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On the third-to-last day of the VALORANT Champions Tour NA Challengers 1 playoffs, OpTic Gaming secured their spot in VCT Masters 1 by beating The Guard 2-0. Later on, Cloud9 beat XSET, meaning that the winner of The Guard versus Cloud9 will join OpTic at Masters 1.

OpTic Gaming sweep The Guard, make it to Iceland

The match started out on Split, with The Guard choosing it. OpTic Gaming chose to run the composition that M3C ran in the VCT Europe, Middle East and Africa region. With Victor “Victor” Wong on the Neon and Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker on Chamber, OpTic brought a relatively new comp to NA. The map proved to be a map of streaks, with each team trading multiple maps in a row. After hitting the halftime even 6-6, OpTic won five out of the next six rounds. Even with their backs against the wall, The Guard ended up winning three rounds in a row to make it close. OpTic then won another two consecutive rounds to win the map 13-10.

With The Guard losing on their map choice, they would have to bring it back on Bind. After starting strong on the first two rounds, The Guard started to dip as OpTic won six rounds in a row. OpTic hit halftime up 8-4, a significant lead against a crumbling Guard team. Without losing a map on defense, OpTic closed the map out and won the series 13-4. This is The Guard’s first 2-0 loss in VCT. As a team that focused on preparing against their opponents, they looked unprepared in both maps. Part of that was due to the surprise picks, but also due to yay’s amazing performances on both maps.

However, even with that tough loss, The Guard still have one more shot to make it to Masters 1, facing off against the winners of the next game in the day.

Cloud9 make a statement against XSET

Next, Cloud9 and XSET fought for their lives as well as a chance to make Masters 1. The match started on Haven, a good map for Cloud9 so far in VCT 2022. It showed in the first twelve rounds; C9 won every single one. The seventh round was especially tough for XSET, as they watched a 5v2 turn into an Erick “Xeppaa” Bach ace. Entering the half 12-0 for Cloud9, the map was essentially over. XSET had to win twelve rounds in a row to force overtime, which didn’t happen. They weren’t swept 13-0, as they fought back to win four rounds in a row, but lost the map 13-4.

Now, going into Split, XSET needed to prove that the first map wasn’t who they truly were. After winning the first two rounds, it was clear that fans were in for a closer map than the previous one. Cloud9 still kept the advantage, winning the next six rounds in a row. Nathan “leaf” Orf on Chamber was keeping the XSET team back, still keeping Cloud9 on top in tough rounds. XSET reached halftime down 5-7, a much better first half than on Haven. The rounds continued to be close, but Cloud9 kept the lead until 10-10. For XSET, Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban started to heat up and win more duels against C9. XSET actually reached map point first after some very clean defenses and won the map 13-11. Map three would decide who would fight The Guard for the final Masters 1 spot.

The final map of Ascent is what it all came down to. It started out similarly to Haven, with Cloud9 taking an early lead. That lead kept growing, hitting 6-0 before XSET won their first round thanks to a clutch round from Rory “dephh” Jackson. But even with that, leaf continued his great form, including an Operator-only ace.

With that, Cloud9 hit the half up 10-2. For XSET, a better first half than Haven but not by much. The map ended up 13-2, and a 2-1 series win to Cloud9. Despite dropping a map to XSET, they only lost 6 rounds on the other two maps combined.

Now, Cloud9 will have to face a team that they beat in groups, The Guard, to make it to Iceland.

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