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Following months of qualifier after qualifier (after an even bigger qualifier), we’ve reached the end of summer and its final destination: VALORANT Masters Berlin.

There will be 15 of the best teams in the world from seven regions (after Bren Esports’ visa issues) that embark to Germany to capture the trophy and automatic qualification to the upcoming world championship. As a bonus, the winning team will also secure an extra spot at Champions, for their respective region.

As we count down to curtain opening in Berlin, I will guide you through each of the 15 teams vying for masters victory about their roster, map pool and the burning questions surrounding them.

ZETA DIVISION starting lineup

zeta division want to take over masters berlin
ZETA DIVISION Stage 3 Challengers graphic. | Provided by ZETA DIVISION

Oshiro “Reita” Ryu (Japan)

Agents played (past 60 days): Jett (25), Raze (2)

Signature agent: Jett

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 260.4 ACS
  • 1.46 K:D
  • 0.92 KPR
  • +26 First Kills-to-First Deaths (99 FK, 73 FD)

Takemori “takej” Shogo (Japan)

Agents played (past 60 days): Reyna (18), Skye (5), Raze (3), Sage (1)

Signature agent: Reyna

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 288.2 ACS
  • 1.65 K:D
  • 1.04 KPR
  • +25 First Kills-to-First Deaths (60 FK, 35 FD)

Ushida “Laz” Koji

Agents played (past 60 days): Sova (11), Skye (9), Cypher (5), Sage (2)

Signature agent: Skye

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 263.9 ACS
  • 1.53 K:D
  • 0.94 KPR

Miyamoto “makiba” Akastuki (Japan)

Agents played (past 60 days): Astra (11), Viper (8)

Signature agent: Viper

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 201.0 ACS
  • 1.37 K:D
  • 0.76 KPR

Maruoka “crow” Tomoaki (Japan)

Agents played (past 60 days): Sova (12), Breach (9), KAY/O (3), Sage (2), Viper (1)

Signature agent: Sova

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 194.6 ACS
  • 1.40 K:D
  • 0.69 KPR

Takebayashi “barce” Ryo (Japan) – Substitute

Agents played (past 60 days): Omen (7), Brimstone (1)

Signature agent: Omen

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 147.7 ACS
  • 1.01 K:D
  • 0.54 KPR

Stage 3 Map Pool

Ascent loading screen. | Provided by Riot Games

Split: 1-0, 100% (63% Attack Round Win, 67% Defense Round Win)

Ascent: 7-1, 88% (72% ATK, 54% DEF)

Bind: 4-1, 80% (62% ATK, 66% DEF)

Haven: 4-1, 80% (56% ATK, 62% DEF)

Icebox: 3-1, 75% (62% ATK, 69% DEF)

Breeze: 3-1, 75% (73% ATK, 50% DEF)

My player to watch: takej

Head shot of ZETA DIVISIONS’ takej. | Provided by ZETA DIVISION

ZETA DIVISION are an exciting team to watch from top to bottom. They’re outliers in how little they use Sentinel agents in their compositions, using the defensive wizards in fewer than half of their Stage 3 games. In a tournament where we have the best Killjoy players in the world, Japan’s champions didn’t play her once through their qualification to Masters Berlin.

And though that can hurt them at times on the backfoot, they made up for it in their region with a whole lot of artillery. ZETA are a team that will fall behind some of the more complex strategic squads in the tournament but have the aim and natural mechanics to make it intriguing with anyone in Berlin.

In contrast to most teams who build around one or two carry players, ZETA DIVISION plays around their three-headed monster of Reita, Laz and takej as the head of their attack-first compositions. Reita has some of the best individual statistics of any Jett player going to Masters Berlin. For Laz, he has been lighting it up on his one-two punch of Skye and Sova, turning the two initiators into quasi-duelists for the group.

To me, though, the most crucial of those three main attackers is takej. An off game on Reita hurts, but there are ways even a poor performance can still open things up for ZETA Division by pushing the pace. If Laz doesn’t have a massive game on Sova or Skye, it’s not the end of the world. Those agents can be influential without piling up the frags.

That’s not the same when talking about Reyna. Takej’s go-to agent needs to get kills and be at the center of the action to make a difference. The astronomical numbers he put up in the Masters Berlin qualifier on Reyna are a vital factor in ZETA being here in the first place. He is the make-or-break player for me on ZETA; as long as he can find his picks with Reyna and get going, Japan’s top team can make things happen.

However, things will start going sideways for ZETA if Reyna gets shut down or takej has an off game or two with his glass cannon. His aim was crisp in the lead up to Masters, and it’ll need to be there at Masters Berlin for ZETA DIVISION to have a chance at playoffs.

The big question for ZETA in Berlin: Can they turn Japan’s hype around VALORANT into actual results?

No one could have predicted how big VALORANT would become in Japan. While shooting games like Apex Legends and Rainbow Six Siege have found traction in a country renowned for its arcade players, VALORANT’s booming popularity and momentum of viewership must be the more pleasant of surprises in the first year of the game’s lifespan.

During the finals between top teams ZETA DIVISION and Crazy Raccoon, over 150,000 viewers tuned in to see the crowning of a new champion. As part of ZETA, the biggest Apex Legends streamers are co-streaming the matches, and the excitement for the game is reaching new heights in a country adopting VALORANT as its own.

The only issue? Japan is the only region that didn’t secure a single map win at the first masters tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland. Crazy Raccoon left empty-handed and, still, the viewership has continued to go up.

This masters, Japan has two teams joining the field, with the all-Japanese side of ZETA DIVISION leading the charge. A playoffs appearance for ZETA in a doable group would be gigantic for Japan and maybe take the game’s popularity to the next level. Another tournament where ZETA and CR stumble and can’t pick up wins could have the opposite effect, cooling off all the goodwill built up through Stage 3’s upward trajectory.

In Berlin, ZETA should be aiming to make playoffs and become the faces of Japan’s new era of esports

zeta division masters berlin
ZETA DIVISION Masters Berlin qualifying graphic. | Provided by ZETA DIVISION Twitter

If there were ever an opening group for ZETA DIVISION to get out of, it would be the one they received for Masters Berlin. They dodged Sentinels, all four EMEA teams, Vision Strikers and even the No. 2 seed from North America in 100 Thieves. Instead, they’ll have to fight Envy, the No. 3 seed of NA, and Brazil and Latin America champions Vivo Keyd and KRÜ Esports.

ZETA aren’t favorites to get out and could still reach the same fate Crazy Raccoon succumbed to in Iceland. However, this is a golden opportunity to escape a reasonable group on paper and prove they’re just as good (or better) than the other smaller-scale region champions.

All stats for this article are provided by vlr.gg

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