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On Sunday, veterans OpTic Gaming faced off against rising rookie squad The Guard to see who would take the title of current best in the North American VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 1 playoff finals. Both teams had already qualified to compete at VCT Masters 1 in Reykjavik, Iceland, but this match would determine both seeding and bragging rights going into 2022’s first international VCT LAN event. Ultimately, it was The Guard who won the grand finals and took the NA crown for Stage 1.

The Guard win the NA VCT Stage 1 playoff finals

While both teams are going to represent North America at Masters 1, whichever took won the grand finals would be able to skip straight to the playoffs stage, rather than having to compete through the group stage. Either team would benefit from such a prize, but The Guard arguably a bit more, given their overall inexperience with international tournaments. Both teams fought tooth and nail to claim that top seed spot, taking the series all the way to five maps.

The grand finals got started on Ascent. The Guard got an early lead, but OpTic were quick to start catching up. Both teams traded rounds pretty evenly up until the twentieth, when OpTic began to hit a groove while The Guard started to slip. The Green Wall ultimately too the first map 13-9.

Icebox was where the Guard started their comeback. At first it looked like OpTic would continue their hot streak, as they won the first six consecutive rounds, but The Guard didn’t just sit back and let it happen. They started stacking up rounds at the end of the first half and used that momentum to push through for the map win, their own 13-9.

Like OpTic on Icebox, The Guard used their winning momentum to take the first seven rounds in a row of Breeze. But unlike their more experienced peers, the rookie squad were able to convert that into a second map win. The Guard looked completely in control on Breeze, easily keeping OpTic at bay to finish the map out 13-2.

The Guard were poised to take the whole grand final on Split, but OpTic had something to say about that. They put up another seven consecutive rounds before The Guard were even able to get on the board. Early in the round, it looked like OpTic were trying to force feed The Guard a taste of their own blowout medicine, but the rookie squad fought back. They brought their score up to a valiant seven rounds, but couldn’t make it any further, falling to OpTic 13-7.

OpTic and The Guard’s Masters seeding fates came down to Haven. OpTic started strong, pulling ahead slightly, but The Guard managed to bring it back, eventually tying things up 9-9. They managed to use this momentum to pass OpTic, reaching an 11-9 lead, but the veteran team quickly took a round back. The Guard reached match point first, but again, OpTic refused to back down, forcing The Guard’s Ha “Sayaplayer” Jung-woo into a three vs. one he wasn’t able to win.

That wasn’t true in the next round as Sayaplayer snagged the Redbull Clutch in another four vs. one situation to take the map and the series. The Guard are the NA Stage 1 champions and will start their run at Masters 1 Reykjavik in the playoff stage, while OpTic will have to play through groups.