Back to the Home Ground by Red Bull
This weekend was held the Home Ground by Red Bull, the first major tournament of the year in Europe. Since the First Strike finals, we haven't had many opportunities to see the big European teams play. Many of them have made changes, in player or style. This Home Ground allowed us to take the temperature, a week before the launch of the Valorant Champions Tour in Europe.
G2 Esports, the return of the kings?
The G2 Esports had never lost a tournament before the Valorant First Strike. The loss was a shock for the team who decided to change its coach and its training routines. This led to the departure of Davidp, in favour of Zeek.
It looks like the team is on the right track as they triumphed in the final against Team Liquid. G2 Esports have never looked overwhelmed in the entire tournament, let alone in the final. Even when they lose a map, they win at least ten rounds. The team therefore doesn't lack much to fully dominate.
But now, completely dominating is what the team had accustomed us to during this first year at Valorant. Strange at is may sound, seeing it concede two maps to Team Liquid can seem like a worrying regression. After all, there are more formidable opponents like FunPlus Phoenix and Heretics, which didn't take part in the tournament but will have to be beaten at the Valorant Challengers.
However, let's not forget that G2 Esports is still in the process of breaking-in. Zeek just joined the team, and he's already showing great promise. Able to play Sage, as well as Raze or Reyna, his versatility does G2 a lot of good. He was also capable of becoming the carry that can be counted on for a map's time. While G2 Esports doesn't yet have the game built to reassure us, it doesn't lack individual talent and panache however.
On the side of the other teams
Difficult to make a complete assessment of the forces present on the old continent. But we can still note a few points.
On the side of Ninjas in Pyjamas, the new roster struggled to convince. It lost its first map against Futbolist and the following ones weren't brilliant, although they won in the end. The NiP looked in better shape the next day, but that wasn't enough to beat G2 Esports in semi-final. Note especially Crea's lack of impact in these games.
At Team Liquid, we preferred not to change players, only their strategy and Agent picks (we'll talk about this in our meta point). This seems to be beneficial for the team members, who are starting to get to know each other well and have automatic reactions. They managed to defeat Sumn FC, yet finalists of the First Strike and to play almost equal with G2 Esports.
Guild Esports paid the price for Team Liquid's progress. Bonkar's team was taken out in the first game, losing 9-13 and 6-13. Hopefully, it's just a mistake, because it's a much lower performance than what these underdogs have accustomed us to.
A slow evolution of the meta
It's not just the players who have changed, the Agents too. For several months now, Riot Games have been trying to shake up the meta a bit by rebalancing certain Agents. Efforts that take time to have a real impact on the competitive scene, since things didn't change much in the end.
At the head of the most selected Agents, we find once again the trio Jett, Omen and Sova. Brimestone, who had received many buffs in order to compete with Omen, ultimately didn't achieve the expected breakthrough. He has only been selected 7 times, compared to 32 for Omen.
We can still see some interesting changes. ScreaM seems to have abandoned Reyna, his Agent of choice. She wasn't absent of the tournament though, as it was Zeek who now made her own. We also could see the first picks of Skye, the Agent appearing to be one of Soulcas' preferred picks.
But the best progression is undoubtedly that of Viper. She was the red lantern of all tournaments until recently. However, she seems to have become a pick of choice on Icebox for many teams.
Finally, note that the two heroes of Retake, Yoru and Phoenix, were completely absent from the tournament.
In short, things are moving slowly but surely, both on the balance of power side and on the meta side. This was all just an appetizer anyway before the real fun begins at the Valorant Challengers. This time, all the European teams will take part in this long competitive marathon.