by Brandon "Mothman" Moore in
Competitive News Valorant

Masters in Iceland is so close the players can almost smell the air. All around the globe, the different regions hosting Valorant Champions Tour events are going to war for a chance to reach Masters Reykjavík. North American Challengers Finals started off hot like the region always does. Competitive Valorant is no joke in NA and the first day of the VCT NA Challengers Finals proved that it is anyone’s game. Some of the top teams along with some unexpected underdogs gave spectators quite the show through the Quarterfinals and Lower Round 1. Two teams were eliminated, four ended the day sitting pretty in the Upper Semifinals portion of the bracket, and two more are hanging on for dear life as Lower Round 2 approaches.

NA Challengers Finals: Upper Quarterfinals

100 Thieves 2:0 Andbox

100 Thieves were tasked with taking down an extremely hot Andbox team. Andbox has recent victories over Sentinels and TSM, proving they can hang with the big leaguers. Nothing would cement them in the T1 conversation more than taking down 100T as well. Ascent was the first map and 100T managed to pull ahead. The first half was extremely close, but things shifted when sides switched. Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk and Spencer “Hiko” Martin led their team to a 13:9 victory.

Icebox was the second map of the series. 100 Thieves began with some solid rounds, but Andbox kept their head in the game. It wasn’t long before things were tied up. The evenness of rounds continued, much like it did on Ascent. Hiko and Adam “mada” Pampuch topped their respective teams at halftime, ensuring the other did not run away with it. After halftime, Andbox fought hard for the lead with Daniel “vice” Kim doing some serious damage as Viper. 100T forced their way back to tie it up at 10:10. Shortly after, 100T was out in front. That lead remained as they finished the series 13:10. 100 Thieves moved forward to the NA Challengers Finals Upper Semifinals.

Sentinels 2:1 Version1

V1 vs. SEN started off in the most surprising way. Version1 picked Ascent and absolutely dominated on it. It was the Anthony “vanity” Malaspina show for much of the game. On Astra, he went off going 11-0 at one point. Sentinels only managed to take two rounds of defense during the first half. Jordan “Zellsis” Montemurro joined the party with vanity, keeping his team from losing momentum. The first two rounds after halftime proved promising for SEN, but the following three rounds were all Version1 as they ended the map 13:4.

Onto Haven, Sentinels looked to bounce back on one of their best maps. The first several rounds saw back and forth victories for each team before Sentinels managed to grab a small lead. Jared “zombs” Gitlin brought out the Astra for this one, locking down sites and often playing the disrupter of the V1 retake and defusal attempts. A huge 1v3 from Michael “dapr” Gulino set SEN up nicely at halftime. A solid Ace by Erik “penny” Penny showed that V1 still had some life left. That didn’t last long as Sentinels forced a third map 13:6.

Split started with some unfortunate moments for Version1. Sentinels jumped to an early lead as dapr avoided a pistol round death, gaining his team a round as time ran out. Shortly after, a 2v4 with inferior weapons went in Sentinels’ favor. That allowed Sentinels to continue their blanking of V1 to start the deciding map. Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan as Jett with an Operator pulled off some disgusting plays, showcasing his versatility in Valorant. The 10th round of Split finally saw V1 take their first. Tyson “TenZ” Ngo had some insane plays that finished off the half. V1 tried their hardest to fight back, but Sentinels took the series with a 13:3 win.

Cloud9 Blue 2:0 Team Envy

Cloud9 Blue started Haven off on the right foot with a 3K by Son “xeta” Seon-ho. C9 kept up the pressure, taking a string of rounds from a solid Team Envy roster. Mitch “mitch” Semago fragged out as Cypher. This helped push Cloud9 Blue to a 6:0 lead. Victor “Victor” Wong finally made his presence known with a 4K and Team Envy’s first round. That only gave them a little bit of momentum as Cloud9 Blue remained on top 9:3 heading into halftime. C9B continued wrecking shop after switching sides. Michael “poiz” Possis stepped up with some fantastic rounds as Envy faltered. Haven was over after an attempted Envy comeback with a 13:7 Cloud9 triumph.

Ascent started with an Envy round, but Cloud9 Blue pushed back immediately. Ricky “floppy” Kemery snagged a 3K as he has found his place in Valorant. Nathan “leaf” Orf followed that with a 4K, carrying Cloud9’s domination from Haven over to the second map. Xeta found his own 3K and C9B was sitting pretty. A 4K by Jake “kaboose” McDonald, including three Sheriff one taps and a Showstopper kill, gave Envy their second round, which pushed them to end the first half with five. Envy brought it back to 9:9 after a nasty 4K from Austin “crashies” Roberts. That was all they’d get as Cloud9 Blue won 13:9 and sent Team Envy to the NA Challengers Finals Lower Bracket.

NRG 2:0 XSET

XSET vs. NRG started with two rounds for each on Ascent. After that, it was a continual back and forth throughout the first half with Damian “daps” Steele and Bryce “PureR” Lovell playing the difference maker for their respective team. A beautiful 4K by Jordan “AYRIN” He was met with the Spike detonating and a round victory for his opponents. That continued the trend of tight knit maps at the half. XSET took the lead after halftime. After the marathon of a first half, XSET tried to sprint to the finish line. NRG was not done, however. Bradley “ANDROID” Fodor and Daniel “eeiu” Vucenovic helped NRG bring it all the way back to 12:12.

Onto overtime. Matthew “Wedid” Suchan started the first round after regulation with a 3K as XSET pulled off a great retake of A site. Ian “tex” Botsch retaliated with his own 3K to keep NRG alive. An insane round saw a 4K from daps, ending the Clutch with less than one second left on the clock, giving NRG their first lead of the map after being down 12:7. NRG held their ground and persevered with a 15:13 victory.

The second map saw the teams do battle on Bind. Tex started NRG off well, helping the team secure a handful of consecutive rounds. XSET took a slower approach to pull out their first round and kept themselves from giving up too much space to NRG. NRG refused to let them close the gap, though. Daps consistently got important kills for NRG, shutting XSET down. XSET managed to snag a few more rounds, but the comeback would not be replicated from NRG’s Ascent victory. Cloud9 waits for them in the next round of NA Challengers Finals as they defeat XSET 2:0 by taking Bind 13:6.

NA Challengers Finals: Lower Round 1

Version1 2:1 Andbox

The first elimination match of NA Challengers Finals saw a hot start for Version1. Zellsis took V1 to four rounds with eight kills, fragging as Reyna early and often. After floundering against Sentinels on Haven, they changed the tune completely against Andbox. The map was zooming by as V1 went up 8:0. A huge 3K by Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker was stopped short of a fourth by vanity as the shutout continued. After allowing V1 to take 10 straight rounds, Andbox finally gained their first. The second half saw Andbox take a couple more rounds, but the massive lead of Version1 was too much. Haven ended 13:4.

Version1 looked to pick things right back up on Ascent. They had some dominating rounds, but Andbox was right on their tail, keeping things even. Andbox would take the lead with some solid utility usage to defend the sites. Their economy was absolutely boosted compared to Version1’s, allowing them to further their lead. Well, halftime came around allowing an economic reset. Version1 took advantage of that and evened the round count. Andbox kept their cool and took back the lead, finishing of Ascent 13:10.

Andbox started Split in dominant fashion. They took out V1 players left and right on their way to an opening streak of four rounds. It should have been five, but a fantastic Ace by penny gave life to Version1. The next round was a V1 Flawless victory. The momentum allowed them to keep it close at the half. It wasn’t long before V1 tied it up after halftime. Version1 then took the lead and looked to close it out. Andbox wasn’t quite done yet. When it looked like V1 was going to end it, yay popped off to tie things at 11:11. V1 locked in, finishing off Split, and ending Andbox’s dream of Iceland 13:11.

Team Envy 2:1 XSET

XSET took the first round of Bind on the back of a Brendan “BcJ” Jensen 3K. After three XSET victories, Team Envy snagged a Thrifty round to get them on the board. Their second round came after a great showing by crashies. The kills went back and forth throughout Bind, but XSET managed to edge those rounds out. Halftime approached with XSET ahead 9:3. Team Envy picked up the pistol round in the second half and then another from a Anthony “mummAy” DiPaolo 4K. Envy had no problem tying it up. An Ace by Wedid gave XSET their first round after halftime. For the second time of NA Challengers Finals, XSET allowed a hefty comeback to go down a map as Envy won 13:11.

XSET took an early lead on Ascent, but Team Envy immediately tied things back up. They continued on after that with a wonderful set of kills from kaboose. A Flawless for Envy put an end to an XSET eco round, putting them ahead by several rounds. XSET managed to battle back and make it much closer at halftime. A BcJ 3K tied the map at 8:8 after some quick rounds. The map then went back and forth for a short while until XSET took the game to map point. Map three was the destination as XSET won 13:10.

Split made one final appearance on the day. Team Envy immediately took charge with mummAy and Victor decimating XSET. An extremely quick seven rounds went to Envy before XSET managed to find their first. A big Showstopper by PureR helped the team wrangle their second as Zander “thwifo” Kim stuck a defuse to steal it. A 3K by crashies in a Flawless pushed Envy to one round away from double digits. 10:2 was the score at halftime. XSET battled back, looking to drag Split out as long as they could. Thanks to kaboose, Envy reached series point. XSET kept fighting, but Team Envy closed it out 13:11 to advance in the NA Challengers Finals.

Stay tuned as Run It Back continues covering the Valorant Champions Tour!

Brandon is a long time gamer with a passion for writing. Combining the two has been a dream come true. He was Run It Back's official correspondent for First Strike NA and looks forward to covering the North American Valorant scene for a long time.
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