It has been a little over a month since XSET lost to Cloud9 to finish fourth in North America’s VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 1 Challengers playoffs. A lot has changed since then.
While OpTic Gaming went on to win Masters: Reykjavík, XSET kept sharp by playing in a local LAN -- Nerd Street’s Summer Champs Philadelphia LAN.
Of course, the meta is constantly shifting in VALORANT with updates made with every new patch, and what worked in Reykjavík or Philadelphia might be different from what works going forward. The latest patch is set to shift the VALORANT competitive meta again with nerfs to popular agents Jett and Sova and the introduction of a new agent, Fade.
XSET’s Brendan "BcJ" Jensen, who’s a Sova main himself, knows better than most the significance of the Sova nerf.
“That drone nerf is definitely very impactful,” BcJ told Nerd Street. “It’s gonna change the way people play for sure. You’re not gonna be able to clear out the same angles as you usually are. I think the shock dart damage is gonna change the post-plant meta a lot too. You’re not gonna be able to one-shot somebody now if you don’t have a Viper molly or something like that.”
BcJ’s teammate Zachary “zekken” Patrone is happy about the nerf to Jett.
“I think that Jett one-tricks are gonna be forced to adapt to new agents, which I think is a good thing just for the scene in general,” zekken said.
He also sounded glad about the Sova nerf.
“I think Sova was a little bit oppressive with just how good he was on certain maps,” zekken said. “I think it’s gonna force more initiators into the meta, maybe Fade.”
Whether and how frequently teams will use Fade is one of the big questions heading into the Stage 2 Challengers main event. Fade is the newest agent added to VALORANT by Riot Games and will be playable during Stage 2.
“Coming from a Sova player myself I just think she’s super fun, super new take on the game, and I think they really nailed down her style really well,” BcJ said. “She makes you scared to play against all her kit. The ultimate, the dogs run at you, you’re blinded while you’re getting ran at, you don’t have audio when you’re getting fought. Lots of stuff that’s just super chilling with her kit.”
The last agent to get introduced before Fade was Neon. She was playable for Stage 1 Challengers but few teams used her very often, and those that did, used her on just a few maps. One of the early adopters of Neon was OpTic, who were one of only two teams that used Neon at Masters.
Watching how OpTic played at Masters was one of the things that BcJ kept an eye on during XSET’s layoff between the end of Stage 1 and the start of Stage 2.
“Pretty much everyone at that LAN had a different style. When you’re at a major event like that you can kind of take things from everyone and see what you can do with your team, see what fits your style,” BcJ said. “So you’re really watching a lot of different teams and you’re watching OpTic and you’re watching LOUD and watching what works so well for them and trying to integrate that in your own style.”
Although XSET have seen a lot of OpTic, they are not in the same group for Stage 2. XSET are in a group with The Guard, 100 Thieves, Ghost Gaming, NRG and TSM.
“Obviously we’ve seen OpTic play on LAN so we know what they kind of bring, but a lot of these other teams have a lot of time to get better so they’re gonna be kind of unpredictable at first,” he said.
XSET beat 100 Thieves during Stage 1, but 100T now have an entirely different roster. XSET lost their last two matchups against The Guard. They have won their last three matchups against NRG. The last time they faced TSM was last year, and XSET have never played Ghost Gaming.
Besides counter-stratting against these teams, BcJ said the team is focused on map pools.
“As you prepare for the top teams in the region, you gotta really iron out what your map pool is gonna look like, what they’re map pool is gonna look like,” he said.
Their best maps have been Breeze and Split. According to VLR.gg, they have a win percentage of greater than 70% on both maps.
XSET’s first game in Stage 2 will be against Ghost Gaming on Saturday, May 14, at approximately 7 p.m. ET.
Lead photo credit: Nerd Street