6 players to watch at VCT Masters NA and Europe: Stage 1


VCT Masters Stage 1 is the first big test for Valorant teams across the globe in 2021. Across North America and Europe, the best of the best will duke it out for regional bragging rights. These are the six players you need to keep your eyes on.

The Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) has been jampacked with action. With Stage 1 almost done, teams are looking at securing those much-desired points to try and qualify for Champions in December, and set themselves up for a potential showing at the Stage 2 LAN in Iceland.

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While everyone who makes it to this level of competition, there’s a few impact players that could swing the tides of battle. These are the six players you need to watch across VCT Masters Stage 1 in North America and Europe when action kicks off on March 11.

Peter ‘Asuna’ Mazuryk (100 Thieves, NA)

Asuna isn’t just the best Valorant player in North America right now. He’s making a real case for himself being the best player in the world. Period. He is the reason 100 Thieves are in Masters right now, instead of licking their wounds waiting for Stage 2.

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His Raze is an invaluable asset, controlling huge amounts of the map. He’s got the “zoomer” hands, with the “boomer” brains behind him telling him to go in and kill, and that’s what he does. Every game is just 20 and 30-bombs with Asuna, and they’re all high-impact frags.

Asuna is the key to 100 Thieves’ success in Masters NA. If he shows up, like he did at the tail end of Challengers 3, the veteran squad can retain their title as the Kings of NA. Plus, no matter if you’re a Thieves fan or not, he’s a joy to watch.

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Christian ‘lowel’ Garcia Antoran (Heretics, Europe)

lowel playing for Movistar CS:GOJoao Ferreira for DreamHack
Lowel was the First Strike MVP, but will he play for Heretics in Masters?

Lowel really set the stage for Heretics’ dominance in First Strike at the tail end of 2020. The European squad revolutionized the meta yet again, showing the world that Sage is still powerful, and lowel was at the forefront of that assault.

However, things have changed in the Heretics camp. The First Strike MVP has found himself sidelined in the six-man experiment they’re currently running, with Ruben ‘RUBINO’ Brodreskift often starting in his place.

All eyes will be on Heretics to see if lowel actually lines up this week. With plenty on the line, you’d want to field your best roster. Whether lowel actually sits in that core five now is unclear ⁠— he should, but we won’t get a look behind closed doors until Friday.

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Andrej ‘babybay’ Francisty (FaZe Clan, NA)

Overwatch League/Robert Paul
Babybay is coming alive in Valorant.

When we spoke to Corey during Challengers 2, we asked if FaZe Clan were underdogs. He said they weren’t, and in Challengers 3, they proved why ⁠— mostly off the back of babybay. The team’s Jett player looked completely different in the final qualifier, like something had awoken in him.

It needs to be noted that FaZe Clan now have a coach, and that has only just started to unlock the Overwatch roster’s full potential. They went into Challengers 3 with few expectations, and have left with a target on their back.

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Babybay’s on the up, with his hyper-aggressive style ⁠— even for Jett ⁠— catching both experienced heads and more PUG-style teams by surprise. If he can hit his peak in Masters NA, FaZe can cause a huge upset and take home their first major Valorant trophy.

Alexandre ‘xms’ Forte (Alliance, Europe)

Xms playing for Envy CS:GOAdela Sznajder for DreamHack
Xms is Alliance’s new addition ahead of Masters Europe.

Alliance have made a very late roster swap heading into Masters Europe, dropping Vilius ‘krea6oN’ Malinauskas for xms. Xms has only been with the team for a matter of days, on trial, but the Counter-Strike vet is being thrown into the fire with a Masters debut.

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Xms isn’t new to Valorant, however, his results haven’t been outstanding on previous teams. What he does bring is experience and flexibility, and that might be what this Alliance roster needs. He can play Brimstone, Omen, and Sage, and smokes were the role the squad was generally missing out on.

The Frenchman is going to have to impress on debut, given the spotlight is going to be shone right on him. It’s a lot of pressure, especially since they aren’t as favored as the likes of NIP and Heretics. However, if Alliance comes out on top with xms in the fray, they’ll be a huge threat come Champions in December.

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Brendan ‘BcJ’ Jensen (XSET, NA)

BcJ playing Apex LegendsTurtle Entertainment
BcJ’s XSET are the surprise package in Masters NA.

XSET are the surprise new squad decimating North American Valorant. Yes, there’s Luminosity too, but not many expected XSET to make it to Masters, let alone get through in Challengers 2. BcJ on Omen and Sova was a core component of that rise.

Very rarely do you see a player on those Agents top the charts, but his 258.8 ACS during Challengers 2 came in fourth across the Top 16 teams in the event (second behind Envy’s Victor ‘food’ Wong if you exclude those who missed Masters).

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The rest of XSET have a lot to prove at Masters NA. They don’t have big name talent. They don’t have the past results. However, what they do have is the spirit of bringing in a new dawn of NA Valorant, and you can expect them to come out swinging against the household names.

Kevin ‘Ex6TenZ’ Droolans (Ninjas in Pyjamas, Europe)

Ex6TenZ has powered up Ninjas in Pyjamas.

I have no problem with saying Ninjas in Pyjamas are the favorites heading into Masters Europe. The reason why? Ex6TenZ. The CS:GO veteran’s inclusion to the squad after First Strike has elevated this team into a global contender.

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Since his addition, NIP have been virtually unstoppable. They beat G2 not once, but twice to qualify for Masters. They decimated some of Europe’s Tier 2 hopefuls, and they look tactically clean with the Belgian on their side.

On the Breach, Ex6TenZ been racking up the assists and enabling his fraggers Emir ‘rhyme’ Muminovic and Yaroslav ‘Jady’ Nikolaev to do the damage ⁠— without playing Jett, mind you. This tactical depth, plus the great calling of Ex6TenZ, makes NIP our favorites for Masters Europe and definitely one to watch for now.

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