The Guard become second NA team to qualify for VCT Masters

by Sage Datuin

“From rookies to Reykjavík, The Guard are headed to Masters!” shoutcaster Doug “EsportsDoug” Cortez screamed from the top of his lungs.

This moment in VALORANT Champions Tour history transpired from their collectively shared goal to be the best team in VALORANT. The Guard have become one of North America’s best teams in a very short amount of time as a five-man unit.

From an outside perspective, their quick rise to the top may just look like young talent excelling, but there is a lot more that goes into The Guard’s success.

For The Guard’s in-game leader, Jacob “valyn” Batio, their quick rise to the top of the NA scene can be attributed to one key pillar that drives the everyday culture at The Guard.

“Everyone has the same goal on this team, to be the best,” Valyn said. “We have no slackers, no lazy people on this team. We are here to work and that is why I think we have a culture that nobody else has, and it’s bonded us all together so quickly.”

A culture like no other in VALORANT

The biggest pillar behind any great team’s culture and work ethic is the coach. For The Guard, that man is Matthew “mCe” Elmore, and someone whom Valyn has a lot of praise for.

“He’s hard on us, but I think he is such a huge reason as to why we are doing so well,” Valyn shared when asked about the coaching structure at The Guard. “He doesn’t want this team to be mediocre, and he pushes us every day and does not let mistakes slide. If we make a mistake in practice, he is there giving us solutions to fix it.”

For The Guard’s rookie Trent “Trent” Cairns, that comes in the form of a notebook that mCe carries and one that he heavily credits for his quick period of growth in VALORANT.

“He has a notebook that he uses to write down every mistake he sees and will spend time with each player individually to go over those mistakes and we watch them together,” Trent said. “We talk about it until we gain a great grasp on how we can improve on that mistake, and it’s insane how much he has helped me grow as a player.


A group that cares for each other as both teammates and humans

With a work regimen of constant learning from every failure, whether that be on stage or in the comforts of the gaming facility, there is always something that can be improved.

For mCe, it all comes from a place of genuine care for his players’ growth.

“I am very hard on them, but it is because I see so much untapped potential in each of my players,” mCe said. “I just want them to reach it, and they are doing such a great job at it.”


A former Counter-Strike: Global Offensive player, mCe understands the pillars of what makes a great team. And along with constant repetition and good practice, molding a great team comes from a place of genuine care for them not just as players, but as humans.

“At the end of the day, we go out and get dinner together, we play games together, and I am always there for them if they are feeling down,” mCe said. “As a former pro myself, I understand those pressures can be really hard, and as this coach and mentor figure, I want them to know that both in-game and out-of-game they mean the world to me.”

With hard work combined with genuine care for one another as a collective unit, The Guard have made massive strides as a team because of this ability to treat VALORANT as a team game.

“That’s why we come back stronger after every loss,” valyn said. “When we lost to Cloud9 at the end of the group, we came back and became better in the playoffs. We are constantly learning more about our own gameplay while also learning things we can do better as a team in regards to communication. We are all really close.”


And after their dominant 3-0 victory against Cloud9, The Guard have proven all the doubters wrong through their grit and adaptation and are now ready to represent North America internationally at Masters: Reykjavík.

The Guard have created a culture of hard work that beats talent. A team comprised mostly of VALORANT players new to this level of competition, The Guard are taking challenges that come their way and pushing themselves even harder than they thought possible because of their drive to win.

“Nobody on this team is comfortable being mediocre,” Valyn bluntly stated. “All of us are newcomers playing at this level in VALORANT, so we just want to prove to everyone that we can compete at this level.”

A rematch against OpTic Gaming

Photo credit: Riot Games

The Guard have officially booked their ticket to Masters, but in their minds, the job is not finished. They now move forward into the NA playoffs grand final against OpTic Gaming in a rematch of the upper bracket final.

“Nobody in the NA scene works harder and scrims more than us aside from OpTic,” valyn said.

Still, even with this major respect toward their next opponent, The Guard are ready for their rematch against OpTic Gaming because of their unwavering confidence in their system to learn from past mistakes and become better the very next match.

“Our loss against OpTic in the upper bracket final was unfortunate, but like we always do, we learned from that loss,” valyn said. “Now, I just want to show what we learned and get that chance.”

The Guard will have that opportunity to usurp one of NA’s most consistent VALORANT teams in the grand final where the winner will get the No. 1 NA seed going into Masters: Reykjavík.

That match for first will take place Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Lead image graphic created by Sage Datuin with assets from Riot Games and The Guard

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