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The VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 Masters champions in OpTic Gaming are out of Stage 2 Masters after losing to FunPlus Phoenix in the lower bracket final. This puts them in third place for the event: a podium finish, but no back-to-back titles. In their first best-of-five in the tournament, they went two maps down and weren’t able to fight back to reverse sweep.

OpTic Gaming can’t get ahead of FunPlus Phoenix

The series began on Split, where FPX went into the half up 9-3. They closed the map out 13-6, and Icebox wasn’t much better for OpTic. A 6-6 half gave OpTic and their fans hope, but only two round wins in the second half made the 13-8 map loss a tough one. Looking back at the series, there was one solace in the four map series they played, and that was the third one.

“We knew that it was a long series and we had a strong Bind, and we reset well on that map,” said in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta. “We have experience in that position in previous LANs, so nothing really fazes us.”

OpTic won Bind 13-6, a reversal of the first map. This could build momentum for the rest of the series, with Fracture up next. Especially with their previous experiences taking what they learn from losses and improving, there was a genuine opportunity for OpTic to run it back. However, even though they were able power through Bind, they couldn’t on Fracture, losing the map 13-7.

“I think for certain maps we tried to play a bit slower, and it worked on Bind,” said coach Chet “Chet” Singh. “That was something we learnt from Paper Rex, playing slower, but Bind was the only place it worked.”

Burnout affects the former title-holders

With Fracture and the series over, OpTic talked about their 2022 season so far heading into Champions. While they did win it all at Stage 1 Masters, this run admittedly wasn’t as creative as last time.

“It’s just hard after deep runs to take a break and head into the next tournament both refreshed and with new ideas,” Chet said. “Going from Iceland to this event, there wasn’t a lot of time to take a good break and make new strats. We ran a lot of similar strats to last time and it hurt us since other teams could be reinventing in that time.”

FNS seconded that feeling, knowing that their run at the top of VALORANT has been as tiring as it was successful.

“We didn’t feel like ourselves all tournament long,” FNS said. “There were a lot of games that were too close, that we should’ve won cleanly if we were at our best. We are a little burnt out.”

Champions the next goal

With this tournament over for OpTic, they’re heading into Champions as one of the crowd favorites. Even without winning back-to-back titles, getting first and third in the international VCT LANs is nothing to laugh at; the only other team that also finished top four in both tournaments is Paper Rex, who could win it all in Stage 2. But, for OpTic Gaming, this Stage 2 Masters loss will highlight their mistakes more and allow them to prepare more for the biggest tournament of the year.

“I just feel like I know a lot about what we need to work on heading into Champs,” Chet said. “It shows against good teams that we’re just not there yet, so it’ll help us in our practices. We’re gonna implement new comps, work around the new agent, all of that. There’s a lot we can work on for Champions.”