VALORANT Champions North America region preview
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Three teams from North America will be making the trip across the Atlantic Ocean to compete at the biggest VALORANT tournament of the year in December. A South Korean player, a few Canadian players and a whole bunch of Americans will hopefully prove that the best VALORANT talent can be found somewhere between Newfoundland and Baja California.

While the Russian juggernauts are still considered the best in the world, so much has changed since their victory over Envy at VALORANT Champions Tour Masters 3 Berlin. Teams have upgraded their arsenals with new strategies and extended bootcamps. Some have even added some fresh faces before they put it all on the line at VALORANT Champions.

Sentinels

North American VALORANT Champions team Sentinels at their hotel in Germany
Sentinels check into their hotel ahead of VALORANT Champions. | Provided by @Sentinels

Sentinels were at the top of the world when they beat Fnatic to close out VCT Stage 2 Masters Reykjavík. They were considered the undisputed best in the world — but there are a lot of other VALORANT squads competing for that title. The Canadian wonder Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and company lost to G2 Esports in groups before falling to Envy in the tournament bracket at VCT Stage 3 Masters Berlin. It was a long fall for a team that many considered would show up in the grand final.

There are plenty of new faces at Champions, meaning Sentinels are far from the only favorite heading into Champions. They picked up former Overwatch League pro and VALORANT FaZe Clan player Shane “Rawkus” Flaherty as a coach to help them bounce back. They can no longer rely on TenZ to pop off when every team in the world has been building a new way to approach the game for the last few months.

Sentinels should be looking for a way to take revenge on everyone. Their opening match is against a newcomer to the international stage in FURIA. They’ll have to face KRÜ Esports and Team Liquid after that. They should make it into the bracket stage alongside Liquid, but anything goes after that.

It’s a common sports mentality to take a loss and use it as motivation when it matters most. For the pride of NA, Sentinels may take their loss at Masters Berlin and turn it into a VALORANT Champions victory. It’ll prove that North America is the best if a trophy is raised by a Canadian in Western Europe.

Envy

Envy representing NA in VALORANT before Champions
Envy walk towards the camera at Masters Berlin. | Provided by Riot Games

While it didn’t look like Envy were close to beating Gambit in the grand final of Masters 3 Berlin, they were closer than anyone else. The Russian terminators beat the Americans 3-0, but every map was close, the first map even went into overtime.

Everything has been shaken up around the Envy organization recently with OpTic rebrands in Call of Duty, but the VALORANT team was not touched in terms of branding or otherwise. It’s doubtful that this shakeup would impact Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker and company heading into the tournament. They’ve also got a new coach in Chet “Chet” Singh who joined the team in October after parting ways with Michael “Mikes” Hockom.

Envy will take on X10 CRIT first followed by Acend and Vivo Keyd. This NA team is also in prime position to take VALORANT Champions with new tactics and a few extra months to plan for the event.

Cloud9

NA VALORANT Champions team Cloud9 sits at a diner bar.
Andrej “babybay” Francisty interviews Cloud9 ahead of their trip to Germany. | Provided by Riot Games

Cloud9 had to burn through a gauntlet of matches at the North American Last Chance Qualifier after losing to Rise in the upper bracket semifinal. The Anthony “vanity” Malaspina-led squad took out Version1, Gen.G Esports, XSET and 100 Thieves before beating Rise in a rematch in the grand final. That’s the best practice a team is going to get ahead of Champions.

Cloud9 is one of the favorites heading into Champions from North American according to a number of VALORANT pros who claim that Cloud9 is one of the top teams in the business. They’ve yet to prove themselves on the big stage, though. Winning the Last Chance Qualifier — while impressive — only punches a ticket for the chance to play even better teams. This is their real last chance to prove they are the top dogs within 2021.

Fnatic, FULL SENSE and Vision Strikers stand in Cloud9’s way in Group D at Champions. This group could go to anyone, but Cloud9 has the best shot at overpowering everyone else there. Fnatic hasn’t been performing well and FULL SENSE doesn’t have a lot of experience on the international stage. Vision Strikers could take the top seed, but Cloud9 could come out over them.

North America has some amazing VALORANT talent, but teams don’t clash with squads from other regions often. Cloud9 just dominated a bunch of the best American teams in the game and they’re going to need to take that mojo to win even more in Berlin.

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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