VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 3 Challengers was full of upsets and saw several teams rise to the occasion. The competition in North America is heating up with new teams reaching into the top ten teams of our VALORANT power rankings.
Sentinels remain No. 1 after their victory at the recent Stage 3 Challengers finals, followed closely by XSET and 100 Thieves, who are on the rise. Toward the bottom of the standings, new faces like Rise, Soniqs and the Kansas City Pioneers have earned an appearance thanks to an impressive open qualifier.
The Australians continue to turn heads with their performances during VCT. This time around, they had a beautiful run in the early stages of the bracket before running head first into the brick wall that is Sentinels. If Soniqs had avoided facing the Masters 2 Champions, there was a good chance they would have made it to the closed qualifier. The team has been doing well in low-tier tournaments and has started racking up ladder points.
With Sentinels now already in Challengers Playoffs, Soniqs have a good chance at making it through the next round of open qualifiers. The team hasn’t been together long and there is still time and tournaments to prove themselves. If Soniqs are able to pull themselves together and make it to the second closed qualifier of Stage 3, they’ll look like a much more impressive squad.
— Danny Appleford
9. Kansas City Pioneers
The Pioneers are a new addition to this list after their stunning performance during Stage 3. They caused two of many upsets during the open qualifier after defeating Immortals and VIRTUOSO. That deep open qualifier run earned them a much-deserved spot in the closed qualifier.
In the closed qualifier, the Kansas City Pioneers lost to Envy in the upper bracket. Despite this 2-0 loss, the Pioneers kept the games close and easily could have made it to a Game 3. In the lower bracket, the Pioneers first faced Version1, who had made headlines for their performance at Masters 2. After losing the first map, Kansas City came back to eliminate Version1 on the first day of the event. After that, they were faced with taking down Sentinels.
The Pioneers couldn’t keep up with the Masters 2 Champions in the end. They lost 2-0 and the Sentinels went on to make a lower bracket run and win the closed qualifier.
Rise have not been known for their top-tier play in VALORANT. Their recent performance at Stage 3 has landed them a spot on our VALORANT power rankings but their failure to perform against Gen.G and XSET puts them lower than others. Beyond that, while Rise overcame Cloud9 in the open qualifier to make it to the main event, they failed to win a series and ultimately dropped out of the tournament on the first day.
While they lost to top teams, they made up for it by dominating in smaller tournaments. If Rise want to prove themselves as a top tier team, they will have to push back harder against those tough opponents. Currently, they look like they had a lucky run at the open qualifier in order to make it to the closed qualifier.
7. Cloud9 Blue
Cloud9 Blue were almost one of the North American representatives at Masters 2: Iceland alongside Sentinels. Since then, they have fallen somewhat in the standings. They performed well against the low tier teams in the early stages of the bracket but they failed to pull away against Rise.
After failing to qualify for Iceland, Cloud9 Blue moved from playing with Michael “poiz” Possis to Erick “Xeppaa” Bach. With poiz, the team made a legendary run and nearly made it to Iceland. With Xeppaa, the team could not get through the open qualifier. There is still another chance for Cloud9 Blue to qualify for Challengers Playoffs through the next qualifier, but the teams they’ll be fighting against to earn their spot have recently looked much better. It will be an uphill battle for Cloud9 Blue starting with the next Stage 3 open qualifier.
Another squad with shakeups, Gen.G continue to live on the fringes of North America’s top VALORANT scene. They have shown flashes of inspiration, but they’ve only recently started to put together a decent resume. Gen.G started the VCT era with a few wins, managing to qualify for all of Stage 1’s main events. They also finished top four in Masters 1. But in Stage 2, Gen.G were all but invisible.
After failing to qualify for either tournaments in Stage 2, they made some changes heading into Stage 3 to improve their chances at international competition and Challengers qualification. With their new player, former Immortals in-game leader Nicholas “NaturE” Garrison, the team barely missed out on a top four finish at Stage 3 Challengers 1. With a second shot at Challengers playoffs, and the two teams that defeated them out of the equation, Gen.G look primed to make another top four and return to the fold of top North American VALORANT teams.
— Declan McLaughlin
North America’s second representative at Master 2, Version1 have taken a bit of a slide in most VALORANT power rankings thanks to the suspension of one of their starters. They are also reintegrating Maxim “wippie” Shepelev into their lineup after he couldn’t make the trip to Iceland for the international LAN tournament.
Despite the dip in form, and leaving Stage 3 Challengers 1 on the first day, Version1 still looks like a top squad in North America. Anthony “vanity” Malaspina is still on point in terms of meta compositions/strategies and Loic “effys” Sauvageau seemingly shows off new Sova lineups every event. Once the squad reunites in Challengers 2, fans should expect them to show out and possibly climb the rankings if they make it to Challengers Playoffs.
4. Team Envy
The newly revamped Envy squad remains consistent in the upper echelon of North American VALORANT. Their new addition, loanie Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen, slotted in nicely in the first event of Stage 3. He struggled in the upper bracket but, once knocked into the lower one, he ramped up his play and escaped the bottom of Envy’s leaderboard.
Even without Jake “kaboose” McDonald, the team looked polished and had the firepower to deal with up and coming squads like Pioneers and the new look T1 roster. The squad almost always makes it to top four at tournaments, but they have yet to make a push towards the No. 1 or 2 spots in VCT. If Envy figure out what they need to make that push and qualify for Masters 3, they could be a tough opponent for anyone internationally. And, if not, Envy have accrued 85 points toward Champions thanks to consistent top four finishes in both Stage 1 and 2.
3. 100 Thieves
If there is any team in the world that needs to make it to Berlin and compete at Masters 3, it’s 100 Thieves. At every turn, the organization has made aggressive moves and spent the money to build a roster shining with experience, skill and youthful firepower, most of which manifests in the form of Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk. That firepower was on full display in the qualifiers when Asuna put up 48 kills, a VALORANT Champions Tour record, in a marathon of an Icebox game against Version1. Overall, 100 Thieves will be satisfied with their opening qualifier performance, advancing to the main event to see which teams will travel to Berlin for North America.
However, there’s one thing they won’t be happy with: their fourth-straight defeat by the hands of Sentinels. For a majority of teams, lagging behind Sentinels is OK. But for 100T, built to not only compete but to win multiple trophies, they’ll need to slay their boogeyman if they want to reach their ultimate goal.
— Tyler Erzberger
XSET were already a promising squad on the outskirts of being a contender for a top-three spot in the region, but their recent transactions heading into the Berlin qualifiers have turned them into a possible monster. They brought in a commander to guide their already impressive core by signing Rory “dephh” Jackson, an in-game leader with years of experience in Counter-Strike. Then, the cherry on top, XSET scooped up promising 16-year-old prospect Zachary “Zekken” Patrone from Noble; adding an explosive, flexible gunner to round out the roster.
While XSET couldn’t seal the deal with a loss in the Challengers grand final, their series win over Sentinels was the first time the No. 1 team in the world had dropped a match since April. That’s no doubt an excellent beginning for a starting-five that hasn’t begun to reach its peak.
The reigning, defending and undisputed No. 1 VALORANT team in the world kept their streak of tournament victories going with another win in the Challengers final. It wasn’t a flawless conquest; they dropped a series to the up-and-coming XSET before taking them out in the finale. Still, there is no question which team is on top of North America’s hierarchy. Even when team captain and often carry Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan has an off tournament, the four other superstars on the squad pick up the slack.
There might be teams around the world with players individually that can match Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and Hunter “Sick” Mims, but no one can match the Sentinels in top to bottom depth.