The VCT, or Valorant Champions Tour 2023, is nearing kickoff, and earlier this year, Riot Games declared a new format for the tournament. Organizers also introduced a partnership system into the VCT.
With the OFF//SEASON events coming to a close, most teams have finalized their rosters. The 2023 season of Valorant esports kicked off with the regional Challenger Leagues, and The International Split will start in February with LOCK//IN in Brazil.
The following section dives into some of the fans' expectations from the Americas League of the International Split, its subsidiary Challengers Circuits, and the Ascension Tournament.
VCT Americas League 2023 promises to showcase blistering gameplay
1) Stacked rosters and top players to look out for
The Americas League of the VCT will have the following partnered teams participating: Sentinels, 100 Thieves, Cloud9, NRG, Evil Geniuses, FURIA, LOUD, MIBR, KRÜ Esports, And Leviatán.
The number of top-class teams in the region far outnumbered the number of partnership seats. As a result, many of the best players from the unfranchised teams became free agents. The partnered teams took this opportunity to make their already robust rosters even stronger.
100 Thieves acquired XSET’s Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban, adding massively to the tactically outstanding team’s firepower. Sentinels cut founding members Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan and Michael “dapr” Gulino to make space for Zachary “zekken” Patrone and the Brazilian goliaths Gustavo “Sacy” Rossi and Bryan “pancada” Luna.
OpTic Gaming being snubbed for the franchise system shocked fans worldwide. However, three team members, Victor “Victor” Wong, Pujan “FNS” Mehta, and Austin “crashies” Roberts, have moved from OpTic Gaming to NRG. Perhaps one of the most significant transfers of the season was that of Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker to the Cloud9 roster.
2) Old VCT rivalries continue and new ones are started
One of the many things that make following esports fun is the drama associated with rivalries between players and teams. As tournaments progress on national and international stages, upsets, rematches, and friendly banter is par for the course. Some of it leads to rivalries that last beyond a particular tournament.
One of the greatest rivalries in the short history of Valorant esports is the one between OpTic Gaming and LOUD. Throughout the 2022 season, they went head-to-head six times, winning three series each. Interestingly, they are tied up in maps at nine map wins each. LOUD came out on top when the two last met in the Champions 2022 Grand Finals.
Although OpTic did not make it into the partnership system, all its players, except Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen, have gotten a place with one of the partner teams. The original LOUD roster has also been split up, with Sacy and pancada moving over to Sentinels. With almost all the players in the same league, tensions from past matches are bound to be carried into future ones.
There were also tensions between the Sentinels and 100 Thieves clans back in the day. The recent Red Bull Home Ground #3 (RBHG3) tournament also saw a building rivalry between Cloud9 and 100 Thieves. This is in continuation from last season’s Last Chance Qualifier, where 100T knocked out C9. It will be interesting to see how these old and new frictions shape up in the coming days.
3) Tough competition at the Challengers and Ascension level
Despite their popularity and promise, some teams did not make it into the partnership model with Riot. Based on their off-season performances, the teams to be looked out for in the upcoming cycle include TSM, Shopify Rebellion, and M80, among others. Each team is packed with excellent players who failed to make it to Riot-partnered teams.
The Challengers Leagues will start in January with two rounds of open qualifiers. Through this, many new talents will enter the Valorant esports ecosystem. This is bound to create excellent competition at this level. One can expect new talents to take over the scene as The Guard swept through NA Challengers Stage 1 in 2022, defeating OpTic 3-2 in the grand finals.
It is also important to remember that people at this level are playing for very high stakes. The team emerging at the top of the American Ascension Tournament will be guaranteed a spot in the Americas League of the International split of the VCT for the next two seasons.
4) How the second round in each half is played will change
The second round of each half in Valorant games has been played in a certain way in professional Valorant for a long time. The team winning the pistol round has the better loadout, while the losing team full saves so they can have a full-buy in round three. This means that the outcome of the round, more often than not, swings towards the winners of the first round.
Teams can also force buy. This means they buy one of the weaker weapons, most often Spectres, and half shields while sacrificing some crucial abilities. Nevertheless, this is viable only on the attacking side if the team can get the extra 300 credits from the spike plant.
In their RBHG3 matches, 100 Thieves decided to switch things up. Instead of saving after a few pistol rounds, they lost in the tournament. They bought Stingers, shields, and abilities on both attack and defense. Surprisingly, they managed to convert these rounds into wins on both sides. It is important to note that they were against Spectres and rifles in both cases.
With the Spectre nerfs of patch 5.12, the second rounds of halves are likely to look very different in VCT 2023. More and more teams are bound to follow in 100 Thieves’ footsteps. This will drastically change how the first couple of rounds of each half are played.
5) Agent changes and a new map pool will shift the in-game meta
The Agent changes in Patch 5.12 have the potential to overhaul the meta. The nerfs to Chamber’s abilities will likely put him at par with the other Sentinels in the game.
Other changes include balancing out the strengths of the Initiators. Instead of running a compulsory Chamber with multiple Initiators on all maps that dominated the last season of the VCT, teams will look to try out more varied Agent compositions.
This will have interesting ramifications in the VCT scene. A lot of the transfers were most likely centered around the current status of the agents in mind. It will be fascinating to see how players such as yay, Cryocells, TenZ, and Tacolilla, who have become synonymous with the Chamber Operator, adjust to these changes.
It has been confirmed that a revamped Split is coming back, while Bind and Breeze will be removed. The game will also get a new map soon enough to keep its seven-map pool constant. This means that VCT 2023 will have a fresh new map pool.
The season will see a fresh set of Agent compositions and strategies for the teams playing in the VCT, whether at the Americas League level, the Challengers, or the Ascension level.