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.
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.