Gambit have qualified for the Masters Berlin playoffs and will face one of the strongest teams in the event so far, Vision Strikers. Though the tournament is coming down to the wire, Valorant star nAts isn’t feeling any pressure heading into the knockout stage.
The playoff draw has Gambit facing Korea’s no.1 seed in the opening match of the Masters quarterfinals. Though teams like Sentinels, Acend, and 100 Thieves were placed on the other side of the bracket, there’s still plenty that can go wrong for the EMEA Stage 3 Challengers champions, Gambit.
Valorant ace Ayaz ‘nAts’ Akhmetshin is coming off a stellar 50-kill, 198.2 ACS series performance against Japan’s 2nd seed. But he’s not kidding himself about the quality of competition he’s yet to face on stage.
“We practiced against [Vision Strikers,] they’re playing really good,” nAts said after Gambit qualified for playoffs with their 2-0 win against Crazy Raccoon. “Before Berlin, I’m gonna say I thought they were the best team… I hope we’ll show our best performance [against them.]”
Crazy Raccoon took 20 rounds off of Gambit in their two-game series, with Icebox going into overtime. Gambit eventually won, sure, but the team is gonna have to play a lot better against Vision Strikers (VS) if they want to advance – and the 19-year-old Cypher/Viper ace knows it.
“Today, something went wrong [against Crazy Raccoon], I guess. We could have played better. But tomorrow, trust me, it’s going to be other play from us,” he said.
Though Berlin convinced him that Sentinels and VS have equal claim to being the best Valorant team, nAts didn’t sound worried about his team’s chances.
In fact, the final day of groups was “very important for [Gambit],” who became the 10th team to qualify for VALORANT Champions in December.
— VALORANT Champions Tour (@ValorantEsports) September 16, 2021
Now, Gambit can relax.
“Today’s match was very important for us,” nAts told Dexerto. “Because we had to win this game to qualify for Champions. But right now there are no other points, we’re already in Champions.
“Right now we just have to prepare to show our good performance, adjust what we can. I guess we will have no pressure and we will be fully confident [against VS].”
He paused before saying there was no pressure. There wasn’t any cockiness in his voice. Just calm.
Berlin’s Scrim Beasts make playoffs
Gambit’s name has traveled really well in the Valorant community since their breakout run at Challengers 3. But they’ve yet to make their mark on the world stage.
Still, Gambit’s street cred is second to none.
Before 100 Thieves’ Winner’s Match against Gambit, fellow NA representative Sentinels’ Shahzeb ‘ShahZaM’ Khan had no doubt in his mind the Russians were taking the series.
“Honestly, people are going to hate me for this,” ShahZaM said in a post-game interview about his prediction for 100T vs Gambit. “Obviously like NA this, NA that. But Gambit is an insanely good team.
“I have a feeling they’re going to wipe the floor [with 100 Thieves]. Gambit is strong.”
ShahZ put some emphasis on “strong”. SEN has scrimmed a lot with Gambit since they got to Berlin, and the NA IGL admitted his team learned a great deal from how they play and read a round.
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Even still, Gambit lost that series against 100 Thieves. So was it just “scrim bucks,” like ShahZaM mentioned?
Probably. But there was one key difference between playing scrims in Berlin and playing on-stage games: the pressure.
“Actually when we play in scrims, yeah, somebody says that we are the best teams in the scrims right now,” nAts recalled. “I think right now maybe not, maybe other teams are coming to take that title.
“But actually yeah, we’re trying to be focused on every scrim. We’re working a lot. We don’t have any pressure in scrims.”
Aside from the $225,000 bounty for 1st place at Berlin, the winners automatically qualify for Champions. Gambit weren’t pressured in practice because results there don’t matter. And nAts’ team have already locked their place at Champions.
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Maybe this is where we finally see the Scrim Beasts that everyone was talking about show up to the main stage.
In sports, the drive to compete can come from fear of the unknown. The best teams in the world are never guaranteed a win. Upsets can happen. Disaster can strike.
As EMEA’s no.1 seed, Gambit are strong, but they’re not delusional. There are good teams in Berlin.
nAts even joked about “shaking” a bit when he first practiced against TenZ. He said Gambit only have about three hours to study and prepare for VS before their match.
I expect them to play to their strengths rather than try to counter the Koreans’ killer playstyle. That could be their best bet, seeing as they already know what they need to adjust from the Group Stage.
Gambit won’t want to play reactively in their quarterfinals match. So we’ll see if they can put the pressure on VS to get them ahead.
Vision Strikers face-off against Gambit on Thursday, September 16.
Interview conducted by Dexerto’s Luke Edwards.