North America is the first of the six different regions to reach top three after OpTic Gaming defeated Korea’s DRX in an immensely close upper semi-final of the VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 Masters on Sunday.
With six teams left from six different regions for the first time in VCT history, both teams battled for their region’s honor. OpTic continues to the upper final for a match-up against the winner of EMEA’s G2 Esports and Brazil’s LOUD, while DRX will join Japan’s ZETA DIVISION and Asia Pacific’s Paper Rex in the lower bracket.
Ahead of the tournament, OpTic were considered one of the favorites to win it all, but immediately started facing resistance. Their upper semi-final match was no different, with DRX causing headaches right from the get-go, but ultimately they did not throw OpTic off their game.
DRX blaze out the gates on Ascent
While they could be considered underdogs versus a team like OpTic, DRX have had good performances at this event after wins over ZETA DIVISION, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Paper Rex. They immediately continued that strong form against OpTic in the semi-final. In the first six rounds, DRX only allowed OpTic the bonus, and come half-time, they were up 9-3. OpTic seemed to have no answer to DRX’s reads and struggled to build a comfortable economy. Going into the second half, OpTic had a gargantuan task ahead of them as they switched to attack.
The second half started with some highlight pistol plays by DRX’s Kim “Stax” Gu-taek and OpTic’s Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen, and ultimately it was DRX who simply continued to build their lead to 11-3. It was here when OpTic started punching back, winning the following two and forcing DRX into two more eco rounds to make the map less one-sided at 11-8.
However, despite hitting a headshot through a box as Goo “Rb” Sang-min was defusing, Marved was unable to stop DRX from going up 12-8 as he ran out of bullets. The following round was done and dusted quickly for a 13-8 win for DRX. OpTic’s resurgence came just too late.
OpTic improve and take Icebox
OpTic tried to turn the tables in the opening on Icebox defense by winning the pistol and following round. However, they played with fire and got burned as they tried to deny DRX their bonus with a full buy in round 3. OpTic’s Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker immediately lost his Operator as he missed Kim “stax” Gu-taek by mere pixels and looked like it should have been a kill, and gave DRX their chance to level the playing field.
Rounds continued to go back and forth after that. Compared to Ascent, it was an improvement for OpTic, but DRX refused to get rattled. DRX’s many post-plant utilities proved troublesome for OpTic, which led to only a single defuse. The teams finished the first half 7-5 in favor of DRX.
Losing the opening rounds of the second half, OpTic’s bonus round proved critical. A round loss at 9-5 would almost certainly snowball into a series loss, so OpTic taking round 3 with just one death kept them in the race. Then, in round 17, OpTic got away with another vital round as the spike went off with 00.04 seconds left on the defuse, bringing the score to 8-9.
At 12-10, OpTic looked in position to close out map two when they were on match point with yay and stax in a 1v1. However, it was once again stax winning that battle, bringing the score to 12-11 and forcing an OpTic timeout as the map win had just been denied. That timeout proved valuable as OpTic simply won the next round flawlessly and closed out Icebox.
Split decides the battle between DRX and OpTic
On Split, the pistol round once again went to DRX, bringing the head-to-head to 4-1 in favor of DRX in pistol rounds this series. But, OpTic quickly broke DRX’s economy again and made DRX’s wins expensive. In turn, DRX punched back with strong attack strategies and flawless rounds. It proved an omen that we had a close final map on our hands. The first half ended level at 6-6.
In the second half, OpTic brought back the pistol score to 4-2, particularly thanks to shooting by yay with Chamber’s Headhunter. Austin “crashies” Roberts followed that up with an ace to let OpTic go up 8-6 into DRX’s bonus round. DRX’s Kim “Zest” Gi-seok got inspired by that ace with a 4k in the following round. The second half remained close, with both teams playing at peak ability to take rounds off each other. It took until 9-9 for OpTic to break away, reaching 11-9 and wrecking DRX’s economy in the process, but DRX had different plans. With just pistols and utility, DRX won the following round against a fully decked-out OpTic and reversed the roles by breaking OpTic’s economy. 11-11.
OpTic won the vital next round, keeping most of their guns and going up 12-11. Had they lost, their economy would put them in a pickle. But DRX wasn’t out just yet. Their thrifty round from earlier had given them the money for a full buy to save their lives. And that’s exactly what they did. If any series deserved an overtime, it was this one.
Overtime for the series
The first overtime round went to OpTic, who fought hard in a 10-man brawl on A-site. The site became a chaos of utility and OpTic were a win away from taking the series once more. But this is DRX versus OpTic we’re talking about. It wouldn’t be over that easily and with important kills by Zest and Kim “MaKo” Myeong-kwan, DRX brought it back to 13-13.
However, after losing the next round once more, DRX were on the back foot again, and this time it was OpTic who took the attack round for a 15-13 score and progression to the Upper Finals.
DRX will face ZETA DIVISION in the lower bracket while OpTic will take on the victor of the LOUD vs. G2.
About the Author
Michael Kloos is a Dutch esports journalist and enthusiast with a particular like of Rocket League and VALORANT. He is also an avid fantasy/sci-fi reader and writer. He spends most of his time trying not to be in the real world.