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Welcome to the NA Last Chance Qualifier. Sentinels and Envy are already sitting in their ivory towers, sipping on caffeinated energy drinks and ordering Postmates, qualified for the VALORANT world championship in December.
For the third and final NA representative spot at Champions, eight teams will put their lives on the line this week to be the last one standing. The players have flown to Los Angeles to play at an unspecified location. One by one, teams will be eliminated until only the strongest survives, joining Sentinels and Envy at the marquee tournament of the year.
Riot Games has leaned heavily into the battle royale nature of this tournament, even going as far as to send swag bags featuring lighters and baseball bats to the competitors to get them in the mindset of a do-or-die fight.
It’s impossible right now to talk about fights to the death and battle royales without mentioning the hit Netflix series Squid Game, from South Korea, which has smashed worldwide viewership records since premiering in mid-September.
Thus, the only thing to do is preview the Last Chance Qualifier the only way I can: take all the participants in the event and theorize who would be the best at each game played in Squid Game. Who is the strongest? Who is the most agile?
Who, if all 40 starting players were thrown into the ultimate game of life and death, would I put my money on to win it all?
For readers who haven’t finished or even started Squid Game (what are you doing?), there will be no spoilers in this feature except for the games each competitor in the show has to complete to advance toward the grand prize of ₩45.6 billion.
Game 1: Red Light, Green Light
All the players must start at one end of a field with a neutral party acting as a judge. When the judge turns their back, the players can run, trying to cross the finish line. If the judge turns around and sees any movement, those players will be instantly eliminated from the game.
Alright, so we’re starting with a competition among gamers where they need physical exercise to survive. Generally, this would be a death knell. But for the most part, the LCQ participants seem to be in good shape, so I’m confident most would do well.
Overall, though, I’m looking for a player that can keep their calm under pressure — I don’t need any players freaking out when the first player gets eliminated — and maneuver behind some bigger bodies to make it to the finish line.
XSET’s Brendan “BcJ” Jensen and Zachary “zekken” Patrone both jumped out to me as players I think would do well in this competition. Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo, as well, is someone I’d bet on to do well in this game, shiftily staying behind his larger FaZe teammates to make it to the end without much issue.
Winner: Ryan “Shanks” Ngo (Rise)
For my official selection to make it through this gauntlet, I’m going to put my money on Shanks. He thrives in chaotic situations and doesn’t seem like someone that would lose focus with all the craziness happening around him. Don’t let me down, Shanks.
Game 2: Honeycomb
All the players receive a honeycomb candy known in Korea as a dalgona. Each player gets a candy with a different design — triangle, circle, star, umbrella — and they must use a needle to cut out the symbol from the candy without it cracking. If they can successfully cut out the emblem, they move on. If anything chips off from the symbol, they’re gone.
This round is all about precision and the right touch. Anyone who comes into this game overconfident or who tries to use brute force will be gone almost instantly.
Will Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk’s shaky aim be a positive or a negative in this competition? Like the last contest, a FaZe player that jumped out as someone I’d want to bet on is Corey “Corey” Nigra, whose aim is as slick as they come.
Winner: Alex “Aproto” Protopapas (Luminosity)
Aproto has to be the pick here, right? The king of the headshots, I’ve seen so many Sheriff multi-kills hit my social media timeline from this guy that I feel like I’d be foolish not to pick him for this contest. He must have the hands of a surgeon to be one of VALORANT’s best mechanical players, and even if he rolled the umbrella symbol, I think he’d get through it without too much trouble.
Game 3: Tug of War
Two teams meet on opposing scaffolds with a rope in-between them. At the whistle of a neutral party, both parties grab the rope and begin tugging until one team descends from their perch.
We can talk strategy all we want here, but this is all about strength when it comes down to it. In this situation, I imagine that each of the eight teams (all intact after the first two rounds) are playing in this competition, facing everyone else.
I think it’d come down to either FaZe, Gen.G or 100 Thieves in the end, if forced to pick favorites here. This round is a difficult one.
Winner: FaZe Clan
In the end, I’m going to have to give the slight edge here to FaZe. They have maybe the most valuable player in this competition with Andrej “babybay” Francisty at the front, intimidating the opposing side while screaming “SMEAG! FAZE UP!” every five seconds. Once you get to the end of the squad with Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty as the anchor, holding it down for the team alongside their antics, I have to pick the FaZe boys with this one.
Game 4: Marbles
Each player gets paired with another player, creating a duo. Both players receive 10 marbles and are left to their own devices, with the two forced to decide on a game where the first to win all 20 marbles is the winner and the loser is eliminated from the competition.
This game is all about manipulation and how much you can screw with someone’s mind. It doesn’t matter how fast, precise or strong you are in this competition. It’s all about one of the players creating an advantageous playing field for themselves and not letting the other player realize they’re walking into a trap.
Marbles is the round where we look at the in-game leaders. Joshua “steel” Nissan would have been a frontrunner for this game, but he’s not in contention due to his removal from the 100 Thieves starting roster.
For me, I think the real stars of this competition would be Rory “dephh” Jackson and Anthony “vanity” Malaspina. Dephh has all the experience in the world and a British accent to charm his opponents. Vanity would try screwing with people’s minds while wearing cat ears.
Winner: Vanity (Cloud9 Blue)
After watching him destroy the mental of Team Liquid on LAN, I think I have to give this round to Vanity. It doesn’t matter who he’d face off against in the game. I think by the end of the day, he’d find a way to manipulate his opponent into giving up all his marbles without realizing that the guy in the cat ears outsmarted them.
Game 5: Glass Stepping Stone Bridge
Depending on how many competitors survived the previous rounds, the remaining players are brought into an empty white room and asked to pick a number from No. 1 to the last remaining number.
Then, the players are brought to a sky bridge where they must cross a bridge, starting with No. 1 and going down the line. Each bridge segment has two glass panels — one that can support a player’s weight, letting them move onto the next part, and one that will break instantly once the player steps onto it. The players who can make it to the end without falling to the ground are the winners.
Let’s be real here: this game is bullshit. It doesn’t matter who you are (unless you’re a genius glassmaker). You’re losing this game if you choose one of the early numbers. This round entirely comes down to the first half, where the players pick the numbers, with the competitors opting to go first screwed from the start while the players at the back have a chance.
The player who wins this has to be someone like —
Winner: Spencer “Hiko” Martin (100 Thieves)
Who are we kidding? Hiko is winning this. He will select the number in the back, wait for everyone to screw up in front of him and then laugh his way to the goal without breaking a sweat. This game is the easiest pick in the entire contest. Hiko is smart enough not to rush into things, and even if there is a hold-up in front of him, he’s strong enough to make sure he’s not standing by idly while time runs out.
Game 6: Squid Game
The titular game, this is where everything collides inside a squid drawn on the playground. At this point, it all comes down to willpower, strength, manipulation skills, speed, precision and everything else that got the final players to this part.
At the climax of our preview, there are a lot of contenders that we’ve talked about in previous games, which I believe would make it to the end. Hiko, Vanity, Babybay, dephh and more are players that could get to the Squid Game finale and come out as the winner, pocketing the massive money prize and flying off to a life of luxury.
After days of thinking about it, though, there’s one player in the mix that I think would be the ultimate winner with all the chips down on the table.
Squid Game Winner: Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella (100 Thieves)
I could have brought up nitr0 in almost any of the individual round competitions and picked him as a winner. He’s experienced, strong, precise and an expert shot-caller who won’t let the moment get too big for him. On top of all that, he has a kid, which makes him even more powerful due to dad strength.
Nitr0 is the ultimate Squid Game player among all of the LCQ combatants. While maybe not finishing first in every discipline, he’s someone that can make it through all the trials and, once the Squid Game begins, there are few players physically capable of keeping up with him.
Will this help 100 Thieves qualify for Champions? Who knows.
But in this senseless fantasy I wrote out and thought about it for days, nitr0 is the last one standing. Congratulations, nitr0, I’ll make sure Riot Games sends that $34 million to your bank account once the event is over.
Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.