RIOT’s first foray into the shooter genre has garnered them positive reviews throughout. While the game obviously had some flaws upon release, it is in a polished state that many older titles still try to achieve. VALORANT hasn’t even been out for an entire year, but still, its competitive scene has given us quite a few memorable moments to think about.
In May 2020, the first real VALORANT event took place. Back then, the LVL Clash was an exclusive opportunity for German teams only. At that point, there were rarely any pro teams, so a squad called ‘VALORANDO’ won the event. With Niels “luckeRRR” Jasiek, they already had a soon-to-be pro player on board. Marcel “rAx” Klenner, Christian “ItzzChrizZ” Blank, René “Braexco” Rehling, and Alexander “Caint” Syukrin made up the rest of the roster. Just like many others, all five of them hailed from games like Counter-Strike, PUBG, Overwatch, or Fortnite, trying to revive their careers in this new game.
For these five, things didn’t really go according to plan, but there are other star players now. Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas left the Counter-Strike scene as a decorated veteran and tried to establish himself in VALORANT. First, he was only part of a mix-team, until he partook in the first IGNITION Series event.
MIXWELL POWERS THROUGH THE IGNITION SERIES
These tournaments were sanctioned by RIOT, but held by various different organizers. They served as a preview for the real competitive VALORANT circuit that the developers aim to flesh out in the coming year. At the G2 Esports Invitational, mixwell first appeared and quickly won the event with his friends. The team was almost unbeatable and so it came as no surprise when G2 announced him as their first player. In June and July, the remaining four announcements followed. In August, G2 boasted a complete roster.
He's back and ready for action!
— G2 Esports (@G2esports) June 16, 2020
This team took to the remaining IGNITION Series events and won each and every one. So mixwell and David “Davidp” Prins are the only players to have won all of these tournaments. But the Europeans are definitely not the only impressive team to have made a mark on their regional competition. On North American soil, two teams evenly split the IGNITION Series victories.
TSM AND SENTINELS
T1 were the first pro team in the world to sign a VALORANT player. Braxton “brax” Pierce was a former Counter-Strike player, who was banned from Valve events after match-fixing at a very young age. So there was virtually no possibility for him to ever make it onto a roster with Major tournament ambitions. His transition to this game was understandable and over the next few months, T1 built a capable roster around him. This team then took part in the first IGNITION Series tournament of their region. There, brax and his colleagues made the Grand Finals – but there was no chance of getting the trophy.
In the meantime, Team SoloMid had also built a great lineup from the ground up, which consisted mainly of CS:GO veterans. Under the leadership of Stephen “reltuC” Cutler, the squad, consisting of, James “hazed” Cobb, Matthew “Wardell” Yu, Yassine “Subroza” Taoufik, and Taylor “drone” Johnson, secured an easy 3-0 victory and the trophy of the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Showdown. At the PAX Arena Invitational, they got out of the Group Stage unscathed, but soon they met their match. So far, the Sentinels hadn’t really performed up to par, but at this tournament they found their form. In a one-sided 2-0 match, they wiped TSM off the server. Later, they secured the tournament victory as well, beating Cloud9 and robbing TSM of a shot at back-to-back trophies.
But the same happened to Sentinels at the next IGNITION Series event. The FaZe Clan Invitational offered an exciting Grand Finals, in which Team SoloMid just barely got the trophy after a overtime victory on the very last map. So TSM led the rankings again and headed into the series’ last tournament. However, at Pop Flash, they fell to the ultimate upset. On two separate occasions, a surprisingly strong Dignitas fought them off and kept them from making playoffs. This gave the Sentinels a clear road ahead for the tournament victory and a second trophy, which they got on a 3-0 scoreline.
— Flashpoint (@Flashpoint) August 31, 2020
FIRST STRIKE NA
But all these events were only a taste of what the VALORANT developers had actually planned. RIOT soon announced the First Strike events for December. These should serve as the first ‘real’ events for this game and were supposed to work towards an international championship. In North America, this coincided with a special occasion.
Nick “nitr0” Canella had already announced his transition to VALORANT back in August. He soon found his home with the 100 Thieves. The team was just about to receive a thorough restructuring, which only left Spencer “Hiko” Martin on the roster. With Joshua “steel” Nissan, they soon had a third highly competitive CS player on the team. Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk and Quan “dicey” Tran completed the lineup. These players took to First Strike.
There, they quickly dispatched T1. In the Semi Finals, they faced Sentinels, who gave them a much harder time. But after an overtime victory on Icebox and a 13-9 on Bind, their sights were set on the Grand Finals. There, they squared off with TSM, who had already beaten Immortals and Team Envy. For hazed and his men, this was an opportunity to finally get ahead of the Sentinels and end the year on a high note.
— 100T Nadeshot (@Nadeshot) December 7, 2020
But the 100 Thieves were about to write their own success story. After all the media attention over their roster signings, the expectations were set quite high – but still, they met them with absolute style. The Grand Finals were hard-fought, but steel and his boys got a 15-13 overtime win on Split. After a 13-11 scoreline on Bind, TSM were about to lose the match. On Ascent, they finally delivered a decisive victory to at least show some fighting spirit. However, none of that was left on the fourth map. There, the 100 Thieves struck back on a 13-7 scoreline to secure the First Strike NA victory.
FIRST STRIKE EU
Despite TSM and Sentinels losing out, the tournament went pretty much according to plan. In recent time, the Thieves had constantly been gaining form and their rise to the top was almost bound to happen at this point. In Europe, however, there were only surprises all around. With G2 Esports, FunPlus Phoenix, and Team Liquid in attendance, it was expected to see one of these three teams go home with the trophy. After all, G2 had won almost every single event – so why should this be any different?
The surprise victors in a tournament full of upsets: @TeamHeretics
— VALORANT Champions Tour EU (@valesports_eu) December 11, 2020
In the end, Team Heretics walked off with the victory. Christian “loWel” Garcia Antoran and his men managed to set themselves on top of Liquid and G2. Afterwards, they faced off against SUMN FC in the Grand Finals and quickly secured the win on a 3-1 scoreline. So the victory run of mixwell and G2 has found its end. The competition never sleeps and the contenders have used the past few months to catch up. G2 will have to deliver in the coming year if they want to get back to the top of European VALORANT.
But First Strike is also only the beginning of what RIOT has in store for this game. Next year, the Champions Tour is bound to kick off, ultimately leading up to the VALORANT Champions 2021 event. Regional competitions all around the globe will offer the teams a chance to set themselves on top and qualify for the Champions 2021 tournament. This tournament will serve as a conclusion to the year and will surely be the biggest VALORANT event we have ever witnessed.