VCT Masters NA and Europe: Stage 1 preview

Riot Games / Dexerto

VCT Stage 1 is coming to an end with the Masters events kicking off in North America and Europe. As they approach, let’s take a look at the big storylines heading into the regional finals.

VCT Stage 1 has given Valorant fans across the world plenty of action to digest. With over 10 regions taking part, hundreds of teams have been whittled down to eight prospects to fight for regional bragging rights.

With LAN competition on the way in Stage 2, VCT Masters Stage 1 is going to set the stage for the rest of 2021. Here’s the big stories we’re following ahead of the European and North American regional finals.

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A Sinatraa-less Sentinels

Sinatraa playing for Sentinels ValorantSentinels
Sentinels have suspended Sinatraa indefinitely after allegations of sexual abuse came to light.

The big talking point heading into VCT Masters ⁠— not just in NA, but globally ⁠— is Jay ‘sinatraa’ Won’s suspension after sexual abuse allegations came to light on March 9. There’s no denying that sinatraa’s presence in the server was a big part of Sentinels’ early success.

Now, they’ll have to fight on without him. They have managed to fill the void by picking up Tyson ‘TenZ’ Ngo — about the best you could possibly ask for. The former Cloud9 star has the talent, but sliding into a new team in just a matter of hours, not even days, is hard.

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Even with TenZ, Sentinels will have to face a significant downgrade ⁠— losing not just a star player, but a voice within the squad. Masters Stage 1 may not be a write-off yet, but things are looking tricky come Stage 2 if sinatraa gets dropped permanently, given TenZ only seems like a band-aid fix.

Are NiP Europe’s new #1?

Ex6tenz has revolutionized NIP’s Valorant squad.

G2 has dominated the European discourse in Valorant since the game’s beginning, but the tides are changing. With the seven-time Ignition Series champions missing out on Masters (more on that later), it’s not First Strike champions Heretics, or other squads like FPX people are looking at initially. It’s Ninjas in Pyjamas.

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One thing has to be noted about Ninjas in Pyjamas ⁠— the impact Kevin ‘Ex6TenZ’ Droolans has had on this roster is undeniable. The former CS:GO IGL has managed to mesh together an incredibly strong team, unlocking the potential of stars like Yaroslav ‘Jady’ Nikolaev and Emir ‘rhyme’ Muminovic.

Masters is the first real event NIP’s new-look roster has to prove themselves. The competition will be tough, but all eyes are on them to lead the pack and claim the organization’s first major trophy in Valorant.

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No G2, no TSM, no worries?

Mixwell with NBK for G2 Esports.DreamHack
Mixwell’s G2 Esports missed Masters in a huge upset.

If VCT has taught us anything yet, it’s that the old dogs are going to have to learn some new tricks. What’s the one thing G2 Esports, Team Liquid, TSM, and T1 all have in common? They all missed Masters.

It’s an exciting time to watch Valorant in Europe and North America. Teams like XSET, Luminosity, and even FaZe in North America are turning on the gas. FaZe especially, with their new coach, are looking like a real title contender for Masters.

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Over in Europe, Alliance’s rise cannot be understated. The depth of talent is there too; whether it be ACEND, built around former nolpenki star Mehmet Yagiz ‘cNed’ Ipek or the forever “Opportunists” DfuseTeam, who only just failed to make First Strike and are looking for revenge.

With only eight teams making Masters every stage, you can expect the fight to be intense. Not every favorite will make it through, especially as the meta shifts. These new teams will make for exciting viewing, regardless of outcome.

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Will First Strike champions remain on top?

Hiko playing CS:GO for Team LiquidESL
Hiko’s 100 Thieves come in as First Strike champions, but not favorites.

We’ve just spoken about all the new talents cropping up ahead of Masters, but there’s still two big dogs you can’t forget about: 100 Thieves and Team Heretics. The respective First Strike champions in North America and Europe are looking to defend their titles here at Masters.

There’s been a lot to like about both squads. For 100 Thieves, Asuna has been on a total tear. While they were making some roster adjustments, the “zoomer” of 100 Thieves carried them to Masters pretty much single-handedly. Do yourself a favor; go and watch the Gen.G and Luminosity VODs from Challengers 3.

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In Heretics’ case, they’ve been testing out a six-man squad with Ruben ‘RUBINO’ Brodreskift. He’s been playing in place of both Christian Garcia ‘lowel’ Antoran and Dustyn ‘nieSoW’ Durnas with varying success.

The champions did make it through pretty easily, only dropping one map throughout the entirety of Challengers 2, and it’s expected they’ll be the favorites in Europe.

VCT Masters Stage 1 kicks off on March 11 across Europe and North America.