NRG Esports NRG Esports North America Rank #3 crashies Austin Roberts Victor Victor Wong Marved Jimmy Nguyen Ethan Ethan Arnold Demon1 Max Mazanov took down Cloud9 Cloud9 North America Rank #9 Xeppaa Erick Bach runi Dylan Cade moose Kaleb Jayne vanity Anthony Malaspina OXY Francis Hoang in two maps to start the day for Americas, and LOUD LOUD Brazil Rank #1 Quick Gabriel Lima saadhak Matias Delipetro Less Felipe de Loyola tuyz Arthur Andrade cauanzin Cauan Pereira defeated Leviatán Leviatán Latin America South Rank #1 tex Ian Botsch kiNgg Francisco Aravena Mazino Roberto Rivas aspas Erick Santos C0M Corbin Lee in a three map thriller to become the first teams to qualify for the VCT Americas Kickoff playoffs stage.

NRG handle C9 to become first Americas Kickoff playoff team

To begin the VCT Americas day, Cloud9 took the series to Sunset. Cloud9 played the map six times during their busy offseason, winning five times. It would be the NRG's debut on the map, however they looked right at home jumping out to a 8-4 halftime lead off the back of Ethan and Demon1 's dominating Operator play.

NRG placing Demon1 on Jett, the first time a team had picked the agent across all of the VCT Kickoffs so far, proved to be too much for Cloud9. Despite wippie 's best attempts to slow the rampaging duelist down, NRG closed C9's map pick out with a comfortable 13-7 win.

"I don't care." - Demon1 when asked who he wants to play. He certainly plays like it.

jakee helped Cloud9 stabilize at the start of Ascent, but Victor and Marved answered by dropping a combined 25 kills to cover for Demon1 and Ethan's slow start of just five combined kills. NRG's constant mid control and split attacks on the bomb sites allowed them to manage five rounds on the tougher side of Ascent

A second Victor pistol clutch set NRG for six straight rounds for their defensive side, procuring a 11-7 lead where it appeared Cloud9 was dead in the water. A few decisive site executions and a critical vanity and wippie 2v4 gave C9 four rounds in a row of their own to bring Ascent to a 11-11 stalemate.

vanity is currently tied with aspas for the most clutches in Americas Kickoff with 5.

After a miraculous Demon1 Operator 3K in round 23, a hit off the back of the Xeppaa KAY/O ultimate helped secure overtime for Cloud9 in round 24. Overtime was headlined by the defensive pushes into the main areas on Ascent with C9 failing at their push and NRG clinching both the map and series off of their own.

Demon1 finished with 43 kills for the highest mark in the lobby, 20 of them Operator kills. Each member of NRG's squad finished with a higher rating than any of the Cloud9 players. vanity and OXY were the bright spots for Cloud9, with OXY converting 9 first bloods on Ascent alone.

NRG will wait until next Saturday to play for a Madrid appearance in the playoffs stage, while Cloud9 will rematch MIBR MIBR Brazil Rank #3 jzz João Pedro mazin Matheus Araújo artzin Arthur Araujo RgLMeister Matheus Rodigoli frz Leandro Gomes for a play-ins spot on Sunday.

When asked why NRG will make it to Masters Madrid post-match, Demon1 had just this to say:

“We have five champs.”

LOUD survive Leviatán in aspas' first meetup with old team

The second and final match of the day brought drama and storylines. The return of aspas to face off against his former teammates on LOUD would come just two matches into each of their respective seasons, and with the chance to play for a spot at Madrid on the line.

Leviatán selected Bind as their map selection, where both teams introduced peculiar compositions into the equation. The third-place Champions 2023 finishers went with Breach + KAY/O along with putting their new duelist Quick onto Phoenix. Leviatán brought out their Harbor/Viper/Gekko picks that they used against 100 Thieves.

If the newly-formed Leviatán lineup was feeling any pressure, they certainly did not show it. The mixed Americas squad showed impressive individual skills, played patiently, and hit the right site on attack time and time again as LOUD played passively right into their hands. Despite a few timely flanks from LOUD at the end of the half, the clinical Leviatán attack put together a 9-3 lead on attack. Leviatán managed a plant on all twelve of their attack rounds.

kiNgg owns this A short area on Bind.

The Brazilian squad flipped the map on its head to begin their own attack side, using their heavy flash comp to delay on the post-plant over and over again to bring themselves back into the game at 9-8. Leviatán would answer with more coordinated plays on defense and map control to reach map point.

LOUD would gain a few more to push the map to the conclusive round 24 which saw five ultimates used but a flawless round for Leviatán. Of the 24 rounds, 22 of them saw the spike planted, but just five defuses. What had begun as a clean win for Leviatán finished as an all-out utility barrage brawl of a match. kiNgg and tex were the pillars contributing to the win, with the latter picking up seven first bloods.

This is where Split really started to get wild.

After LOUD's opening pistol round win, kiNgg proved to be a lurking menace on Split attack. The A site Viper wall enabled the IGL to find picks and cause trouble for the LOUD defense. LOUD answered with shutting down the Leviatán hits on A and retaking nearly flawlessly to bring Split back to a 6-6 halftime score.

The second half of Split was pandemonium in full. A LOUD 2v5 pistol, a kiNgg 4K, an aspas 1v2, and an insane LOUD eco all occurred in the first eight rounds of the second half. At the end of it all, LOUDs +10 first blood differential and post plants were too much for Leviatán to surmount, culminating in a 13-10 LOUD victory.

Aspas had no right to win this round from his position.

Split was the Viper playground, with Less and kiNgg combining for 45 kills and just 26 deaths.

The final map of Ascent saw LOUD reuse their Phoenix/Breach/Viper composition which troubled the Leviatán defense greatly, setting LOUD up with a large lead. The walls, flashes, and smokes took control of the map repeatedly while Leviatán could hardly find a sliver of space to work with. Aspas found no value with the Operator, and C0M was the only LEV player with double digit kills.

Facing a 9-3 deficit at the half, it appeared that Leviatán might wilt completely, but winning a pistol provided a bit of hope. It wasn't to be however, as saadhak and cauanzin brought out the shotguns to bring back some of the scrappiness from Split to secure the series win for LOUD.

Less was the hero for LOUD across the entire series, putting up a 1.5 rating and a 61-33 kill-death ratio. The entirety of LOUD want +18 in first kill differential in the series. kiNgg was the lone bright spot for Leviatán, as the only player with a positive rating in the series.

LOUD joins NRG as the two current teams in the playoffs stage next weekend, while Leviatán will play Sentinels for a spot in the play-ins stage.

“People cannot underestimate us,” qck said post-match. “We are very flexible, and we have a lot to show.”