The second week of the VCT NA Stage 2 playoffs has officially kicked off, with much at stake for the four remaining teams. In the upper bracket, XSET XSET North America Rank #2 and OpTic Gaming OpTic Gaming North America Rank #1 faced off to determine who would claim the first of two tickets to represent North America at Masters: Copenhagen, while FaZe Clan FaZe Clan North America Rank #5 and NRG Esports NRG Esports North America Rank #8 battled it out to keep their tournament hopes alive.
After the dust had settled, OpTic had claimed victory over XSET and punched their ticket to Copenhagen, while NRG bowed out following a loss to FaZe in the lower bracket.
The first match of the day was a Bo5, which began on Haven. OpTic secured the first two rounds of the map, but XSET were able to strike back with two rounds of their own thanks to a 4k from zekken in the second round, which tanked OpTic's economy going into their first full buy round. After gaining a foothold, OpTic were able to continue to pick up rounds throughout the rest of the half, only relinquishing three rounds to their opponents to put themselves up 7-5 going into their defense side.
The second half of the match was considerably less back-and-forth than the first half. XSET took the second half pistol and quickly picked up steam, evening up the scoreline by round 14. After three more rounds went the way of XSET, OpTic called a timeout in an attempt to halt their opponent's momentum, but their efforts were not fruitful. XSET completely shut out OpTic on the second half of their map pick to claim the first map in the series.
Following Haven was Icebox, XSET's map pick. XSET kicked off the map by winning the pistol, but yay took matters into his own hands, acing XSET with only six bullets fired from his headhunter. OpTic took that opportunity created by yay and converted it into three additional rounds until Cryocells took matters into his own hands with a 4k in round 6.Six shots, five kills.
XSET continued to battle back throughout the first half, led by a stellar performance from Cryocells' Chamber. After six straight XSET round wins, OpTic managed to muster out a fifth round for themselves off of a 4k from yay, bringing the round differential down to two at the half.
The second half was more back-and-forth than the first, with OpTic winning the pistol and evening the score up by the time XSET had a full buy. By round 20, OpTic had evened the scoreline up at 10 apiece, and gave them enough of a round and economic advantage to coast to a 13-11 victory to even up the map score.
Throughout the entire map, both Chamber players had a big hand in determining which team came out on top, with both yay and Cryocells leading their teams in frags at the end of the map. yay ended Icebox with 34 kills, and Cryocells finished with 24 frags. The next top fragging performers were AYRIN and Marved at 17 kills each.
The third map in the series was Ascent, which kicked off with an XSET round win following a tag-team performance from BcJ and dephh , who both netted two kills in a flash, leaving Marved well outnumbered and unable to salvage the first round of the half. OpTic were able to strike back once they had a full buy, but XSET's well-established defense gave OpTic no chance of tying up the score.
The defenders continued their streak until OpTic won two down-to-the-wire rounds that saw crashies 's Sova shine by denying XSET enough time in their A site retake to defuse the spike. However, XSET had enough economic buffer to buy full weapons and utility each round, giving them a clear leg up over their opposition. XSET went into their attack side with a 9-3 lead.Ice in his veins.
After a moment to prepare for the second half of Ascent, OpTic came out the gates in an unstoppable fashion, only allowing XSET to secure two rounds on their attacking half in rounds 17 and 23. The map ended with OpTic taking the series lead after a 13-11 map win.
The fourth and final map took place on Breeze, which began with XSET winning the first two rounds of the half. OpTic bounced back once they had rifles, elevating their lead to 6-2 before XSET were able to muster a third round win. Cryocells won a 1v1 against yay in the 10th round to further narrow the round differential, but OpTic closed out the final two rounds of the half to give them a four-round buffer going into the second half of Breeze.
With five rounds now standing between their opponents and a ticket to Copenhagen, XSET needed to make up for lost ground as soon as possible. While they successfully retook B site on the pistol, eliminating every single OpTic member in the process, AYRIN wasn't left with enough time to defuse the spike, meaning that XSET had an even steeper hill to climb in order to get back into the match.
OpTic won the following two rounds, putting themselves just two more rounds away from winning the series. However, individual heroics from BcJ stunted OpTic's attempt at taking the A site, forcing yay, crashies, and FNS to save their weapons and try again the next round. OpTic's strategy paid off, as they were able to crack XSET's A site defense open off of an early round kill onto BcJ. That opening pick spiraled into another round win for OpTic, inching the Masters: Reykjavik champions towards another international LAN berth.
With their backs against the wall, XSET mustered up the funds to put an Operator in Cryocells's hands to turn the tides and keep them in the series. The youngster managed to net three kills before being taken down by Marved, which gave his team solid enough economic stability to go into what would soon be the last round of the series.
As a change of strategy, OpTic chose to aggressively take control of mid with three players, an area that hadn't been aggressively taken throughout the map. Victor found first blood on an unsuspecting Cryocells, giving his team a perfect opportunity to flood into B site and catch them without much backup. AYRIN found a kill onto Victor, but zekken's position had been discovered, and he was only able to take down yay before being traded out by FNS, leaving OpTic with a single player advantage. Fortunately for OpTic, Marved was pushed up to where the reinforcements would be funneling in from, allowing him to take out the remaining XSET players to close out the map and claim the first of two seats to the international stage.
The second series of the day featured a Bo3 between FaZe and NRG to determine who would remain in the running for the second Masters slot. Icebox kicked off the series, which began with NRG taking the pistol in a scrappy fashion, but FaZe were able to turn the tide by eliminating Ethan early in the round, wiping out sentinel utility that would have severely impaired FaZe's B site retake. FaZe ended up converting the round to even the score up at 1 apiece, giving them a leg up on their opponents economically going into the subsequent rounds.
The rest of the first half went in FaZe's favor apart from the final round of the half. BABYBAY 's Operator consistently put holes in NRG's attack plans, showing no mercy to any NRG player that appeared in its crosshairs. FaZe went into the second half of Icebox with a 10-2 lead over their opposition.FaZe made thwarting NRG's attack attempts on Icebox look easy.
With the first half of Icebox behind them, NRG looked to close the round differential as quickly as possible. They took the pistol following a well-placed Sage wall and daring spike defuse from Ethan, which set back FaZe financially in the following round. NRG continued to close the round differential, but FaZe's 10-2 lead from the first half was too much for NRG to overcome. FaZe took Icebox 13-11, narrowly avoiding sending the map to overtime.Chamber is a sentinel agent by the way.
With one map potentially left in their Stage 2 Challengers run, NRG needed to show up on FaZe's map pick, Haven, to keep their playoff hopes alive. NRG began the second map of the series by claiming seven rounds before FaZe were able to claim their first round win, giving NRG a comfortable four round lead going into the second half of the map.
Similarly to the first half, NRG kicked off the second half by winning the pistol, but failed to convert the following round while armed with two Vandals and three SMGs. While their economy looked bleak going into the third round of the second half, a 1v2 clutch from s0m put the wind back in NRG's sails, keeping some FaZe players from being able to buy full utility and rifles to compete with NRG's full purchase.
FaZe eventually found their footing, as well as a couple more rounds to put themselves within three rounds of their opponents. However a timeout from NRG going into round 20 was enough to formulate a plan to win the round and put themselves at match point. Two rounds later, NRG had closed out Haven 13-8, sending the series to the final map, Ascent.Astra's stars can still enable lethal utility combos that can make defusing the spike nearly impossible.
Ascent kicked off with another dominant showing from FaZe. NRG attempted to fight back in a number of instances, but their efforts to gain momentum were thwarted. Only after Ethan's 3k and evasive maneuvers to run out the clock did NRG secure their first round of the map. NRG secured one more in the final round of the first half to make the half score 10-2 in favor of FaZe.An ace clutch does more than just economical damage on a team.
NRG began their comeback in the second half by winning the first two rounds, but were unable to contest FaZe's full buy in round 15. After calling a timeout, NRG continued to rack up rounds, prompting a timeout from FaZe.The momentum of a single round can change in an instant in Valorant.
In round 20, NRG chose to run down the clock before executing onto A with Ethan's KAY/O ultimate, giving the FaZe defenders on the other side of the map little time to react. tex 's Tour De Force took out three FaZe members going into the site, but the numbers were quickly equalized by flyuh 's Odin and dicey 's Operator, leaving eeiu as the lone NRG member in a 1v2. After defeating dicey, who missed his Operator shot, eeiu attempted to bait a shot from flyuh to prevent the spike from being halfway defused, but his opponent remained calm, and landed the headshot to give FaZe their 12th round, putting themselves at match point.
In what would be the final round of the series, NRG once again opted to attack the A site. After a series of trades, s0m was left as the only remaining NRG member against dicey and flyuh. He resurrected hazed , but his time was short-lived, as flyuh's Odin was able to penetrate through the wall near where hazed was resurrected, putting s0m back in a 1v2 situation. Following the spike plant, and a check that the coast was clear in Heaven, s0m repositioned to give himself an advantage on the two defenders, who were running in through Tree. He got the first frag onto flyuh, but a jump on top of generator wasn't enough of a surprise to fool dicey, giving FaZe the victory over NRG 13-8.
A look ahead
Two matches remain in Stage 2 Challengers North America.
Later today, at 4:00 PM EDT, XSET will face off against FaZe to determine who will claim the second ticket to Masters: Copenhagen next month. The winner of that match will play against OpTic in the grand finals on Sunday, June 26.