With the first two maps split, the VALORANT Masters: Berlin quarterfinal matchup between Acend and 100 Thieves came down to Breeze. Acend started strong and continued to push its advantage all the way to a 12-7 lead in the second half. 100 Thieves could not afford to lose another round. A quarterfinal exit would leave their path to Champions reliant solely on the success of their bitter NA rivals as Envy would be guaranteed a spot in Champions based on circuit points.
With their backs to the ocean, 100 Thieves began winning. Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk popped off in the 20th round, which carried momentum into a pair of eco rounds for Acend. Suddenly the score was 12-10. But Acend were back at full strength. It didn’t matter, 100 Thieves had the momentum pushed as hard as possible to force OT. Once there, it was all over for Acend, they went down quickly in two OT rounds as 100 Thieves moved on to the semifinals of VALORANT’s most important tournament yet.
“We take the game more seriously when we are down and we stop trolling as much,” said 100 Thieves’ Josh “steel” Nissan after the win. “If you went in and changed the scoreboard so it said we were losing 8-4 when it was 0-0, we’d be insane, we’d 13-0 everyone.”
Is that the safest strategy in the world? Probably not. But it worked for 100T once again on this map as they moved to 3-0 on the tournament with wins over two of the top EMEA teams in Gambit and now Acend.
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“Obviously we don’t go out and have slow starts on purpose,” Steel laughed. “We don’t know what it is specifically, it's hard to diagnose. We do a number of things before the game to get physically and mentally warmed up, but there’s something that just doesn’t specifically click until a certain moment. That could be something that we can’t stimulate until it happens organically. We will definitely try to figure that out, but until then, we have to ride with it.”
Whether it's simply adrenaline or something unspoken between the teammates, whatever it is, is working so far. One other simple explanation is experience. It could be that as other teams get closer to finishing out the match, they get more nervous. As one of VALORANT’s most experienced rosters in major events during their time playing Counter-Strike, 100 Thieves seem able to handle the high-stress situations better than less-experienced teams.
“Whenever the pressure is on them, it feels like they don’t want to make individual plays,” said Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella at the postgame press conference. “So we take that into account when we are creating our strats. They weren’t playing like they were up, they were playing not to lose. So we knew they weren’t going to try to make an insane Jett dash play. When we take that into account in our strat book, we are just so much better.”
In addition to counting on Acend to slow down their play, 100 Thieves also placed a clear focus on isolating and avoiding Mehmet “cNed” Yagiz Ipek. The star Turkish duelist and OPer was the driving force behind the early lead for Acend as he seemed to close off large sections of Breeze with his dominant aim over the map’s long sightlines.
“They play a lot around their star players, cNed’s very talented,” nitr0 said. “He seemed like he wasn’t getting too nervous, which is surprising, as he’s a young player, an up-and-coming star, so props to him on that. He’s their flex player so he moves around a lot and we were just kind of avoiding him. If we have one controller he can probably get some pretty easy picks on us. That was part of our game plan for sure.”
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CNed was the only player on Acend to finish with a positive K/D with an impressive +23 over the three maps. For 100 Thieves, nitr0 flexed his experience playing on a huge stage with one of his best performances of his VALORANT career. Four out of five of the 100 Thieves players have played on huge stages in their CS career. Spencer “Hiko” Martin and Steel have over two decades of combined experience, nitr0 won the Intel Grand Slam with Team Liquid back in 2019, Ethan “Ethan” Arnold was playing in major events into 2021 before being picked up by 100T. Few teams have even one player with that type of experience, much less four.
“In the very last round, we were in a 5v2, and we’re just saying, ‘hey, it’s fine, settle down,’” Hiko said. “Some teams that don’t have the experience we have, they can get antsy. They feel like they need to make a play and they make mistakes. We have good control when the pressure is on to not make those mistakes when it could cost us the tournament.”
It’s also worth noting that Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk, the one 100 Thieves player without major LAN experience, was able to turn around his game mid-match. The first map was brutal for the talented fragger as he finished with the least kills and the lowest ACS while playing Jett. Despite doing his best impression of your silver teammates, he completely turned it around on the next two maps. He nearly tripled his ACS on Map 2 going from 120 on Ascent to 303 on Haven. When it came time for the comeback, it was Asuna leading the way on Raze making the play that brought the game up to 12-8. Acend never got another round after that play.
With this win, 100 Thieves move to the semifinals where they are guaranteed to see a familiar opponent. If Sentinels beat Envy, 100 Thieves lock up a spot in Champions. If Envy wins, 100T and Envy will effectively play for a spot in Champions in that matchup. But with this win, NA is also guaranteed to have a team in the grand finals where a win would see all three NA teams headed to Champions. 100 Thieves came as close as they possibly could to leaving Berlin, but it seems fitting that the Thieves would steal a victory from the jaws of defeat.
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