The 2023 Game Changers Championship is finally upon us. After a year of top-tier competition, eight teams have each obtained a ticket to compete in Sao Paulo, Brazil for the chance to be regarded as the world’s best and enter the history books just like what G2 Gozen did in 2022.
With that said, here are the stories concerning the eight participating teams in the 2023 GC Championship.
Arguably, it’s been a long time coming for BBL Queens in their arrival to the world stage. Since their formation in September 2021, the team largely stayed in the outskirts of the EMEA domestic title picture all the way to the start 2023, where they tweaked the roster by bringing in Zeynep “Rayka” Kalkan, Zehra “Felipa” Durak and Gülce “Wens” Eda Sürmeli (initially as a substitute). With them playing alongside Nur “Eva” Çakır, Azra “alkyia” Erin and Aleyna “Vania” Keskin, the team immediately soared to the forefront of the region by placing second in EMEA Series 1.
Though the team regressed in Series 2 by finishing 5-6th despite going undefeated (7-0) in the group stage, by the end of Series 3—which featured them replacing Rayka with Wens in the sentinel role—they came back with authority by going 10-0 the entire way (with a 21-4 map record to boot) en route to winning the tournament and clinching a berth to Brazil simultaneously, thus becoming the first team from Turkey to pull off the achievement.
Such an achievement was obviously done by the entire team, but a good portion of the effort can be attributed to IGL Vania, who distinguished herself as one of the best players in EMEA and, one might say, the entire world. Her fragging on controller agents constantly led to one of the highest ratings in each of the three EMEA Series events.
“I always thought that I was a good player individually, but especially as of this year, I found myself in the team,” said Vania in an interview with BLIX. “I can predict the opponent's moves well, it comes to life in my head like chess, so I can take a good position and sometimes I can get killed without having to shoot 1v1 aimfight. These are the biggest reasons for my good stats.”
With Vania leading the way with her excellent individual play and the rest of the team following in kind, BBL looks like a team not to be messed with in Brazil.
Three words: reigning world champions. That’s all that needs to be said about G2 Gozen.
Well, not quite.
This isn’t the same team that dominated this same competition last year in Berlin. For starters, had to shuffle through a new lineup throughout the 2023 season with the retirements of Julia “Juliano” Kiran and Maryam “Mary” Maher from professional Valorant, both of whom were replaced by Vivian “roxi” Schilling (from Guild X) and Sarah “sarah” Ahmed. Though the team underwent a period of acclimation with each new member and they had to play under new roles, such as Petra “Petra” Stoker becoming the IGL, they did manage to win EMEA Series 1 and 2 over FUT JEFF and BBL Queens.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the team was unscathed in all of EMEA play. They did finish fourth in Series 3, their worst-ever placement in the org’s history, but even then, that shouldn’t discredit their high level of consistency G2 has shown in EMEA GC. Despite having a different roster, they are still seen as a contender in repeating as world champions.
“We are definitely better at some aspects [with this year’s team],” said Anastasiya "Glance" Anisimova in an interview with BLIX about Gozen this season, “but also, it’s a fact that we lost some time with a changing roster and adapting to each other once again cost us some problems. Overall I think we have definitely improved [compared to last year’s team].”
Any sane individual could guarantee no one had EG penciled in as North America’s first seed in this event at the start of the year. By that point, they were one of the many teams roaming at the middle of the pack in the NA GC hierarchy. That alone, outside of doing a deep dive into the roster, just goes to show how much they’ve ascended throughout this past year.
Before the NA Series 3 Main Event, the team shuffled its lineup by parting ways with Juliana “showliana” Maransaldi and Stefanie “Stefanie” Jones and bringing in StarBound and Lorrian “Lorri” Elad—the latter of which joined with less than a week of practice to spare. In addition to Melisa “Theia” Mundorff’s transition to the IGL role in as much time, there was an aura of uncertainty over whether they could overcome their 5-6th curse in the Main Event phase for this year.
While that was on the verge of coming true once again after the team lost their upper bracket series to Shopify Rebellion, ultimately, that didn’t become the case. Instead, EG completed one of the most resounding lower bracket runs in recent memory by defeating Disguised and Complexity GX3, avenging their initial loss by eliminating SR in the lower bracket finals and finally upsetting Version1 3-1 in the grand finals.
While the result would have sent the team to Brazil on a surge of momentum, EG encountered a massive roadblock on the way. They dropped duelist keenc due to their inappropriate behavior and signed Nora (formerly of Supernova Galaxy) as the replacement. With questions surrounding the roster and their new supposed roles (specifically with Nora coming in as an initiator, a role that was already filled by Lorri), one can only wonder which version EG will show in Brazil.
Will they be the same amazing EG that fans saw in Series 3? Or will they be the same EG that always disappointed in major events before Series 3?
No, this isn’t a joke. This is actually happening. The team that was the first side in NA to miss out on reaching the GC Championship have found themselves in Brazil. Amid the increasing likelihood of G2 Esports merging with Version1, the latter org transferred their GC roster to SR with less than a few weeks to spare before the start of the competition.
Barring the sudden change in org, the roster that comprises Melanie “meL” Capone, Alexis “alexis” Guarrasi, Ava “florescent” Eugene, Nicole “Noia” Tierce and Sarah “sarah” Simpson are seen as one of the major contenders towards winning the event behind a nearly flawless campaign. As V1, the team went 22-1 in all NA Series events, including the open qualifiers (their only loss came at the hands of EG via a 3-1 result in the Series 3 grand finals). As we have mentioned in past articles, this team possesses a mixture of veteran leadership, excellent synergy and ferocious individual skill. It is such that meL referred to this team as better than the Cloud9 White roster she was a part of from 2020 to 2022.
In a way, SR’s story mirrors that of C9W last year, where they’re expected to do well. However, in C9W’s case, they bombed out in the lower bracket after losing to SR. Needless to say, they will look to change the plot this time around.
Team Liquid Brazil
The best team in the Brazilian GC circuit this year will get their chance to defend their home turf against the rest of the world. As one of three teams returning to the GC Championship, Team Liquid Brazil had arguably a tougher road to the event this year compared to last year. On top of fending off a region that was improving by the day as a collective, they had to work through a new roster that welcomed three new people into the fold (Vitoria “bizerra” Vieira, Leticia “Joojina” Paiva and Isabeli “isaa” Esser).
And it’s not like TL Brazil’s road to the GC Championship was absolutely flawless. After going 16-0 in all of Series 1 (Main Event and Qualifiers together), they suffered losses to LOUD GC (twice) and then-00 Nation Female (twice again) in their pursuit to claiming Series 2, thereby potentially opening the door for a new team to usurp the reigning champs.
Nevertheless, despite weathering through various obstacles during the season, TL Brazil remains standing, and as they arrive at the event as the hometown team, expectations are set for them to make considerable noise over their opponents. Now, it’s the team’s responsibility to turn that sentiment into reality.
Was there ever any doubt that KRÜ Blaze would be the Latin American representative in the 2023 GC Championship? If there was, then a 13-0 overall record in domestic play (and a 29-3 map record to boot) should have put that to bed.
Truly, KRÜ hardly faced a challenge within their region as the year transpired despite making changes to the roster from last year, which included duelist Lorena Micaela “micaela” Ferreyra and flex player Luisa “shyz” Minarelli. However, the question is whether they are able to translate their form to the international level or not. Outside of competing in last year’s GC Championship and a few other events, the team hasn’t been able to play against other teams from outside the region. KRÜ lost both of their matches to C9W and X10 Sapphire while only winning one map in total back in Berlin. Later in the Esportsmaker Spike Ladies #6, which consisted of Brazilian teams, they finished in fourth below the likes of 00 Nation Female, Cleiteam and The Union MERAKI.
Can KRÜ sustain their blazing form in Brazil? Or will they fizzle out just like last year? Only time will tell.
Among the teams taking part in the competition, few have been able to manufacture a flawless run, such as what Team SMG did in APAC this year. As for how perfect we’re talking about, look no further than their 34-0 record for this year in domestic play, which includes all phases of the three APAC Open events and the four matches from APAC Elite.
The SMG GC winning formula started taking form by signing Alexandria “Alexy” Francisco and Kelly “shirazi” Jaudian from Bren Esports Victress and Camille “Kamiyu” Enriquez, who last played with ZOL Meraki last season. They would complement mainstay Abigail “Kohaibi” Kong and Odella “enerii” Abraham also, who joined in May after being a part of Alter Ego Celeste.
Unlike AEC, which had dominated APAC for 2021 and 2022 but failed to qualify for the previous edition of the GC Championship, Team SMG wasted no time finding their groove once they added enerii to the roster in May.
But don’t let the addition of enerii fool you from thinking SMG is a one-woman show. As this past season has shown, other members such as Kohaibi and shirazi, who were one of the highest-rated players in past Open events this year, can distinguish themselves as the best player on the server at any given day. That gives SMG an intriguing edge when they stand toe-to-toe with the world’s best in Sao Paulo.
Chao Hui EDward Gaming
EDward Gaming and coming out of nowhere in international Valorant events. Name a better duo. No really. EDG’s story of qualification to the GC Championship looks vividly similar to how the men’s team emerged. Back in Champions 2022, EDG qualified as the winner of the East Asia Qualifier tournament, and more than a year later, the women’s team did the same by defeating the best GC teams in Japan, Korea and China.
For those that aren’t familiar with this team, it was formed back in June after the org signed the Oxyg3niOus roster, which by that point finished 3-4th in the 2022 GC East Asia Qualifier and had been one of the best Chinese squads in recent memory. It consists of four members from that original Oxyg3niOus roster in Lizhi, Lee “WawaLee” Yi-chen, Huang “XiMiLu” Hsi-chen and Wang “Yusin” Chi-yun and a new signee in Wang “Clem” Ke-ching.
Combined, EDG would go on a 9-2 run in the East Asia qualifier to get to Brazil as its representative in the world championship tournament. However, with Lizhi not being with the team for the competition, they will have to work with their sixth woman Blue in Brazil, bringing some uncertainty to how the team will perform.
Looking back at the side’s debut on the international stage, though they became one of the first teams to get eliminated in Champions 2022, they would go on to surprise everybody by finishing Top 6 nine months later in Masters: Tokyo. Can EDGS one-up their predecessor and surprise the world well ahead of time?