Last updated: Dec. 7
VALORANT Champions is underway, and the playoff field is starting to take shape. Sixteen teams entered the first-ever VALORANT world championship, but only eight will make it out of their groups and on to the playoff bracket which begins Wednesday, Dec. 8. The grand final will be Sunday, Dec. 12. Each group winner has been drawn into different quarterfinal matchups, and each is set to face the runner-up from one of the other groups. To keep you up to date, here is how the quarterfinals are shaping up and how each of the eight playoff teams made it out of their group.
Acend vs. Team Secret | Dec. 8 | 12 p.m. ET
Team Liquid vs. Cloud9 Blue | Dec. 8 | 3 p.m. ET
Gambit Esports vs. X10 CRIT | Dec. 9 | 12 p.m. ET
Fnatic vs. KRÜ Esports | Dec. 9 | 3 p.m. ET
Group D winner
Fracture. That has made all the difference for Fnatic advancing first out of Group D and into the Champions playoffs. Fnatic won VALORANT’s newest map in both their matches against Cloud9 Blue and Vision Strikers. It was a close scoreline against C9, with most of the rounds being taken by the attacking side. Their victory against Vision Strikers on Fracture was particularly notable because Kim "stax" Gu-taek from Vision Strikers boasted that his team could beat anyone on Fracture. Instead, Fnatic delivered a blowout on the deciding map with Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev posting a ridiculous 376 ACS and K/D of 25/10. The fact that Fnatic finished first in the so-called group of death is also notable given that most analysts had ranked C9 and Vision Strikers slightly ahead of Fnatic coming into the tournament. After the match, Boaster proudly said they were the reason Group D was the group of death.
Group C winner
Team Vikings nearly pulled off the upset of the tournament. They had Masters: Berlin winners Gambit Esports on the ropes in Map 3 of the Group C winner’s match. Vikings were up 12-6, but Gambit came roaring back to tie the score 12-12 and send the match to overtime. Gambit proceeded to win two OT rounds to take the map 14-2. After losing maps to both Team Secret and Vikings, Gambit have looked shaky despite being in a group that many considered the weakest at Champions. Shaky or not, they have advanced out of their group as the No. 1 seed and will face a second-seeded team from another group in the quarterfinals.
Group B winner
Team Liquid are still undefeated since adding Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom, Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom’s brother to the team. They are currently on a 12-match winning streak after beating KRÜ Esports in their first match and Sentinels in the Group B winner’s match to advance to the Champions playoffs. Outside of a Map 2 blowout in favor of Sentinels, Maps 1 and 3 were close, with the first map going to OT. ScreaM led the way against Sentinels with a team-high 207 ACS, but the rest of the team were just below him and nobody had a +/- greater than +2 or less than -2, showing that there really aren’t any weaknesses across this roster. They became the third EMEA team to advance to the playoffs, and along with Fnatic, they look like one of the favorites at this point.
Group A winner
What a wild first few days of the tournament it was for Acend. At first, they were preparing for an elimination match after losing to Vivo Keyd in their opening matchup at Champions. Then, Riot Games’ ruling that Vivo Keyd had used an illegal Cypher cam put Acend in the Group A winner’s match against Envy with at least one player on the team indicating on Twitter that he was receiving death threats as a result. Then, Riot Games reversed course and said they would investigate further before issuing a ruling leaving Acend (and Vivo Keyd and Envy) in limbo for a day. Next, Acend replayed the third and deciding map against Vivo Keyd, with Acend up 7-0 to start as a penalty for Vivo Keyd’s illegal exploit. Finally, they played in the Group A winner’s match and beat Envy 2-0 to move on to the Champions playoffs and give the EMEA region all four No. 1 seeds in the quarterfinals.
It would have been understandable if Acend had put up a lackluster performance against Envy after a mentally trying few days, but they didn’t. It should also be noted that they won once again on Bind in Map 2 against Envy. Coming into the match, Acend had played this map the most (42 times) and have the best winning percentage on this map (86%) of any map they’ve played at least 10 times.
Group B runner-up
KRÜ pulled off not only the upset of the tournament but probably the upset of the year in professional VALORANT. They beat North American team Sentinels 2-1 to advance to the quarterfinals. The Latin American team founded by Argentine soccer star Sergio Agüero has been the best team in Latin America all year. They have been the region’s lone representative at both international Masters and Champions and are one of only three teams -- along with Sentinels and Crazy Raccoon -- to have appeared at these three tournaments this year.
But that’s where any comparisons to Sentinels end. KRÜ had not beaten any team outside of Brazilian and Japanese teams in international competition but had shown signs of improvement at each subsequent international event. Their victory over Sentinels was the culmination of this steady improvement and might be the capstone of their VCT 2021 season. But they might not be done yet. After beating Sentinels, nobody should be surprised if they manage to take down Fnatic in the quarterfinals and maybe make a dark horse run in the playoffs.
Group D runner-up
Cloud9 Blue beat Vision Strikers to escape the group of death and move on to the quarterfinals. It was a close match, with C9 putting up big leads in Maps 1 and 3 and Vision Strikers pushing back to make the final scoreline on those two map wins close. Prior to facing Vision Strikers, they had lost 2-1 to Fnatic and beat FULL SENSE 2-0. With the win, they became the first North American team to move on to the playoffs following the shocking Sentinels loss the previous day. It’s a remarkable storyline for C9 since they only qualified for Champions through the Last Chance Qualifier and had sold superstar Tyson “TenZ” Ngo to Sentinels earlier in the year. Since adding Anthony “vanity” Malaspina as their IGL, the team has reached new heights. They now will face Team Liquid in the playoffs.
Group C runner-up
Team Secret didn’t get a chance to show what they can do at Masters: Berlin after visa issues prevented them from traveling to that tournament. At Champions they proved to be the best team from Southeast Asia. Not only did they beat Team Vikings to advance to the playoffs, they also were competitive against Masters: Berlin champions Gambit Esports. In their opening group matchup at Champions, Team Secret shocked Gambit with a Map 1 win on Icebox and got out to a 7-5 lead on the deciding Map 3 before Gambit took over. They had little trouble in their 2-0 victories over Crazy Raccoon and Team Vikings, showing that they were the clear second-best team in Group C. Next they’ll face Acend. Of the four EMEA No. 1 seeds, Acend are arguably the weakest, so Team Secret will have a good shot to pull off an upset.
Group A runner-up
A day after KRÜ pulled off the upset of the tournament, X10 pulled off a comparable upset, beating Masters: Berlin runners-up Envy. What made this particularly surprising was the fact Envy had already beaten X10 in their opening group matchup and was up 1-0 in this series. X10 took Map 2 13-8 after pulling away on offense in the second half. They made a comeback on Map 3 after being down 9-3 to win it in overtime 14-12. X10 became the second Southeast Asian team to advance to the playoffs. They now will face Gambit Esports in the quarterfinals.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games