NA VCT Stage 2 playoffs: the final four
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This weekend, 11 of the 12 teams heading to 2022 Stage 2 Masters in Copenhagen, Denmark will be decided. A lot of eyes are directed toward the North American VALORANT Champions Tour playoffs, where the pool has been whittled down to the final four teams. Only two of the four remaining teams in the NA VCT playoffs can qualify to Copenhagen.

These are the four teams remaining in NA and their prospects of beating out the competition and making it to Masters.

OpTic Gaming

OpTic Gaming are the team-to-beat in the NA VCT playoffs. The winners of Masters 1 still look sharp. Outside of a close-fought loss to Evil Geniuses in the group stage — a loss that they avenged with a quick 2-0 against EG in playoffs — the kings of NA have looked untouchable. Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker is still an absolute star and a beast on Chamber. The team is solid.

Unfortunately for OpTic, there are some extenuating factors in play. Members of the team have tested positive for COVID-19. Presumably the team will still play with their normal roster, but there’s no telling what being sick will do to their gameplay, if anything.

Another big question mark is how they will fare against XSET, their matchup in the upper bracket finals. XSET are a team that has come into their own in Stage 2. Even though the cores of these two rosters have faced before, they were in opposite groups in Stage 2 so they’re lacking experience against one another in the first part of 2022. Anything can happen.

Although OpTic claimed the title of the best team in the world in the first half of 2022 with their win at Masters, there were some asterisks hovering around the victory. Travel restrictions and COVID-19 afflicted the Europe, Middle East and Africa teams. If OpTic find another deep run at Masters 2, they could just be the best team of the year.

XSET

You’ve got to give it to XSET, the organization has faith in their players. Despite always falling short right before the finish line, the team has kept Jordan “AYRIN” He and Brendan “BcJ” Jensen as their core since the team formed. In a competitive landscape where roster moves abounds, XSET has been selective about their changes.

XSET made one change at the start of 2022, promoting Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban into their starting roster. Since then, they’ve looked revitalized. Their experience as a team shows and they’ve been able to overwhelm opponents with strong team play. XSET’s duelist duo, Zachary “zekken” Patrone and Cryocells, have combined to be a near unstoppable force.

Is this finally the Stage that XSET make it to an international event? It seems likely. To guarantee their spot, they’ll have to overcome OpTic. It will be the team’s biggest challenge yet. Even if they do get relegated to the lower bracket, many see XSET as NA’s second best team this stage.

NRG

NRG are the story of the NA VCT playoffs thus far. After barely squeaking into playoffs following a 2-3 group stage, many counted the team out. The team lacks stars. They don’t have a pedigree of success. They had to start the playoffs in the lower bracket. Worst of all, their first match was against Ghost Gaming, who had found themselves knocked down after a surprising loss to EG.

Defying the odds, NRG beat Ghost, then they beat EG. Now they find themselves in the lower bracket semifinals looking at an elimination match against FaZe Clan. It’s hard to count this team out again.

Like XSET, NRG has a two-man core of Sam “s0m” Oh and Daniel “eeiu” Vucenovic that has played together since the org entered VALORANT. Their recent addition of Ethan “Ethan” Arnold brought a wealth of game experience to the roster. Despite not having a true star — though Ian “tex” Botsch comes close on the Chamber — this team is scrappy and seems to always find a way to win. Even still, to qualify for Masters, they’ll need to a find a totally new level of gameplay.

FaZe Clan

FaZe Clan have taken some massive gambles with near constant roster rebuilds around Andrej “babybay” Francisty. Fortunately, one of their bets has paid dividends. His name is Quan “dicey” Tran.

After sitting on the sidelines since being benched by 100 Thieves at the beginning of 2021, dicey has come back with a vengeance. FaZe has entrusted dicey with the all-important Chamber pick and he has absolutely delivered, leading the way in Average Combat Score for the team. He’s found consistently massive impact round after round. FaZe can attribute much of their success to dicey.

And, of course, babybay is still babybay. Alongside OpTic’s Victor “Victor” Wong, babybay has found a way to utilize Neon that other teams struggle to match. It makes FaZe uniquely exciting to watch.

FaZe have the winning pedigree and the fan support in their decisive matchup against NRG. Still, they don’t look unassailable. Map losses to Luminosity Gaming and 100 Thieves showed them to be vulnerable. It’s hard to see the winner of FaZe vs. NRG overcoming either XSET or OpTic to steal away the second spot at Masters Copenhagen.


Coby Zucker is Upcomer's resident CS:GO writer. He's also played League of Legends at the collegiate level and is a frequent visitor in TFT Challenger Elo. He's a firm believer that Toronto should be the next big esports hub city.


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