The word “nice” has become the unlikely rallying cry for what is shaping up to be one of the greatest underdog runs in VALORANT’s short competitive history. The simple word rang out from ZETA DIVISION as they toppled dark horse tournament favorites DRX in the 2022 Stage 1 Masters playoffs.
With the win, the Japanese team is in the top four of Masters, an international LAN event with the best teams in the world. After never making it this far, the minor region has reached new heights.
“When I bring back the experience I have achieved in this tournament here to Japan, I really believe that this will raise the competitive bar in the Japan region,” Yuma “Dep” Hashimoto said in the post-match press conference.
The 21-year-old former Overwatch and PUBG pro also addressed the incredible levels of support his team received from the VALORANT community during their run.
“I really feel the push from all of my fans that cheer for us,” Dep said. “I really have to make our win for them.”
Many counted ZETA out when they arrived at Stage 1 Masters, but they persisted and took down some of the best competition international VALORANT has to offer. ZETA’s charismatic captain, Koji “Laz” Ushida, has practically become the face of the tournament. Every time he and his team cry out “nice!” after a clutch, a new ZETA fan pops into existence.
And still, the international fandom pales in comparison to domestic support for the team. ZETA have well and truly rallied the Japanese audience to their banner, and it’s no surprise considering their unprecedented success. There were around 60,000 people watching the Japanese VALORANT Twitch livestream of ZETA DIVISION’s match with DRX. When the match concluded, it was 5:30 a.m. in Japan.
ZETA DIVISION at Masters
It took time to convince the VCT community that ZETA DIVISION were the real deal, though. Even reaching playoffs wasn’t enough to turn most of their doubters into believers. After all, they’d only beaten a second seed Brazilian team and a weakened Fnatic.
When G2 2-0’d them on the first day of Stage 1 Masters playoffs, many thought the high caliber of the competition had finally caught up to ZETA DIVISION. In the press conference after that G2 match, a much more somber-faced Dep took the mic to answer questions.
“To the new fans that we have from Masters, we would like to show you guys how strong we are with the upcoming matches,” he said.
At the time, his team had a long lower bracket run ahead of them. Dep also said one of the teams they least wanted to face in the lower bracket was DRX.
“I really don’t know who is going to be coming down to the lower bracket, but I definitely don’t want to face against The Guard or DRX,” Dep said.
The Korean team absolutely obliterated ZETA in the first match of Stage 1 Masters. Yet, a different ZETA played against DRX in the second round of the lower bracket. They had found their stage confidence.
At this point in the event, absolutely no one can say the Japanese team has not proven themselves. They took down Fnatic. They took down Ninjas in Pyjamas. They took down Team Liquid. They even got revenge on DRX. And still, ZETA DIVISION will be counted as the underdogs in their next match, and the match after that if they make it that far.
ZETA DIVISION play against the winner of G2 vs. Paper Rex at 4 p.m. ET on April 22.