What went wrong for M3C in VCT EMEA Challengers 1 playoffs
M3C/Gambit Esports arrives at the VCT 2021: Stage 3 Masters Grand Finals in Berlin, Germany.
Gambit Esports arrives at the VCT 2021: Stage 3 Masters Grand Finals in Berlin, Germany.| Provided by Colin Young-Wolff for Riot Games

What went wrong for M3C in VCT EMEA Challengers 1 playoffs

The Masters 3 Champions are out of VCT 2022 EMEA Challengers 1
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VALORANT Champions Tour Europe, Middle East and Africa team Masters 3 Champions were eliminated by G2 Esports in the Challengers 1 playoffs. As the independent version of Gambit Esports, M3C is still amongst the best in EMEA VCT. But, much like other teams who were successful in 2021, M3C failed to get far in the first tournament of 2022.

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A strong start heading into playoffs

When the 2022 VCT EMEA season started, starting off as Gambit Esports, their performance was a continuation of the end of their 2021 season. After winning Masters 3 in Berlin and finishing in second at Champions, Gambit were renowned as one of the best and most consistent teams in all of the regions. So when Gambit started off the Challengers 1 group stage beating Team Liquid 2-0, they met expectations. But after that they hit a speedbump in the form of team FunPlus Phoenix. In a close series, FPX pulled the upset 2-1 win over Gambit.

Both teams ended up going 4-1 in the group, with Gambit finishing in second, but the expectations for both teams couldn’t have been more different. FPX were expected to fight to qualify for playoffs, while Gambit would lock up the first seed. However, FPX ended up locking that first seed up by map differential. Gambit, even after looking good, had a stain on their record and had to enter playoffs knowing that a team could beat them.

A rebrand off of independence

Alas, it wasn’t only the game of VALORANT that was on the players’ minds. Several sports and esports leagues cracked down after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and as a fully Russian team owned by a Russian organization, Gambit were banned from playing in the VCT under their organization’s banner. The people in charge of Gambit ended up giving the team their support to become an independent team dubbed M3 Champions, after their win at Masters 3 Berlin.

The roster remained the same, but the name was different. How much this affected the team is hard to tell, but they were heading into playoffs just after this change.

Playoffs start well, but adversity hits

In their first match in the knockout section of Challengers 1, their series against Guild Esports went according to expectations. As the favorite, M3C swept Guild 2-0 with a great game from Bogdan “Sheydos” Naumov. The first map Fracture was a 13-11 win, but their second map, Bind, was a cleaner 13-6 win. Continuing in the upper bracket, they faced Fnatic in a very entertaining match.

A lot of the entertainment came from the sheer length of the match, with no map having less than 21 rounds. Fnatic picked Fracture first, the map that Guild nearly beat M3C on. While the score was a similar 13-11, it went in Fnatic’s favor to give them the lead. But, on Bind, M3C yet again got the map win 13-8 to tie the series. It was clear that Fnatic were giving M3C more of a challenge, but nobody could expect how Split would go.

After M3C hit the half down 9-3, the 9-3 curse came into effect for Fnatic and M3C fought back to take it to overtime. But, after Fnatic prevented the win nine separate times, they won two rounds in a row and the map 23-21. Out of all the decisions in the game, the choice of Neon for M3C didn’t work well. The series was over, and M3C were in the lower bracket.

This tied the record of longest VCT map in history, which also happened to be on Split in the matchup between TSM and Gen.G last year.

G2 Esports sweeps M3C out of VCT Challengers 1

Going into the matchup against G2 Esports, M3C fought their hardest in the tied longest map in VCT history, but got the bad side of it. Now, they had to face the team that Team Liquid sent down on the first day of knockouts. The pressure was on M3C to fight to the finals through the lower bracket, but G2 Esports had other intentions. Starting on Icebox, the normally defensive M3C looked weak. Going into halftime down 7-5, their attack was only worse. M3C only won three rounds on attack before G2 hit six, as G2 won 13-8.

Yet, like in their matches against Fnatic and Guild, their second map would surely be a cleaner performance. On Bind once again, M3C hit halftime dead even with G2, 6-6. But, after losing six of their next seven rounds, M3C had to fight to win five rounds in a row to just take the map to overtime. This time around, it wasn’t in the cards as M3C lost 13-10 and the series 2-0, eliminated from VCT Challengers 1. Nikita “d3ffo” Sudakov had a series to forget, ending things 0-10 in first kills to first deaths.

M3C, much like other top VCT teams in 2021 like Acend and Sentinels, have faced adversity in Challengers 1. They’ll have to turn it around quickly to continue to fight against the best in not only EMEA but the world for Challengers 2.

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Michael Czar
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.