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Everything you need to know about the NA VCT Stage 2 group stage

by Sage Datuin

The VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 2 Challengers group stage is nearly underway in North America as the 12 best teams in the region fight for spots in the playoffs and a chance to qualify for Masters: Copenhagen.

The five-week group stage begins May 13 and runs until June 12 when the top four teams from Group A and B will qualify for the Stage 2 playoffs. Each week will have games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday where two matches will be played per day at 4 p.m and 7 p.m. ET.

Below is the schedule of all the group stage games across the five weeks.

Schedule and format for the VCT NA Stage 2 group stage (all times ET)

Week 1

May 13

  • The Guard vs. 100 Thieves at 4 p.m.
  • Luminosity Gaming vs. Sentinels at 7 p.m.

May 14

  • OpTic Gaming vs. FaZe Clan at 4 p.m.
  • XSET vs. Ghost Gaming at 7 p.m.

May 15

  • OpTic Gaming vs. FaZe Clan at 4 p.m.
  • XSET vs. Ghost Gaming at 7 p.m.

Week 2

May 20

  • Luminosity Gaming vs. FaZe Clan at 4 p.m.
  • The Guard vs. Ghost Gaming at 7 p.m.

May 21

  • TSM vs. 100 Thievesat 4 p.m.
  • Sentinels vs. Evil Geniuses at 7 p.m.

May 22

  • OpTic Gaming vs. Cloud9 at 4 p.m.
  • XSET vs. NRG at 7 p.m.

Week 3

May 27

  • The Guard vs. TSM at 4 p.m.
  • Luminosity Gaming vs. Evil Geniuses at 7 p.m.

May 28

  • OpTic Gaming vs. Sentinels at 4 p.m.
  • XSET vs. 100 Thieves at 7 p.m.

May 29

  • Cloud9 vs. FaZe Clan at 4 p.m.
  • NRG vs. Ghost Gaming at 7 p.m.

Week 4

June 3

  • The Guard vs. XSET at 4 p.m.
  • OpTic Gaming vs. Evil Geniuses at 7 p.m.

June 4

  • Sentinels vs. FaZe Clan at 4 p.m.
  • TSM vs. Ghost Gaming at 7 p.m.

June 5

  • 100 Thieves vs. NRG at 4 p.m.
  • Cloud9 vs. Luminosity Gaming at 7 p.m.

Week 5

June 10

  • XSET vs. TSM at 4 p.m.
  • FaZe vs. Evil Geniuses at 7 p.m.

June 11

  • NRG vs. The Guard at 4 p.m.
  • 100 Thieves vs. Ghost Gaming at 7 p.m.

June 12

  • Cloud9 vs. Sentinels at 4 p.m.
  • OpTic vs. Luminosity Gaming at 7 p.m.

Below is a breakdown of each of the teams playing in the group stage and what you should look out for in the upcoming matches.

Group A teams

The Guard

Photo credit: Riot Games

From rookies to Reykjavík, The Guard progressively grew as a team over the course of 2022 to represent North America as the No. 1 seed going to Masters. Unfortunately, nerves got to the talented rookies when they lost to OpTic Gaming and Paper Rex to finish in 7th-8th place at the event.

Now, with LAN experience under their belts, The Guard will look to dominate Group A, as the favorites and not the underdogs this time. Can they handle the pressure of being the team everyone is looking to beat?

XSET

Forever fourth … or so you would think. XSET enter the Stage 2 group stage after yet another fourth-place finish during Stage 1, but 2022 could be XSET’s year to have a breakout tournament if star Jett player Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban continues to put up stellar performances. For one of North America’s most consistent teams, will Stage 2 be XSET’s breakout tournament, or will history repeat itself once again?

NRG

After a lackluster performance during the Stage 1 group stage, NRG are back in Stage 2 with a new look. Following their 9th-10th finish in Stage 1, NRG swapped out Bradley "ANDROID" Fodor for former 100 Thieves player Ethan “Ethan” Arnold. NRG shockingly 2-0’d Version1 to qualify for this event through the first open qualifier upper bracket.

Now, NRG enter Stage 2 as a possible threat in Group A. The question for them is if this recent uptick in performance is a true sign of things to come or if it will be the same NRG of old.

TSM

After major roster overhauls, it seems that TSM have finally created a lineup that could make an impact in what has been a middling performance in VALORANT over the past year.

In order to reach this point, TSM had one of the most difficult open qualifier paths, going up against 100 Thieves, Luminosity Gaming and FaZe Clan in the qualifier. While they lost to FaZe Clan in the upper bracket, they showcased strong form against the likes of Luminosity and 100 Thieves, as TSM fans are revitalized by this new lineup built around the lone original member Yassine “Subroza” Taoufik.

Is this a sign of new things to come for TSM VALORANT fans, or will their past troubles continue to haunt them in Stage 2?

100 Thieves

Photo credit: Riot Games

After a relatively strong showing in 2021, evident by their semifinal finish at Masters: Berlin, expectations were high for 100 Thieves to be one of the top North American teams in 2022. Unfortunately, that bounce back was not meant to be as their abysmal Stage 1 performance proved to be the swan song for 100 Thieves’ old roster as they only retained star player Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk heading in Stage 2.

With a new lineup consisting of young talented players, 100 Thieves have made it to Stage 2 Challengers where expectations aren’t high for them to perform. Though, as we saw with The Guard in Stage 1, maybe 100 Thieves’ new lineup of young players could be the biggest surprise of Stage 2.

Ghost Gaming

One of the most surprising entries on this list is Ghost Gaming, who shocked everyone with their run to the group stage. After missing out on the first open qualifier, Ghost Gaming went into the second open qualifier with many expecting them to be an early dropout after losing their first match to Evil Geniuses.

Instead, Ghost Gaming made a miracle run through the lower bracket, taking down Complexity, NYFU, BBG Academy and Knights to complete the underdog arc.

Now, they are in Group A as one of the underdogs, but alongside a group of new lineups for TSM and 100 Thieves, Ghost Gaming could extend their underdog campaign even further to the playoffs.

Group B teams

OpTic Gaming

Photo credit: Riot Games

The Masters: Reykjavík champions are the team to watch as their sights are set on not only maintaining their dominant level of play but improving on it as well. OpTic Gaming have continuously adapted to the ever-changing meta and are one of the longest-tenured five-man rosters. Now that they have a championship and a runner-up finish on the international stage, expectations are high for this team.

FaZe Clan

After Stage 1, FaZe Clan acquired the Rise duo of Kevin “poised” Ngo and Phat “supamen” Le. FaZe Clan defeated both Sentinels and TSM in 2-1 fashion to qualify for this event without losing a single series. With extra time to sit and watch other teams, this new and improved version of FaZe Clan could be one of the most promising NA VALORANT teams going into the group stage.

Cloud9

Cloud9 just missed out on a trip to Iceland after they got 3-0’d by The Guard in the Stage 1 lower bracket final. Despite their missed qualification, Cloud9 are still seen as a top contender to qualify for Stage 2 Masters where their biggest competition in Group B will be OpTic Gaming. With just two North American slots available for Masters: Copenhagen, Cloud9 will look to overtake OpTic Gaming and The Guard, and claim their spot as North America’s best.

Luminosity Gaming

Luminosity were one of the biggest surprises during the Stage 1 playoffs after taking down tournament favorites, Version1, in a close three-game series. Now, Luminosity are back once again with the same lineup where they are underdogs again. However, with star talents like Brandon Michael “bdog” Sanders, Luminosity could be looking at another strong run in Group B.

Evil Geniuses

After their winless campaign in the Stage 1 group stage, Evil Geniuses added Corbin “C0M” Lee and Vincent “Apotheon” Le from Akrew and Renegades, respectively, to their existing three-man core. Now, after making their way back to the group stage in Stage 2, Evil Geniuses will look to showcase their new lineup and play spoilers for what is a stacked Group B.

Sentinels

Photo credit: Riot Games

Sentinels were once the most feared team in VALORANT after dominating both the domestic and international scene throughout the first half of 2021. However, the NA powerhouse has slowly began to decline.

After winning Masters: Reykjavík last year, Sentinels failed to qualify for Masters: Reykjavík this year, missing out on their first international VALORANT event. As a result, Sentinels replaced longtime member Jared “zombs” Gitlin with Eric “Kanpeki” Xu with hopes that this could be the turning point to reclaim their throne as North America’s powerhouse.

No longer the dominant favorites everyone has come to expect, Sentinels are now underdogs in Group B. However, maybe with less pressure, we could see a return to form.

Playoffs and Masters

The playoff schedule dates are yet to be revealed. What we do know is that all playoff matches will be played in a best-of-three format until both the lower bracket final and the grand final, both of which will be best-of-five series.

The two teams that make it to that grand final match will qualify for Stage 2 Masters in Copenhagen and represent North America on the international stage.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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