Valorant Masters: Reykjavik and the Future of the Valorant Champions Tour
The Valorant esports scene is now starting to blossom into something special, and many of the best players from around the world will soon be duking it out in-person. This is incredibly important to foster a sense of international community, to test who’s the best of the best, and to write storylines with utility and gunfire. In Reykjavik, Iceland, we’ll soon have our first taste of international FPS competition since the pandemic began. And I can’t wait.
No longer a vague imagining, Valorant esports is now right before our eyes. Back in the beta, many could sense that Valorant had the potential to become the next big thing; it’s the first tactical shooter to give CSGO a run for its money in years. And now, Riot is set to host one of the most hyped-up FPS events in years with Valorant Masters: Reykjavik. That’s pronounced RAKE-ya-VICK, if ya didn’t know. This first in-person event since the game’s release will take place in the historic Laugardalshöll venue, which hosted of the “Match of the Century” between Bobby Fisher and Boris Spassky in the World Chess Championship of 1972. The place is a storied venue for another event we’re sure to remember for years to come.
Iceland is one of the most beautiful nations on Earth. Its relatively central location on the world map makes its capital a prime candidate for the first huge esports event since COVID-19 shut down so much of human social life. Valorant Masters: Reykjavik is sure to breathe new life into the esports scene in general, and will obviously be huge for Valorant. How huge? Metaphorically: gigantic – this is our first chance to get solid evidence as to who’s really the best team in the world. And monetarily: a whopping $600,000 prize pool is on the line. Plus, qualifying points for the upcoming Valorant Champions event at the end of 2021 are up for grabs. Doing well here will really help teams solidify their slots for that upcoming “Super Bowl” of Valorant in Champions. There will be more pressure on these players than they have experienced in their entire Valorant careers, for all of these reasons… and from that pressure, true champions are forged.
The Roster Lineup for Masters: Reykjavik
Plenty of big names in that list below. Perhaps the most surprising name to see on there is NUTURN Gaming… or perhaps it’s more surprising to not see a certain other team in their slot. More on the Korea situation in a bit. The star power on display across the world is incredible. The storylines from the first Masters event, which was region-locked due to COVID-19, have continued to develop, though some of these stories cut others short.
Europe went from the EU, Turkey, and the Commonwealth of Independent States all having separate brackets in Stage 1, to the EU mopping the floor with everybody else in Stage 2. Poor Futbolist went 0-2 in the group stage, and Gambit Esports made it out of groups only to go down 0-2 to Fnatic.
Crazy Raccoon proved that their Stage 1 Masters online win was not a fluke, once again defeating Absolute JUPITER, this time doing so from the upper bracket, all without dropping a single set. Granted, JUPITER put up a good fight, taking a map in the grand finals, but Crazy Raccoon will be the only team from Japan at Valorant Masters: Reykjavik.
Thailand once again asserted its Valorant dominance over Southeast Asia, with Singapore’s Paper Rex going out in losers’ finals to the Thai team FULL SENSE, who in turn lost to their countrymen in X10 Esports. X10 plays a solid meta team, with Cypher or Killjoy playing alongside Skye, Sova, Jett, and Astra, occasionally swapping Skye for Breach on Haven or Astra for Viper on Icebox. This cast of characters gives X10 all the tools they need to turn gunfights in their favor, and their teamplay has been more than impressive. Sova and Jett in particular are at the core of lots of teams that will be participating in Valorant Masters: Reykjavik. That’s about where the character meta is the days leading up to the first official Valorant LAN event, if you stumble on this article in some nightmare future where Jett is underpowered and the newest agent has a flamethrower which can cover both bomb sites. Anyway, we’ll see how X10 can stack up against the rest of the world, with many teams playing very similar team compositions.
In terms of individual players, lots of eyes will be on TenZ and ScreaM in particular, the latter of whom seems to have God on his side. To say he’s “the best Jett in the world” is a bold claim to make, and we’ll see if the Belgian beast’s Ramadan power boost continues on after the holy period has passed. Of course, Liquid have been experimenting with Viper’s recent buffs to pull out a two-Controller + two-Sentinel + Skye composition on Haven especially. And TenZ historically hasn’t played Jett on every map, either. So, barring a Modern Warfare 2 style quickscopes-only 1 vs. 1 exhibition match or something, ScreaM’s claim may only be tested on a map or two.
Regardless, it’ll be absolutely amazing to see this battle of champions to determine the best of the best… at least until we get to Valorant Champions. So, once but not for all. But before we get to the future events in the 2021 VCT, we have to talk about how…
Vision Strikers were Robbed
Plain and simple, highway robbery. With only one slot available to their nation, the Korean esports athletes on Vision Strikers had to get through just one more tournament at the top of their game to be able to show their stuff at the most important Valorant event yet to happen. The team had an absolutely incredible run up to this point, but just couldn’t hold on. They went more than one hundred matches without a single set loss, which is just mind-boggling.
Though NUTURN shafted them this time, thankfully VCT Masters: Berlin later this year will have six more team slots available, with two in each region rather than certain regions having more than others. VS certainly have all the skills necessary to take one of these Korean slots. It’s just a matter of them returning to form and adapting significantly, to throw off the footage studying that’s no doubt been done by every other team in Korea.
But for now, I think we do need to take a serious look at the format used here. To add a correction to something I said about Sentinels in this article of mine, it turns out that Stage 2 Challengers 1 was not in any way related to Valorant Masters: Reykjavik. Only the most recent Challengers event (officially called Challengers Finals) mattered for that qualification, though that doesn’t account for the VCT points, pride, prize money, etc. But there’s still a good critique to be made there – this LAN event is so huge for Valorant. As such, leaving qualification to only one tournament, and having only one slot for an incredibly strong region, just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
VS were so dominant for so long, but they’ve been robbed of their shot at showing their stuff to the wider world of international esports in part because of their opponents’ strong play (hats off to NUTURN Gaming, for sure) and in part because of the huge target on their backs. Every other team in the Korean bracket was gunning for VS, and must have watched hundreds of hours of match footage in preparation for the qualifier for this first VCT Masters LAN. Plus, the longer a champ goes without losing, the more pressure they may feel to perform at the same high level, pressure that can really mess with one’s head. Those disadvantages, and the nature of the qualifiers as one-and-done deals, led Vision Strikers to be robbed of the slot many assumed would be theirs. And that has robbed us from seeing them on the world stage.
Ah, well… maybe next time.
Shoutouts to Brazil
And to circle back around to happier topics, the nation of Brazil deserves special recognition. One need only look at the breakdown of teams’ slots at Valorant Masters: Reykjavik to see that there are two slots just for Brazil and only one for the rest of Latin America. Valorant is huge in Brazil, and the talent is huge among the Brazilian players. Sacy in particular impressed, the Sova player earning MVP in the Grand Finals between his Vikings and the Sharks.
Team Vikings have shot up to be ranked #1 in Latin America after my Stage 1 Masters article; at time of writing that, they were #8. This team is stacked. Look for them to make waves. The Sharks, ironically, may not make as many waves, but they’re no pushovers either. No team should be underestimated simply for not being from NA or EU.
The Stream Experience
This event will last for roughly a week, starting on May 24. And plenty of godlike Valorant is in store for us. The Valorant website lists only the bracket matches on stream, unfortunately. I was hoping for at least a few exhibition matches on Breeze or a free-for-all with one rep from each team or something. Maybe there will be a side event or two, and I’m sure many of the players involved will be streaming on their personal channels during downtime. TenZ, for example, has already been spotted playing some EU Competitive games with AverageJonas. Fingers crossed that the event itself has some interesting exhibitions in addition to the bracket which will, don’t get me wrong, produce some incredibly hype moments on its own.
Anyway, in that bracket, Team Liquid and Sentinels were both given a round one bye due to winning their respective regions’ Challengers Finals. Everyone else was randomly seeded, which I think is… fine. Seeding won’t be much of an issue with such a small field, and would have been a crapshoot anyway, with how little information we have about how the different regions stack up to one another.
If you miss any of the games, they’re sure to go up quickly on the Play Valorant YouTube channel. But I’d try my best to tune in on Sunday, May 30, at 8 AM PDT for the biggest Valorant event to date.
The Future of the VCT
And after this groundbreaking LAN event for the hot new esport on the block, Valorant will take a brief “offseason” before going back into the Challengers phase for the next big LAN event, one with sixteen slots for teams from around the globe. As previously mentioned, this next Masters event will take place in Berlin. That will be on September 9, 2021.
PlayValorant.com has a solid breakdown of how the VCT works, which can be somewhat complicated or even confusing, at this link here. The long and short of it is that there are three competition periods per year, which go from Challengers to Masters. We’re in Stage 2 right now, and VCT Masters: Berlin will be Stage 3. Teams have been and will be competing for circuit points, by which eleven teams will qualify for Champions at the end of the year. The winner of Masters: Berlin will automatically qualify for Champions. Four teams – one each from North America, South America, Europe, and Asia / the Pacific Islands – will qualify to Champions out of a bracket consisting of anywhere from six to ten teams, depending on region, a “Last Chance Qualifier.” These 6-10 teams will be those who accumulated circuit points just below the cutoff for Champions qualification.
And those will be our sixteen teams duking it out for the real biggest Valorant event of all time. Valorant Masters: Reykjavik feels like the Super Bowl because it’s our first LAN, but it’s closer to the first game of the playoffs. Still, I’ll have a blanket fort and plenty of snacks ready to watch some sick plays in Iceland from May 24 to May 30.