17th May 2021 – 4:23pm
Only one week to go before the start of the Valorant Masters 2 in Reykjavík ! Following on from our article on Valorant in Asia, we now turn to the North American scene. The latter consists of the United States and Canada. How has Valorant been received in the region and which 2 teams have qualified for the first international competition of Riot's FPS?
Valorant has been well received by professional players of other competitive shooters. Many players have transitioned to Riot's FPS and the majority of them are from CS:GO and Overwatch. This is partly due to the fact that professional scenes of these games are losing interest. This is particularly true for the Overwatch scene with the Overwatch League losing more and more of its audience. On Valorant, on the other hand, almost all of the large organisations have a team participating in the VCT. In contrast to CS:GO, the circuit is open to all teams that want to compete.
Moreover, Riot's experience in esports with League of Legends can only reassure players on the professional scene of Valorant. This includes the financial aspect, as Riot has proven with League of Legends that it knows how to invest in big cash prize tournaments. For example, there was $2.34 million to be shared out during the last World Championship. Again, Valorant offers better prospects than CS:GO in the region, unlike the European scene for example, which is still living well.
Valorant is also very popular on Twitch thanks to streamers like Shroud, Ninja or Pokimane gathering tens of thousands of people on their teams. On the esports' side, co-streaming is allowed for the VCT in the US. It's not uncommon to have more people watching competitions on Shroud's live stream that on the official broadcast. Having such ambassadors undoubtedly boosts Valorant's aura in North America.
However, Riot still has some work to do before Valorant establishes itself as a leading FPS in North America. Indeed, lag issues between the East and West coasts impact the competition and this can lead to conflicts, as we saw with 100 Thieves and Immortals. This is an issue that needs to be addressed if Riot wants the competitive scene in their FPS to grow significantly.
The American esports scene is often more feisty and gritty than others. CS:GO players relied more on the skill inherited from other games than on the specifics of Valorant. The duelists thus offered them perfect tools for direct combat. This is why we saw a triple duelists meta take hold in the early days of Valorant. However, those days are gone. North American professionals have gradually calmed down and adopted more thoughtful play-styles.
We now see the omnipresence of Sova, still the most played Agent in the Challengers Finals (79,7%) and in the two Challengers of Phase 2 (76.3% and 81.3%). Controllers such as Viper and Astra have established themselves comfortably in the professional scene. The latter was chosen 71.6% of the time in the Challengers Finals. American professional players have finally started to embrace the tactical possibilities offered by Valorant. Strategy has taken over from raw skill, unlike before.
The two North American teams at the Reykjavík Masters are Sentinels and Version1. If it's not surprising to see Sentinels at this level, Version1 is a different story. While teams like Envy or 100 Thieves were expected at the Masters 2, the team founded last February has qualified.
Best player: TenZ
Best Map: Split (WinRate 80%)
Worst Map: Bind (WR 68%)
Preferred side: Defense
The Sentinels are largely dominant on the American Valorant scene, having won the first Masters as well as the Challengers Finals. This team is one of the most aggressive and does not hesitate to attack the points in great numerical superiority, without necessarily trying to hide its intentions. It remains to be seen whether this game plan will work in the next Masters and if it will allow them to shine on the international scene.
At Sentinels, TenZ is clearly the most talked-about player, and for good reason, he is often considered the best player in North America. Since his transfer from Cloud9 Blue, Sentinels have won the NA Masters 1, the Phase 2 Challengers 2 and the Challengers Finals. While TenZ is a force to be reckoned with thanks to his Jett and Reyna, his teammates also have a very high level. SicK for example, can play almost any role and can adapt to a variety of situations.
Best player: Penny
Best Map: Icebox (WR 88%)
Worst Map: Bind (WR 25%)
Preferred side: Defense
It's surprising to see Version1 at this level of competition. Indeed, it's a young team (founded at the beginning of February 2021) which did not particularly shine before the first Challengers of Phase 2 where it finished 4th, thus obtaining a slot for the Challengers Finals. In the Challengers Finals, Version1's performance was impressive. The team made it all the way through the loser bracket to the final, securing a spot in the Reykjavík Masters.
For this, Version1 can count on Penny. The former CS:GO player is wreaking havoc on his Jett on Raze. The Canadian has the 4th best ACS of the Challengers Finals with 247,2. The team can also rely on the game sense of Vanity on Astra or Omen, as well as the Sova of Effys. It's up to them to prove that they didn't get to the Masters 2 by chance!