The 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour season has officially begun across the world.
Over here in North America, reigning league champions Sentinels will be putting their domestic crown on the line against 11 opposing organizations over the next two months in VCT. The top two teams will qualify for the first international event of the year, Masters, where they’ll take on the best the rest of the world has to offer en route to the world championship later this fall.
Every Monday, I will unveil my weekly power rankings for the teams in VCT North America as we move towards the playoffs and the championship final.
After an opening slate of games, here is my hierarchy.
1. Cloud9 (2-0)
In the highest-level match we’ve seen so far in VCT North America, C9 toppled XSET in a fantastic series between two domestic giants. Along with keeping their No. 1 spot in our rankings, they continued their ownership over Breeze, moving to an all-time record of 15-1 on the tropical map.
2. Version1 (2-0)
It is impossible to overlook Version1 following their first two weeks of VCT North America regular season play. After crushing through the open qualifiers to make it into the main event, they’ve stomped the Pittsburgh Knights and Rise in back-to-back weeks to put themselves at a +34 round differential (tops in the league) heading into a week three clash with winless NRG Esports.
3. Sentinels (2-0)
I’ll give Sentinels one more week of a pass with their whole ‘let’s drop the first map before coming back’ strategy that has been their identity through the first two weeks of the season. While a few teams below them have impressed more, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt one final time as they head into a heavyweight title fight with rival Optic Gaming next weekend.
Oh, and Tyson “TenZ” Ngo is reminding everyone he’s still one of the best players in the world, going +19 against NRG in week one and one-upping himself with a +21 versus the Knights this past weekend.
4. XSET (1-1)
Although not perfect, they took my top team to the edge and played some fantastic VALORANT while doing so. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it: the young duelist combo of Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban and Zachary “zekken” Patrone is money. If they can continue finding their chemistry together, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in North American VCT competitions for months and possibly years to come.
5. The Guard (2-0)
Could The Guard be actual contenders to make it to Masters? Although they’ve avoided their group’s top dogs C9 and XSET thus far, at this point, you’d have to group them closer together with that duo than the teams under them in Luminosity Gaming (beat them), 100 Thieves (beat them), and Evil Geniuses (winless). Trent “trent” Cairns also might just be the best player in the world if he can keep up this blistering form for the rest of the season leading into the playoffs.
6. Optic Gaming (1-1)
Welcome back, Optic. Week one’s loss to Rise seems to have been more of a rusty start than a beginning of a slump. What could have been a tough series with a dangerous NRG squad on Saturday turned into a bit of a blowout. Optic beat them first 13-7 on Icebox before taking to their home ground of Haven, where they glided to a 13-5 victory. All eyes will now be on their upcoming match with Sentinels, which Optic will need to win if they have any hopes of ending first in their group for the playoffs.
7. Rise (1-1)
While Optic’s stock rises, Rise’s, well, falls a bit following a week two that saw them get smacked around by an on-fire V1 squad. Although you could make the argument that the week one win over Optic was a bit of a fluke, there’s another question — what if V1 just so happens to be the best team in NA right now and Rise got trounced by the absolute best?
I am still hopeful for the Rise team. They struggled a bit in the qualifiers and didn’t look at their best versus V1, but they have a favorable matchup with the Knights coming up. If they lose that match, then not only will they be torpedoing down our rankings, but more importantly, their playoff hopes are going to start looking dire.
8. Luminosity Gaming (1-1)
If you’re looking for a team carried by a star player, LG isn’t probably your best choice. None of their players are in the top 15 of Average Combat Score in the league. Yet, their frags-by-committee mantra doesn’t mean they can’t make the playoffs, as they beat Evil Geniuses in week two through three different players all recording 50+ kills in their three-match win.
I’m keeping my eye on Adam “mada” Pampuch. While the new-look LG is still getting used to their roles and playing together, he could be one of the team’s breakout stars in the flex duelist/secondary carry role with how well he’s shown up on Raze far.
9. NRG Esports (0-2)
Maybe I’m overrating them a bit, but I still really like NRG and the team they have. They were a bit unlucky in week one to lose to Sentinels and then ran into a buzzsaw Optic side looking to make up for their own follies in the opening round of games. Though the room for error now is almost zero, they still have enough firepower to make it out of the group if they can right the ship.
The bad news? They don’t get a breather in week three. Instead of the Knights or a Rise team coming off losses, they get a red hot Version1 who wants to prove they are the top dogs of Group B over the established hierarchy of Sentinels and Optic.
10. 100 Thieves (0-2)
It’s never a good thing when your founder tweets that a loss is unacceptable after a game. Week one’s failure was waved off for it being against a juggernaut in C9, but the 1-2 defeat to a newly founded The Guard is going to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of Thieves fans who were hoping to see international play this spring.
Maybe there were some silver linings, but those were all ripped away when The Guard not only took the final map of Ascent over 100 Thieves, but beat them 13-0, denying them a single round win. With XSET still on the menu in two weeks, their upcoming match with LG is almost a must-win situation already for one of the most popular VALORANT sides in the world.
11. Pittsburgh Knights (0-2)
Last week, I was harsh on the Knights and felt like a small bump in the rankings was deserved with their map win over Sentinels. Playoffs seem to be a longshot at this point, though that could change fast if they can beat Rise in their week three matchup. The Knights have a young team; even if they can’t go far this season, the experience they’re gaining now should do them well looking towards the summer and Champions qualification.
12. Evil Geniuses (0-2)
EG really needed that win against LG. It was a matchup of two teams needing a victory to keep their playoff hopes intact, and EG now sits at an 0-2 record staring down the barrel of a date with Cloud9 in week three. It doesn’t get any easier the following week, with the supercharged The Guard awaiting them. Who would have thought their last match, 100 Thieves, could be the easiest remaining on the schedule?
For the Geniuses to keep their playoff dreams realistic, they need a major upset against C9. Crazier things have happened in VALORANT. Let’s hope they don’t try to take them to Breeze as XSET did.