Catching up to ZETA Division’s sizable lead in VALORANT Champions Tour circuit points was a tall and daunting task for Japan’s Northeption. However, even making it to VCT Masters: Copenhagen has been a sizable achievement in itself.
After a strong end to 2021, Northeption opted to rebuild their entire VALORANT lineup heading into the 2022 season.
Competing against Japan’s strong field of teams including Crazy Raccoon and ZETA DIVISION could be seen as a large hurdle to overcome for a brand new team. Instead, Northeption was confident.
“We always knew that we’d be top three or top four in Japan,” Tomoki “xnfri” Mariya said when asked about his initial expectations joining Northeption. “We all had the same mindset that we were going to win in Japan and go to the world finals.”
Unexpected hurdles after quick growth
Photo credit: Hisashi "Yossy" Yoshimura
In just five months, the young Japanese team did just what they had envisioned back in February and took down ZETA DIVISION to represent Japan on the international stage.
For xnfri, this progression from new team to Japan’s representative on the international stage happened quicker than he expected.
“Going from our first regional win in Japan against ZETA to a world finals tournament this one, it’s all been happening so fast,” xnfri said about the team’s experience at Masters: Copenhagen. “We're just improving at such a rapid rate that it's kind of hard to keep up if that makes sense. Now that we’re here, it’s kind of hard to grasp the atmosphere.”
Northeption’s run through Masters: Copenhagen was a step down from their stellar performance against ZETA DIVISION to qualify for this event. Throughout their three series in Copenhagen, Northeption did not have the same confidence seen domestically. One of the main causes of this drop was the LAN environment itself.
“We just had a little bit of an away feeling and we couldn’t perform like we normally would,” xnfri said after their first series against DRX. “The tensions were high and our team normally has a positive vibe, but it was a lot of swinging back and forth between positive and negative thoughts because we had difficulties adapting to the stage.”
Photo credit: Riot Games
Northeption were able to rekindle some of their spark against XERXIA in the Group B elimination match with a close 2-1 victory. However, their run at Masters: Copenhagen came to an end against EMEA’s FunPlus Phoenix.
In the end, despite a disappointing end to a promising run from Northeption, the team held their heads high after elimination and were able to take away a lot of lessons from their first LAN experience.
“We were able to play against teams that we do not normally play against, and we were able to absorb a lot of new metas,” Daichi "Derialy" Doi said during a postgame press conference. “I was personally able to grasp a lot where I stand in the world VALORANT scene. I was able to better understand what how I should play my role within the team.”
What’s next for Northeption in 2022?
Northeption’s elimination from Masters: Copenhagen has simultaneously secured ZETA DIVISION’s place at VCT Champions 2022 in September due to the circuit points collected they collected from their third-place finish at Masters: Reykjavík.
Meanwhile, Northeption will look to join ZETA Division at Champions and will now prepare for the East Asia Last Chance Qualifier in August where xnfri is confident the team can succeed because of their experience in Copenhagen.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“The experience that we had during this Masters event really has upped our confidence level,” xnfri shared in a postgame press conference. “I think that we have a really good shot at winning LCQ and going to Champions. I'm really excited to see how well our team does.”
For now, the immediate course of action like most other teams after elimination is a well-earned rest, according to Northeption head coach Lee “bail” Sung-jae.
“I think we'll take maybe a day or two off after we go back home, take a little rest, and we're going to be 100% up for the LCQ,” bail said during the postgame press conference. “There's no time to waste. We just have to get ready for the next event.”
The East Asia Last Chance Qualifier will begin on Aug. 8 and end on Aug. 14, where the winner will qualify for Champions 2022.
The Masters: Copenhagen group stage has come to an end as the four qualifying group stage teams will join the four regional first seeds in the playoffs as teams look to dethrone reigning Masters: Reykjavík champions, OpTic Gaming.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games