17 matches, 10 teams and six days of heart-pumping action have all led to this. What was a match that we first saw on day two in the upper-bracket quarterfinals has now become our grand final, as the undefeated Sentinels will meet the battle-tested Fnatic to become the first-ever international champions of VALORANT. North America’s champion upended the Europeans in a 2-0 victory in that opening matchup but a whole lot has changed since then, as Fnatic has gone 8-1 run in the lower-bracket for a chance at ultimate revenge.
Our experts are here to break down the grand finale and who they think will be lifting the trophy by tomorrow night in Reykjavík
Which teenage phenom do you think will have a bigger impact in the finals: Tyson “TenZ” Ngo (Sentinels) or Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev (Fnatic)?
Tyler “Fionn” Erzberger: Give me TenZ. I had to withstand pre-tournament chatter on how he was going to fall on his face on LAN due to his performances as a 16-year-old in Counter-Strike and TenZ has done nothing but shut up his doubters. His team has done an incredible job reining him when needed and though Derke is a superstar in his own right, TenZ is the only player in the entire event thus far who is averaging a kill or more per round. How crazy is that? He’s guaranteed a kill almost every single round, and unlike past performances when he was forced to either get 30+ kills or lose, he has teammates to pick him up if he does stumble a bit.
These two are definitely the best aces we’ve seen in Iceland, though I think it’ll be the Canadian that goes home with the trophy following another stellar performance.
Zain Merchant: No matter the result of VCT Masters 2, TenZ will have more impact in the finals. In whichever situation he is put in, TenZ shines and frags out in every series he plays in. In each series he has played at in the tournament, he averages 20+ kills per map and holds the highest K/D, combat score and kills per round. On his past teams, the catchphrase ‘TenZ and friends’ applied as it was only TenZ fragging out and attempting to carry his team single-handedly. On Sentinels, each player shines in their own right, but TenZ will always highly impact in the matches he plays in.
Danny “Kovu” Appleford: TenZ and Derke are both raw young talent in the scene but there is something about TenZ coming in to join Sentinels from Cloud9 and dominating everyone. He was the first player in North America to reach Radiant and I think overall he is just an unstoppable talent. Derke is incredible but my money is on TenZ’s to clutch.
Who has the better in-game leader between Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan (Sentinels) vs. Jake “Boaster” Howlett?
Erzberger: This is actually harder than I would have initially thought. When push comes to shove, I’m going to go with ShahZam through his massive experience advantage professionally compared to his British counterpart. Boaster, however, there’s something about him where I can never count him out. As an individual player, I take ShahZaM. As a shotcaller, I’m also taking ShahZam. He’s not only the IGL of a team that hasn’t dropped a map yet in Iceland (and has already 2-0’ed Fnatic) but is also the de-facto coach.
But for whatever reason, Boaster is someone that I don’t think cares about being counted out. He probably knows ShahZaM is, on paper, the superior IGL and player and yet, I think he fully believes that he can outdo him in the biggest match of his career. I’m sticking with ShahZaM but there’s something special about that goofy, dancing Brit on Fnatic’s side.
Merchant: Boaster and ShahZaM are both very similar in their IGL style. Additionally, both players have intense Counter-Strike knowledge as they were both in the pro scene of the game. However, Boaster manages his team and controls more of the mid-round calls in his team due to the agent he plays. As an Astra and Brimstone, he needs to be hyper-aware of everything going on around the map. But, when ShahZaM is playing as Jett and OP’ing, he is more focused on his own gameplay and calls an overall strategy at the start of the round. Overall, Boaster is the superior IGL because he manages and directs the team more.
Appleford: Boaster has had so much experience in different games (League of Legends and Counter-Strike) that I think he has a bit of an edge over ShahZam who has only Counter-Strike experience. There is something about having competitive background experience from two different game titles that makes me put more faith in Boaster.
Declan McLaughlin: Both players are coaches as much as they are IGLs. Both had to teach their teammates how to play a tactile shooter in the early days of VALORAT and Boaster is heavily involved in all aspects of strategy with Fnatic’s coach. ShahZam has had a better tournament statistically, in terms of performance and overall team success. But Boaster has kept a cool head in the lower bracket and rebuilt his team in the VCT era. For me, it’s not one or the other, but if someone held an Ion Sheriff to my head I’d have to go with ShahZam.
Which map do you think will be the most important in the final?
Erzberger: I’m looking at Ascent. It’s a map that when first introduced, was the Sentinels map that no one could defeat them on. Yet, as time has moved on and they’ve changed rosters, it has become seen as possibly their weakest map in the entire pool. It’s a map that Fnatic are traditionally strong on but dropped it against NUTURN in the lower-bracket finals. If Sentinels can win Ascent, then this series should go emphatically in their favor. If not, then this could be a barnburner that goes all five maps. This would be the time to see the Ascentinals rise again to reclaim the map they once called their domain.
Merchant: In the grand final, the two important maps of the series will be Split and Bind. Split is a map Fnatic normally insta-ban and always get out of the way as they don’t prepare for it. However, in a best-of-five, each map is played and Fnatic need to be better prepared for Split than they were in the finals of their region qualifier against Team Liquid.
McLaughlin: Both teams look ready to scrap on Bind, but in tournaments like this whoever has the least liked map down usually wins. Right now the map that no one really likes at this tournament is Icebox. Whoever wins the trench warfare that is B site on Icebox should win the series in my opinion.
The event has already seen a new viewership record with over 700,000 concurrents between Twitch, Youtube and other streaming platforms. What do you think the peak viewership will be for Sentinels vs. Fnatic?
Erzberger: I want to hit over 1 million but I’ll be realistic and say that we hit around 800k concurrents. If it goes a full five then I think it hits over 1 million but Sentinels haven’t been good on keeping the dramatics going thus far this tournament.
Merchant: The event will easily surpass 700,000 viewers and hopefully be around 900,000 people. However, as the game is a best-of-five, the series is very long so viewership will be in and out, but each LAN in 2021 has had insane viewership and VCT Masters 2 will be no different.
McLaughlin: 750,000 is my estimated peak viewership. The co-streams should help boost the ratings but VALORANT lost a lot of international viewers in Brazil, Korea, Japan and Latin America as their teams exited. The North American and European crowd should help boost the ratings but the lower bracket games on Saturday were overtaken by the Minecraft Championships. Whatever else is popping off on Twitch on the day of the grand finals may leach viewers too.
Alright, enough small talk. North America’s Sentinels against Europe’s Fnatic. Who is winning, what’s the scoreline and who is awarded finals MVP?
Erzberger: I picked Sentinels to win before this event began and not only have they proved me right every step of the way but have “giga gapped” the competition. While I won’t be as cocky to say they’ll run through Iceland without dropping a single map — believe me, I will be insufferable if that somehow happened — I do think they deserve to be solid favorites going into the final. This is a team that gets up for big matches and ShahZaM had an extra day of preparation to get ready for the granddaddy of them all.
I’m going 3-1 Sentinels with TenZ getting MVP after throwing up 30 kills on the game-deciding map.
Merchant: I think Fnatic will win 3-2. Both teams are insanely talented and have shown why they deserve to be here. While Sentinels have proven how strong they are mentally, Fnatic are used to playing lots of matches in a single day – as shown in their back-to-back victories on day six of the event and in previous events. Best-of-fives are very long and Fnatic will definitely outlast Sentinels.
Appleford: I have my money on Fnatic winning the finals solely because I think it’s time for Sentinels to fall. It’s just like Gonzaga during this year’s March Madness, they were undefeated going into the final and completely choked. Sentinels haven’t lost a map while Fnatic have played the most series at the tournament, gotten more practice, and has had more time to adapt. Fnatic 3-1.
McLaughlin: I’ll go with Sentinels 3-2 and each map will go down to the wire 13-11 across the board. Hearts will be broken and legends will be forged. I want someone to puke from stress, get back on the stage and hit a damn headshot. I don’t want to be able to go to sleep after this final. TenZ and Derke should both drop 80 kills. As for the MVP, I’ll go with Dapr since that guy will probably get a knife kill for the final frag of the series.
I’m predicting the most intense match of VALORANT yet.