Resumption of the competition – Recap of the VCT 2022 Week 1
The first qualifying round for the EMEA Challengers 1 ended this weekend and we now have the names of the top four teams that will advance to the main event. Guild Esports and BIG will represent Europe, SuperMassive Blaze will represent Turkey and FunPlus Phoenix will represent the CIS. They join the four invited teams that participated in last year's Valorant Champions: Acend, Gambit Esports, Team Liquid and Fnatic.
The qualifiers started on 10th January with an Open Qualifier where over two hundred teams per region competed. For two days, they played BO1 single elimination matches, until four of them got their place for the first Closed Qualifier. Here is a recap of the first week of the competition.
Teams qualified for the Closed Qualifier 1:
- Guild Esports
- Rebels Gaming
- Team Vitality
- SMARACIS Esports
- B8 Esports
- SuperMassive Blaze
- Fenerbahçe Esports
Two upsets in Europe
Qualified European teams
Disqualified: : G2 Esports/Team BDS
In Europe, two slots were up for grabs to participate in the main event. The teams that qualified in the Open Qualifier joined four others teams invited by Riot Games: G2 Esports, Team BDS, Alliance and TENSTAR. These are the teams that accumulated the most points in last year's VCT, but failed to qualify for the Valorant Champions.
These invited teams all fell into the lower bracket in their first match, creating a surprise. G2 Esports and Team BDS were eliminated from the tournament very quickly, losing their matches against Alliance and TENSTAR on a score of 2-1.
In Upper Bracket, Guild Esports won by a wide margin. The team had a near-perfect run, dropping only one map in their semi-final match against Rebels Gaming. They faced Team Vitality in the final and won 3-0, despite a close BO between the two teams.
In Lower Bracket, it was BIG who dominated. Having tipped after losing 1-2 to Team Vitality in the semi-final, the team managed to climb the whole bracket. They event got their revenge against Vitality in the final by beating them 3-0, to finally qualify for the EMEA Challengers 1 main event.
As far as G2 Esports is concerned, the team's poor performance was quickly followed by an announcement from the organisation that Keloqz would be playing in the Open Qualifier 2, replacing Mixwell. It is a change that caused a lot of noise on social networks when it was announced, causing incomprehension from the Valorant community. Indeed, Mixwell is supposed to be the leader of the team and this decision has surprised many. We don't know why the player was replaced, perhaps it was a personal choice, a desire to give Keloqz a chance, a decision by his staff... We may know more in the coming weeks, but we hope to see him playing for G2 Esports again during the 2022 season.
The flight of the Phoenix
Qualified CIS teams
Disqualified: : One Breath Gaming/B8 Esports/Aim.Attack
For CIS, only one slot was available for the main event. The invited teams were One Breath Gaming, 5MOKES, Natus Vincere and KPI Gaming, under the same conditions as for the European teams.
This time, all the teams that qualified through the Open Qualifier were defeated in their first match and moved on to the lower bracket. Aim.Attack and B8 Esports were eliminated in their next match, losing respectively 1-2 and 0-2 against SMARACIS Esports and FunPlus Phoenix.
In Upper Bracket, Natus Vincere and KPI Gaming outplayed all their opponents in turn, before facing each other in the final. In the BO3, KPI Gaming were largely dominant on Bind, the first map of the match, winning 13-5. But the Natus Vincere were not impressed and won the next two maps, 13-11 and 13-9, sealing the BO with a score of 2-1.
Qualified for the Grand Final, Natus Vincere faced FunPlusPhoenix, who fell into the lower bracket in their first match but managed to climb back the whole bracket. They were playing in Europe last year and have just arrived in the CIS. The change of region seems to have worked out well for them as they have been extremely convincing throughout the qualification phase.
Their match against Natus Vincere was played out in a rather eventful BO5. NAVI quickly won three match points by winning the first two maps 13-10 and 14-12. But FPX pulled of a surprise by winning the next three maps and inflicting heavy defeats on their opponents: 13-5 on Breeze, 13-7 on Haven and 13-3 on Split. The team sealed the match with a score of 3-2 and qualified for the EMEA Challengers 1 main event.
With this win, FPX can be considered the best team in the region, but this will have to be confirmed in the main event when they take on Gambit Esports, who are currently the top 2 Worlds.
SuperMassive Blaze still on top
Qualified Turkish teams
Disqualified: : Futbolist/Fenerbahçe Esports/Zero Zone
As with the CIS, Turkey had onlyone spot in the EMEA Challengers 1 main event after the first week of qualification. The invite teams were Futbolist, BBL Esports, Fire Flux Esports and Zero Zone.
Three of these teams won their first matches of the season, but Zero Zone went straight into the lower bracket after being beaten by SuperMassive Blaze 2-0. The latter won all their matches without conceding a single map, before winning the final of the bracket in 2-0 against Fire Flux Esports.
The two teams met again in the Grand Final of the Closed Qualifier, after Fire Flux Esports won against BBL Esports in the lower bracket final. But SuperMassive Blaze again had the upper hand, finishing the match 3-1, including a 13-4 win on the final map.
Why such results?
Some teams created a surprise by falling into the lower bracket very quickly, especially in Europe, where all the invited teams have lost their first match. Others stood out even though they were not particularly well known on the Valorant competitive scene. For example, SMARACIS Esports, 2L8 or Rebels Gaming, managed to qualify for the Closed Qualifier 2.
There are a few changes that are responsible for these performances. Yoru's rework has not yet taken place and Neon, the new Agent, is not yet available in competition, but Chamber has entered the competition. The Sentinel, released a few weeks ago, has been quickly adopted by the professionals and has already been played several times in this first week of qualification, even though he has only just been allowed in tournaments. This is the first time that professional players have taken to an Agent so quickly, probably thanks to the off-season giving them time to get their hands in playing Chamber properly.
The patch 4.00 should be deployed soon and will bring many changes on the balancing of weapons, as well as some modifications on Breeze and Bind. No doubt this new meta will have an impact on the competition. This is a factor that scared many professional players a few weeks ago, especially because of the very punitive aspect of these qualifiers. Indeed, they keep teams out of the competition for several weeks in they fail to qualify for the Challengers main event.
Isn't it kinda messed up that for the upcoming VCT if you lose one open qualifier you're out for the next 5-6 months in terms of riot events? 😅 especially since there's about to be a ton of changes (balances + chamber/yoru rework/new agent).@yayFPS - Twitter
Failing to make top 12 in open 1 means you’re out til early May, and failing open 2 means you’re hard out of Riot events for the rest of 2022. 7 weeks of round robin/playoffs for 12 teams per challengers is overly exclusionary in a region with plenty of teams and orgs invested. I’d understand if franchising had that 12-team format but this isn’t franchising. Like you said, it puts way too much in the hands of a single open qualifier, especially when the meta will be brand new. Potentially puts orgs, players, and coaches in a very insecure spot for ‘22.@itskaplan - Twitter
The next few weeks should be quite eventful and no doubt there will be more surprises in the next qualifying rounds. Four places are still up for grabs for the EMEA Challengers 1 main event.
Which teams will stand out from the crowd? To find out, let's meet on 17th January to follow theOpen Qualifier 2, and on 20th January to follow the Closed Qualifier 2.