Around the time VALORANT was launched as a full-fledged title, besides shouldering the fact of it directly competing with other major FPS titles for popularity and prominence, most people in the esports scene speculated as to which identity it would undertake.
Whereas there is reason to believe the established regions would wrest control of the game just as they did elsewhere on other platforms, there is also the expectation that they can be contested and subsequently beaten by other regions that don’t pose an equally storied track record of success. This comes in the form of a standout squad taking results off stronger opponents, a familiar trait that presents a threat to anyone that underestimates them.
Such examples from the VCT that illustrates the possibility of a drastic shift in the competitive hierarchy include NUTURN Gaming’s Top 3 finish in Masters: Reykjavik 2021, KRÜ Esports’ semifinals run at VALORANT Champions, and Southeast Asia sending two teams to the knockout stage in Champions when few expected them to. Less than two years have passed since the game’s inception and it has galvanized other regions outside of the traditional powers to continue consolidating their infrastructure to achieve continued success.
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Even so, pleasant as it may be to see the rest of the globe become further infatuated with VALORANT, it’s important to remain aware of the regular powerhouse’s likelihood to restore control of the game, thus permeating the scene with a level of parity that is equally exciting and taxing.
Such was the state of the game when Masters: Reykjavik 2022 began. With virtually every region each staking a claim to their pending excellence, the stage was set for another compelling VCT tournament, and after two weeks of heart-stopping action, that was exactly what happened. It was in the Icelandic capital where multiple exhilarating storylines materialized for the event’s participating teams.
ZETA DIVISION, a Japanese team whose region’s VCT history accounted for just one series win prior to Reykjavik 2022, assembled a deep run that shattered all notions regarding their region’s deficiency, finishing in third place after defeating Team Liquid, DRX, and Paper Rex in the playoffs.
Undoubtedly, ZETA’s run sparked immense Japanese interest in VALORANT. On top of being a worldwide trending topic on Twitter, ZETA raked a peak viewership of 841,291 people in the tournament (against OpTic Gaming in the lower bracket finals), the highest by far that features their region. Most importantly though, ZETA inspired the region of their gleaming potential with the game, and with its players distinguishing themselves as a formidable unit, they are poised to continue doing just that in the future.
Despite their previous disappointment in Masters: Berlin where they crashed out in the group stage, Paper Rex reaffirmed SEA’s credibility as a strong VALORANTregion by finishing in fourth, all while having fun in the process. Whether it is by sporting costumes on stage or clicking on heads, PRX did everything and anything to continue garnering respect for their region.
In the FPS sphere, Brazil has a recognized as an indistinguishable power that fields world-class teams and holds various titles, but with VALORANT, it had been unable to translate that success there. The farthest it could muster in the VCT was a Top 6 placement in Reykjavik last year and consecutive 9-12th finishes in Berlin and Champions.
Thankfully, that grim trend of mediocrity changed for the better with LOUD’s runners-up finish in Iceland. As if happening overnight, the trademark Brazilian fervor that personifies its fans and teams finally reached the VALORANTlandscape, fully embracing it after an excruciating delay.
Meanwhile, despite being known as the best region in VALORANToutright, EMEA saw their worst performance in VCT history with their teams finishing at or below the Top 6. This was the result of a flurry of issues that ravaged the EMEA contingency like the absence of FunPlus Phoenix–which admitted Team Liquid despite them not qualifying in the Challengers playoffs–and notable players such as Derke of Fnatic, widely regarded as one of the region’s best players, being unable to play on LAN due to testing positive for COVID-19.
Irrespective of the speculation surrounding what could’ve been for certain teams had circumstances gone differently for them, nearly every team had its opportunity to shine and a sizable number of players broke out to become unmistakable staples of the tourney. With everything seemingly happening at once, it looked as though the tournament would see an unlikely winner that would present a fitting end to the occasion.
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In the end, it was OpTic Gaming standing atop the scene as its best team. After an underwhelming Champions showing, the team rebounded in emphatic fashion through an impressive run in Iceland.
Victories over KRÜ Esports and XERXIA in the group stage sent them to the playoffs, where they continued their momentum unabated. Starting with a win over fellow NA counterpart The Guard, OpTic bested DRX and ZETA before vanquishing LOUD in the grand finals after initially losing to them in the upper bracket finals.
Ultimately, North America reasserted their superiority just like Sentinels did a year ago, withstanding a resilient opponent in a tough series that included two overtimes and various close calls. Whether OpTic’s assertion to the throne can continue in Stage 2 of the VCT or not remains to be seen, but for now, their coronation following another incredible tournament serves as additional evidence for the proliferation of excitement revolving around VALORANT esports. One thing is for certain though, after all this, VALORANT esports is in a great state.
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