After winning it all at VALORANT Champions in 2021, Vladyslav “Kiles” Shvets and Acend won their first match in the VALORANT Champions Tour Europe, Middle East and Africa 2022 season. Despite starting off a bit shaky, the team rallied together against a strong SuperMassive Blaze squad. The match was a 2-0 sweep, but the maps told a different story.
Starting off sloppy
When Acend started off on Ascent, the team that won Champions just months ago looked like any other normal EMEA team. The automatic qualification into Stage 1 Challengers 1 proved to be as much of a disadvantage as an advantage, in Kiles’ eyes.
“We were extremely shaky,” Kiles said. “We all forgot what the feeling of top competition was like. We weren’t in the open or closed qualifiers, so we didn’t have that practice as others did coming into Challengers. After we came back from our Champs break, it was noticeable, other teams noticed we were lacking. We had some time but we had to improve everything we had over the past couple of months.”
Going into the half down 8-4, it took a big rally to come back and win the map. After regaining momentum and riding the hot hands of Mehmet Yağız “cNed” İpek and Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński, they tied the match at 12-12. In overtime, they won the first two rounds to win it all 14-12.
A familiar map and a new format
The next map up was Bind, a map that Acend made their mark on throughout the 2021 VCT season. Even with that knowledge, SuperMassive Blaze didn’t ban Bind against Acend, which proved to be their downfall.
“We don’t need to practice Bind, especially since we thought everyone would ban it against us after Champs,” Kiles said. “It was a big surprise to us when SMB didn’t ban it. The best part is that we heard that they wouldn’t ban Bind ahead of time [on the broadcast], and we just didn’t believe it.”
Even with the surprise of playing on Bind again so soon, their performance on the map was a flashback to their Champions run. A relatively good attack, but a suffocating defense led to a 13-4 map and series win. Kiles and Acend started a bit slow but revved up to win their first match of 2022.
Their next match is on Feb. 18, just over a week from their first. This new format for Challengers 1 provides a group stage, with more time for all EMEA teams to practice. There are benefits and downsides from being given more time according to Kiles.
“It sounds good, gives more time for teams to prepare and innovate their playstyle,” said Kiles. “But, with the longer breaks, the games feel more predictable.”