Every Crazy Raccoon loss has been preparation for Champions
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Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom and Hideki “Fisker” Sasaki had Igor “Redgar” Vlasov outnumbered, but they knew taking him out wouldn’t be easy. In what felt like a split-second, Redgar took out Munchkin before reviving Nikita “d3ffo” Sudakov. Suddenly the tables were turned.

Fisker evened the odds again by taking d3ffo out with ease, before turning to fight Gambit Esport’s captain. Redgar, knowing Fisker’s location on the high ground, turned and took out Japan’s last hope for international glory.

Crazy Raccoon, who had been up 6-1 earlier, fell 14-12 in their second matchup against Gambit at VALORANT Champions Tour Masters 3 Berlin.

Crazy Raccoon was only a few rounds away from redemption

“They had the potential to take down a top team,” said Asia Pacific VALORANT commentator Franco “Ilustrado” Bernardino. “An upset win against Gambit would have been so good.”

The loss hit the Japanese squad hard, bringing tears to their eyes as the camera cut to them after showing the Russians celebrating. They had been demolished by Gambit — a team that went on to win the entire Stage 3 Masters tournament — earlier in the event as well. Taking the would-be champions to overtime was an accomplishment, even though the team knew they had a long way to go.

Crazy Raccoon
Crazy Raccoon had an emotional tournament in Berlin, but it hasn’t deterred them from doing everything they can to win. | Provided by Riot Games

“Crazy Raccoon looked strong on that map and was actually good in the tournament overall,” Ilustrado said. “But I think they needed a map win there to make a statement. I think they could have done better.”

The match was closer than anyone thought it would be, with Crazy Raccoon coming a few rounds away from sending a message on the international stage. It was a welcome change after the Japanese squad was embarrassed at Iceland. They hoped they could go all the way when they returned to a major LAN in Berlin, but were happy to treat it as practice for the tournament that mattered most to them.

“We want to use this Masters 3 as a practice for Champions,” Yusuke “neth” Matsuda said through a translator at Masters 3. “We are also changing the members of our team so we want to adjust our practice and teamwork here.”

It’s all about becoming a Champion

Crazy Raccoon has had a poor international showing so far with both of their rosters, although there has been improvement match to match, especially in Germany. They fell to Version1 and X10 in two shutouts in Reykjavík. They faced a nasty loss against Gambit where they only won a few rounds, although, they took what they learned in that match and nearly took a map of Gambit the next time the two teams played at Berlin.

Crazy Raccoon did manage to shut down Havan Liberty in Berlin, but they’ll need that kind of performance at Champions since they’ve landed in the same group as Gambit.

“I think we definitely have the potential to perform very well,” Munchkin said following their first matchup against Gambit. “During our next match I hope a lot of the players are less nervous and we can show what we’ve practiced and show the fans what we’ve prepared.”

Crazy Raccoon shakes hands with Gambit
Crazy Raccoon will have another chance to take Gambit on early in the tournament | Provided by Riot Games

Champions will be a completely different beast compared to any tournament that has come before it. Teams are going all out in preparation; hosting boot camps across Europe before everyone starts the competition in Berlin on Dec. 1.

“I’m really worried [about] Crazy Raccoon because they definitely could have been better in Berlin. I’m really just hoping they’ve prepared more,” Ilustrado said. “There honestly isn’t that much a team can do within such a short span of time. They just have to play the tournament of their lives and play their own game.”

Crazy Raccoon will be the only representative from Japan at the final tournament of VALORANT Champions Tour 2021. They’ll have one of the biggest VALORANT audiences — an audience that players like Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin and Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas Colocho have tried to tap into — behind them. It’ll be their last chance to show that this team can perform well against teams outside Japan and the rest of Asia.

“So in Japan, VALORANT is really really big now. We also have good teams and the general situation in Japan is pretty good,” Fisker said in an interview with Esports.com. “We have perfect circumstances for VALORANT right now.”

Fans can watch Crazy Raccoon face off against Gambit Esports, Team Vikings and Team Secret in Group C at VALORANT Champions on Dec. 1.

Aron Garst looks at esports from a different point of view by tackling the ways games are molded and broken by players around the world. He covers Call of Duty, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, and everything else for Upcomer. You can read his previous work at WIRED, Rolling Stone, ESPN and elsewhere. Rise up red sea.
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