Valorant teams set modest goals for LOCK//IN: “People should treat it for what it is”

Not the VCT LOCK//IN stage but the Valorant Champions 2022 stage.Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Valorant Champions Tour LOCK//IN is shaping up to be more of a show match tournament than a competitive endeavor based on the format and how early in the season the event comes, teams have told Dexerto.

LOCK//IN is a unique tournament in the VCT circuit. A one-off event with all 30 partnered teams and two invited Chinese squads, it was set up by Riot Games to give organizations time to move their operations to their respective international league hubs (Los Angeles for the American, Berlin for EMEA and Seoul for Pacific). The tournament will also showcase every team, whether they have the necessary talent and teamwork to qualify for an international event later in the year.

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The event’s single-elimination format has been met with backlash as it means that 16 teams will be sent packing in the first round after playing a maximum of three maps.

All of these elements combine into a tournament that teams will probably not take too seriously.

“You know how everyone is complaining about the format and everything? People should treat it for what it is. This tournament is more like Riot’s chance to showcase all the teams all over the world at one time and make it the grandest tournament possible,” Paper Rex head coach Alexandre ‘alecks’ Sallé told Dexerto.

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“It’s to showcase the teams. It’s not for them to host a great tournament.”

When asked about how they are viewing this tournament holistically, in the context of the entire season, Sentinels analyst Drew ‘DrewSpark’ Spark-Whitworth said this tournament should serve as a warmup to the season.

“At the end of the day, this is not just about this one singular tournament, it’s about the entire year,” DrewSpark said in an interview with Dexerto. “We have a brand new roster, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re not going to be too hard on ourselves if we end up going there and maybe having what many people would see as a disappointing result.”

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How Valorant teams will prepare for LOCK//IN

Another important factor for teams heading into LOCK//IN is the number of changes that their rosters and Valorant as a game have undergone.

The meta has shifted significantly in recent months, and most of the squads switched at least one player in the off-season (some even their entire lineup). Because of this, preparation for specific opponents is almost impossible as no one has tape to review before the event kicks off.

VCT crowdColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
LOCK//IN is set to have a crowd for every match of the tournament.

Teams will have to focus on their own fundamentals and strategies, which may result in teams trying out off-meta compositions or styles to obtain a free win in the single-elimination tournament.

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“I imagine you’ll see that from even the kind of bigger teams,” Global Esports coach Peter ‘Spin’ Bradford told Dexerto. “We’ve seen in international events before, with Paper Rex playing kind of wacky comps going into big events… I wouldn’t be surprised to see the same kind of thing from teams like NAVI, who famously prepare really hard for big events like this. They don’t have VODs to review so they kind of have to prepare in a different way. I think there’ll be a lot of weird and wonderful strategies and people trying to get ahead of the meta and trying to break the kind of boring Killjoy meta that we’re seeing.”

Teams like Global Esports with big rosters also might have an advantage coming into the event as they can prepare one player to come on as a map or agent specialist to throw opponents off.

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“It just gives you a lot more options in a situation where you hold the cards, whereas other teams can’t really prepare for you quite as easily as you can prepare for them. So that’s the advantage we have with a bigger roster and it’s something that we’ll try and use obviously,” Spin said.

What should teams and fans take away from LOCK//IN

Valorant Champions showColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Riot Games is known to put on a show for its international tournaments.

Ultimately, teams and fans are still bound to draw conclusions from LOCK//IN despite its format and unique placement in the Valorant calendar. DrewSpark told Dexerto those opinions should be focused on the meta and the map pool.

“I think if we’re going to draw any conclusions, it’d be more game related in terms of the kind of meta we’re in right now. For example, is Harbor viable? Split is coming back, so how has it changed? I think we’re going to be drawing broader conclusions about the meta as a whole, the map pool as a whole, rather than maybe specific conclusions about performance,” DrewSpark said.

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alecks, the Paper Rex coach, pointed toward how rough the matchups are for some teams going into the first and second rounds. His team will face Cloud9, who are considered one of the best teams in the tournament, in the first round. If they beat the North American team, they will most likely play DRX, another heavy favorite.

“So it still looks bad if we lose, all things considered,” alecks said. “But then it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things for me. I’ve told the boys that our goal is to make sure that we qualify for Japan, for Valorant Champions. We play the long game.”

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What should fans look forward to

While LOCK//IN might not be the most important tournament to look forward to, there are still things fans and players should be excited to see.

Brazilian Valorant players should be relishing the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd in a major Valorant tournament for the first time. Multiple players and teams will also be making their international tournament debut in São Paulo.

Valorant yayColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Multiple 2022 Valorant stars, like yay, will play on new teams at LOCK//IN

“I think it’d be really good to kind of get a look at the guys that we aren’t used to,” DrewSpark said. “We’re going to see the household names on the main stage but we’re also going to see a lot of fresh talent, and I think it’d be really cool to see how they do and to kind of get some feelers for how they are going to perform in high-pressure environments.”

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A number of caveats are warranted when discussing VCT LOCK//IN, but there are some high stakes on the table in São Paulo. In addition to the lion’s share of a $500,000 prize pool, the winner will also earn their league an extra slot at VCT Masters Tokyo later this year.

VCT LOCK//IN will kick off on February 13 with the first Round of 32 matches. Follow all the action with our coverage hub.