS scene currently thriving in Riot’s FPS.

However, outside of Elric “juseu” Belland and Mitch “MitchMan” McBride, there has been a severe lack of Irish representation in top-level VALORANT. That could potentially change, though, with Movistar Riders’ new player Conor “mcnuggets” McCool.

Besides the fact he probably has one of the best in-game names in EMEA, mcnuggets will be a nice wildcard for the Spanish side going into Challengers. Prior to VALORANT, mcnuggets teamed with an array of counter-strike talent including Jake “Boaster” Howlett, Joseph “Luzuh” Loose as well as representing Fish123 back in 2016.

Mcnuggets has been grinding VALORANT a lot, streaming and climbing the ranked ladder all while balancing university work on the side. Being high ranked can only get players so far, but his versatility as a flex/Kay/O player and experience in previous FPS titles could really make him stand out at Challengers.

— Collins