These are your first four Masters teams

posted by SmittyW.,
Alliance, Ninjas in Pyjamas, FunPlus Phoenix and Team Heretics advance to Masters of Stage 01 finals through Challengers Playoffs. Europe’s finest have been determined: Week 02 of the VALORANT Champions Tour Challengers celebrated the first Playoffs in Stage 01. Eight teams fought their way through the Qualifiers and Play-Ins of Week 01 and 02 respectively to get a shot at making it to the Regional Finals.

The line-up consisted of the four winners of Week 01, Wave Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, FunPlus Phoenix and OG. The Play-In of the second week produced their worthy opponents in the form of Alliance, G2 Esports, Fnatic and Team Heretics – two days of top-notch VALORANT action ensued.

Favourites prevail in Play-In

In contrast to Week 01, the second week offered no upsets in the Play-In phase. Alliance were able to wrestle down the French prodigies of DfuseTeam and G2 dominated their opponents from Animel 13-4 and 13-9.

Meanwhile, both First Strike winners Team Heretics and the talented squad of Fnatic had a hard time overcoming their opponents in the round-of-eight. With Guild Esports, the latter faced a team on eye level, which dominated them on map one. The team of captain Jake “Boaster” Howlett was able to win map two, however, and proved stronger nerves in the overtime in the final of their best-of-three.

Team Heretics, who conceded a bitter defeat against an underdog in Week 01, struggled once more against an allegedly weaker opponent. Chakalaka, a team from Poland, gave them hell on Ascent. Only in the second half could the favourites turn the tides. After that, Split went to the Poles 13-11. On the match decider, Bind, Heretics eventually utilized their strength, especially thanks to unstoppable stand-in Dustyn “niewSow” Durnas on Reyna (27/10/5), who replaced the injured captain Christian “lowel” Garcia.

Alliance disenchant Wave Esports

Wave Esports were virtually unknown outside the DACH region before VCT Challengers. They upset Fnatic in Week 01, paving their way to the Playoffs. Alliance had to be wary going into the series, as the team plays an aggressive style that catches their opponents off-guard.

Right on map one, captain Enzo “Fearoth” Mestari and his team put the pressure on Wave. As attackers, they led the map 8-4 before changing sides. They managed to tame Wave and block their attacks, taking Icebox 13-9.

On Haven, it looked very much like Alliance had deciphered the code of their opponent. Despite their best efforts, Wave’s secret weapon Murat "murii" Korkmaz couldn’t repeat his killer performance from Week 01. However, when it was Alliance’s time to attack, Wave turned into a concrete wall.

Map two turned into a nail-biter of an overtime, but this time around the favourites prevailed, closing out the series on Haven 17-15.

NiP win rematch against G2

The Ninjas in Pyjamas are currently supporting their repute as one of the best squads in EU. On Friday, they once more defeated G2 Esports, which is considered one of the best, if not the best squad in Europe by many. Where does this leave NiP on the power scale?

While G2 managed to snatch one map away from the ninjas in Week 01, NiP didn’t give their opponents much of a chance in the Playoffs. While G2 went strongly into the match opener Ascent, which was their pick, NiP displayed an incredible comeback on the attackers' side. NiP’s Emir "rhyme" Muminovic, in particular, had a strong game on Sova and contributed much to turning the 5-7 disadvantage into a 13-9 win.

The team led by former CS:GO pro Kévin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans seemed in even better shape on their own map pick, Haven. Although G2 put much effort into matching NiP, they wouldn’t let go of the map and thus the series, closing out the map 13-10 and the match 2-0.

dimasick and Zyppan blast Fnatic out of Playoffs

FunPlus Phoenix are one of Europe’s most famed squads even before debuting in VCT. In their Play-In match against Team Liquid in Week 01, they showed nerves of steel, winning two overtimes by the skin of their teeth.

Therefore, it was fairly surprising to many that Fnatic had such an easy time dismantling the team on Bind. While the first half of the map looked well-balanced, FPX wasn’t the same after changing sides. After a close pistol round, their economy went into a downward spiral which was a significant factor in their poor performance as defenders.

However, what followed was an amazing comeback. Starting as attackers on Split, FPX simply hunted Fnatic down without remorse. Pontus "Zyppan" Eek finished the first half with 13 frags and a 3.25 K/D ratio – topping the average K/D of his team by slightly more than 1! This ratio was only topped by his team-mate Dmitriy "dimasick" Matvienko.

The Kazakh absolutely dominated on Cypher, finishing with a 3.5 K/D on the defending side (with an overall K/D of 2.25). In the end, Fnatic managed only to get three rounds before FPX released them from their misery.

For dimasick, map two was but a warm-up for the deciding map, Haven. On both sides, he got frag after frag, amassing 28 kills in the end. FPX gave Fnatic little room to breathe, displayed magnificent teamplay and won the map 13-7.

It is perhaps not surprising that the community elected dimasick Player of the Match after his performance. With almost 70% of the votes, he was clearly the MVP of the series.

Heretics dominate OG

Team Heretics had much to prove going into the Playoffs. After dropping out early in Week 01, they marched through the Qualifier in Week 02. Although they struggled against Chakalaka in the Play-In, they were still regarded as favoured by the community.

For the Playoffs, lowel returned to the team after recovering from his injury. Together, they bulldozed over OG on two really quick maps. In contrast to Week 01, Dragan "elllement" Milanović, OG’s MVP from Week 01, didn’t have that much impact. Both maps were pretty one-sided at 13-6 and 13-7.

This was also due to Heretics’ Žygimantas "nukkye" Chmieliauskas who played his Raze out of his mind. With 50 kills over both games, the Lithuanian scored almost twice as many frags as OG’s top fragger Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson. Plays like these show that nukkye isn’t just an aiming god, but that his movement skills are quite remarkable as well:

The Challengers continue!

The four winning teams advance to the Regional Masters, the concluding event of VCT EU Stage 01. There, they will meet four more teams to fight for valuable circuit points that will determine who’s going to play at VALORANT Champions at the end of the year. On top of that, there is $150,000 on the line to reward the best teams in Europe.

The four teams that didn’t make it to the Regional Finals are not out of the race yet: Week 03 will be the last chance to qualify for this stage’s climax in March.

Top 4 EU

1st-4th Alliance
1st-4th Ninjas in Pyjamas
1st-4th FunPlus Phoenix
1st-4th Team Heretics
5th-8th Wave Esports
5th-8th G2 Esports
5th-8th Fnatic
5th-8th OG

I couldn’t watch the games live. Is there a way to rewatch?

For those who are busy during the match-days, simply check out our VODs on YouTube and Twitch. Every game and livestream will be saved on its respective channel and you can watch any series whenever you want to.

Playoffs Day 01

Playoffs Day 02

Photo credit: Riot Games