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A short two weeks ago, hundreds of North American VALORANT teams kept their hopes alive of a dream run to the inaugural world championship this Nov., Champions. Following a series of do-or-die matches, upsets and miracle runs, the number of teams who could represent the North American region at Champions has dwindled to just 11 organizations.

Eight of those 11 teams will face off in a week and a half to see whether they can book their tickets to Berlin for the third masters tournament of the year; their final chance to secure a Champions spot outright. The top three teams in the upcoming Berlin qualifier will fly to Germany to go up against 13 of the other best teams in the world.

But, before we find out who will represent North America at masters, here are the Upcomer staff’s current power rankings for the top 10 in the region. Each panelist submitted their own rankings, with the final list being a tabulation of the results.

10. T1

T1 may have not qualified for Challengers 2 (and they are out of the running for Masters 3 Berlin), but they still outperformed some of the top teams. T1 were one of the teams that drastically fell off after the 2020 season, when the game first released. After several roster changes and multiple Stages of VCT, T1 finally hit their stride alongside several others.

While T1, alongside Gen.G, won’t be in the running for VCT Masters 3 Berlin, and most likely won’t be at Champions, they’re at least clicking at the right time. T1 need to keep their current roster and work on some of their fundamental problems to become a stronger team for the future.

— Danny Appleford 

9. Gen.G Esports

Challengers 2 was set to be Gen.G’s tournament, thanks to a supposed drop in the quality of teams from Challengers 1, but they left the event early with little to show for it. Much like their No. 10 counterpart, Gen.G left the event on the second day in decisive fashion against Rise, losing the first map 13-2.

Gen.G is still one of the best teams in the region, and their record against Tier 2 teams, along with their placing in Stage 1 and main event appearances in Stage 3, show that. However, they can never seem to get over the hump and reach elite status. They have, once again, stepped into the all-encompassing shadow of Challengers Playoffs-bound teams.

They looked good in the open qualifier and their matches in Challengers 1, but they failed to impress as the tournaments went on, even with their use of KAY/0. As teams again go dormant until the last chance qualifier later this year, Gen.G will once again begin the cycle of competing for relevancy in a crowded North American VALORANT landscape.

— Declan McLaughlin

8. Rise

Rise have turned heads with their performances since Stage 3. No one expected them to be a top contending team, especially with teams like Version1, NRG Esports and Immortals all in the running. Despite that, Rise exceeded all expectations to make it to Challengers Playoffs after they made it to the third round of the lower bracket. While they may have almost missed Challengers Playoffs all together, they still managed to pull it off and qualify in the end.

Unfortunately for Rise, they are tasked with taking down Masters 1 and 2 champions Sentinels in the opening match of playoffs. While not impossible, Sentinels would be a tough opponent for anyone. But, Rise could pull off what Version1 accomplished for Masters 2 and surprise everyone by making a run through playoffs to qualify. In addition to Version1 not being in the running for Berlin, there will be an additional spot up for grabs.

— Appleford

7. Luminosity Gaming

Luminosity join the Challengers Playoffs field after a dormant stint during VCT Stage 2. The new-look team got an injection of youth, thanks to Joseph “ban” Seungmin Oh, and the temporary services of Tanner “TiGG” Spanu (while Kaleb “moose” Jayne nurses a broken wrist).

Luminosity aren’t looking all that different from previous iterations, but there are just enough changes to make a difference. Alex “aproto” Protopapas still frags out on Controller picks, thanks to his great aim, topping the tournament with a 40% average headshot rate. Diondre “YaBoiDre” Bond still looks serviceable on Duelists and has widened his agent pool since his last VCT appearance. All in all, Luminosity have returned to their previous form with some new dimensions of play. They are no longer the team that likes to hit bomb sites with as little utility as possible; they now have multiple approaches to VALORANT matches and don’t need to rely heavily on individual mechanics.

That said, Luminosity’s current iteration may have a ceiling and might pay the price against other Challengers Playoffs teams now that there is some tape on the team.

— McLaughlin

6. FaZe Clan

FaZe Clan were looking rough after losing to Sentinels during Masters 1 earlier this year. After falling short, the team seemed to lose the spark they’d once had. That connection remained dormant until recently, when they qualified for Challengers 2 and made a fantastic run through the losers bracket to qualify for Challengers Playoffs. They may have been taken down a notch by TSM in the grand final, but FaZe have proven they’ve still got what it takes to play at the top level.

However, FaZe Clan will have to take down 100 Thieves in the opening match to avoid the losers bracket. This may be challenging considering 100 Thieves qualified for Challengers Playoffs much earlier than FaZe. In addition to having to take down 100 Thieves, they will also have to fight TSM, Envy and Sentinels for one of the three spots at Berlin. If they can continue their aggressive play style, they could still make a run to Berlin.

— Appleford

5. TSM

TSM went from down-and-out in the VCT competition to the best team at Challengers 2 in record time. This is the closest TSM have come to their First Strike glory days, since their last two appearances at VCT main events saw them exit before the third round of games.

The team looks more balanced and seems to have a strong identity with Chet “Chet” Singh stepping in as the head coach and James “hazed” Cobb helming the in-game leader role consistently. However, those moves aren’t what vaulted TSM into Challengers Playoffs and onto our rankings. The emergence of Sean “bang” Bezerra and trail player Aleko “LeviathanAG” Gabuniya gave the team a lift into the upper echelon of NA VALORANT. Bang, along with Matthew “Wardell” Yu, finished in the top five of the tournament field in terms of Kill/Death ratio and average kills per round. Leviathan showed off his supportive skills on Viper and Sova and finished top three in assists per round, according to VLR.gg.

With these two new additions, and the veteran members rediscovering their talent, TSM look like a top five squad in North American once again.

— McLaughlin

4. 100 Thieves

With Version1 out of the running for Berlin and three spots up for grabs, this is 100 Thieves’ best shot at reaching the big stage. The team has decades of competitive FPS talent from Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and several tournament victories between the five players. It would be a disservice to household names like Spencer “Hiko” Martin and Nicholas “nitr0” Canella if they didn’t make it to an international event for VALORANT.

Now that the Challengers Playoffs bracket has been revealed, it’s safe to say 100 Thieves are on the easier side. They will have to take down FaZe Clan in the opening match and then play the winner of Luminosity or XSET to make it to the upper bracket final. On the other side, it’s Sentinels against Rise and Envy against TSM, who looked scary during Challengers 2.  Realistically, 100 Thieves should have no problem making it to Berlin. If they do miss it, it may be time to reevaluate a roster that won’t have won anything significant since First Strike in Dec.

Appleford 

3. XSET

The debut of this lineup almost couldn’t have gone any better, as they defeated Sentinels to advance directly to the final Berlin qualifier before losing the rematch in the grand final. This is combined with minimal practice alongside their new in-game leader Rory “dephh” Jackson and even less time with their 16-year-old wunderkind Zachary “zekken” Patrone. Despite all that, XSET over-performed with the best finish in the young org’s history.

While they could surprise people in their previous tournament, no one will overlook them in the Berlin qualifier. That factor might be gone from their arsenal, but the added practice with their two new additions could mean that they haven’t yet shown close to their full potential. If that’s the case, XSET won’t only be going to Berlin; they could head there as NA’s No. 1 seed.

Was their Challengers 1 performance a bit of a fluke or are we looking at the team that will topple Sentinels?

Tyler “Fionn” Erzberger

2. Envy

In a region where Sentinels have dominated a revolving door of rivals, Envy stands as the second most consistent team in North America. That consistency might be in the form of fourth-place finishes and a slew of semifinal dropouts, yet there is no question that the leadership, experience and skill are all there for NV to put everything together for a run to Berlin and a top placement once they get there.

The player to watch out for in the upcoming Berlin qualifier will be their star entry in Victor “Victor” Wong. A player that on his best day can out duel everyone in North America, the NV front man has often found himself firing on all cylinders at the beginning of tournaments, before sputtering once they reach their climax. He was stifled in matches with 100 Thieves and Sentinels, in the opening Challengers qualifier of the run to Berlin. To finally break the curse of coming up short and assert themselves as a legitimate contender, finishing fourth won’t be good enough.

Fionn

1. Sentinels

The champions of the regional Masters 1 tournament and the game’s debut on LAN, Masters Reykjavík, Sentinels are straight chilling. While our panelists disagreed on a series of placements, the No. 1 choice was not one of them. Everyone agreed that Sentinels are at the top of the current North American hierarchy. They’ve already qualified for Champions with the number of points they’ve amassed through the first two masters campaigns. Now, Sentinels are gearing up to see if they can make it a three-peat in Berlin before shooting for the world title.

However, if Sentinels make it to Berlin, fans shouldn’t be surprised if the teams below them, that aren’t in Germany, become their biggest cheerleaders. Even if the No. 1 team in the world doesn’t need the extra help, another masters trophy will gift a seed to one of their North American rivals.

Fionn




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