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In the first series of VALORANT Champions 2022, Copenhagen finalists Paper Rex beat EDward Gaming 2-1 in the Chinese team’s international debut. Despite the differences in paths to Champions, the two teams fought in a rollercoaster series, but Paper Rex got the upper hand.

Pearl throws Paper Rex off-guard

After the map bans came through, EDG confirmed that Pearl would be the first map of Champions 2022; this would be the map’s international debut. EDG started strong, getting an early lead, but some timeouts from Paper Rex brought them back. In retrospect, it was clear that Paper Rex were a bit surprised around the map pick, but gained their footing as it went on.

“It’s something we didn’t expect, but we were prepared for it,” Benkai said. “As the map went on, it’s clear that both teams were a bit unrefined, but that’s good for us. We can learn from that.”

Ending the half tied 6-6, the teams remained close but Paper Rex took the lead and won the map 13-11.

EDward Gaming own Icebox, but fall on Haven

Icebox was a stomp from EDG, a 13-5 win after a 10-2 half. Out of everyone on EDG, both Zheng “ZmjjKK” Yongkang on Chamber and Guo “Haodong” Haodong demolished the lobby. Their teamwork and clean shots were a response to their performance in map one, where they felt like they could win.

“I think we’re full of energy,” Haodong said, “and after losing Pearl, we concentrated on Icebox to win that map. That was a big map win for us.”

It all came down to Haven, where a 7-5 half for Paper Rex put them in a slight lead. Three big rounds from Paper Rex to start the second half put them in a commanding 10-5 lead, and they never let it slip. They got the map 13-7, and the series 2-1. EDward Gaming, despite keeping it close with a substitute player, couldn’t manage the upset. The worst part, according to Wang “nobody” Senxu, was that Paper Rex didn’t play as well as they expected.

“First of all, we watched a lot of their tournament replays to prepare for them,” nobody said. “I just wanted to clarify that Paper Rex didn’t have their best performance today, they’re going to come back stronger for their next match.”

Nobody made some big plays in the series, with the first ace of the tournament on Icebox.

Even with that performance, Paper Rex was prepared for what EDG did on Haven. Looking back, Paper Rex’s coach Alexandre “alecks” Sallé saw an opportunity, using EDward Gaming’s limited VODs from their East Asia LCQ victory to build an idea of what EDG plays like, helping lead them to a win.

“Metas change, so I try not to look too far in the past,” alecks said. “For EDG, I feel like those recent LCQ VODs are a good idea of how they play right now. On Icebox, it was getting frustrating cause they were just hitting everything, but we just rebounded for Haven.”

Both teams look confident for the future

As for EDward Gaming, this loss wasn’t the end of the world; after all, they faced a tough opponent, a finalist from a previous event. This performance, if anything, is giving them confidence heading into their next match in the group stage.

“Knowing that PRX got second coming out of Copenhagen, we have a lot more confidence knowing we almost beat them with a sub,” nobody said. “The more we play, the better we’ll get. Right now I have a lot of confidence in our team that whoever faces us in the lower bracket, we’ll win.”

With the win over EDward Gaming, Paper Rex will face the winner of Leviatan and Team Liquid to see who qualifies first to the playoff stage of Champions 2022. EDward Gaming are still in the competition, but need to win against the loser of that same series and then beat another squad to make it to the playoffs.

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