Masters Reykjavik will host zero First Strike Champions
In terms of competitive Valorant, December might as well be a thousand years ago. First Strike was the start of something beautiful. Valorant tournaments were organized by Riot Games across the globe. Hundreds of teams were given the chance to qualify and compete to become the first ever Valorant Champion of their region. A lot has changed since then. New maps have made their way into the game. New agents have taken over the meta. It is time we move on from First Strike and start looking to the future. While becoming one of the First Strike Champions is an incredible accomplishment, Valorant has shifted drastically since. Masters Reykjavik is approaching and the old guard is nowhere to be found. Those that once reigned over competitive Valorant have had their throne usurped.
There were 18 total First Strike tournaments. Some regions had one Champion and others were divided into smaller sub-regions that crowned their own Champions.
First Strike Champions
There will be 10 teams at Masters Reykjavik – two from NA, two from EMEA, two from BR, one from KR, one from LATAM, one from JP, and one from SEA. None of the above teams will be competing in Iceland. A handful of them came fairly close, but were ultimately eliminated without a chance to represent their region.
100 Thieves had no problems qualifying for the NA Challengers Finals. It just wasn’t their tournament once they arrived there, however. The 100T run came to end in the second Lower Bracket round against Team Envy in a tight 2:1 series after initially defeating Andbox and being sent down by eventual Grand Final winners Sentinels.
Team Heretics did not even make it to the EMEA Challengers Final event, but BBL Esports did. BBL fell in the Group Stage with consecutive losses to Team Liquid and Gambit Esports.
In a heartbreaking turn of events, Vision Strikers were eliminated by NUTURN Gaming. That effectively crushed the hopes of every other region when it came to facing off against VS. NUTURN went on to snag the Korea slot at Masters Reykjavik, though. No doubt, they are looking to bring the same fire they have shown through the VCT to this first international LAN tournament.
LazerKlan rebranded to just LAZER and was the only of the two LATAM First Strike Champions to make to the Challengers Finals for that region. They advanced to the Upper Bracket Final only to be sent down to the Lower Bracket Final by Six Karma. The Lower Bracket Final saw them handed a 2:0 defeat by the eventual LATAM North representatives for Challengers Finals, Infinity Esports.
The region of Japan saw their First Strike Champion come closest of all. Absolute JUPITER made it to the Grand Final after losing to Crazy Raccoon in the Upper Bracket and defeating REJECT in the Lower Bracket. Crazy Raccoon once again proved they are the new kings of Japan by eliminating Absolute JUPITER 3:1 and claiming the sole JP Masters Reykjavik spot.
The SEA Challengers Finals included Bren Esports and Team nxl. The two teams met in the Lower Bracket Round 3 where Team nxl advanced in a close 13:11 game of Icebox. The Lower Bracket in that region was a best-of-one until Round 4. Which is where Team nxl would make their exit to the runners up in the tournament, FULL SENSE.
The last to fall was Gamelanders. As this is being written, Brazil has not yet determined both of their representatives for Masters Reykjavik. Team Vikings has advanced to the Grand Final through the Upper Bracket and will own the first spot for BR in Iceland. They did not have to go up against the First Strike Champions of Brazil, however. Gamelanders started the Challengers Finals tournament off hot, defeating Havan Liberty 2:0. The next round saw them fall to Lower Bracket Finalist, Sharks Esports. That was then followed by Havan Liberty returning the favor of a 2:0 victory, destroying the last sliver of hope for a First Strike Champion to represent their region in Iceland.
It is clear that First Strike was just a sample of what was to come for Valorant. Viper and Astra, Icebox and soon Breeze, the transition of players from other esports, and the ever-changing balance of Valorant by Riot Games have shaken the FPS to its core. There are new top teams all over the world. In a few months, there could be another completely different set of top teams.
To be honest, it is pretty refreshing to see competitive Valorant take this turn and it will be exciting to see who reigns supreme later on down the line. Especially when LAN tournaments become a more common occurrence.
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Brandon "Mothman" Moore
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