24th September 2020 – 10:15am
The qualifications for First Strike came to a close this weekend across the Atlantic. At the end of a new series of tournaments, this time organised by UMG, we now know the 8 teams that will participate in the North American Championship.
There were 16 teams left in the race for qualification. After a Week 3 which seemed to show the dominance of small, org-less teams, the results of this fourth and final week went against that trend. The four big winners are all well-known organisations.
Closed Qualifier 1
Closed Qualifier 2
Of the four qualified in this UMG Closed Qualifier, there are 2 of the teams that failed the Nerd Street Gamers Closed Qualifier. T1 and TSM broke out in a cold sweat sometimes, but finally secured their seats.
On the other hand, it's the cold shower for Cloud9 Blue. With the team winning the very first Strike NA tournament, they ended up losing 2 maps to 0 to T1 in the quarter-finals. Complexity has failed to win a game, despite being a finalist in the Nerd Street Gamers.
It looks like TSM and T1 took advantage of not having to compete in Week 3 to establish new strategies. On the side of TSM, they decided to switch to a composition with 3 duelists: the duo Jett and Phoenix, Wardell and Drone, accompanied by Reyna or Raze, played by Subroza. A more aggressive gameplay that ultimately matches the temperament of the American scene.
Regarding T1, they won over Dignitas, Immortals and Cloud9 Blue. For a team that has had to reinvent itself after disastrous performances in the Ignition Series, this is a real renewal. We could see the team become more aggressive as well, adapting to the local meta, ending up playing two duelists instead of one.
At Immortals, they scared themselves. In the match against T1, one of their player, Shot Up, had to leave the match due to health issues. Replaced at short notice by Shanks, they naturally lost the match against 1, but came back outside the loser bracket. Shanks, accompanied the team for the remainder of the week and allowed the team to eventually qualify.
But what marks the most is the imbalance in the scores of the different matches. Where matches in Europe are played in BO1 (with the exception of the finals) and direct eliminations, the First Strike NA matches are played in BO3 with a loser bracket. We can then see the performance of each team on several maps and it's clear that the results are, to say the least, unstable.
There are some lack of consistency between the teams that are difficult to explain. The semi-final between Immortals and TSM is a good example. Immortals won the first map, Haven, on a score of 13-2. A very impressive performance... but which is followed by a loss on Split by a score of 6-13. In the other semi-final, FaZe Clan managed to beat T1 on Bind on a 13-4 score. Immortals could also be seen inflicting a solid 13-3 on Dignitas, or TSM winning the tournament 13-3 against FaZe Clan on Ascent, after losing 6-13 on Split. And the most surprising thing about it is that these hands down victories were mostly won when the map was chosen by the opponents.
Throughout the week, we were able to witness expeditious stomps. The American scene is rich in talented players, but the performance of its teams is very volatile, and this tournament has put that point forward than ever. You would expect to see teams at balanced levels playing close games more regularly, but that doesn't seem like the norm. It's hard to pinpoint where exactly the problem is right now, but these are things to watch out for.
As for teams that qualify for the Valorant First Strike EU, teams now have two weeks to prepare for the championship. It will take place between 3rd and 6th December. We are now awaiting news from Riot regarding the exact format and tournament bracket.
Find all the information and results
of the Valorant First Strike