With Envy’s win over XSET in the VALORANT Champions Tour Challengers Playoffs, North America’s representatives at Masters: Berlin are set: Sentinels, 100 Thieves and Envy. With veteran experience, talented fraggers and great teamwork, it feels like NA is sending the best delegation possible.
Sentinels and 100 Thieves locked up their qualifying spots Wednesday and didn’t have to touch the lower bracket to do so. Envy, meanwhile, had to win twice with their backs up against the wall.
“It means more than I can even put into words,” said Austin “crashies” Roberts right after the win. “We broke through the narrative of us being chokers. It’s actually amazing. That’s the only word I have right now. Amazing.”
Envy have consistently been one of North America’s best teams, but the story thus far was one of top fours. No matter the tournament, no matter the competition, Envy would get a few wins but always end up just short. There couldn’t have been a better time to break the curse than the tournament where the top three go to Masters.
“That narrative put pressure on us for sure,” crashies continued. “Even [Jimmy "Marved" Nguyen] and [Jaccob "yay" Whiteaker], I think they felt a bit of that pressure even as new additions. It’s a big weight off our shoulders.”
After being one of the longest running rosters in VALORANT for almost all of VCT, Envy switched it up. First they brought in Marved, on loan from FaZe Clan. Then, just a week before the event, they added yay, a talented duelist the community has dubbed El Diablo.
“The rest of the team didn’t put any pressure on us at all as newcomers,” Marved said after the game. “They said, ‘whatever happens happens, we will stay together as a team and we will continue to do great things.’”
The roster changes were crucial. The team needed to change something, up and the results are clear. Both Marved and yay are incredibly talented players but they also fit into roles giving IGL Pujan “FNS” Mehta more flexibility and opening up the best performances we’ve seen from crashies and Victor “Victor” Wong. At the same time, the core three, who have been on Envy for nearly a year now, have given the newcomers the freedom to excel, even in a short time frame.
“I play off feel and instinct mostly,” yay said. “If I have a read, I’ll coordinate with my teammates and say ‘I want to do this.’ This roster gives me the freedom to choose my engagements, how I fight and how people support me.”
Yay practiced with Envy for less than a week before this tournament. With exceptional play with so little time to practice with the team, other regions should be worried about what El Diablo can do given more time with his new teammates.
“As a new player, there’s going to be some chemistry issues, some strats that you don’t know, some protocols you don’t know,” yay continued. “But I’m not a sentinel character where you have actual setups you have to coordinate with your teammates. I just go out and get kills.”
And get kills he did. Yay’s ACS never dropped below 200 in Challengers Playoffs as he led the team in the upper bracket games against TSM and Sentinels. But once they reached the lower bracket, crashies took over.
The talented Sova main went +20 over three maps against FaZe Clan including a dominant 27/9/7 in the final map for a casual 342 ACS.
“I knew after beating FaZe that we were going to smoke XSET,” crashies said. “We knew we were going to take it home. Especially after the first map against XSET, we should have won that one earlier than we did, but once we won, we knew they were out of it. They knew they should have won that map.”
Crashies once again top fragged with +15 over the two maps against XSET. For XSET, Crashies was right, they knew they should have won. XSET’s story was similar to Envy’s prior to this tournament -- close, but not quite there. The up-and-coming team with a new IGL and a 16-year-old duelist finished top four, but even tougher was the scoreline of each of the losses.
“We lost 13-11 to 100 Thieves twice, then we lost 13-11 to Envy on the first map,” said XSET’s Brendan “BcJ” Jensen after the loss. “This was our first major tournament together. We made so many mistakes and were just one round away from overtime. We probably would have ended up winning the series if we fixed those small mistakes.”
Despite narrowly missing out on Berlin, it was a welcoming party for XSET as they proved they can compete against any team in the game. When the Last Chance Qualifier roles around, they feel confident in their ability to lock up a spot in VALORANT Champions against that field.
“We are showing we can compete with these guys. We are going to be ready for the Last Chance Qualifier,” BcJ said. “Almost none of the three teams in Berlin are going to be there, so I think we will be the strongest team in LCQ. And we are looking forward to proving that. But for now, we’re just rooting for NA to win Berlin.”
Whoever wins Berlin gets automatically invited to VALORANT Champions. If one of the three North American teams win, the other two in Berlin are locked into Champions automatically by circuit points.
Then, the teams that finish 3rd-10th in circuit points (or 4th-11th with an NA win in Berlin) battle it out in the Last Chance Qualifier. So everyone is hoping for an NA win, otherwise one of 100 Thieves and Envy would drop down and become the favorite at LCQ. Because of TSM’s loss to Rise at Challengers Playoffs, the only way they get to compete in the LCQ is with an NA victory, as they currently hold the 11th spot.
But that’s all for the future. For now, NA is sending the region's three best teams to battle against all the other regions. Sentinels will be looking to defend their crown, while Envy and 100T will finally get to showcase themselves on the world stage.
“We are looking forward to playing the other regions and showing them what we can really do,” Marved said. “I can’t wait to show them I’m a world-class player.”
For both 100T and Envy, it will be some players' first major LAN in their entire careers, and for others, the last major LAN came while playing Counter-Strike. All teams have plenty of talent. With Sentinels’ dominant run in Masters 2 (and V1’s strong performance as well), NA currently holds the crown for the best region in the world. Now it’s time to defend it.
“It’s actually a possibility the top three teams in Berlin are NA because the NA teams are beasts,” Marved laughed. “But the other regions have had time to work. They’ve had time to watch Sentinels, to watch V1. They might understand how we play as a region better now. But I don’t think it will matter. There will be three NA teams in the top three in Berlin.”
The structure of the bracket could make that impossible, but the confidence is there.
“We are so f---ing confident,” crashies said. “We can’t wait to gain even more fans at this international event. As a team, we are just so confident. It’s going to be amazing.”
Lead image credit: Envy