CNed and Europe's champions are ready to aim for the crown
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Following months of qualifier after qualifier (after an even bigger qualifier), we’ve reached the end of summer and its final destination: VALORANT Masters Berlin.

There will be 15 of the best teams in the world from seven regions (after Bren Esports’ visa issues) that embark to Germany to capture the trophy and automatic qualification to the upcoming world championship. As a bonus, the winning team will also secure an extra spot at Champions, for their respective region.

As we count down to curtain opening in Berlin, I will guide you through each of the 15 teams vying for masters victory about their roster, map pool and the burning questions surrounding them.

Acend’s starting lineup

Acend's Starxo ahead of masters berlin
Starxo poses for the camera at Acend’s pre-masters boot camp. | Provided by Acend

Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek (Turkey)

Agents played (past 60 days): Jett (25), Sage (8), Reyna (1)

Signature agent: Jett

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 282.7 ACS
  • 1.62 K:D
  • 1.02 KPR
  • +47 First Kills-to-First Deaths (107 FK, 60 FD)

Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt (Poland)

Agents played (past 60 days): Reyna (9), Phoenix (9), Raze (8), Astra (3), Sova (3), Yoru (2)

Signature agent: Reyna

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 255.1 ACS
  • 1.26 K:D
  • 0.87 KPR
  • +5 First Kills-to-First Deaths (29 FK, 24 FD)

Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi (Finland)

Agents played (past 60 days): Omen (12), Viper (11), Brimstone (8), Breach (2), Sage (1)

Signature agent: Viper

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 208.5 ACS
  • 1.23 K:D
  • 0.75 KPR

Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński (Poland)

Agents played (past 60 days): Skye (21), Sage (7), Sova (5), Raze (1)

Signature agent: Skye

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 211.4 ACS
  • 1.20 K:D
  • 0.78 KPR

Vladyslav “Kiles” Shvets (Ukraine)

Agents played (past 60 days): Cypher (12), Viper (9), Sova (6), Sage (3), Killjoy (3), Reyna (1)

Signature agent: Cypher

Stats (past 60 days):

  • 179.6 ACS
  • 1.00 K:D
  • 0.67 KPR

Stage 3 Map Pool

Loading screen for Bind. | Provided by Riot Games

Breeze: 4-0, 100% (70% Attack Round Win, 59% Defense Round Win)

Bind: 6-1, 86% (61% ATK, 70% DEF)

Icebox: 4-1, 80% (53% ATK, 69% DEF)

Haven: 4-2, 66% (54% ATK, 57% DEF)

Ascent: 1-3, 25% (40% ATK, 57% DEF)

Split: 0-1, 0% (0% ATK, 42% DEF)

My player to watch: cNed

cNed is acend player to watch at masters berlin
cNed in Red Bull gear. | Provided by Red Bull

He isn’t only the player to watch on Acend, but cNed might be the player to watch of the entire tournament. From his days on the popular Turkish side of BBL Esports to his first venture in Europe with amateur squad nolpenki, cNed has been one of the most feared duelists in the EMEA region. It’s been a waiting game to see when he would make it to LAN and challenge the world, and he will finally take his first steps into the world of international’s top talents at Masters Berlin.

There are few players, aside from Sentinels centerpiece Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, that can single-handedly turn a lost map into a commanding victory like cNed. His teammates enable and play around his aggressive tendencies, often the aggressors on defense and forcing the attacking side to play on the backfoot.

Acend is a team with firepower across the board, yet there is no question about who the group’s ace is. Although he’s not a trash talker nor a showman — a simple thumbs-up usually the extent of his celebrations — Acend’s superstar duelist does all the talking he needs on the field.

The big question for Acend in Berlin: Can they live up to the hype and escape the group of death?

If I wrote this preview a few weeks ago, Acend would have been the undisputed No. 2 team going into Berlin. They were smashing squads left and right. CNed was dancing on upper-echelon talent like they were nobodies and an EMEA championship seemed to be a formality.

Alas, things didn’t go as planned and Acend had to settle for the No. 3 seed behind the CIS champions Gambit Esports and Turkey’s champions SuperMassive Blaze. While the losses to those two teams can be swept aside as seeding matches following Acend’s qualification for the main event, it leaves some questions on what happens when teams with comparable firepower stack up with Europe’s best.

The real pitfall of them losing, however, is the fact that they’re stuck in the consensus group of death at Masters Berlin; saddled with old friend SM Blaze, Singapore’s Paper Rex and South Korea’s famed Vision Strikers. What could have been an appetizer for the difficulties of the 8-team playoffs has now turned into a full-course battle royal from the second Acend plays their opening game against a team that just beat them 2-1 (SuperMassive Blaze).

Acend has the pedigree to sail through even the group of death and make a statement en route to a possible Super Bowl-esque matchup with Sentinels. Still, it’s a question of whether their slip-ups are a sign of cracks in the armor or saving the best for when it matters.

In Berlin, Acend should be aiming to conquer the group of death, make the finals

Acend graphic for champions
Acend graphic. | Provided by Acend

The road has become rougher, and they’ll more than likely have to topple two of the top eight teams at Masters Berlin to make it to the playoffs. But the goal should remain the same: the grand finals. Acend have proven they’re Europe’s No. 1 team in two of the three stages this year. For a region with so much depth and talent, anything other than a finals appearance would be considered a failure.

A battle between cNed and TenZ might break the internet. Acend believes they can be the ones to slay the world’s best team. First, they need to go through a minefield of a group. If there’s any European team equipped and talented enough to get through it, it’d be their heroes in purple.

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Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.