TSM vs. Envy (2-0)
Following a draw in the first half of map one, Ascent, TSM dominated the remainder of the series. Taylor " Drone " Johnson mentioned after the team's quarterfinal victory that TSM wanted dominant victories en route to a tournament championship to prove they once again deserve the title of best team in North America. Still, the result was unexpected.
James " hazed " Cobb said in an on-broadcast interview with Sue "Smix" Lee that TSM expected the match to go the distance with three close maps. "The showing they had today was not normal Envy Envy North America Rank #4 ."
But Pujan " FNS " Mehta had a different take on the match's outcome. "In my opinion, we didn't play terribly, we played extremely average," he said. "But I think TSM played out of their minds. They played at their peaks, all five of them."
FNS specifically shouted out Stephen " reltuC " Cutler for his performance as he shined on Ascent. Then he added that several of TSM's players have up-and-down moments and all five of them were at their ups. "So when that happens, that is the worst time to play them, and we just happened to play them."
hazed mentioned in his broadcast interview that teams and players have hot and cold days. He personally felt like Envy wasn't feeling it that day, a contrast to FNS's assessment that TSM simply was feeling it. Regardless if one team was hot, the other was cold, or both were happening at once, it seems like hazed was on the money with his assessment that one team wasn't playing at the level it normally does.
In FNS's opinion, the match came down to clutch moments on post-plants and retakes. "And we lost almost all of them," he said. He normally sees those situations as a strength — a view that was backed-up by their performance in such situations in the quarterfinals when they played Immortals — but was instead their weakness against TSM.
"If you don't win those, you're obviously going to lose."
100 Thieves vs. Sentinels (2-1)
Icebox, the first map, was also the first map of the NA bracket to end in overtime as 100 Thieves closed it out 14-12. It was Sentinels' map pick.
"In practice we've played a lot of Icebox, we've been focusing on it since we for the first qualifier and didn't have to worry about playing in the second one — it gave us some time before the days we took off," Shahzeeb " ShahZaM " Khan said. "I don't think we lost a single scrim on Icebox, it was going really well for us. But when it comes to matches, obviously, you learn your true weaknesses and then you can evaluate it."
"We went with the pick because we figured it might be a weak map for them."
That ended up not being the case as 100 Thieves held firm despite a strong 4-0 start from Sentinels. Perhaps it took them a few rounds to get into the groove because they weren't just playing on a new map — they were also playing against a new agent.
Hunter " SicK " Mims is one of just three players to have picked Skye at some point in the main event of First Strike North America, doing so on Icebox.
"Skye is a pretty interesting agent to me, I don't know why people don't find her that good," he said. "I think we use Skye pretty well, most of time. But with the lack of practice that we had, I think sometimes people were kind of confused as to what my abilities were supposed to do for them and we'd get like, picked by an OP or something. So that was kind of frustrating. But I think in the future like she'll be more impactful for us."
That might be as much of a hope as it is a prediction for a naturally flexible player such as SicK. "Skye's probably the most fun agent I'm playing right now. Because she's so diverse in what she can do. Like, she plays like Sova, she plays like Sage and also Breach. So, that all combined gives me a lot of confidence in what I can do individually. Like, I can make plays that other people can't because my kit is so diverse."
Nonetheless, 100 Thieves overcame the surprises of Icebox and Skye to win the first map. They lost the second map, Haven, 13-9 before closing out the series with a 13-9 win on Bind.
Fortunately for 100 Thieves, their roster has the experience necessary to close out long, intense matches.
"I feel like we all have decently good resilience, especially myself, Hiko , and nitr0 ," Joshua " steel " Nissan said. "Like the two of them specifically have so much experience being in high pressure matches where overtimes happen all the time, whether it happens against them like the famous Liquid ones or they do it against other people. So as long as we're able to mentally stay in the game, and cling on and make sure that we keep the energy and the vibes good and keep the comms up, then nothing's gonna break us. So if we kind of establish that and Asuna and Dicey both kind of see this and follow our lead, then they're not going to be like 'Oh, wait, no, this is out of our hands.' They're gonna just feel it — especially if you win a 3v5 they're gonna be like 'Oh, we can do this.'"
That experience matters to the team. Every First Strike event is the largest Valorant tournament yet in each region with one, and for some players across the world this is the biggest tournament they have ever competed in. One such player is on their team.
"I haven't played pro or competitively in any other game," Quan "Dicey" Tran said. "So to be able to compete on like, a similar level against people with a lot more FPS experience than I do, and be able to succeed against them has been really great. Especially with the help from the three veterans on the team, guiding me and teaching me what to do and what not to do in certain situations. It just has been a really good experience overall."
Dicey will have to return to class the day after today's grand final — he's still a senior in high school. He calls the disparity between his online life and real life "an unreal kind of experience."
He surely won't mind classes and homework as much if he returns to school tomorrow crowned a champion.
Sentinels, on the other hand, will focus on grinding out some practice before their next tournament next weekend to make up for lost time after missing out on practice this week. While ShahZaM noted sloppy play and lack of discipline that led to losing almost every clutch and SicK similarly noticed they lost clutches to mistakes piling up, the team doesn't want to hide behind their lack of practice. "You can't really blame that because that's just an excuse," SicK said.
Grand Finals preview
Both losing teams in the semifinals attributed their defeats to lost clutches. So look for the team that plays the best in clutch situations to secure a tournament victory in the Bo5 final.