VALORANT’s first international esports LAN is officially wrapped. With viewership peaking at over 1 million concurrent viewers during the Masters Reykjavík grand final, a dominant performance from Sentinels who didn’t drop a map and the birth of a banter-filled international esports scene, it’s safe to say, it was a success. This will forever be the tournament that truly kicked off VALORANT esports, and what a tournament it was.
In the end, Sentinels proved themselves to be the best team in the world and quieted all potential arguments against them. When a team goes 4-0 in games and 9-0 on maps while beating the best teams from around the world, there is no argument to be had. Here’s a look back at the entire tournament, the highs, the lows, the banter and the salt.
Sentinels proved to be the best team in the world as TenZ buyout looms
As winners of Stage 1 and now Stage 2 Masters, Sentinels are unarguably the best team in the world. But there’s one question mark that hangs over the team in the form of Tyson “TenZ” Ngo.
Read more: Sentinels go undefeated at Masters Reykjavík
He is the best aimer in all of VALORANT. He’s a star on the best team in the world. Oh, and he’s the biggest streamer in the game. Whatever TenZ’s buyout from his Cloud9 contract is, it’s probably not enough. During one match of the tournament, Michael “shroud” Grzesiek and Spencer “Hiko” Martin were debating this question. They settled on a ballpark number of about $5 million. That would be one of the biggest esports buyouts in history, comparable to C9’s buyout of Luka “Perkz” Perković for an amount reported to be around that mark.
As the Jay “sinatraa” Won situation continues and is unlikely to come to an amicable conclusion, TenZ has solidified his place as Sentinels’ fifth player. C9 hold all the cards, and it seems like they will be willing to part with him, but the exact details will come down to complex negotiations between C9 CEO Jack Etienne and Sentinels CEO Rob Moore.
TenZ hasn’t been shy saying what he hopes happens:
“It’s a no-brainer that I want to compete with this team,” TenZ said after winning Masters. “This team is honestly so amazing, I have fun with them, I can trust all of them, they’re the best teammates I’ve ever had. I would stay if I can and I really hope I can so I’m praying.”
Fnatic’s young core has stars at the center
Fnatic, despite coming out of an EU region filled with talented players, hadn’t had a lot of LAN experience before this. In Iceland, you couldn’t tell. After being sent to the lower bracket on Day 2, Fnatic won match after match to reach the grand final. The only team able to beat Fnatic was Sentinels.
If the VALORANT community is crowning Sentinels the best team in the world, then Fnatic is the second-best. If TenZ is the best aimer in VALORANT then Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev might just be second best. He also popped off throughout this tournament with the two of them putting up the most insane stats of any players in the tournament.
The scary thing for teams, especially others in the EU, is that this Fnatic team can only get better. Derke and Martin “Magnum” Penkov were added to the team in April. Both look like emerging stars. With this experience under their belts and more time to come together, Fnatic are now the team to beat in Europe with Stage 3 Masters in Berlin looming.
NUTURN Gaming shows Korea’s esports legacy absolutely extends to VALORANT
Beyond Sentinels and Fnatic, three other teams consistently impressed over the course of this tournament from three different regions. NUTURN Gaming was the lone representative from Korea after beating Vision Strikers, the team that dominated that region through most of VALORANT esports’ first year.
NUTURN earned the spot in Iceland and proved it during the tournament. The marquee win for the squad came against Version1 in the upper bracket semifinals. The match was arguably the most intense of the entire tournament. After V1 won the first map, NUTURN went down 7-2 on the second map. With their backs so close to the wall a wall bang would have been an ace, NUTURN turned it around winning the next two maps in overtime.
After that win, NUTURN would go on to play Sentinels and then Fnatic, losing both matches 2-0 as both teams earned their way to the grand final through NUTURN. Over the tournament, one gap in NUTURN’s game proved to be fatal: Haven. Over four matches, NUTURN lost Haven by a combined score of 52-20. The team tried to switch up a failing comp against Fnatic, and it resulted in eight round wins, the most yet for the team on the map, but it was too little, too late.
A top-three finish proved Korea’s long history of esports success is the rule in all esports until proven otherwise. At Stage 3 Masters in Berlin, Korea will receive two qualifying spots for the expanded 16-team tournament. But there are retirement rumors swirling around NUTURN’s veteran core of Kang "solo" Keun-chul and Jung "peri" Bum-gi. Vision Strikers, the other favorite to qualify in Berlin, already had their veteran leader in Kim "glow" Min-soo retire last month.
Team Liquid represents as Europe’s No. 1 seed, but were they really the best team?
Speaking of veteran leaders, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom is arguably the biggest esports player who made the switch over to VALORANT. Over a long career in CS:GO that peaked with him being one of the best players in the world between 2013 and 2017, ScreaM took that pedigree into leading Team Liquid’s VALORANT squad.
Despite ScreaM’s status, Liquid’s spot in Challengers Finals came as a surprise to a lot of people. The team failed to qualify for Stage 1 Masters and dropped a map to Ninjas in Pyjamas in the team’s final chance to qualify for Challengers Finals. Fnatic and Team Liquid met up twice in a grand final during Stage 2. Fnatic won once and Liquid won once.
In Iceland, Fnatic won the rubber match. After both teams were sent to the lower bracket by NA teams, they both went on mini-runs in the lower bracket. Eventually they reached the top four where only one EU team could advance. In a close match where each map went 13-10, Fnatic won, and led by Derke, looked like the better team throughout.
Liquid played well during this tournament but ultimately never beat another team that finished in the top five at Masters. With EU receiving another two spots in Berlin, Liquid could certainly qualify again, but there’s a real chance that a team like FPX, G2, Heretics or Ascend could still be the real challenger to Fnatic’s spot on top of EU.
Version1’s success with a stand-in represents North America well
In EU, there are still questions around the top team. In North America, there isn’t much debate with Sentinels’ continued success. But the spaces below that top remain extremely fluid, and Version1 made their case to be the next-best NA team.
Teams like FaZe Clan, 100 Thieves, Envy, Gen.G and C9 Blue have all shown tons of talent though. When V1 went on a surprising run in Challengers Finals, no one was sure if that lightning-in-a-bottle energy would also come through a month later in Iceland. Version1 silenced all doubters even if the end result wasn’t perfect.
First off, V1 had a major issue as the team’s run through Challengers Finals had the addition of Maxim “wippie” Shepelev as the catalyst. Due to an issue with wippie’s student visa, he wasn’t able to play. Jamal “jammyz” Bangash stepped in as replacement. The team took it in stride starting out Masters 2 hot with wins over Crazy Raccoon on Day 1 and a surprising upset of Team Liquid on Day 2.
Ultimately V1’s struggles came down to two letters: OT. Of the five maps V1 lost over this tournament, four of them were in OT. Liquid took the first map against V1 in OT, but V1 bounced back that time. After dominating NUTURN on Haven (which, in hindsight, isn’t as impressive as it looked at the time), NUTURN beat them in two straight OT matches.
Fnatic and V1’s first match also went to OT. By that point, the team had lost momentum and dropped the next map which wasn’t particularly close. Given the team’s absurdly close results and positive performance overall, the missing piece of wippie will represent a permanent “what if” for V1 when looking back at VALORANT’s first international LAN.
Brazil disappoints overall with Team Vikings and Sharks Esports struggling
Due to Brazil’s history of success in CS:GO, the region joined NA and EU as the only three regions to receive two qualifying spots in Reykjavik. The two qualifiers, Team Vikings and Sharks Esports, were arguably the biggest disappointment of the entire tournament. Team Vikings were the No.1 overall seed from Brazil and were able to beat X10 Esports from Southeast Asia although both rounds were close. Then they lost to Sentinels and Team Liquid 2-0. They didn’t attain double digit round wins in any of those. When playing the top seeds of the other two regions, Team Vikings looked to be a clear tier below.
Sharks Esports, the No. 2 seed, also struggled. They beat NUTURN Gaming on Haven, the only map a Brazil team took off one of the top five squads, and then promptly dropped the next four maps, never winning more than six rounds. Their elimination from the tournament came at the hands of KRU Esports, a team from Argentina. So if Brazil’s performance wasn’t disappointing enough, losing to their biggest country rivals 13-5,13-6 has to sting as well. Brazil will get two spots in Stage 3 Masters, but after this tournament, the region looks closer to Japan / SE Asia than the top tier of NA, EU and Korea.
Based on one international tournament, the best regions in VALORANT esports are:
With only 10 teams at this tournament, the region-based rankings are still subjective but here’s how they stand based on these results.
No. 1 North America: Sentinels dominated and V1 performed well with a stand-in. For the first time in a long time, NA is the best region at an international esport.
No. 2 Europe: Fnatic and Team Liquid each went on lower bracket runs until they were forced to play each other. There were four matches between NA and EU teams, NA won three of them. The only loss was Fnatic beating V1. With those head-to-head results, EU falls to second.
No. 3 Korea: While most people were expecting Vision Strikers, NUTURN Gaming made Korea proud. The team reached the upper bracket finals and consistently showed an ability to compete with the best teams in the world. Even if the game hasn’t fully taken off in Korea, the region is always a threat to compete.
No. 4 Brazil: Despite the disappointing finish for Brazil’s teams, they still had flashes of brilliance. Gamelanders might still be the best team from this region. Hopefully this tournament becomes the exception, not the rule, when it comes to Brazil’s VALORANT skill.
No. 5 Southeast Asia: X10 Esports surprised a lot of people at this tournament. The team’s end result only saw a win over Japan’s Crazy Raccoon but a close game against Brazil’s No.1 seed Team Vikings slightly gives SE Asia the edge over Latin America for this spot.
No. 6 Latin America: Argentina doesn’t get a lot of shine in international esports events but KRU Esports could change that. They took a few rounds off Fnatic and wiped the floor with Sharks Esports in the lower bracket. Argentina and Brazil have a long-standing soccer rivalry, maybe it will extend to VALORANT as well.
No. 7 Japan: Crazy Raccoon were a fan-favorite team, but after losing to Version1 and X10 Esports, Japan is the only region that leaves this tournament without a single win. Still, the maps against V1 went 13-11 and 13-10. Awfully close for a minor region. If something else had broken differently, that game might have changed, with so few results to base rankings on, a few rounds could have been the difference between seventh place and fourth place on this list.
What does this tournament mean for Stage 3 Masters and Champions?
It took a year for VALORANT to get the game’s first international LAN, but luckily we won’t have to wait that long for the next one. Stage 3 Masters is set for September in Berlin and will represent the final major tournament before the first VALORANT Champions event later this year.
Berlin will see Reykjavik’s 10-team field expand to 16 teams. Europe will include Turkey and CIS (Russia) and will have four teams qualify. North America adds one more spot to have three representatives. Brazil, Korea, Japan and SE Asia all get two slots. Latin America receives the final spot to round out the field.
Just like Stage 2 Masters, nothing is guaranteed in Stage 3 Masters. Most regions will have more slots to qualify, but teams will have to perform at Challengers Finals to actually receive a spot.
VALORANT Champions is a different story. Qualifying for Champions is primarily through circuit points in individual regions with a few exceptions. The winner of Stage 3 Masters will receive one automatic qualifying spot. Last Chance tournaments in North America, Europe, South America and Asia will each award one per region.
Like Berlin, 16 teams will be invited total, but with five automatic qualifiers via the exceptions above, 11 teams will qualify through circuit points. There will be two NA teams, two EU, two Brazil, two SE Asia, one Korea, one Japan, one Latin America. Those choices were decided before Stage 2 Masters and, honestly, if Riot waited until after this tournament, it might have been changed. At the very least, Korea likely deserves two circuit qualifiers with SE Asia only getting one.
Circuit points are where this tournament really starts tipping the scales. Stage 1 Masters awarded some points but much fewer than Stage 2 Masters does. For comparison, Ascend received 100 points for the team’s win in Europe’s Stage 1 Masters, Team Liquid received 250 for the team’s fourth-place finish at Stage 2 Masters. Fnatic received 350 for the second-place finish.
After Stage 2 Masters, there are only two more events that award circuit points before Champions. That’s going to be each region's Challengers Finals and then Stage 3 Masters. Stage 3 will award even more points than Stage 2 but the teams who qualified for this tournament all have a big edge to start with. Here’s how every region breaks down right now:
In NA, Sentinels are locked in, the first team to automatically qualify. Version1, highlighting the importance of Stage 2 compared to Stage 1, is in second place with 250 points. Envy is third with 85, FaZe Clan has 70 and 100 Thieves and C9 Blue are tied with 50. All V1 really has to do is qualify and they are a lock. If they don’t the door opens for the rest of NA.
In EU, the points are more spread out. Fnatic is now in first and Liquid in second with 350 and 250 points respectively. But neither team qualified for Masters 1, plus EU also adds in CIS and Turkey, so third place is CIS’s Masters 1 winners Gambit Esports with 145, fourth place is Turkey’s Stage 1 Master’s winners Futbolist with 120 and fifth place is EU’s actual Stage 1 Masters winners in Ascend.
This is part of the reason Europe gets an extra two qualifiers for Stage 3 Masters, because it forces the Turkey / CIS to truly earn one of the two circuit point qualifying spots for Europe at Champions. Other European teams including Guild Esports, Fun Plus Phoenix and Team Heretics all have a shot too.
In Brazil, Team Vikings is extremely likely to get one spot. The last one will probably come down to a battle between Sharks Esports and Gamelanders featuring Leonardo “mwzera” Serrati.
Southeast Asia is the last region with two circuit points qualifiers. X10 Esports is in a dominant spot with 275 points and no other team over 100. X10 almost surely gets one spot, the other could go to any team in the region.
Moving to the regions with one qualifier, Korea is the big one. This region only getting one slot seems downright criminal. NUTURN have grabbed 370 total points now. Vision Strikers are in second with 140 and DAMWON Gaming is in third with 105. All NUTURN really needs to do is qualify for Stage 3 Masters, but if they don’t, the race is wide open. Based on what we’ve seen out of Asia so far, a Korean team is the most likely winner of Last Chance Asia as well.
Latin America has had quite a bit of parity. KRU’s win over Sharks Esports put them in the top spot with 220. But plenty of competitors are close behind with Six Karma, Infinity Esports, LAZER and Australs all over 100 points already.
It’s a similar story in Japan. Crazy Raccoon didn’t win a map at Stage 2 Masters, but they are still first in the region with 250 because the team also won Stage 1 Masters. Absolute Jupiter and REJECT are the two potential teams who could catch them, with two spots in Stage 3 Masters, another team from Japan will get a shot at international competition in September.
VALORANT’s Stage 2 Masters: Reykjavík was a grand introduction to the world of international competition in VALORANT esports. But it’s only the start. Teams will regroup, taking lessons learned on the stage in Iceland, some players may retire, student visas will be figured out and the next chapter of this now-global esport will begin on Sept. 9 in Berlin, Germany.
Lead image credit: Riot Games