Following the conclusion of the two First Strike Qualifiers, we can finally take a look at the playing field of the first RIOT-directed VALORANT tournament. There are some familiar faces, but the event is largely populated by new and lesser known teams.
THE OLD GUARD
During the first Qualifier, teams like G2 Esports, Team Liquid and FunPlus Phoenix already made their way to the main tournament. These three teams have usually made the Top 3 spots at most IGNITION Series events and put up a dominant show again. G2 Esports actually suffered a loss to Guild Esports, but as the latter were later disqualified for using an exploit, G2 eventually got through. Liquid and FunPlus navigated the bracket without much trouble. Obviously, these teams have the biggest shot at winning, but the new challengers are not to be underestimated.
They are free agents and looking for an organisation to play for! ?#PlayersFirst
— Prodigy Agency (@ProdigyAgencyGG) November 21, 2020
WHO IS PRODIGY?
Some might have noticed that Prodigy is, technically speaking, not an actual team. This organization is actually an agency representing a wide pool of players in the esports space, some of which are VALORANT based. For example, Nick “nitr0” Canella, Joshua “steel” Nissan, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom, and Óscar “mixwell” Cañellas are all on the list of this agency. But what is this Prodigy team, then?
Some players are currently left without a team. They have either made the jump to VALORANT or are in between titles at the moment. This holds true for Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer, who now leads the in-house team. He gets support in that endeavor by a former CS:GO pro called Daniil “pipsoN” Meshcheriakov. The roster has been filled up with additional free agents. In doing so, they have actually created quite a formidable and competitive lineup.
Prodigy already made a deep run in the first Qualifier. They only lost to Team Liquid. On 11-13 and 5-13 scorelines they dropped out in the last match. Afterwards, they managed to sweep the second Qualifier and finally reserved a spot in the upcoming First Strike event.
WHERE DO THE OTHER TEAMS COME FROM?
SUMN FC already qualified via the first Qualifier and were incredibly lucky in not drawing any of the tough opponents. Purple Cobras are probably the least known team of the bunch. They only made it to the Play-Ins of the first Qualifier, but soon struck down the Ninjas in Pyjamas in the second installment. This is their biggest success so far, apart from winning a smaller online cup.
Team Heretics already boast a lengthy history in CS:GO. They have fielded one of the better French rosters for some time now. In VALORANT, however, they have gone the international route, creating a team from CS:GO veterans and young prospects. Žygimantas “nukkye” Chmieliauskas is a former Counter-Strike pro, who, until his retirement from the scene, played for HellRaisers. He rose to fame under The Imperial and NoChance, winning DreamHack Open and the Copenhagen Games. Christian “loWel” Garcia Antoran, whose claim to fame is stints with PENTA Sports and mousesports, joins him.
2-0 vs Finest, Full Cojones mode initiated today. We qualify to the first strike! So freaking happy ?
— Heretics nukkye (@nukkyez) November 22, 2020
As the two players haven’t exactly been successful lately, they have arguably squeezed everything out of their CS careers. So it makes sense to switch over to VALORANT, given that these two are obviously really talented. Otherwise, how would Team Heretics ever have made it to First Strike?
The nolpenki roster is the last one on the list. This joint operation of international players has already won a few online cups. Granted, this isn’t enough for the big leagues. Their road through the Qualifier was also not that difficult. Apart from Guild Esports, they didn’t even meet a single dangerous team. In comparison, once they met BIG in the first Qualifier, they immediately dropped a 4-13 match. So this team arguably has the weakest claim to victory here.
DO THESE TEAMS ACTUALLY STAND A CHANCE?
There will be lots of in-fighting in between these underdogs. Even though their performance isn’t any indicator for their ability to compete with G2 and the rest, the Single Elimination Bracket at least gives them a fighting chance. Upsets happen all the time and without a Lower Bracket, this can get dangerous even for the top teams. G2 can’t allow themselves to make any mistakes.
But they rarely ever do. On top of that, the underdogs would have to win entire Best-of-Threes. G2 Esports, FunPlus Phoenix, and Team Liquid once more have the opportunity to make up the Top 3. But can Liquid and FPX finally break through and push G2 from their throne?