In a battle of experienced cores vs. fresh new rosters, several standing contenders fell. Team Heretics Team Heretics Europe Rank #34 MiniBoo Dominykas Lukaševičius Wo0t Mert Alkan RieNs Enes Ecirli benjyfishy Benjy David Fish Boo Ričardas Lukaševičius took down group favorite FUT Esports FUT Esports Europe Rank #7 MrFaliN Furkan Yeğen yetujey Eray Budak AtaKaptan Ata Tan cNed Mehmet Yağız İpek qRaxs Doğukan Balaban 2-0 despite a substitute player, and Karmine Corp Karmine Corp Europe Rank #8 MAGNUM Martin Penkov tomaszy Tomás Machado N4RRATE Marshall Massey marteen Martin Pátek sh1n Ryad Ensaad knocked off GIANTX GIANTX Europe Rank #19 purp0 Semyon Borchev Redgar Igor Vlasov Fit1nho Adolfo Gallego hoody Aaro Peltokangas Cloud Kirill Nehozhin in the first day of VCT EMEA play in 2024.

Shorthanded Heretics upset FUT

The cards were stacked against Heretics from the start. An EMEA bottom feeder that floundered in the offseason, had to use a substitute because one of their star acquisitions is too young to play, and had one player forced to play remotely due to visa issues came into their match as massive underdogs against an internationally competitive FUT team that picked up cNed in the offseason.

In the end, Heretics stunned the entire league with a 2-0 upset. The Lithuanian Boo brothers dominated the server, with the elder Boo showing off both aim and brain to start off his redemption arc from a disastrous 2023 season.

Young Turkish star Wo0t was picked up by Heretics with the intention that he would be a core piece of their future, but as a 17 year old, he is too young to compete in VCT events until partway through March, forcing the team to bring in paTiTek as a substitute. To complicate matters, Heretics have struggled to obtain visas for their Turkish players leading to RieNs having to play remotely.

On the other side of the arena, FUT came into 2024 with big expectations. They finished top eight at Champions last year and scooped up a former world champion star player in cNed while maintaining their Turkish lineup. Offseason victories over contenders from all the VCT leagues besides China only added to the hype.

As one of the teams that set the meta on Lotus when it was introduced in 2023, FUT once again aimed to set a new tone. A solo controller Astra along with Gekko, Yoru, Breach, and Killjoy formed a lineup never before seen on Lotus.

FUT dominated the individual duels early on their attack. A 4-0 start had the makings of a blowout before Heretics found their footing. The shorthanded squad took defensive Rubble control at the start of each round to limit FUT's maneuverability around the map, and coordinated retakes completely turned the momentum. An eco ace from AtaKaptan finally stemmed the bleeding, but the damage was done. A 7-5 lead is often insufficient when switching to Lotus defense.

Ata boy.

Without a second controller like the near ubiquitous Viper pick, FUT struggled to hold any map control on defense. Heretics got the spike planted in every single round with ease. The Turks had a chance to stave off Heretics from equalizing at 10 rounds apiece, but the defuse was 0.07 seconds too late, and Heretics eventually took the map 13-11.

The brother buff paid off as Boo and MiniBoo combined for 48 kills to carry the load.

Heretics tried to one up FUT in the wild agent picks by choosing Astra and Sova on Bind, but FUT matched them with an equally unusual Neon composition. For the second time in two tries, FUT picked a composition that had never been seen before on the map.

The game picked up right where Lotus left off. FUT's defense looked porous, and on the other side, the oldest player in the server continued to win every aim duel. After a rough 2023 campaign, Boo's IGLing and individual capabilities were called into question, but both looked stellar despite the circumstances.

A few Operator rounds from cNed salvaged five rounds in the half for FUT, and on their own attack, they consistently punished defensive aggression towards A from Heretics. Unfortunately for them, they never found traction towards the B side of the map, and the Boos continued to light up the kill feed. Heretics converted their lead into a 13-10 victory for the series win.

Boo getting jumpscared by a ghost? Not happening. Even when he is Mini.

Boo finished the series 52-29 with a 1.45 rating to lead all players in the server by a wide margin. Both Patitek and RieNs struggled individually, but the team overcame their circumstances to notch their first marque win earlier than most anticipated.

Karmine Corp take down Giants

After an année désastreuse in 2023, KCorp chose a radical new direction for their roster. They added a first time IGL in MAGNUM and three rookie star duelists from Challenger leagues around the world.

For the first eight rounds of their attack, Giants played about as passively as they could have. They waited behind their own spawn doors with only the barest hint of mid pressure before executing into one of the sites. This strategy paid off in the pistol and gun rounds, but it cost them in multiple anti-eco rounds where the late round clock forced them to rush into weaker weapons.

The star duo of N4RRATE and marteen began to light up the scoreboard with multikill after multikill, and KCorp fought back for a tied halftime score.

What on Earth.

In contrast to Giants, KCorp chose to deathball on their attack. They roared out into the lead, and a late rally by Cloud and nukkye was unable to prevent a 13-11 KCorp victory. N4RRATE finished with a map high 23 kills to lead an explosive effort from the young team.

Giants picked Sunset but immediately had the fight taken to them by KCorp. Giants' attempts to push through mid and Market with a Sage wall were stymied early on. A pair of 4Ks from hoody finally broke the game open, and Giants roared out to a first half lead.

Aftershock of the year so far.

Cloud showed his Bulldog had some bite and not just bark, stringing together critical multikills to push Giants to map point up 12-5. KCorp mounted a valiant comeback, but a miscommunication led to a ninja defuse to end the map 13-10.

Despite Lotus having long been the most attacker sided map in the game, Giants' attack fell completely flat, losing the first seven rounds in a row. They somehow salvaged three rounds in the half off the back of a round where they ran out of time to plant but miraculously found all the kills.

No time, no problem.

In the end, KCorp easily rolled to a 13-4 victory to take the match. Across the series, MAGNUM and his three rookies finished with a higher kill total and rating than all of Giants except Cloud. Fit1nho had a great start to the series but finished with well over 50% of his kills in that first map.

Heretics will face Karmine Corp for a spot in the EMEA playoffs while FUT and Giants have been relegated to the losers bracket where they will have to battle just to escape into the Play-In stage. Both games will take place on Thursday the 22nd.

Banner image by Michal Konkol/Riot Games