October 13, 2021

On 2 December 2021, Riot Games will host Valorant Champions in Berlin, which is the culmination of the 2021 Valorant Champions Tour. The Tour and finale, which is only open to those ranked Immortal 1 or higher, is ambitious, to say the least, but will undoubtedly further strengthen the young game’s standing in the world of eSports.

The first-person shooter was properly released on 2 June 2020, and yet, the competitive scene has already grown rapidly, with fans assembling en masse to view the action. With so much interest and coverage, fans quickly recognise that the Sentinels are, on paper, the team to beat in tournaments. Yet, in the Valorant Champions Tour, they hit some severe turbulence.

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A young but bustling eSports scene that’s already forged stars

Valorant has only been around in its post-release form for 16 months at the time of writing, but it was always destined to be an eSports stud. Created by Riot Games – one of the founding pillars of eSports as the creators of League of Legends – Valorant has performed far better, far faster than many industry onlookers predicted.

In just one day, the new game set the record for hours viewed at 34 million. In fact, during its beta run in 2020, close to three million players logged into the game every day, despite being unfinished, with over 470 million hours of footage from closed-beta streams being viewed, per Venture Beat. Its popularity only continued to grow from there.

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Several eSports events later, tweaks to the meta, and an unwavering commitment to promoting its professional teams, and Valorant is now a huge eSports property. In fact, with over 92 million total hours and 16 million eSports hours watched, it ranks only behind GTA V and League of Legends as the most-watched games on Twitch.

When starting out, many now-integrated third-party industries were cautious as to the viability of eSports, mainly due to a lack of understanding as to game balance and its popularity. Valorant immediately proved to be a hit in an established eSports scene, with betting sites like Betway committing to the game as a legitimate feature that can be wagered on.

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Among the most regularly sought-after teams to be backed in eSports betting are the Sentinels. In such a short time, they’ve proven to be giants in North American gaming and on the international scene. They were clear Valorant Champions favourites heading into Stage 3, but a couple of slip-ups may now have fans siding with one of their conquerors before the final December meet commences.

Did hubris beat the Sentinels?

Finishing as the Stage 2 Masters – Reykjavík champions and winning 11 of 12 games in the North America leg of the Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs, the Sentinels were firmly favoured to walk to the Stage 3 Masters – Berlin title. In the Stage 2 Masters, the Sentinels didn’t drop a single map, so G2 Esports were given a great deal of praise for nabbing one in the first Stage 3 Masters matchup but did lose 2-1.

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When the two met again two games later, though, it was a different result, but with a similar story. In the 2-1 victory earlier, G2 battled hard, but the main error made on the Sentinels’ behalf was not banning Ice Box. Following their first map drop, Sentinels players were quick to state that they felt that they shouldn’t have lost, that G2 didn’t do anything special, and that the fault was their own.

In the second meet, G2 took the match 2-0, once again capitalising on their well-rounded strategies for Ice Box. While the Sentinels may not have been up to their usual standards in the first meet on Ice Box, G2 certainly outplayed them in the second, and again on Split. After beating F4Q in the next game, it was on to fellow North American side Envy, who eliminated the former favourites 2-0 to get to the semi-finals.

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On the first map, Haven, Envy edged ahead in the first half but faced the Sentinels’ full wrath in the second, which took the game to double overtime, where Envy claimed a 15-13 victory. Next was a return to Split for the Sentinels, where they were once again dominated by the opposition, bowing out in a largely disappointing showing for the Stage 2 champions.

Perhaps, having been so dominant up to the Stage 3 Masters, it was hubris that beat the Sentinels. Not to say that their conquerors weren’t incredible performers, as they were, but the Sentinels looked set on aiming to play their best game without considering the strengths of the others. The situation of getting done over on Ice Box by G2 in separate matches is a fine example of this, and Envy clearly saw their weakness on Split from the G2 match. So, maybe they just need to do more research and tailor strategies to their foes.

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Valorant has quickly become a colossus of eSports, and still the biggest name in the nascent game is Sentinels. However, to hold onto their popularity, the Sentinels will need to improve their methods to have a better shot at claiming Valorant Champions.

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