8th February 2021 – 4:54pm
The Valorant Champions Tour has started in Europe. To say the least, the first step has already been full of surprises. Let's recap Week 1 of the Valorant Challengers EU.
Challengers tournaments end at the quarterfinals. This means that, at the end of each week, we don't have a podium but four tied winners.
The winners of this first edition are:
Ninjas in Pyjamas
The results are very surprising to say the least. Most of the favourites have fallen, some very early in the tournament. We think in particular of Team Heretics, European champions at the Valorant First Strike, who lost in their second game. They were playing against Entropiq, HyP's new team.
It was especially during the final stages that we saw the most upsets. G2 Esports gave way, beaten by Ninjas in Pyjamas in great shape. Guild Esports fell to Monkey Business, potential future OG players. SUMN FC players, who became Fnatic an hour before the launch of the tournament, lost against Wave Esports. Only FunPlus Phoenix managed to honour their favourite title, by beating Team Liquid.
Even though G2 Esports has crushed Ninjas in Pyjamas on Bind and the first half of Split, they weren't able to finish up, let alone stop them on Icebox.
G2 definitely have some progress to make on the Valorant winter map. A few months ago, the team owed their success in part to their dominance over Ascent, securing virtually one point lead in every BO. But from this week's games as well as during the Home Ground, it looks like Icebox is G2's nightmare. They almost lost on it in the round of 16, and they looked completely overwhelmed in the quarterfinals against NiP.
On Ninjas in Pyjamas' side, we can only recognise the rigour of its new team. The players have a real synergy and seem quite comfortable in their different roles. This is something you wouldn't expect so soon from a team that has changed its players so often. We can note the performances of Crea, Jady and Chiwawa, who won most of their duels.
But it's also their self-control that we must recognise. Dominated 8-4 on Split at sides' switch, they were able to come back thanks to an iron defense, very behind but mobile.
The Monkey Business were beaten by SUMN FC in the first round of the Home Ground. Seeing them hurting Guild Esports is therefore a real surprise. Especially so severely. They won on Ascent with a score of 13-4 and on Icebox with a score of 13-9. The game could have even been finished quicker, if Monkey Business had managed to conclude faster once in defense.
More at east on his Reyna than on his Sage, Ellement made short work of old Bonks, with a KDA of 31/14/1 on Icebox.
Before becoming Guild Esports, Bonkar's team were even capable to be a threat to G2 Esports at the height of its fame. But it's been a while since it didn't shine. It's gradually being overtaken by others and we feel that a new wind is blowing on the European scene. Gone are the days of Guild Esports being the outsider capable of creating the surprise.
Wave Esports came out of nowhere, encountering no big team until the final match. Against Fnatic, they lost the first map with a score of 6-13. Everything seemed to be over. Wave was never expected to beat the team that finished second at the Valorant First Strike. And yet.
What impressed about new Fnatic, it was their ability to adopt flexible strategies. Even if they weren't always the best at pure skill, they made up for it with quick and thoughtful decisions. Unfortunately, it's a balance act that doesn't always work... and especially not against Wave, obviously.
Team Wave seemed to play the same game as Fnatic, but better. Little by little, they learn to keep pace with their opponents, even outshining them in every way. So when they arrived on Split, it was their turn to win with a 13-6, including 7 rounds to 0 on attack.
If they can maintain the pace, they could really be very serious competitors in Europe.
Even if FunPlus Phoenix won its BO3 on a 2-0 score, make no mistake, it was a tough battle. Every map ended in overtime, and the victory and loss could go either way.
This match against Team Liquid was by far the most explosive we've seen in a while. Both teams have a rather aggressive style of play, even when they're in defense.
On the Team Liquid side, we can of course count on ScreaM to put on a show. The Belgian player alone has accumulated no less than 63 kills, in just two maps. A real monster, who did feats one after the other.
The FunPlus Phoenix's performance is more consistent, and it's probably no coincidence that they ended up winning. Once ScreaM is killed, things are more manageable, even if the rest of Team Liquid didn't demerit.
For Dimasick, it was his first official tournament with the FunPlus Phoenix. Even if his end of game score doesn't necessarily reflect it, the player was instrumental to the victory of the Phoenixes. He knows Cypher inside out and has been able to track down his enemies and hold the various points solo.
For the four winners, they only have one game left to qualify for the Masters. For all the others, it's back to square one. They will have to go through the play-ins again in two weeks to try their luck again against one of the four winners of this week.
If the Challengers 2 is at least as dynamic and surprising as the matches of this first edition, that sounds promising for the future of the European scene.