Twelve great pan-European teams settled into their spots in the EMEA Challengers Playoffs as August kicked off, but only four will leave the online servers and head to Berlin for the second international Valorant LAN in its history.
VLR.gg closely followed what European teams were up to in their two Challengers events. You can find a more detailed breakdown of Challengers 1 and Challengers 2 in their linked pages, with a summary of both events below.
The first Challengers event saw the return of two big European names who fell short of expectations during the previous VCT stage. Acend Acend Europe Rank #2 returned in blazing fashion, hot off their LVP Rising Series #2 win, as well as G2 Esports G2 Esports Europe Rank #5 with their redemption arc. Just prior to this event, both teams made changes.
Acend transferred Jose "koldamenta" Luis Aranguren to G2 in a trade for Aleksander "zeek" Zygmunt, their sole change. G2, on the other hand, went on to also confirm the buyouts of Auni "AvovA" Chahade and Žygimantas "nukkye" Chmieliauskas from Heretics as well as take Cista "keloqz" Wassim away from Megastitut.
Acend blew everyone away by demolishing the upper bracket, relegating Rix.GG Thunder Rix.GG Thunder Europe Rank #19 , FunPlus Phoenix FunPlus Phoenix Europe Rank #13 and Guild Esports Guild Esports Europe Rank #9 to the lower bracket all while losing just one map.
G2 were forced early into a lower bracket run after losing to FPX in their opener, but it was there they eliminated Rix.GG, Masters Reykjavik runners-up Fnatic Fnatic Europe Rank #6 and got revenge on FPX in the lower semifinal, both teams already qualified. G2 went on to win the lower bracket final against Guild 3-2. Acend ended their miracle run in the grand final, which favored zeek's new squad 3-1.
Despite G2's lower bracket rampage, they qualified for the EMEA event with their win over Fnatic. This means that, alongside FPX, Guild, and Acend, these teams earned their spot early on and played three seeding matches.
Fnatic's captain and IGL was extremely saddened at their LAN absence (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games).
While Challengers 1 reserved four slots, Challengers 2 only held two, so the stakes were much higher. The field was unpredictable, marked by the surprise entry of Giants Gaming Giants Gaming Europe Rank #3 and TENSTAR TENSTAR Europe Rank #8 , two newcomers to VCT main events.
Giants were the star of the show, dominating the upper bracket with wins over Rix.GG Thunder, Fnatic, and sweeping Team Liquid Team Liquid Europe Rank #4 to guarantee the first EMEA Challengers Playoffs slot of the event.
Having been relegated in the second round of games, Fnatic were busy completing a lower bracket run. After the grueling three-hour loss to Giants they faced Team BDS Team BDS Europe Rank #12 and just scraped by with a 2-1 win. Fnatic won against TENSTAR the following day, setting up a classic match for the last spot to Berlin, between them and Liquid.
The two squads went back and forth throughout the day for nearly six hours. In the end, Liquid's comeback on Breeze spelled Fnatic's elimination, and their chance at being the first European team to participate in both official Valorant LANs to date. The final was ultimately Liquid's 3-1.
All smiles on the Liquid camp as they inch closer to their second LAN (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games).
Challengers 1 gave out two EMEA slots. A lot of the teams had been absent from the servers, but SuperMassive Blaze SuperMassive Blaze Europe Rank #7 and Fire Flux Esports Fire Flux Esports Europe Rank #43 had been on the rise lately, while the presence of typical names like Futbolist Futbolist Europe Rank #30 , BBL Esports BBL Esports Europe Rank #32 , and Oxygen Esports Oxygen Esports Europe Rank #14 were long awaited.
Oxygen was the first to secure a slot, demolishing everyone in the upper bracket without dropping a single map. The squad, who was previously one Bo3 away from Reykjavik, displayed total domination.
Oxygen had knocked down SuperMassive Blaze, who were then forced to rise from the ashes. They did so, eliminating OtherSide OtherSide Europe Rank #102 and Fire Flux in Bo3 matches. In the deciding lower bracket final Bo5, they edged out Futbolist 3-2 to ensure their place in EMEA. SuperMassive Blaze finished the event with revenge against Oxygen 3-1, securing the first seed for Turkey.
Digital Athletics Digital Athletics Europe Rank #51 proved to be a rising team in Challengers 2, a bundle of Turkish talent hailing from several teams. They surprised Fire Flux with a reverse sweep for the teams' openers, moving past Besiktas Esports Besiktas Esports Europe Rank #53 and Thunderbolts Gaming Thunderbolts Gaming Europe Rank #55 on their way to the grand final.
The first lower round was incredibly stacked. BBL faced Fire Flux and OtherSide faced Futbolist. Only two of these teams would move on, and it was Fire Flux and Futbolist. Futbolist were then upset by Besiktas while Fire Flux beat RARE Esports RARE Esports Europe Rank #58 . Volkan "sociablEE" Yonal's squad then secured wins against Besiktas and Thunderbolts to reach the grand final.
Digital Athletics won the first map of the grand final, but Fire Flux came back at them three maps in a row to conquer the remaining Turkish EMEA slot 3-1.
The CIS region followed the same path of the Turkish region. Two slots were dished out in the first event. The first team to acquire theirs was Gambit Esports Gambit Esports Europe Rank #1 , who knocked Team Singularity Team Singularity Inactive , Axsor Axsor Europe Rank #38 , and No Pressure No Pressure Inactive down to the lower bracket.
No Pressure outshone forZe forZe Europe Rank #10 in a 3-0 Bo5 lower bracket final, impeding the latter's run from coming to a satisfying close and earning themselves two very important things: Natus Vincere Natus Vincere Europe Rank #27 contracts and a place in the EMEA Challengers Playoffs. The grand final was Gambit's to comfortably win 3-0.
Several teams showed up to the plate on Challengers 2, but three teams stood out as the favorites: forZe, One Breath Gaming One Breath Gaming Inactive , and Singularity. The first squad had been lacking wins Stage 2's Challengers 1 but showed up this time, being the team to send AG AG Europe Rank #31 , Axsor and forZe to the lower bracket and dropping only one map in the process.
One Breath Gaming had won their opener to Crypto Esports Crypto Esports Europe Rank #48 , but Singularity stopped them in their tracks in the upper semifinals. As a result, they were forced to go through the lower bracket, where they would have faced AG first were it not for a suspension handed to Said "Hunts" Alamani.
The squad got a bypass to face Axsor, against whom they won 2-0. In the lower bracket final, a tight 3-0 win secured them the grand final. Facing forZe, the teams endured a five-hour-long session that, funnily enough, only included one overtime. In the end, the Nikolai "zeddy" Lapko-led squad came out on top 3-2 to secure the final CIS seed in the EMEA Challengers Playoffs.
On the afternoon of August 2, Freaks 4U Gaming and Riot revealed the upcoming matches that will determine which four teams are drafted into Masters Berlin. They are listed below, being played in a double-elimination 12-team bracket. Pick 'ems are open for the event.
- Natus Vincere Natus Vincere Europe Rank #27 vs. Team Liquid Team Liquid Europe Rank #4
- Guild Esports Guild Esports Europe Rank #9 vs. forZe forZe Europe Rank #10
- FunPlus Phoenix FunPlus Phoenix Europe Rank #13 vs. Fire Flux Esports Fire Flux Esports Europe Rank #43
- Oxygen Esports Oxygen Esports Europe Rank #14 vs. Giants Gaming Giants Gaming Europe Rank #3
Acend, Gambit, SuperMassive Blaze, and G2 are automatically placed in the second round of the upper bracket, all destined to fight the winner of the respective games listed above. The squads now have some days to rest until chaos unfolds on the servers from August 12 to 22.
Acend enter as the hot favorites, boasting a personal best 13-win-streak and being the main target of most participants. However, Gambit are also considered a strong contender, being the sole squad Santeri "BONECOLD" Sassi would wish to avoid.