Sentinels Look Unstoppable, Win Masters: Reykjavik Without Losing on a Single Map
What an event! The first Valorant Masters tournament was hype, but this was something else – a glimmer of a brighter future for esports, as we return to in-person competition on the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic. Riot knows how to throw a LAN party, man. Ten teams flew into Reykjavik; their fans spammed tons of emotes in the chat; we all watched fantastic team play and individual efforts in each round of competition; and one team emerged the champions. They haven’t secured a 100% guaranteed spot at Valorant Champions at the end of 2021, but the 400 circuit points gained in these Stage Two Masters give Sentinels a great shot at qualifying there.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it until everybody else catches up: Sentinels are just on another plane of existence right now. The Astral plane, on every map but Icebox, if you’ll forgive the pun – Zombs has been defining Astra’s metagame before our eyes. I can’t wait to see how he and the other Sentinels redefine the broader Valorant meta as new maps and agents continue to be rolled out.
TenZ, in a historic move, took a spot left in the wake of a sordid scandal, just before a big tournament, and filled the shoes left behind… and then some. Nothing like this had ever happened in esports before, and it’s unlikely to ever happen again. Though his future with the team was uncertain, TenZ is now officially a member of Sentinels in the long term. And either way, the show he and his teammates put on with Sentinels at Masters: Reykjavik was something to behold.
The team didn’t drop a single map all the way through their LAN victory. Nothing could be more definitive than that. They are indisputably the best Valorant team in the world, hands down, no question about it. They faced many worthy foes, but dispatched them all in short order. It may soon be time to borrow the term “dynasty” from traditional sports to describe the Valorant-focused org. Now that TenZ has a solidified contract with Sentinels, there is going to be a mountain to climb if any other team wants to dethrone them.
A Dream Team
Of course, it’s easy to get lost in the story of TenZ, but his role as an “entry fragger” ensures that many of the rounds SEN won came down to the other four players on his team. When asked in the post-match interview what factors specifically made Sentinels the best team in the world, SicK responded that “our adaptability and the chemistry we have together – it’s actually insane.”
This indescribable chemistry emerges in the small moments – peeks taken together, peaks of utility usage summitted, movements like chess pieces cornering opponents, post-plant scenarios played to perfection, and so on. The communication between the Sentinels (and I hope the teams couldn’t hear each other on opposite ends of that small-ish stage, but also hope that we get to hear some “mic’d up” moments on Sentinels’ YouTube channel) was also undoubtedly on point at Masters: Reykjavik. Many a “NICE!” were yelled, more by SEN members than those of any other team there.
In a press conference I’ll link later, Dapr said that the team’s communications – especially in 2v2s, 3v3s, and so on – were “really tight,” with “no over-comming, and then whenever somebody says an idea, we just follow through with that. We all give great ideas and we’re just all on the same page.” Though ShahZam is a great in-game leader, and though the team has no coach as of right now, all five of the players communicate efficiently and play with impressive chemistry. This helps the team stay composed, and each round builds on the trust they have for one another.
They also take each round as itself, without losing themselves in the outside significance. Focusing on what a win or loss would mean to yourself or others is a surefire way for you to lose focus on what’s directly in front of you. Their laser focus on the immediate moment is perhaps the biggest factor in Sentinels’ victory at Masters: Reykjavik. Being “clutch” is all about getting your mind to stay in the present, playing your best without thinking of what was or what could be… unless you’re reading an opponent, of course. Even then, Sentinels’ hands always seemed prepared to perform the right actions.
Like SicK, I am at a loss for words when trying to describe what else makes this team so fantastic, but I prefer to refrain from calling things “insane.” This sentence represents the minute I sat staring at the blank emptiness of the next page that’s popped up in this Word document before I go on. That calm in the clutch, the mechanical skill of each player, their coordination together, their communication, their character pools (with each player playing at least two different agents throughout the bracket), their economic plays, their clock management, their timing around corners, their angle-clearing prowess, their flicks from common angles to opponents’ heads, their spray transfers, and especially their adaptations to opposing strategies… these factors all came together in a dizzying maelstrom of skill.
The other teams in Reykjavik put in their best efforts, but let’s face it: they didn’t stand a chance.
I do want to pull back from Sentinels’ performance at Masters: Reykjavik for just one section, to talk about how the other narratives coming into Iceland played out, to give credit where it’s due.
As we zoom out from Sentinels, we’ll take another quick little look at their performance. They played on Haven in every set, and it was their best map from a statistical standpoint, featuring the least round wins for opposing teams throughout the Masters: Reykjavik bracket. SEN’s unpredictable style, with powerful aggression tempered by just enough patience, plays really well into the map’s three bomb sites. Only Fnatic were able to take the team to overtime, and then only in the grand finals, and even then, not on Haven.
Now for the runners-up. Fnatic, of course, deserve praise for an impressive second-place finish after winding up placing second to Team Liquid in Challengers. ScreaM will probably not claim himself to be the best Jett in the world anymore, I’d wager. Either way, the intense 2-3 loss in EU Challengers Finals gave Fnatic plenty of footage to study, which was no doubt at least partially responsible for their 2-0 victory (with two scores of 13-10 in rounds) when the European teams met again, in the lower bracket semifinals of this historic event. Fnatic have cemented their place as a top Valorant team globally, and going down to SEN in the grand finals of Masters: Reykjavik is nothing to be ashamed of.
Nor is Team Vikings’ run anything to be ashamed of. They made waves, just as I predicted. Not as many as I thought, granted, going down to Team Liquid in Lower Bracket Round Three. But Sacy and his squad still put on a heck of a show.
Version1 also deserves praise, inspiring many a chat message spouting NA supremacy before they fell to the “second place” EU team. They just lost steam after a heartbreaking Overtime loss in Map 1 of their set against Fnatic. Taking a map from NUTURN Gaming of Korea in the upper bracket was no mean feat – the latter is the only team to have taken at least one map from each of their opponents except, of course, for Sentinels.
I was particularly impressed by NU | Solo, whose Breach blinded and concussed his team’s way to many round victories and whose Sentinel characters (Cypher and Killjoy) locked down key areas of the map. He’s now considering retirement after a long and storied FPS career, but we’ll only know at some point in June. I hope he at least rides out the year, but it’s obviously his choice.
In a reversal of V1’s fortune, Sharks Esports – the second seed from Brazil – did win one map against NUTURN… but went 0-2 in the bracket, falling to KRÜ Esports of broader Latin America in the lower bracket. Crazy Racoon of Japan were the other 0-2 team, and although the skills which brought them to Iceland are no doubt impressive, the Raccoons’ performances against V1 and the Thai titans, X10 Esports, were a tad disappointing.
The full bracket can be found here, a link which features other links to any and all matches you may have missed.
I feel compelled to say again, before we return to the stars of the show, that I would have really liked to see Korea given another roster slot, for the Vision Strikers of 102-match win streak fame to have shown their stuff, with how impressive NUTURN looked on the world stage. Again, only Sentinels were able to stop NUTURN from getting at least a map win; they absolutely annihilated the Korean team in the Upper Bracket Finals. I hope we get to see SEN vs. VS at Masters: Berlin or perhaps even in Champions at the end of the year.
BigPhish SEN SUPREMACY BigPhish SEN SUPREMACY
The heading of this concluding section comes from one of the few Twitch Chat spams I’ve participated in. It was all over chat, and for good reason. It doesn’t feel toxic or rude or geographically tribalistic, like many of the other walls of text that showed up while Sentinels were proving their supremacy in the matches of Valorant Masters: Reykjavik. With this roster, they really do seem unstoppable.
Again, this is due in no small part thanks to each and every member of the team, but we have to circle back to how all eyes were on TenZ going forward from the event, as one of SEN’s highest-impact players and without a doubt the one whose future was the most uncertain. I’m glad we got a happy ending, both for C9 Jack’s bank account and for Valorant’s undisputed number one team. When asked in that press conference I mentioned earlier if he wanted to keep fragging out with his new teammates and how much that decision was his own, TenZ replied that it’s just a “no-brainer” that he wants to stay a Sentinel. In fact, he was praying that he’ll be allowed to stay. However, that decision was out of his hands due to his legally binding contract with Cloud9.
The team was no doubt sick and tired of being asked and hearing about this. Writers like me couldn’t resist thinking about it, though. And now, we don’t have to continue speculating. As discussed in the earlier-linked video about the roster transfer, Cloud9’s founder and CEO Jack Etienne confirmed on Reddit that the deal was done before the tournament in Iceland took place. This “seven figure deal” – the specific number is as of yet unknown – will no doubt have dug deep into the coffers (and probably beyond, if I had to speculate) of Sentinels. Of course, talent like that, both in esports arenas and in the content creation space, is worth every penny.
And beyond the struggles over one player from two organizations, we have the vods and twitch clips of the event, showcases of the incredible skill that SEN and their opponents brought to Stage Two Masters: Reykjavik. Valorant has a bright future ahead, as these storylines continue to unfold.