How Cloud9 made it to Valorant Champions
By Dhylan Patel
Cloud9 Blue defeated RISE 3-0 to gain the final North America spot to Champions. Cloud9 Blue rose as unexpected champions of the NA Last Chance Qualifier as they joined Sentinels and Envy as the North American representatives for Valorant Champions.
The NA Last Chance Qualifier consisted of eight teams, who were 3rd-12th in VCT circuit points. Cloud9 were 9th on the rankings going into the tournament. The teams were given the chance to claim one final spot to Valorant's biggest tournament of the year, which will be held in Berlin, the same location where Masters 3 was held.
All other regional qualifiers had already been played in their respective regions as LAN events, with representatives already emerging. The NA LAN event however, had to be postponed due to several positive COVID tests from players. The event was subsequently switched to an online qualifier format, like the previous qualifiers for all of the Masters events that were held earlier in the year.
There was some controversy at the original NA LAN event, as RIOT had chosen to use online servers for the qualifier games, despite the qualifier being a LAN event. Complaints emerged after players froze mid-game, causing a game-changing server issue which impacted the outcome of the entire series.
The qualifier format is original in terms of the fact that there is a winner and loser bracket, meaning that if a team loses, they still can reach the final. This is a common tournament format in esports, as it gives the teams more chances for success and allows the teams to stay in the tournament for a longer period.
Cloud9 began the qualifier against Version1, who had previously reached a LAN after qualifying for Masters 2, where they fell to Team Liquid. In what was a tough opening series for C9. They emerged victorious, with an easy 2-0 win against the LAN experienced side. Cloud9 were unable to play any games at LAN because they were scheduled for the second day, and only day one was played at LAN for the NA qualifier.
The second round proved to be much tougher for Cloud9, as they were up against RISE, who sent FaZe Clan to the loser bracket in their opening game. Whilst C9 lost the first map, they were able to win the second map in overtime to take the series to map three, where they fell short and fell to the loser’s bracket. This meant that they could no longer lose a series otherwise they would be out of the qualifier and would not be able to make a LAN event the entire year.
Cloud9 came up against Gen. G in their first game through the loser bracket run. The first map proved to be extremely easy as C9 destroyed Gen. G, winning 13-1 on Ascent. After losing in overtime on Split, they were able to secure the win on Breeze and progress to the next game, where they faced XSET, who have been making a name for themselves since the Masters 3 open qualifier.
Cloud9 defeated XSET 2-0 with ease and made it through the entire loser bracket to the loser final, where they were one series away from reaching the LCQ grand final and one step closer to reaching Valorant Champions.
The loser bracket final was a high-stake game, and Cloud9 faced tournament favourites 100 Thieves, who had recently had a run to the semi-finals in Masters 3 before losing to finalists Envy, who are also in the NA region. 100 Thieves took the first map (Icebox) in overtime, with Asuna being the standout player, finishing with a +9 K/D ratio. It looked like they were going to take the series but C9 fought back and won their first five rounds on attack after a 6-6 first half. They won the second map (Haven), and the series went to Breeze, where leaf and Xeppaa dominated the map as they both got over 20 kills and took C9 to the grand final, where they were one series win away from making it to Champions.
The grand final saw a replay between C9 and RISE, where the latter previously beat the former in the upper semi-finals. This series was different because it was a final and the winner gained the last North American spot to Champions - the pressure was immense. RISE were looking like the slightly better team as they made to run to the grand finals unbeaten, but two of the three games the last time these two teams faced off went to overtime, the exception being Haven, which was the fourth map pick.
In a surprising turn of events, Cloud9 completed a 3-0 sweep against RISE and won the grand final with relative ease. Xeppaa was notable for his dominant display of Raze on Split and Bind, where he accumulated 43 kills over the two maps, which brought his total kills in the series to 58, the most of any player over the three games.
The win meant that Cloud9 were going to their first ever LAN in Valorant, and it just happens to be the biggest tournament the game has ever had, with a prize pool of $1 million. The team joined Sentinels and Envy as the North American representatives (both qualified through VCT points), and they are going to try to prove that NA is the best region in Valorant.