VALORANT Champions 2022: OpTic vs. LOUD, Killjoy’s turret and more

by Brian Bencomo

VALORANT Champions 2022, the biggest and most important VALORANT tournament of the year is over. LOUD beat OpTic Gaming 3-1 in the grand final to bring a close to the tournament and the sixth meeting this year between the North American and Brazilian rivals. Most people will look back and see LOUD’s victory over OpTic, but there are many more interesting things that happened over the course of the nearly three-week tournament. Here’s a look back at some of the more compelling stories, such as DRX breaking through their ceiling, XSET impressing, how teams did on the newest map Pearl and more. Oh, and that one controversial replay ...

LOUD vs. OpTic

Photo credit: Riot Games

Six meetings. Two grand final matchups. Three wins apiece. One championship for each side. The rivalry between Brazil’s LOUD and North America’s OpTic Gaming defined the 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour season. No two teams met more frequently and in more high-stakes matchups on the international stage than these two.

Read more: OpTic Gaming vs. LOUD: The best VCT international rivalry

The rivalry should continue and we should see more exciting encounters between OpTic and LOUD next year as both teams are likely to be in the Americas international league. Nothing is guaranteed and Riot Games has not revealed which 10 teams will form for the Americas league, which will be comprised of North American, Latin American and Brazilian teams, but it would be shocking if these two organizations were not chosen for the league. They’re the two most successful teams from their respective regions and would instantly make the Americas league the best of the three international leagues.

Fittingly, the first VCT event of 2023 will take place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and all 30 teams from the international leagues will be in attendance. February 2023 can’t come soon enough.

DRX make top 4

Photo credit: Riot Games

After finally breaking their 5th-6th place curse, DRX made their first-ever top four at an international event. They didn’t stop there. DRX beat FunPlus Phoenix, the defending Masters: Copenhagen champions, in the lower semifinal to reach the lower bracket final. They lost to OpTic Gaming but pushed them to five maps and finished third at Champions. DRX finished 5th-6th at both previous Masters tournaments this year and have been the cream of the crop among Korean VALORANT teams dating back to their days as Vision Strikers. Yet, it seemed like they kept hitting a ceiling and couldn’t push past it. Kim "Zest" Gi-seok told Nerd Street about what it meant for the team to finally break through that ceiling after beating Fnatic to reach the top four.

Read more: How DRX finally overcame 5th-6th place curse at VALORANT Champions

“There was always that worry that we would finish fifth and sixth again this time. It was always creeping there in the back of my mind even throughout today's series,” he said.

Now that DRX have broken through that ceiling, they are a legitimate contender for winning an international title next year.

FPX thrive in the lower bracket

Photo credit: Riot Games

FunPlus Phoenix had another strong lower bracket run at Champions, similar to what they did at Masters: Copenhagen but didn’t quite make it as far. In Copenhagen, the team lost their upper bracket quarterfinal and then won four consecutive matches in the lower bracket to reach the grand final and win the tournament. At Champions, FPX again lost their upper quarterfinal match and then won two lower bracket matches. This time though, they lost to DRX just short of the lower final.

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They weren’t quite lower bracket demons this time around, but FPX do seem to thrive when they’re facing elimination. A similar thing happened in group play where they lost the Group C winner’s match and then won the group’s decider match to move on to the playoffs. With EMEA teams underperforming at Champions 2021 compared to Champions 2022, FPX represented the region well.

Reppin’ the Set

Photo credit: Riot Games

A lot of people were doubting XSET after going 0-2 at Masters: Copenhagen. Many rankings, including Nerd Street, had fellow North American team 100 Thieves ahead of XSET despite the fact 100T were making their international debut. What a mistake.

XSET proved they are one of the best teams in the world and just needed some time to adjust to the international stage. They beat XERXIA, defending Masters champ FPX in group play and European titan Fnatic in the playoffs. They lost to OpTic next and then FPX, despite getting a second life with a controversial round replay. Still, they finished the tournament in the top six and continued to show off a track record of constant improvement since last year.

Read more: XSET beat reigning Masters champion FPX to reach VALORANT Champions playoffs

Early in the tournament, their dapper coach Don “Syyko” Muir told reporters in a postmatch press conference about this track record.

“We’ve established in the last two-and-a-half years that after every tournament we’re going to keep getting better and better, or at least stay consistent,” he said. “We’ve never once taken a step back and gotten any worse. We’ve only ever gotten better.”

If XSET are chosen to be one of the 10 teams competing in the VALORANT Americas international league, they will absolutely be a top contender. If not, Syyko and the members of this roster will be highly sought after.

Turret-gate

Photo credit: Riot Games

The most controversial moment of the Champions happened during the XSET vs. FPX lower round matchup that would determine which team would move on to the top four. After each team won a map, the match moved to a deciding third game. With the score 12-11, FPX won their 13th round to win the map and the series 13-11. The teams got up and started to leave the stage and the typical “gg” tweets were sent out on both sides. However, there was no postgame broadcast interview with someone from FPX, and the media was left waiting longer than usual on Zoom for the postgame press conferences with both teams. Eventually, Declan McLaughlin, a reporter who was on site, tweeted out that Riot was going to instruct both teams to come back and replay the final round because of a bug.

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Without any official word from Riot until nearly an hour after McLaughlin’s tweet, there was a buzz on VALORANT Twitter and wild speculation about why there was going to be a replay on a bug that reportedly is not uncommon. Plus, it was already past midnight in Turkey, which was not ideal for the players. Eventually, Riot did issue an update, and about two hours after the game had initially ended, the round was replayed because Riot had deemed that a misfiring Killjoy turret had a significant impact on XSET losing that final round. As it turned out, XSET would win the round replay to tie the score at 12-12 and send the map into overtime. The teams traded round wins for a couple overtimes, but then FPX won both rounds of the third OT to win the match and advance.

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After the match, there was frustration and anger on both sides as FPX players didn’t like the fact they had to replay the round, and XSET players were understandably upset about the hate they were getting online because people thought they had called for the replay. In fact, it was initiated by Riot. It felt like a lose-lose situation all-around, but competitive integrity matters, and Riot deemed that to preserve that integrity that final round needed to be replayed.

How did the LCQ teams perform?

Photo credit: Riot Games

There was hype around a few of the Last Chance Qualifier teams in the tournament, but none really went far, which shouldn’t be surprising given these teams were not as consistently good throughout the year. Team Liquid were the only LCQ team to reach the playoffs, and they went 0-2. In the group stage, they beat EDward Gaming and Masters: Copenhagen runners-up Paper Rex. TL have qualified for almost every VCT international event (they’ve only missed one of six), and always do fairly well, but have only one top four finish.

100 Thieves and KRÜ both won one game in group play with 100T picking up their victory over Fnatic, who ended up finishing in the top six. BOOM Esports, EDward Gaming and FURIA all went winless. EDward Gaming did generate a lot of excitement for their matchup with Paper Rex, but ultimately, the Chinese champions didn’t deliver on their dark horse expectations.

Agent meta

Photo credit: Riot Games

The most played agent at Champions was Chamber, according to VLR.gg. The sentinel agent was a must-play agent on most maps for the best duelists at the tournament. OpTic’s Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker, Fnatic’s Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev and FPX’s Ardis “ardiis” Svarenieks all played Chamber very effectively. Fade, the Turkish initiator who is the newest agent released by Riot, was the second most played. These were the only two agents who were picked more than 50% of the time at Champions.

Many of the other agents were played frequently on specific maps, but rarely on others. Viper was picked 100% of the time on Breeze and Icebox. Raze was picked 100% of the time on Bind. Sova was brought out 100% of the time on Breeze, and 0% on Bind, Fracture and Pearl. Astra was used 83% of the time on Pearl, but didn’t get used more than 50% on any other map. Neon was picked 80% of the time on Fracture and 39% on Pearl, but less than 10% on all others.

What about Jett? Jett was the most picked agent across most of 2021, but since the introduction of Chamber, the knife-wielding duelist agent has seen her pick rates go down. Jett was only the eighth-most picked agent (31%) with rates of 82% on Breeze, 66% on Haven and less than 15% on all other maps.

Who did well on Pearl?

Photo credit: Riot Games

This is how each game on VALORANT’s newest map Pearl played out.

Groups

  • Paper Rex over EDward Gaming
  • 100 Thieves over Fnatic
  • OpTic over LOUD
  • ZETA Division over BOOM
  • XSET over FPX
  • Paper Rex over Team Liquid

Playoffs

  • XSET over Fnatic
  • OpTic over XSET
  • XSET over FPX

Records

  • Paper Rex 2-0
  • OpTic 2-0
  • XSET 3-1
  • 100 Thieves 1-0
  • ZETA Division 1-0
  • EDward Gaming 0-1
  • LOUD 0-1
  • BOOM Esports 0-1
  • Team Liquid 0-1
  • Fnatic 0-2
  • FPX 0-2

As you can see, North American teams did very well on Pearl (6-1), while EMEA teams did poorly (0-5). NA’s only loss on Pearl was actually an NA vs. NA matchup, so North American teams went undefeated against other regions on the map. NA teams were only slightly better than EMEA teams at Champions, but NA teams had an advantage in head-to-head matchups (4-2) and the difference often was Pearl. EMEA teams like Fnatic were great on Fracture when it was a new map at Champions 2021, but this year, NA teams were very much trailblazers on Pearl.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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