Why VCT Stage 2 in North America has been so competitive

North American Valorant has seen its ups and downs over the nearly two years of competition, evolving from a region dominated by Sentinels to one where OpTic Gaming and other teams vie for the crown.

A far cry from beta when the Sentinels and TSM won almost every major event, the region now boasts a large pool of teams in VCT Challengers events and Tier Two tournaments.

In VCT Stage 1 Challengers, Cloud9 and The Guard finished the group stage undefeated. Neither team made it to the playoffs in Stage 2, in which three teams ended with a 4-1 record and four with a 3-2 record.

When asked about parity between teams in the region, Pros who competed in VCT Stage 2 Challengers cited the rise in analysts, the new Chamber meta, and the higher agent count as reasons why Stage 2 was so competitive.

ShahZaM reads out a piece of paper surrounded by his Valorant teammates
Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Sentinels won the first international Masters tournament of 2021.

“I think people are innovating,” 100 Thieves player William “Will” Cheng said in an interview with Dexerto. “There are a lot more different competitions and a lot of that I think has to do with a good coaching staff.”

“I think a lot of these teams have put together a good group of analysts and started throwing in fewer standard comps. Because in the beginning when Sentinels was dominating, we were running very easy comps.”

Trainers in Valorant are nothing new, many teams have had them since the title’s beta phase. But the rise of teams hiring the services of analysts, who can theoretically create new agent compositions and help scout other teams, is a recent phenomenon in esports.

New agents bring more variety

The reason that many of the early compositions in Valorant were easy was mainly due to the lack of variety in agent choices. Teams competing in the beta phase only had 10 agents to choose from.

As the game has evolved and more agents have entered the market, other teams have gained prominence, according to NRG Esports IGL James “hazed” Cobb.

“With only a few agents able to be chosen from the start, I think there was an established meta and you play it because it’s strong,” he explained. “There’s not a lot of creativity to have, but every time a new agent comes out, it just gives you another opportunity to reinvent the meta. And I think it will be like [League of Legends]: The longer it’s out, the more you play with the strength of your team and not what the strongest agent is.”

Asuna at the VCT Masters Berlin representing North America
Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Asuna and 100 Thieves lost 2-1 to FaZe in the VCT Stage 2 Challengers playoffs.

One of those new agents recently added to the mix was Chamber. The Sentinel has been the subject of much controversy in the community as his gear seems a little overpowered, allowing him to engage in combat and instantly teleport to safety.

This has freed up a place in most rosters for some sort of second carry outside of the usual entry-level player, who primarily plays Duelists, or the flex player, who alternates between Duelists and Initiators. With the introduction of Chamber and the new compositions and strategies that came with it, more teams started to improve, according to Ghost Gaming’s Marc-Andre “NiSMO” Tayar.

“I think a lot of teams have been working hard and developing some cool stuff that we haven’t seen in the past,” said NiSMO. “But I think the meta changed the overall results on the leaderboard. Now you can see that I think Chamber was played on 80% of the maps and I think that’s just because you could fight non-stop and just teleport away. Eighteen seconds later you were able to teleport again.”

His teammate Brock ‘brawk’ Somerhalder made a similar statement about the agent, saying that his skills make it easier for teams to swing the dynamics of the game in their favor.

“I think it’s really momentum-based,” Brawk said. “So, honestly, any team can beat any team at this level. It just depends on who plays better. But I think Chamber is a character who f*****s with the meta.”

But Chamber and other agents coming in aren’t the only thing that can change the region’s landscape in an esport. As time goes by, more and more players and teams start figuring out the meta and disrupting the game as they start challenging those at the front of the scene.

That’s what happened to TSM when VCT launched in 2021, according to Hazed.

“People just figured out the game” has said. “It’s not really like it used to be where there were just a few top teams and they kind of dominated the regions. People caught up, they figured it out, they create their own metas, they just get a better understanding of the game as a whole. So now you see how many more teams are progressing through the ranks and challenging.

“So yeah, I think it also has to do with the game being out two years at this point.”

It remains to be seen whether this will remain the case in the Challengers playoffs and beyond, as OpTic Gaming are the current favorites to win and participate in the Stage 2 Masters Copenhagen. At least one new team will be traveling to an international event for the first time as NRG, FaZe and XSET are also still in the tournament.

https://www.dexerto.com/esports/why-vct-stage-2-in-north-america-has-been-so-competitive-1853010/ Why VCT Stage 2 in North America has been so competitive

Emma James

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