VCT Masters Reykjavík 2022 Qualified Teams Preview
Additional Reporting by Daniel "Pokemondan" Medado
The stage is set for the long-awaited VALORANT Champions Tour: Masters as VALORANT LAN competition returns to Reykjavík, Iceland. With last year’s winners, Sentinels, unable to qualify for the tournament, a new champion will be crowned from the pool of the twelve teams in attendance. Each team will look to battle it out for the trophy and the circuit points, with the number one team claiming 750 points to their name. Below is a brief preview of all the qualified teams, their path to making it to Iceland, and their respective rosters.
The Guard (North America)
Perhaps the most exciting team at VCT Masters and most deserving of the “underdog” title, The Guard (TGRD), is North America’s dark horse. The team added their final member - Trent “trent” Cairns - on the 17th of January, and he has quickly become the name drawing global attention. In the span of a year, Trent went from DMing people and teams on Twitter asking for a chance to be trialed to being a tournament and region MVP contender. He brought a lot of raw talent to a team that already had a lot of it, and with impeccable levels of team chemistry that they somehow managed to build so quickly, The Guard claimed the second and final spot and will represent North America in Reykjavík as one of the biggest underdogs and underlooked teams internationally.
The Guard made it to the Upper Bracket finals without dropping a map (2-0 vs. Sentinels, 2-0 vs. Luminosity) before losing to OpTic 2-0 in a tight series. In the Lower Bracket finals, TGRD swept Cloud9 3-0 and then had a well-fought rematch against OpTic in the Grand Final, triumphing over the regional favorites 3-2 and winning North America’s Challengers series. The Guard looks very strong right now, but the question at hand is whether or not they are strong enough to compete on an international level on LAN compared to the likes of Cloud9 or V1.
At VCT Masters, The Guard is:
- Michael “neT” Bernet
- Jacob “valyn” Batio
- Jonah “JonahP” Pulice
- Ha “Sayaplayer” Jung-woo
- Trent “trent” Cairns
OpTic Gaming (North America)
OpTic Gaming, formerly Team Envy, has constantly been a contender for the best North American VALORANT team. Most recently, they’ve put up well-fought battles against top teams in NA, and they even took down Cloud9, the region's former #1 ranked team. Despite more teams rising to claim that title, OpTic has cemented themselves as the most consistent NA team by being the only ones in their region to have qualified for both VCT Masters 2021 and 2022. Last year, they had an excellent run, topping their Group undefeated and finishing runner-up in the tournament behind a dominant-looking Gambit. This year, they look to run it back despite the difficulty of opponents increasing outside of NA.
OpTic, who are currently ranked second in their region, was the first of two teams to qualify for Masters from North America after taking down XSET 2-1, Cloud9 2-1, and then The Guard 2-0 in the Upper Bracket finals. They will look to, once again, represent their region against the greatest in the world and will have a real shot of being on the podium steps this year. The real question is if OpTic will place first in this tournament?
At VCT Masters, OpTic Gaming is:
- Pujan “FNS” Mehta
- Victor “Victor” Wong
- Austin “crashies” Roberts
- Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker
- Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen
G2 Esports (EMEA)
G2 Esports come to Reykjavík as EMEA’s most promising representative, especially after complications hit Fnatic’s roster along with FPX being forced to miss the event. After constant experimentation early in the year on their roster, with both Wassim "keloqz" Cista and Oscar "mixwell" Colocho, G2 decided to keep mixwell on the main lineup and released keloqz. As expected, with all the chaos from the switching of players, G2 could not quickly fine-tune their teamwork, and their performance would show it. But that would change once they fell into the lower bracket of the EMEA Challengers playoffs.
Once they lost 1-2 to Team Liquid in the first round of playoffs, it was as if G2 turned on a switch and instantly became a better team. Their first upset was their 2-0 victory against M3 Champions (Gambit Esports), in a fashion that looked too simple after what both teams had shown so far at the event. This led them to a rematch against TL, and this time it was an absolute blowout in favor of G2. They continued with another flawless 2-0 against group stage’s undefeated Fnatic. Their run would end in the finals after a 1-3 loss against FPX, but in the process, G2 became lower bracket kings and unexpectedly rose to the top of EMEA.
At VCT Masters, G2 Esports is:
- Óscar “mixwell” Colocho
- Žygimantas “nukkye” Chmieliauskas
- Auni “AvovA” Chahade
- Aaro “hoody” Peltokangas
- Johan “Meddo” Lundborg
A team that showed great potential by the start of the year but was struck by disaster days before Reykjavík, FNATIC will represent EMEA without their entire lineup, which performed as one of the region’s best teams during the EMEA Challengers. FNATIC had gone undefeated in the Group B of the EMEA Stage 1 Challengers and was considered favorites to become champions. But unexpectedly, they would get eliminated. To add onto their problems, Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev recently tested positive for Covid, and Andrey “BraveAF” Gorchakov was suspended from the team as the organization launched an investigation on the player due to comments he made about the Russian Invasion in Ukraine. Neither will compete, but replacements were found in time.
FNATIC came into Challengers with a new face on their team. After placing 5th-8th at the VALORANT Champions 2021, pioneer signing - Domagoj "Doma" Fancev - was released to make way for BraveAF. Instantly, FNATIC was playing well with the new addition, again becoming the face of EMEA VALORANT, alongside FPX. They were seeded into round 2 of the playoffs upper bracket, where they first knocked down M3 Champions into the lower bracket. Unfortunately for them, the team would next meet the two brick walls of the playoffs, first falling to FPX in an embarrassing 13-0 loss, and then eliminated by G2 in the lower bracket finals. With a stand-in last second and coming from a recent upset in the Playoffs, the odds all seem against FNATIC as they looked to one-up their second-place finish at Reykjavík the previous year.
At VCT Masters, FNATIC is:
- Jake “Boaster” Howlett
- James “Mistic” Orfila
- Joona “H1ber” Parviainen
- Martin “Magnum” Peňkov
- Enzo “Fearoth” Mestari
Team Liquid (EMEA)
Despite the significant amount of talent on this roster, Team Liquid (TL) required some luck to qualify and be able to represent their region alongside G2 Esports and FNATIC at Reykjavík. FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) actually won EMEA’s Challenger series after a very dominant showing, only dropping a single map in the Grand Finals versus G2 Esports. However, due to travel restrictions placed in Russia and Ukraine due to the ongoing conflicts, FPX was not able to fly out three of their players. So, the team ended up forfeiting its spot. As Team Liquid placed fourth, they inherited the spot. So, despite being “eliminated” in the second round of the Lower Bracket, TL made it through and will represent EMEA in place of FPX.
Needless to say, Team Liquid is still a solid roster consisting of great talent. EMEA is one of the most skilled regions in the world at the moment, and three spots in the sole international tournament doesn’t seem like enough. As it stands currently, six teams have over 2000 points as ranked by VLR.gg - more than any other region.
At VCT Masters, Team Liquid is:
- Dom “Souclas” Sulcas
- Travis “L1NK” Mendoza
- Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom
- Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen
- Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom
KRÜ Esports (LATAM South)
The number one ranked team and perhaps the best team of all the Americas, KRÜ Esports comes into Masters Reykjavík as one of the favorites. In qualifying for Masters, KRÜ topped its six-team group undefeated and did not drop a single map, maintaining the highest round win-loss differential of +65. They tried to keep their roster unchanged when they first entered the VALORANT competitive scene in early 2021. Eventually, they replaced two of their players after a disappointing performance at the VCT 2021: LATAM South Stage 1 Masters. Then, at Stage 2, they had yet another disappointing result, finishing 7th-8th place, which eventually caused another small roster change. At Stage 3, they managed to win the Challengers series, sweeping the Grand Finals 3-0 vs. Australs but finished 5th-8th at Masters. Despite the mediocre results, they accumulated enough points to qualify for Champions that year, where they placed 3rd-4th and just fell short of qualifying for the Grand Finals to Gambit.
This year, with more firepower than ever and the signing of Alan "ddx" Salvati as an Analyst early this year, KRÜ has the potential of setting foot on the top step of the podium and cementing themselves as the true goat of the Americas.
At VCT Masters, KRÜ Esports is:
- Nicolas “Klaus” Ferrari
- Roberto “Mazino” Rivas
- Juan Pablo “NagZ” Lopez
- Joaquin “delz1k” Espinoza
- Angelo “keznit” Mori
LOUD, the Brazilian fan-favorite team and organization entered the VALORANT scene less than two months ago on February 3rd, making them the “freshest” team with the least amount of experience together at Masters Reykjavík. This tournament will be one of the first the roster competes in together, and as they have little experience together, they may be at a slight disadvantage as compared to other teams who have been together for over a year. However, LOUD had the most dominant run of any team in their respective region’s Challengers series. The Brazilian team topped their group as the only undefeated team in either group and had the biggest round win-loss differential of +58. As if that wasn’t a strong enough showing, LOUD did not drop a single map in the Playoffs stage, taking down Keyd Stars 2-0, NiP 2-0, and NiP again in a clean 3-0 fashion at the Grand Finals.
LOUD has shown Brazil that they are by far the best and the most deserving to represent their region, but the question is if the team will be able to maintain their dominant form against the world’s best.
At VCT Masters, LOUD is:
- Erick “aspas” Santos
- Felipe “Less” Basso
- Bryan “pANcada” Luna
- Matias “saadhak” Delipetro
- Gustavo “Sacy” Rossi
Ninjas In Pyjamas (Brazil)
One of the longest-standing organizations (founded in 2000) and the longest-standing teams in VALORANT, Ninjas In Pyjamas (NIP), first entered the VALORANT competitive scene in April of 2020 when they signed their formed European Paladins roster. Although none of the original players remain on the team, the org found slight success even from the beginning. However, it wasn’t ideal results for the Swedish organization. They would sign ten more players and a few coaching staff for the next year and a half before finally releasing their entire roster in December of 2021.
NIP evaluated its options for the next month while rumors of plans to switch regions flew around. On January 16th of 2022, NiP announced their 4/5 Brazilian roster, with Argentinan Benjamin "bnj" Rabinovich completing it. They also added RoY as a coach, but as he was not available to coach during South American Stage 1 Playoffs’ match versus Leviatán due to health issues, NiP signed Vinícius "FLUYR" Menegatti as a stand-in coach for the meantime.
Complicated rosters came with an equally complex qualifying process; NiP secured their Stage 1 Challengers spot after finishing 1st in the closed qualifiers and then had to bruise their way through at Challengers. With only the first place winner having the privilege of directly qualifying for Masters, the newly formed team had to put up an exceptional performance against the regional favorites of LOUD. Unfortunately, despite topping their group 3-1 and having a win-loss differential of +25, they could not match up to LOUD’s level and were swept twice, once in the Upper Bracket Finals and then again in the Grand Finals.
Second place secured them a decider match between the LATAM South second-place finisher, Leviatán. NiP triumphed over Leviatán (3-0) in an intense best of five and secured their spot at Masters Reykjavík. Ninjas in Pyjamas might be one of the inferior teams coming in this morning based on previous results and the amount of time together as a roster, but they are still a team full of people with great individual talent that can shine and bite at any moment.
At VCT Masters, Ninjas In Pyjamas is:
- Alexandre “XAND” Zizi
- Walney “JONN” Reis
- Benjamin “BNJ” Rabinovich
- Gabriel Luiz “BEZN1” da Costa
- Cauan “CAUANZIN” Pereira
Paper Rex (APAC)
The current undisputable kings of the Asia-Pacific, Paper Rex, return to the international stage with vengeance on their minds. They come as the region’s top representative for the first time, with APAC’s previous competition, Team Secret, failing to qualify. Paper Rex’s last international trip saw them bomb out at last place during the VCT Stage 3 Masters: Berlin. Since then, their roster has stayed the same, apart from 1 change. Zhang Teng "shiba" Toh, who was with the team for the four months of their most significant results, was released in favor of Wang Jing "Jinggg" Jie.
Before reaching the APAC Challengers, Paper Rex first had to qualify through the Malaysia & Singapore Challengers. They would easily stomp their opponents, dropping zero maps in the playoffs, to become the Malaysia/Singapore champions. The win got them their spot at the Masters Reykjavík qualifier, along with Singaporean team Bleed esports. Continuing their dominance against the rest of APAC, Paper Rex would only lose three maps throughout the entire tournament, 2 of which were during the grand finals, against fellow qualified team XERXIA. At VCT Masters, Paper Rex will look to bring their dominance to the international stage and improve from previous Berlin results.
At VCT Masters, Paper Rex is:
- Aaron “mindfreak” Leonhart
- Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto
- Benedict “Benkai” Tan
- Khalish “d4v41” Rusyaidee
- Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie
Similar to LOUD, XERXIA entered the VALORANT scene much later on than all other Masters qualified teams. January 17th, XERXIA announced the signing of their fully Thai roster, who formerly competed under the name “X10 CRIT”. They wanted to succeed, though, and surely enough brought along a Coach and an Analyst to assist in doing so, something that many of today's top teams still don’t utilize. Despite playing under a new name, the core is the same, and the entire group has a lot of experience together. At last year’s VCT, the roster's core won the Southeast Asia Stage 1 Masters and Stage 2 Challengers series. Unfortunately, however, they could not make it far at Stage 2 Masters when the competition expanded to an international level; X10 only won a single match in the Lower Bracket against Crazy Raccoon before being swept 2-0 by FNATIC.
At Stage 1 Challengers this year, they made a run through the Lower Bracket, only to fall short to a stronger Paper Rex in the Grand Finals, losing out 3-2 in a tight best of five. Even with the loss, they secured their ticket to Masters Reykjavík as the APAC region has two seeds due to its large size. Now, with more experience than ever, they should be able to cause trouble to most teams that come their way, and you definitely don’t want to under prepare for this sleeper team.
At VCT Masters, XERXIA is:
- Itthirit “foxz” Ngamsa-ard
- Panyawat “sushiboys” Subsiriroj
- Natchaphon “sScary” Matarat
- Thanamethk “Crws” Mahatthananuyut
- Thanachart “Surf” Rungapajaratkul
ZETA Division (Japan)
ZETA Division last played on the International stage during the VCT Stage 3 Masters: Berlin. Just like the Japanese representatives before and after them, they failed to make any significant results and would go out in last place. But this year, with a whole new meta and a promising new core, some have renewed hopes for the region and ZETA Division. In December of last year, the team added Yuma “Dep” Hashimoto, Shota “SugarZ3ro” Watanabe, and Tenta “TENNN” Asai to their ranks. Since the signings, the team has faced little resistance on their way to the top like many of the teams from smaller regions.
During the Japan stage 1 Challengers Playoffs, ZETA Division had a clean run in the upper bracket. They first bested Reignite 2-0, and moved on to meet Crazy Racoons. It was a 2-1 for ZETA Division to, once again, continue in the upper bracket, where they would cleanly beat IGZIST 2-0. These results slotted them into the Grand Finals against one of Japan’s best teams in 2021. It was a rematch against Crazy Racoons, who proved to be an easy task for ZETA Division, as they became Japan’s champions after a 3-1 series. As Japan’s sole representative, ZETA Division looks to finally make a mark on the international stage after the region has failed to do so throughout 2021.
At VCT Masters, ZETA Division is:
- Koji “Laz” Ushida
- Tomoaki “crow” Maruoka
- Yuma “Dep” Hashimoto
- Shota “SugarZ3ro” Watanabe
- Tenta “TENNN” Asai
DRX, formerly Vision Strikers, is a household name of Korean VALORANT. They last represented the region at the VALORANT Champions 2021, where they placed 9th-12th after some unfortunate results. The Vision Striker core has stayed the same since being acquired by DRX, but both Kim “Lakia” Jong-min and Lee “k1ng” Seung-won have been signed to different teams. With the Korean side finally moving away from the 6 and 7 man lineups, they look to bring better teamwork and solidity in their play.
DRX breezed through the Korea Challengers, dropping only three maps throughout 7 group stage matches. They swept six other matches and lost a single series against On Sla2ers. This put them straight into round 2 of the upper bracket in playoffs, where they won 2-1 against World Game Star. The rest of their journey was a breeze from this point onwards, as they went 2-0 against On Sla2ers in the upper bracket final and 3-0 in a rematch during the Grand Finals. Korea posted absolutely no challenge to DRX, but it’s finally time for them to be challenged on the international stage.
At VCT Masters, DRX is:
- Kim “stax” Gu-taek
- Goo “Rb” Sang-Min
- Kim “Zest” Gi-seok
- Yu “BuZz” Byung-chul
- Kim “MaKo” Myeong-kwan