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We said goodbye to our first two teams at VCT Masters Reykjavík today as Japan’s Crazy Raccoon and Brazil’s Shark Esports bowed out of the competition. On the upper-bracket side of things, North America continued its strong showing with Sentinels taking care of business against the other Brazilian side, Team Vikings.
We brought together our experts to discuss who their MVPs so far are, which agents are popping off, and maybe the most important question: Can anyone stop Sentinels?
1. After the first three days, who would you give the mid-tournament MVP award to?
Tyler “Fionn” Erzberger: Though eyes will be towards Sentinels and their run so far, my MVP is going to the in-game leader of the No. 2 seed from North America in Version1’s Anthony “Vanity” Malaspina. The way he’s led a team with a substitute has been fantastic in their first two games. Also, how he orchestrated his troops to tilt Europe’s champions Team Liquid off the face of the planet on Haven to win their upper-bracket semifinal was next level. Vanity, cat ears and all, is one of the best VALORANT IGLs in the world and is becoming a breakout star in Iceland.
Danny “Kovu” Appleford: There will be multiple people that put their MVP to someone on Sentinels, and rightly so, they are on fire at the moment. However, my attention drifts to Version1 who have been able to keep pace with their North American counterparts. After out-sniping the best in Europe, my MVP is Erik “penny” Penny.
Michael Kloos: While Tyson “TenZ” Ngo is in my mind indisputably the best player at the event, he has the benefit of having an incredible team around him with the best IGL available. That’s not to take away from his abilities. If TenZ stays on this trajectory and Sentinels win, he will be the MVP. For now though, I am setting my sights on Erik “penny” Penny or Anthony “Vanity” Malaspina. Penny, of course, is a mechanical monster pulling some impressive stunts, while Vanity runs the team with a stand-in extremely effectively.
Zain Merchant: While X10 may be an overlooked team, Patiphan “Patiphan” Chaiwong deserves the mid-tournament MVP. Although the team lost to Vikings in their opening match, he fragged out hard on Jett and impressed with his innovative Sage walls. Then, against Crazy Racoon, the 17-year-old showcased his ability to play any agent and get kills as he played Viper for the first time. While B is normally a tough site to hold on Haven, Patiphan did it with ease and was a large contributor to X10 winning their match.
Declan McLaughlin: Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan is my mid-tournament MVP. Not only is he the in-game leader for one of the top teams at the event, he has put up incredible statistics. He is top five in average combat score, Kill/Death/Assist ratio, kills per round and ties Team Liquid’s Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen for most kills in one game at 31. Most IGLs complain that calling the shots hinders their in-game performance, that does not seem to be the case for ShahZaM in this tournament.
Yinsu Collins: It’s gotta be Captain America, the saviour of NA esports ShahZaM. Man’s looking like an absolute menace on the Jett and deserves all the credit in the world for leading the charge in North America’s crusade to pursue a trophy. I’m EU all the way, but even I can’t help but love Shahz, if we’re going to lose to anyone, I’m glad it’s him.
2. Which region has surprised you, positively or negatively, the most with their results?
Erzberger: I honestly was expecting more from Brazil. Team Vikings were a team that I had high hopes for coming into the event and thought their matchup with Sentinels would be an all-out war. While they gave Sentinels a tough time to start their series on Icebox, it felt as if they ran out of gas and just couldn’t keep up with the North American champions as the match progressed. Sharks Esports laid an egg by going out in a quick 0-2 fashion and now it’s up for Team Vikings to shake up a rough defeat to keep their Brazilian region alive in the tournament.
For a region just happy to partake, their performance is fine. But for Brazil, a prideful first-person shooter territory, they want to be No. 1 in VALORANT. And how it stands now after that Sentinels game and Sharks being bopped by Latin America’s KRÜ Esports, they aren’t anywhere close to that top spot.
Kloos: I’m not going to lie, everything so far I mostly expected. Apart from Version1 taking down Team Liquid and Sentinels being this overwhelming, things have been playing out pretty much the way I thought they would. So because of that, I’d have to go with NA. Both Version1 and Sentinels are overperforming. And while I considered Sentinels the number one seed, I did not expect things to go this smoothly for NA.
Appleford: I was mostly disappointed by Japan at Masters 2. There have been a lot of powerful rosters to come from Japan and I expected the same from Japan and Crazy Racoon at this event. To see someone like Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom fail to win a single map with his team genuinely confused me. I hope we will see more from them in the future, but for now I don’t have much stock in Japanese VALORANT.
McLaughlin: Japan’s Crazy Raccoon was a let down for me as well. The region is in its infancy, not many shooters perform well in that region, but their individual players kept up with the top teams. What was lacking from the Japanese representatives was comprehensive strategies and strong decision making. Much like X10, I thought they could overcome those failings by just shooting better, but they failed to impress at their first international tournament.
Merchant: Team Liquid has, so far, disappointed at VCT Masters 2. While many have praised their decisions to not run Astra, Astra offers more than any other controller right now. The sole reason their match against Version1 went to map three is due to Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom’s precise aim and 30 kills with Sage on Split, which allowed multiple resurrections for his team. Going forward, Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen Operator needs to find more impact in matches and the team needs to be ready for random aggression: something not seen as much in EU matches.
Collins: I will let Twitch chat handle this one, take it away!
“BR, also known as “Bronze Ranked” are a region known to quickly lose after being overhyped, and reaching airports EVEN FASTER than EU! BR, also known as “Bronze Ranked” are a region known to quickly lose after being overhyped, and reaching airports EVEN FASTER than EU!”
3. Which agent/player combination has impressed you the most through the first three days?
Erzberger: Jared “Zombs” Gitlin and his Astra are a fortress no one in the tournament wants to go up against. When Zombs pulls Astra out on Haven, attacking into his placed stars almost feels like a death sentence as Sentinels have combinations to play into the contact once the opposing team tries to breach into the site. Zombs often finds himself at the bottom of the kill standings for the star-powered Sentinels lineup, but make no mistake, they are nowhere as good without their talisman on the smokes breaking the minds of their opponents. With how strong Zombs and Vanity are on the astral agent, it’s hard to believe some regions believe she isn’t a necessary piece in a majority of compositions.
Kloos: I am impressed by Jamal “jammyz” Bangash on his Viper. Not simply for the individual plays he makes, but for his composure at an event he was not even meant to be at. To slot into a team that plays so well against the top of the world is an impressive feat and I don’t think a lot of people could do it. He had a world class Viper’s shoes to fill and so far, it’s going well. Plus those post plants. Man’s been watching some YouTube tutes.
Appleford: Tyson “TenZ” Ngo’s Reyna continues to surprise me every time I watch him play her. He is the only professional who still uses Reyna in competitive, even if it’s just on Icebox for his team. Reyna, despite the nerfs to her kit, is still a powerful champion and is utilized perfectly by TenZ. I genuinely wish that all the Reyna’s on my team in solo-q were as mechanically gifted as TenZ is.
McLaughlin: Any main Duelist player on Sage is incredibly impressive. Patiphan in their Team Vikings matchup, Munchkin against X10 on their final map and the classic Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom flex to the agent. The way these players push advantages and use the slow orbs are always unique and exciting to watch as the agent was mainly played in a supportive manner previously. Just like the ultimate snowball strategy with Phoenix, Sage’s ultimate is strong when paired with a player that can refund it round after round. Battle Sage is a movement I can get behind at this tournament.
Merchant: Itthirit “foxz” Ngamsaard of X10 may be known as a Sova main, but in his match against Crazy Racoon he showcased his true versatility. On Haven, foxz picked Jett, a character normally played by Patiphan. While casters initially expressed their doubts, he quickly proved them wrong. Foxz found first kills all across the map to provide his team the early advantage they needed to win rounds. Additionally, X10’s match against Crazy Racoon was the first time he had ever played Jett, and he ended second on the scoreboard, showing just how much of an impact his Operator can have.
Collins: There have been some great Jett players in the tournament, but my lord Erik “penny” Penny was greatly overlooked going into this tournament, including by yours truly. It’s rare for anyone to stand out when they’re in a match up against ScreaM but penny went above and beyond and delivered some fantastic Jett performances. V1, on the whole, has surprised a lot of people and I’m glad penny is getting the recognition he so thoroughly deserves now.
4. Sentinels booked their ticket to the upper-bracket final following a thrashing of Brazil’s champions Team Vikings. Can anyone stop them?
Erzberger: They’re not unstoppable, but teams will have to bring their best compositions and gunplay on the day to beat them. Not only have they shown that they can coordinate well with ability usage but that their individual skill can pull them out of sticky situations if things go awry. Team Vikings, a contender heading into Iceland, looked powerless against them for large parts of their series, getting pulled around the map by the North Americans.
I had Sentinels winning it all and am still picking them to raise the trophy on Sunday, but I don’t think they’re impossible to topple. Fnatic, though dispatched in two-straight games by Sentinels, did offer some different looks that could be expanded upon if they meet again. But, as long as Sentinels keep up at this level and don’t get too overconfident, this should be their coronation as VALORANT’s first No. 1 team.
Merchant: In order to stop Sentinels, a few conditions must be met to even have a chance. But, most importantly, Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan’s Operator must be cancelled out. When Sentinels played Fnatic on Icebox, two players of the North American roster didn’t even have 10 kills by the end of the map. But, ShahZaM on Jett ended the map with over 30 kills, most of which were with the Operator. If opponents can keep Sentinel’s economy down and trade out frags, they might stand a chance against the powerhouse North American roster.
Appleford: I have already rode the ‘NA or Bust’ train this far, so I might as well continue. I don’t believe Sentinels will be stopped at this tournament. After incredible performances against Fnatic and Team Vikings, I don’t see any team at Iceland that could dismantle them. That being said, I still think that Version1, or one of the European teams could take a map or two off them in one of the finals. That will be it though, Sentinels look posed to take everything at Masters 2.
Kloos: I believed in Sentinels from the start. I think they’re going to win it all. Can they be stopped? Not in this form. I don’t think any team is up to the task right now. Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan has everybody figured out and even when that fails, they have the mechanical skills to make up for it. Someone is going to have to break all of TenZ’s mice or take out ShahZaM in his hotel room in order to stop them, because there are no breaks on this team.
McLaughlin: Double elimination tournaments are all about adaptation, those who can’t grow get knocked out quick. With both European teams forced into the adaptation process early, I think they can pose a challenge to Sentinels once they meet again. A few of Sentinels’ early VCT tournaments involved losers’ bracket runs because they can morph their style to whatever they need to win. I think there are teams in this event than can do that and challenge them later on.
Collins: In the upper bracket no. In the lower bracket however, I believe we’ll see some juicy redemption stories. At the end of the day, no one will really care about how well you play in a tournament if you don’t win the trophy, and while Sentinels are 100% the favorites right now to lift it, it’s not theirs just yet.