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Team Liquid and Acend Valorant teams stand side by side on stage at Champions tournamentTeam Liquid and Acend Valorant teams stand side by side on stage at Champions tournament

Teams qualified for the 2022 VCT EMEA Stage 1 Challengers main event

by Brian Bencomo

Last updated Jan. 23

The 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour is underway in several regions around the world. The field of 12 teams for the main event of Stage 1 Challengers for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region is almost set. Four teams have been invited to the main event, and another eight will qualify via series a open and closed qualifiers in January. The main event will consist of group play followed by a playoff stage that will take place from Feb. 11 to March 27. Here’s a primer on each of the teams that will be competing in the EMEA Stage 1 Challengers main event.

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All photos are courtesy of Riot Games.

Acend

invited team

The defending VALORANT world champions are, of course, one of the four invitees to the EMEA Challengers 1 main event. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t make any roster changes since winning Champions just over a month ago. Four of the five members of the team have been with the organization since March 2021, and Aleksander "zeek" Zygmunt joined in June last year. The only offseason drama was when their star duelist Mehmet Yağız "cNed" İpek did not immediately re-sign with the team like his four teammates. In late December though, Dexerto reported that cNed would be sticking with Acend.

Gambit Esports

invited team

It also has been a very quiet offseason for the Champions runners-up. Gambit Esports will maintain their same five-man roster heading into the 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour season. Four of the five members of the team have been together since September 2020, with IGL Igor "Redgar" Vlasov joining just a few months afterward in January 2021.

Team Liquid

invited team

Team Liquid also have not made any offseason moves. And why would they? They were on a 13-match winning streak and looked absolutely unbeatable before losing to Acend in the Champions semifinals. With star duelist Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom and his brother Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom carrying this team throughout the winning streak, this is a formidable team.

Fnatic

invited team

Fnatic are the only one of the four invited teams to have made a roster move. Domagoj "Doma" Fancev was moved to inactive last month and is now with TENSTAR. According to a statement posted to Fnatic’s website, “This is the first of a variety of changes we will take in order to create a lineup that will see as much success as possible come next season.” No other changes have been made so far, and the team has not announced a new member of the roster yet.

Guild Esports

qualified through Europe’s first closed qualifier

Guild Esports had a nearly flawless run through the EMEA open and closed qualifiers. They won nine matches in a row and only dropped one map en route to qualifying for the EMEA Stage 1 Challengers main event. Their last loss was to Team Liquid in the grand final of the Champions Last Chance Qualifier last October. Not only did they finish ninth in the VCT EMEA circuit points standings last year, but they were a win away from qualifying for Champions. They have moved away from their all-Swedish lineup since then, adding three new players: Jose Luis "koldamenta" Aranguren Herrero, Russel "Russ" Mendes and Nikita "trexx" Cherednichenko. Koldamenta is their most significant offseason addition. He won Euroep’s Stage 1 Masters with Acend and was part of the G2 Esports team that made a deep run at Masters: Berlin.

BIG

qualified through Europe’s first closed qualifier

German team BIG only lost one match on their way to being the second team to make it out of the closed qualifier. Team Vitality knocked them into the lower bracket, but in a rematch, BIG beat Vitality to qualify. They have not made any roster moves this offseason. BIG’s last appearance in a high-level VCT competition was taking part in the Stage 3, Challengers 2 closed qualifier. They did not get any circuit points last year toward qualifying for any of the Masters tournaments or Champions, so for them to now be among the top 12 teams in EMEA for Challengers 1 is the org’s biggest accomplishment by far.

SuperMassive Blaze

qualified through Turkey’s first closed qualifier

SuperMassive Blaze didn’t have much trouble being the first closed qualifier team from Turkey. They didn’t drop any matches throughout the open and closed qualifier stages and only dropped two maps. They were Turkey’s best team last year, and competed at Masters: Berlin. Although they seem to have picked up right where they left off last year, they did overhaul their roster since getting knocked out of the EMEA Last Chance Qualifier in October. Since then they have added Caner "CyderX" Demir, Göktuğ "XiSTOU" Canciğer and Burak "glovee" Yıldırım. The most significant move was replacing IGL Melih "pAura" Karaduran with new IGL CyderX.

FunPlus Phoenix

qualified through CIS’s first closed qualifier

FunPlus were one of the most disappointing European teams last year. Despite high expectations and good results early in the year, the team seemed to do worse as the year went on and ultimately finished just outside the cutoff line for competing in the EMEA Last Chance Qualifier. The team made two moves in the offseason, adding Dmitry "SUYGETSU" Ilyushin and Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks. More importantly perhaps, the team switched regions, moving from Europe to Russia’s Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Although the team is still part of the EMEA region, being in the CIS region will likely give them a better chance to reach the higher levels of competition in the region and qualify for Masters and Champions. Outside of Gambit Esports and forZe, CIS is not known to have as many top-tier teams like Europe does.

G2 Esports

qualified through Europe’s second closed qualifier

For a team that finished top four at Masters: Berlin last year and looked like one of the best teams in the world, they almost didn’t qualify for EMEA’s Challengers 1 main event. After numerous roster changes, getting eliminated quickly during the first closed qualifier and then having to fight through the open bracket to qualify for the second closed qualifier, they made it. Their star IGL Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas Colocho is currently benched, and they recently brought back young duelist Wassim "keloqz" Cista to the lineup. The current version of the roster also includes newcomers Aaro "hoody" Peltokangas and Johan "Meddo" Renbjörk Lundborg, who both joined in December

LDN UTD

qualified through Europe’s second closed qualifier

LDN UTD might be the most surprising team to reach the Challengers 1 main event. They weren’t in the first closed qualifier and made a lower bracket run in the second closed qualifier to finish ahead of more well-known orgs including Team Vitality, Excel Esports and TENSTAR. Most of the roster has been playing together only since October, and Ričardas "Boo" Lukaševičius and Michał "MOLSI" Łącki were previously with Giants Gaming.

BBL Esports

qualified through Turkey’s second closed qualifier

BBL were one of the four teams invited to Turkey’s first closed qualifier, where they failed to finish first in order to make it to the Challengers 1 main event. They did finish top four though, which put them automatically into the second closed qualifier. After losing to Futbolist early in the second closed qualifier, they beat Futbolist in a rematch to ultimately qualify. The most notable player on BBL is their IGL Melih "pAura" Karaduran, who was on SuperMassive Blaze last year when they went to Masters: Berlin. PAura also was on the Heretics team that finished second to Acend at Europe’s Stage 1 Masters.

Natus Vincere

qualified through CIS’s second closed qualifier

Natus Vincere’s VALORANT team has failed to achieve the same level of success their brethren in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive have. Reaching the EMEA Challengers 1 main event is their best accomplishment to date and an opportunity to qualify for the next Masters if they do well enough. Most of the roster has been playing together since last summer except Yaroslav “Jady” Nikolaev, who was signed in December and has primarily been playing KAY/O.

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