OpTic Gaming aim to put North America back on top at Stage 1 Masters
OpTic Gaming VALORANT's Marved and Victor "Victor" Wong huddle up at Stage 1
Marved and Victor "Victor" Wong huddle up at Stage 1 | Provided by OpTic Gaming.

OpTic Gaming aim to put North America back on top at Stage 1 Masters

The second place NA team reaches top four, aim to win it all

Upsets seem to follow OpTic Gaming. When the team was one of North America’s only hopes heading into VALORANT Champions 2021, a 2-1 loss to underdog team X10 Crit took them out of the tournament. Then, after being forced to wait for redemption until 2022, they just barely lost to The Guard during the 2022 Stage 1 Challengers 1 playoffs, 3-2. However, since arriving at VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 Masters, OpTic Gaming have proven they’re a different, stronger squad.

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“I think that performance at Champions was a disappointment, but not indicative of the team,” said caster and analyst Mimi “aEvilcat” Wermcrantz. “At the time, Victor had COVID and the team was rough… They look even better than they did when they reached second in Berlin. Even when they take losses, I have a lot of faith for them to bounce back, especially since they’re all together in Iceland.”

The road to playoffs wasn’t easy

OpTic built up that ability to bounce back by creating and adapting new strategies from around the World. This new approach helped them fight through the hard road to Reykjavík. That road required going through strong NA teams like Cloud9, Sentinels and XSET.

“They were never one of those meta innovators,” aEvilcat said. “But with OpTic being that team that introduced a more effective version of Chamber and Neon to NA, it’s another example of how this team can find its way into the forefront of the meta.”

That’s why OpTic’s first match during the Stage 1 Masters group stage against XERXIA Esports, formerly known as X10 Crit, raised questions. How, after developing so much as a team, could OpTic lose 2-0 to the same team that beat them at Champions last year?

“I want to say that we’re still confident, but that loss sucks,” OpTic’s Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker said after the loss. “All we can do is look back, see what went wrong and learn from it. As for our upcoming match against KRÜ, I know it’ll be a hard match if we face off against them if they play as well as they did at Champions.”

Down but not out

Finally, the OpTic that had learned from past mistakes showed up in their match against KRÜ Esports. Their opponents were nothing to scoff that, especially after a great run at Champions 2021, eliminating fellow NA team Sentinels. But, heading into Stage 1 Masters, KRÜ Esports didn’t look as strong as they did at the end of 2021.

The two teams met each other after losing their first game in the group stages, with the loser heading home. Out of the two teams, OpTic showed their resolve by sweeping KRÜ 2-0, preserving their chance at redemption. Yay in particular came back to form, leading both teams in key stats like kills and average damage per round. When fans compared OpTic in their first and second game, it looked night and day.

“We took more of our time in our KRÜ match in comparison to the XERXIA game,” said in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta. “We haven’t played LAN in a while, and we were rushing a lot of the fights in our first game. So, we calmed down for this match and it worked out.”

Then came the ultimate test: a rematch with XERXIA to determine which team would reach the playoffs. As much as they made rushed mistakes during their first series, OpTic’s second showcased the sort of calculated aggression that many expected since their post-Champions growth. 

Victor “Victor” Wong, who struggled through a COVID-19 infection when OpTic Gaming played X10 at Champions, even stood out by playing his new signature agent, Neon, throughout the series. That choice was key to their victory, which set up another shot at revenge in the process. 

OpTic hit their stride in the playoffs

Now the group stages are over. OpTic Gaming have used their experience to make a deep run in Stage 1 Masters. It all began with a familiar foe: The Guard. After losing to them in the NA Challengers final, it happened to be that they were their first opponent at Masters. It didn’t start out clean for OpTic, who despite winning Icebox 13-7, ended up losing Haven 13-7. That took them to map three, but OpTic managed a comeback down 10-4 on Fracture off a great performance by FNS to secure the series.

OpTic Gaming Marved VALORANT
Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen celebrates after win at Stage 1 Masters. | Provided by OpTic Gaming.

After that big win, they faced off against the top team in Korea, DRX. DRX also looked like a competitive team, making it through the group stage as OpTic did. It showed in the matchup between the two teams, with the first map of Icebox going to DRX 13-8. Even crazier, the next two maps were extremely close wins for OpTic, 13-11 and 15-13. This win put them in a prime position, guaranteeing them top four in the tournament.

“A playoff run should be a fairly assured thing for OpTic,” said aEvilcat before the tournament began. “Beyond that, I don’t expect this team to win it all but the chance to make it far. Top four, I think, is reasonable for OpTic.”

Now, OpTic has secured their spot in the top four of Stage 1 Masters. The team will have to face Brazilian superteam LOUD in the winner’s bracket finals for Stage 1 Masters on Friday. OpTic have won both of their games in close fashion, which LOUD has done the opposite. LOUD looked like the best team in the tournament with their two sweep wins. Whether OpTic Gaming beat LOUD and reach their second international final or they fall to fight the winner of Paper Rex and ZETA DIVISION, they have already proven that upsets are in their favor during Stage 1 Masters.

Author
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Michael Czar
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.