Going into VALORANT’s Stage 3 Masters: Berlin, the second international tournament in the game’s history, regional rivalries have more questions than answers. Are NA and EU really the two top regions? Is South Korea, represented by Vision Strikers and F4Q at this tournament, going to prove they can contend with NA and EU? Was Brazil’s two early exits in Stage 2 Masters a bad tournament or a sign of a weaker region?
Day 1, unsurprisingly, was not enough to answer these questions fully, but we did see a trend. Across three matches, the NA or EU team won every time.
Group C: 100 Thieves (North America) vs. Havan Liberty (Brazil)
The only NA team playing Friday certainly didn’t disappoint. 100 Thieves smashed Havan Liberty in by far the most lopsided match of the day. After dropping the first two pistol rounds, 100T went on a tear by winning 13 of the next 14 rounds for an easy 13-3 victory. On Havan Liberty’s map pick, the Brazilian squad did slightly better with a score of 13-6, but it was clear they were just fully outclassed in this matchup.
Havan Liberty is Brazil’s second seed in this tournament, so Keyd Stars certainly still could represent the region well, but it seems like Brazil is just a full step behind the other top regions in VALORANT. With the region's strength in CS:GO, that’s a bit surprising, but VALORANT has been a difficult challenge on the international stage for three different Brazilian teams now.
100 Thieves meanwhile made good on their promise that this was a roster made for LAN. Each player seemed to take a turn going off. Spencer “Hiko” Martin was clutching, Josh “steel” Nissan was fragging (and throwing out some trash talk), Ethan “Ethan” Arnold was popping off, and Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella was everywhere the team needed him to be.
Surprisingly, it was Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk who struggled a bit in the first map as the only 100T player to finish with a negative K/D. That seemed to just be a bit of first-LAN jitters. By the second map, he was making incredible plays that NA fans are used to seeing from the talented duelist. He finished that map with a casual 333 ACS. No big deal.
100 Thieves truly could not have asked for a better start to this tournament. With the incredibly experienced roster, this was the environment where 100 Thieves were supposed to thrive. Truly, they looked more at home on the Berlin stage than they did literally playing from their own homes during the online matches.
Steel also deserves a shoutout for showcasing KAY/O once again. He was the only player to pick VALORANT’s newest agent on the first day of action and he showed his ability on the first map. With KAY/O, Steel put up a 248 ACS, second-best on 100T. He has been carrying the KAY/O banner since Challengers Playoffs and believes that some teams may be under picking the agent. With that type of performance, other teams may give KAY/O another look.
With that win, 100T move on to play the winner of Gambit Esports and Crazy Raccoon. Gambit is the EMEA No. 1 seed and the heavy favorite over Japan’s Crazy Raccoon. Assuming Gambit makes good, that matchup will be the true test of 100T’s LAN excellence.
Photo credit: Riot Games
Group D: G2 (EMEA) vs. F4Q (South Korea)
The second match featured a bit of a different schedule as Bren Esports was unable to come to Berlin due to visa issues. That left Group D with just three teams fighting for two spots. With Sentinels also in this group and almost certainly set to lock in one spot, this matchup carried even higher stakes for these two teams.
They will get to play again in a few days, but G2 took the early upper hand with a 2-1 victory here. Each team won their map pick, with G2 taking Haven and Ascent, while F4Q took Bind. For F4Q, the second seed from South Korea behind Vision Strikers, it was a solid performance against a quality team from EMEA (Europe, Africa and Middle East).
F4Q’s Chae “Bunny” Joon-hyuk was particularly impressive for his Raze play during the match. But the MVP had to be G2’s Cista “keloqz” Wassim who played an impressive duelist throughout finishing with a 261 ACS and +15 K/D over the three maps.
The next matchup for both teams will be against Sentinels. It will pose a tough challenge, but if either team can beat the reigning champs, they will immediately become the favorites to move forward. For now, EMEA gets another big win over South Korea which keeps South Korea firmly planted as the third best region in VALORANT.
Photo credit: Riot Games
Group A: Acend (EMEA) vs. SuperMassive Blaze (EMEA)
The opening match of the tournament was the only rematch as Acend and SuperMassive Blaze (SMB) played in the EMEA Challengers Playoffs. SMB is a Turkish team but had to qualify by beating European teams. In that tournament, SMB took down Acend in the upper bracket final, but that was just a seeding match as both teams had locked in a spot in Berlin already at that point.
In Berlin, the game went a bit differently. Acend easily took down SMB 13-5 on Bind, Acend’s map pick. SMB picked Ascent, which is a decision that might be second guessed in hindsight. Acend won that map 13-9 for a clean 2-0. Back at Challengers Playoffs, SMB beat Acend on Haven and Split. Although Split was banned by Acend, Haven was open to pick.
SMB are a Turkish team, but it was Acend who had the best Turkish player in the match. Mehmet “cNed” Yagiz Ipek is one of the most respected players in the world, and he showed why against SMB with a 296 ACS featuring a +17 K/D over just two maps.
This match was a rematch, but it showed why some teams ignore the results in seeding matches. What happens on this stage is really where the best teams prove themselves. SMB will have their work cut out for them now, as Group A appears to be the most difficult of all the groups. Only two out of Acend, SMB and Vision Strikers will get to move on, but SMB still control their own destiny if they win out.
Lead image credit: Riot Games