Why North American teams are now rooting for LOUD at VCT//LOCK IN
by Brian Bencomo
Entering the VCT LOCK//IN tournament in São Paolo, the first international VALORANT tournament of the year for the partnered VCT teams, there was a lot of hype around the Americas teams. After all, Brazil’s LOUD had defeated North America’s OpTic Gaming at Champions last year, and in the offseason, 100 Thieves won Red Bull Home Ground #3 on European soil, beating some European teams along the way.
The consensus among analysts and journalists seemed to be that the Americas had a lot of high quality teams, while the EMEA and Pacific regions were more top heavy.
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Yet, the final four teams at VCT LOCK//IN include only one Americas team, LOUD, and two European teams who dominated Americas teams. Natus Vincere beat Leviatán, and Fnatic beat 100 Thieves, North America’s last hope, to set up an all-EMEA clash in one semifinal. LOUD will face DRX, who represent the Pacific region, in the other semifinal.
Read more: VCT LOCK//IN São Paolo: Ranking all the teams
Reflecting on their loss to Fnatic on Monday, 100 Thieves in-game leader Brenden "stellar" McGrath told reporters in a postmatch press conference that he thought the team just needed to be better prepared next time they face a team like Fnatic.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“I think we just needed better prep time. Ultimately, I think we have all the correct pieces of our team,” he said. “I think we can be just as good if not better than them given if we had better prep or maybe just thought of a few more things coming into the tournament.”
Despite the fact some North America players and coaches have downplayed LOCK//IN as a true indicator of teams’ and regions’ strengths relative to each other because of the format, the fact is the winner of this tournament gives their region an extra slot at Masters: Tokyo in June.The winning team will give their region a fourth slot at the next international VCT tournament.
Read more: VCT 2023: Riot Games reveals schedule, location details
To be fair, a single-elimination tournament with an unseeded bracket to maximize interregional matchups is probably not the most fair way to assign an extra slot to a region. However, those are the rules, and now North American teams must hope LOUD comes through to give the Americas that extra slot.
Is EMEA really better than the Americas in VALORANT?
Although it does appear NAVI and Fnatic are clearly better than any Americas team except maybe LOUD, after those two teams there appears to be a big gap.
Team Liquid crashed out in the first round, and no other EMEA team looked all that impressive except Giants. In head-to-head interregional matchups thus far, Americas teams have gone 11-8, while EMEA teams have gone 10-8. Pacific teams have gone 5-8. There have been only two intraregional matchups -- LOUD vs. NRG and DRX vs. Talon -- and one more set to happen between NAVI and Fnatic.
LOUD’s victory over NRG knocked out what was likely the best North American team at the tournament just short of the semifinals.
Photo credit: Riot Games
“NA did get knocked out kind of early, but NRG did go the distance against LOUD,” 100 Thieves’ Derrek said when asked about whether VCT LOCK//IN has been indicative of the strength of North American teams. “So I think with a little more prep time, NA could do well at Tokyo. Americas could do well at Tokyo.”
Read more: NRG’s s0m proves himself in international VALORANT debut at VCT LOCK//IN
NRG looked awfully impressive with the old OpTic core plus Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks and Sam “s0m” Oh pushing LOUD to three maps. With Maps 2 and 3 going to overtime, it was a matchup that many commented on Twitter was worthy of being a final and maybe even the best match we’ll see all year.
Leviatán looked impressive up until they faced NAVI, Evil Geniuses had a resounding win over Team Heretics, and FURIA showed some fight against Fnatic. 100 Thieves and Sentinels were probably overhyped, but they both had to face the buzzsaw that is Fnatic.
Read more: Sentinels coach Syyko says ‘trust the process’ after loss to Fnatic at VCT LOCK//IN
If any of these teams, or any of the other Americas teams want a better shot to reach Tokyo, then they need LOUD to win VCT LOCK//IN.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games