Five players to watch at NA VCT Challengers
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The VALORANT Champions Tour has been revamped and retooled for the 2022 season, leaving North American teams with limited slots, and time, to qualify for the year-round league. With high stakes and pressure this early on, teams will have to identify talent early to have an edge going into the NA VCT Challengers qualifiers starting on Jan. 27.

Twelve teams that qualify for the main event will start the round robin matches on Feb. 11 and battle for a spot at international events. Here are the five players to keep an eye on for the VCT qualification tournament, and possibly beyond.

XSET Cryocells

Michael “Cryocells” Panganiban is an up-and-coming Jett player that recently signed with XSET. He previously played for SoaR. SoaR was a top-tier team outside of the VALORANT Champions Tour that racked up wins in the tier-two tournaments.

As a Jett main, Cyrocells is everything that a team could need for a fresh start to the new season. On top of that, Cyrocells is only 19 years old, which makes him the perfect age to be molded around the future. We have seen this same talent with 100 Thieves’ Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk.

— Danny Appleford

Gen.G rhyme

Gen.G Esports had an unfortunate end to the VCT season in 2021. Their hopes for success in 2022 rest on the shoulders of Emir “rhyme” Muminovic, who hails from Bosnia. The European player previously played for Ninjas in Pyjamas, who had varied success through the 2021 season.

As a flex player, rhyme can use a number of champions including KAY/O, Viper and Raze, depending on the map. At 22 years old Rhyme, is hungry to show what he is capable of doing around the map. While NiP had some rocky finishes in 2021, rhyme is hoping to re-write that story in 2022 in the North American VCT.

— Appleford

The Guard neT

Michael “neT” Bernet is a fast rising star in the North American VALORANT scene. A former member of the former touted Teal Seam roster, the all-around player has logged multiple games on most of the VALORANT cast at this point.

Now a Controller player for new-comer organization The Guard, neT has averaged over 200 Average Combat Score, 120 Average Damage per Round and a 1 Kill/Death ratio on his two most played agents, Cypher and Killjoy. Fans of second tier of NA VALORANT know what neT can do on the server, now it’s time for the mainstream competition to get a taste of what the future of VALORANT may hold with the young player.

— Declan McLaughlin

Pioneers Critical

A Canadian teenager who isn’t exactly new to the VALORANT scene, Tristan “Critical” Trinacty is a Sova and flex player that may be what Pioneers need to push them over the edge into solid Tier 1 status. Formerly of Built By Gamers and the defunct Mamba Mode Gaming squad, Critical has appeared on the main VCT stage in Stage 2 with BBG as the team failed to make Challengers Playoffs. Despite that, Critical stood out as a player to watch then and has only cemented that status with his current play on Pioneers during his trial period.

— McLaughlin

Akrew Neon

There’s no shortage of young, cracked Jett-mains in North America. Many, like Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, have accrued massive followings. Here’s one that hasn’t quite made into the mainstream yet. Austin “Neon” Hedge debuted in VALORANT on Team Serenity. It was a short project that ended after a few months. For a time, he was in limbo, org-less. That ended when the young American Duelist was picked up by Akrew.

The elevation the team saw after picking up Neon was near instantaneous. Akrew are currently on a tear, ripping through their competition in the Knights Monthly Gauntlet for December and the Nerd Street Gamers: Winter Championship circuit. The team currently leads the pack in Circuit Points after winning three separate NSG qualifiers, beating out established teams like the Pioneers.

Led by Neon’s consistent fragging on Jett, Akrew are on the come-up. He’s averaged 240 ACS over the past 60 days, all on his signature agent. Even more impressive is the sheer quantity of matches the team is playing as they grind their way through event after event — more than 80 maps in the past two months alone. It’s encouraging to see, and that much work will certainly show itself as the VCT and other big events roll into motion in 2022.

— Coby Zucker

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