2nd November 2020 – 8:22pm
While we are firmly awaiting the European Valorant First Strike, hostilities have already started in the United States. Indeed, the first playoff tournament was held throughout past week. A very important first step, since it sets the tone for what can be expected across the Atlantic.
Let's start at the end. At the end of the first stage, the 16 best teams qualified for the continuation of the Valorant First Strike.
Each of the American First Strike playoff games will be played in BO3. Small teams could not therefore count on luck to achieve upsets on a map. Each victory had to be earned. Getting to the highest levels was therefore already an accomplishment.
The 16 qualified teams are:
While the format of the the Ignition Series varied from week to week, the circuit was mostly a regular venue for high level tournaments. Following its stop, it was more difficult to follow the development of the different teams, in terms of power and control.
A few big names continued to participate in minor tournaments, but the majority of the big teams went under the radar. For some, it was a chance to practice hard without revealing their game, but for others, it was mostly about learning the lessons and making big changes.
We have indeed seen a small transfer window between organisations. Envy recruited Food and Crashies, two players from T1 replaced by DaZeD and Spyder, while 100 Thieves recruited Asuna and Dicey, two players from Immortals. On its side, Gen.G Esports welcomed Shawn, prodigy of the team Moon Raccoons.
In short, the esports scene of Valorant has changed a lot since the last major competition. And that's not to mention the changes to Valorant themselves.
Valorant has also changed. No less than 4 patches have been deployed since the end of the Ignition Series in the United States. Sage has been nerfed (some would say killed), while Breach gained popularity thanks to his new options. On the weapon side, the Operator also took a hit. All of this, of course, requires a certain adaptability.
Fortunately for the teams, Icebox and Skye are not yet available in competition. According to the latest news, Skye will be playable from 9th November, and Icebox from 24th November. However, with the issues related to the deployment of the patch 1.11, Skye's release may be postponed by a week.
By the bye, Patch 1.11 played up during the competition. It caused many bugs among players, even after being taken out. The players of 100 Thieves were victims for example. Two of their players got stuck in left-handed mode while the latter bugs the sniper's aim.
It's already not recommended to deploy a new large patch when a competition is running, especially when it affects the economy and therefore the playing strategies of the teams. If the patch also starts causing server problems and instability, it's even more damaging.
The different balances of the Agents brought some surprises. The compositions have changed, and the disappearance of Sage has greatly accelerated the game. The biggest is undoubtedly the rise of Reyna.
The most snubbed duelist so far, even in the United States, where we see more aggressive gameplay than in other regions. Yet she found her place, slowly and surely, until she finally revealed her potential for First Strike.
It must be said that, on paper, Reyna has many strengths similar to Jett, whether it's her ability to blind or flee a fight after taking a kill with a sniper. Not to spoil anything, Reyna is one of the best Agents during the pistol round and allows her to take a sizeable lead early in the game.
Finally, one should not neglect Reyna's snowball potential. In a tournament like the Valorant First Strike, open to 128 teams, the best of them can be counted on to abuse Reyna and crush smaller challengers.
As we said above, the BO3 format greatly prevented upsets from small teams. This is why the big American teams are almost all in the final ranking.
This does not preclude some surprises. Starting with the victory of Cloud9 Blue, the main team of the organisation. Cloud9 has always been very efficient, but without being up to the big names like TSM or Sentinels. It was against TSM that the team had their tightest game, in the semi-final.
The Sentinels seemed to lose their luster. They, who had won two Ignition Series tournaments and were shaking up the meta two months ago, looked completely overwhelmed against Gen.G Esports in quarter-final (5-13 and 6-13). The arrival of Shawn is probably no stranger to this result, the new recruit was Imperial on Reyna, with 22 kills and a Combat Score of 320 on Ascent.
Another team that seems to have missed out on its tournament: the T1. The structure of Brax is caught up in the turmoil for a while now, but it was genuinely hoping to redress the balance thanks to its recent hires. While it was able to be convincing enough to make it to the quarter-finals, it seemed crippled at times. They may be strong in Defense, but T1 players have rarely been able to create plays when they were Attackers. Shortcomings that Envy took advantage of without remorse. As the Envy team is now made up of 2 former T1, we imagine it raised some hackles...
But the biggest damper has undoubtedly been for Immortals. They failed at the gates of the qualification by being upset by XSET, an esports organisation that was getting into Valorant competition for the first time.
The 16 teams that survived the playoffs will face off again from 4th to 8th November during a qualifying tournament. This is an important step, as at the end of the day, the top 4 teams will qualify directly for the main event of the American Valorant First Strike in December.
The next four teams in the ranking are automatically qualified for the next qualifying tournament from 18th to 22nd November. They won't have to play the play-offs again.
For everyone else, it's back to square one. A new elimination tournament will be held from 11th to 15th November and this time, only 12 teams will be able to progress.
Find all the information and results
of the Valorant First Strike