10 players to watch during Valorant's First Strike Global Finals - Dexerto
Valorant

10 players to watch during Valorant’s First Strike Global Finals

Published: 26/Nov/2020 16:58 Updated: 27/Nov/2020 9:46

by Lauren Bergin

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With the Valorant First Strike qualifiers coming to a close all across the globe, some players have risen to the top of the pack — but who are they? 

It’s safe to say that Riot Games’ first global tournament, First Strike, has left its mark in FPS history. There’s been upsets, shocking results and, of course, some absolutely wild plays. Some of the top tier teams fell at the final hurdle, and others powered up by friendship have emerged triumphant.

One of the positives about having the tournament be played online is that it lets smaller teams shine, highlighting players who maybe never would have made it onto the big stage.

Every region is going to see some fierce competition for their regional title, and it’s going to be exciting to watch who prevails and who falters. Below is our list of players who can shift the First Strike tides, so let’s dive right in.

European players to watch

Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom (Team Liquid)

When Team Liquid picked up former CS:GO pro ScreaM, Valorant fans were beyond excited, and for good reason. Renowned for being the “headshot machine” of CS:GO, it was pretty obvious that ScreaM joining the Valorant scene heralded even more head-popping chaos.

From start to finish ScreaM has dominated the First Strike qualifiers on his signature Jett, scoring an ace against Prodigy Esports that will go down in Valorant history as one of the cleanest. Are you ready to scream for Liquid? Well, get ready to watch the man himself obliterate the competition in the First Strike Regional Finals.

Ardis ‘ardiis’ Svarenieks (G2 Esports)

One of the most formidable players on this list is Ardiis, G2 Esports’ sniper extraordinaire. With a KD of 1.24 and a whole host of Agents available in his pool, Ardiis has quite rightly been dubbed by many casters, analysts, and other professionals as one of the game’s best players.

He’s proven that his skill matches up to the hype. One of the key carries in G2’s series against Ninjas in Pyjamas, Ardiis’ Sova was a force to be reckoned with. Sneaking behind enemy lines, shooting out devastating shock darts left, right and center, G2 couldn’t have done it without him. It’ll be interesting to see how he steps up in the regional final, especially when the title of First Strike Europe champion is on the line.

Pontus ‘Zyppan’ Eek (FPX)

When FunPlus Phoenix entered the Valorant scene we knew the sparks would fly, but we never knew that Zyppan would be the reason. The ex-Fortnite player’s Raze has become a true force on Future Earth, demolishing every team he’s been put up against.

With a KD of 1.32, his aggressive style is one we’d love to see more of in Valorant. His performance against The Opportunists is the perfect example of why he’s on such a highly respected roster, and it’ll be exciting to see how he shapes up against Ardiis and FunPlus’ arch nemesis, G2.

Domagoj ‘doma’ Fancev (SUMN FC)

SUMN FC aren’t a team that many people expected to be playing with the big guns, but doma is one of the reasons that the team are up there. The young Croatian has led SUMN to countless victories in past tournaments, with his Raze plays being explosive as the agent herself.

Doma has become one of the team’s most dominant forces, scoring headshot after headshot against eXiLe eSports in their qualifying match. Will he be able to outwit foes such as ScreaM and Zyppan? Maybe so, but what’s for sure is that he’s going to give them a fight to remember.

North American players to watch

Jake ‘kaboose’ McDonald (Team Envy)

Kaboose might not get as much recognition on Envy as his teammates like FNS, Crashies, and food, but he’s proven to be the player this roster needs to fly right to the top. The duelist specialist was the star of the Envy lineup that ended up winning the First Strike NA NSG Qualifier, topping the Average Combat Score (ACS) charts and styling on the likes of T1 and 100 Thieves.

While he was a CS:GO veteran of five years, he never really got his chance in the spotlight while playing in MDL. Now, in Valorant First Strike, he really has the chance to get the breakout he’s been grinding for years.

Quan ‘dicey’ Tran (100 Thieves)

If there was any doubts about Dicey’s skill before he joined 100 Thieves, they’ve surely been silenced by now. The young star is on the rise in Valorant, spearheading an incredibly talented and experienced roster. He might not have the name value of his teammates like Hiko and nitr0, but give him six months and he will.

His Jett put Wardell to shame in the NSG Qualifier for First Strike, but he’s also shown he can pick up other roles like Sova as well while on Prospects. He also has the brain to match the aim: one can’t forget his insane 1v4 ace against Sentinels on Bind back in Pop Flash. Now in his biggest competition yet, Dicey really has the chance to cement himself as a household name in Valorant.

Jay ‘sinatraa’ Won (Sentinels)

Sinatraa has a real chance to become an undisputed GOAT in two titles. The Overwatch League MVP has made a splash in Valorant with Sentinels, and is widely considered to be the best player in NA. His ability to flex between Agents is testament to his versatility. Across just two series against 100 Thieves and T1 in the NSG Qualifier, he played four Agents in Raze, Sova, Jett, and Phoenix.

His uncanny ability to top the score charts, all while playing a more supportive role on Sova (most of the time) is incredible. There was a reason why he’s considered one of the best Overwatch players of all time, and now he’s living up to that GOAT title in Valorant.

Noah ‘jcStani’ Smith (Immortals)

Immortals have been through a lot of changes, but jcStani has been a rock for the squad. He’s filled in every possible role no matter who leaves, and although he more often than not finds himself on support, he still manages to frag out like a duelist.

jcStani’s leadership of the Immortals roster that has been in flux, even during First Strike with ShoT_Up’s illness, has steered them to where they are today. Now with things starting to stabilize, it’s only a matter of time until the best of Immortals and jcStani really gets to shine.

Notable mentions

Goo ‘Rb’ Sang-min (Vision Strikers)

Rb is probably the best Valorant player you’ve never heard of. The Vision Strikers star is the King of Korean Valorant. There’s a reason why his team are on an undefeated 43-0 streak, and a lot of it has to do with Rb. His incredible fragging ability allows his squad to execute the most well-coordinated strats seen across the globe.

Rb boasts a career ACS of 245. To put that in perspective, Sinatraa has a career ACS of 241, Ardiis has 245, and the only player who really beats him is ScreaM on 258. The level of competition in Korea is fierce as well between T1 Korea, C9 Korea, and more, but Rb manages to consistently come out on top on Jett, making him one of the most exciting prospects once international play gets going.

Chris ‘pl1xx’ Li (EXO Clan)

To round out our list, it’s time to take a trip down under to chat about EXO Clan’s pl1xx. Is there anything pl1xx can’t play? Probably not. He is an incredibly flexible player for Oceania’s number one team, and while he calls himself a Sova main, he can basically play anything his team needs, including Reyna and Raze.

A once-budding Counter-Strike prodigy, the Australian has found himself a new home in Valorant. Widely touted as Oceania’s best player – with maybe a bit of debate between his teammates – pl1xx’s flexibility and keen aim makes him one of the most versatile players not just in his home region, but across the globe.

So that’s it for our list of players to watch going into the global First Strike finals. There are a hundred different ways this list could have went, but these players are certainly standouts and we can wait to see how they perform.

Apex Legends

ALGS Commissioner interview: What is the future of Apex Legends esports?

Published: 16/Jan/2021 22:08

by Theo Salaun

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As the Apex Legends Global Series heads into the Winter Circuit on January 29, we spoke to the ALGS commissioner John Nelson about the future of Respawn Entertainment’s battle royale as an esport.

Looking back on the past year and disregarding obstacles outside of your control, how do you feel about the growth of Apex Legends as an esport?

I think Apex Legends esports is in a great place. Obviously we set out at the beginning of this year to have a much different Apex Legends Global Series then we ended up with, one that was set to have at least 12 live events — and the world said “you can’t have any, it must all be online.” But we’ve really hit a groove now with the online circuits and found a formula for Apex Legends esports (while it needs to be online). 

And it’s really working: working for the players that are participating and we’ve been seeing viewership grow over time as well. We had to work through a lot of adversity this year, but are really excited about where we’ve ended up and are poised to return to live events as soon as it’s safe to do so.

Apex Legends enjoys an eager casual fanbase and a lot of the game’s content is geared toward that group. Is there a lag in esports growth compared to casual growth?

I definitely haven’t observed something like that. In some ways, the opposite is true. Each season, we’re seeing more and more players engaging with the game’s ranked leagues, which is really where a lot of players get their competitive start: They measure themselves within the ranked leagues and then graduate, to a degree, into the Apex Legends Global Series. 

So, really, the increased enthusiasm around the in-game ranked system and seeing ALGS players like ImperialHal being influencers in the game really goes to show how, from a viewership standpoint, even if it’s not ALGS content all the time, how enthusiastic viewers are about watching some of the best players in the world.

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Respawn Entertainment
Apex Legends Season 7 was released with some spicy new skins.

Considering the aforementioned content drops, how much dialogue is there between Respawn’s esport and casual teams to ensure new additions fit competitive goals? Essentially, how much focus is on ensuring that things that are great at a competitive level do not turn cheesy at the professional level? 

I think there’s a couple different angles for this one. First, I can say that the Respawn development team listens to feedback across the skill spectrum, but, in particular when talking about esports, they’ve listened to the professional community and their thoughts on how to improve the game in certain ways. 

Although I can’t speak to specifics, I think that, in 2021, we will see things come to the game which are improvements based specifically on professional player feedback.

What we see a lot in games that have legends with particular abilities is that, based on the skill level, we might see the use of different guns and different legends at a Gold level, a Diamond level or an ALGS Finals level. There’s differences there.

And I think that contributes to a healthy game, with guns or legends that have a prevalence or a usefulness at some skill levels, but maybe not others. The community gets to enjoy those things in different ways.

At what point does there become a split, where, as an example, attachments are permitted in the base game but prohibited in the ALGS?

We take those things legend by legend and item by item, but I have tremendous faith in the Respawn development team to be able to design things that are balanced with each other and to take feedback from the community when necessary to continue to make the game balanced moving forward. But there are even instances now where we’ve made changes to remove things from competitive play, the Gold Knockdown Shield is a good example of that — which hasn’t been a part of the ALGS since this summer. 

Gold Knockdown Shield in Apex Legends
Respawn Entertainment
Gold Knockdown Shields proved worthy of exclusion from professional play.

With regards to legends and abilities, other esports like League of Legends and Overwatch have introduced hero bans (or selection restraints). Is that something the ALGS are considering as the game’s portfolio of legends grows?

It is. I don’t know that it’ll ever truly be a part of Apex Legends esports, but it’s definitely something that we consider. It also just brings another interesting dynamic to the esport itself. It drives conversation between fans and between analysts of the gameplay, just trying to predict what a team’s bans are going to be and how they are going to strategize based on the bans that have come out and the legend pool that is available to them. 

It definitely has some positives there. We’re obviously not in a place yet where we need to implement something like that, but it’s definitely a thought that we’ve given consideration to for the future. 

apex legends horizon mirage
Respawn Entertainment
Horizon is the latest Legend added to Apex’s growing cast.

Speaking of RNG-based issues, there have been concerns about ring logic and how it affects the game at a competitive level. Have you guys seen and considered community suggestions for introducing preset ring movements?

Absolutely, we’ve seen that sort of suggestion or, at least, the suggestion that there be a little more regularity to ending circles within ALGS play. And, again, I can’t speak to any specifics of things that may come to the game in the future, but I can say that we’ve heard that feedback and have had discussions around potential solves for it. 

What you brought up previously—having more regularity to the ending circles or more predictability—is one of the things that we’ve been discussing. 

apex legends drop

Compared to Autumn, what wrinkles should fans expect from the Winter Circuit?

We made some slight tweaks to the way that spots are awarded in the playoffs. We moved our broadcast from Mondays to Sundays, so I think our Winter Circuit broadcast will benefit from being on the weekends and all of our fans who have some more time to devote to watching the ALGS on the weekend than they do on the weekday. 

Like I said earlier, we’ve really found a groove with these circuits so there wasn’t a whole lot to change between Autumn and Winter. One of the big things is that we did increase the prize pool, which is up to $750,000 now. What that really represents is the growth of the Apex Legends Global Series. It reflects that growth and should be seen as an expectation moving forward of prize pools at least that large.

Aside from the prize pool, what are plans for the ALGS placement points earned by teams during each circuit?

It has always been our intention, since we launched the Apex Legends Global Series, for ALGS points to be a determining factor in qualification for live events. So once we are able to return to live events we intend to make good on that.

For the better part of this year and how we’ve had to pivot the ALGS, a lot of players have wondered, outside of this self-contained circuit, ‘what are my points for?’ and we very much intend to use them as intended as qualifications for live events once those are physically possible again.

apex legends global series algs winter circuit
Respawn Entertainment
The ALGS Winter Circuit is the biggest Apex esport event on the horizon.

And I’m assuming part of that will entail interregional events?

When I say returning to live events I’m talking about returning to global live events. It’s been since September of last year at the Preseason Invitational since we’ve been able to crown a global champion and we’re really looking forward to the day when we can do that again.

At the regional level, is a different approach to the meta by each region something that viewers should expect to see?

It is actually. From APAC North to APAC South to Europe, North America and South America, each region really has their own meta. 

apex legends horizon wraith crypto
Respawn Entertainment
Each region meshes Legend abilities differently at the professional level.

Summer Circuit Playoffs, for example, we saw, in APAC North, a Revenant on every single team — and I’m not sure that we saw a single one in the Americas’ playoffs. And, again, throughout the Autumn Circuit, we’ve seen that sort of thing play out where each region sort of has their own meta.

So from the one standpoint of just wanting to be able to crown a global champion, I can’t wait for live events. but also I can’t wait for these regions, that have had their siloed competitions for a long time now, to mix metas and see what happens when those different legend combinations come together again.


After a delay, the ALGS Winter Circuit will begin on January 29. It will be followed by the Apex Legends Global Series Championship, which will host the best 60 teams, and a $1 million prize pool.