After five laborous weeks of Group Stage fixtures, VCT 2022 Stage 1 NA Challengers has returned for the playoffs stages. Eight of the finest teams in North America will compete in a double elimination bracket to declare two participants for the Stage 1 Masters.
In the opening match of the playoffs, Cloud9, who held the first seed in Group A, faced Group B’s 4th seed, Pittsburgh Knights, in what turned out to be a wildly engaging best-of-three combat.
Upon concluding their Group Stage outing as an unbeaten team, Cloud9 had risen to be favorites in the matchup. However, Knights gave them a run for their money, taking Map 1 (Ascent) to overtime and winning Map 2 (Breeze). Cloud9 sealed their victory on Haven (13-6) to claim a spot in the tournament's semi-finals.
leaf comments on Cloud9's performance against Knights and their expectations for the VCT 2022 Stage 1 NA Challengers Playoffs
In a conversation with Sportskeeda Esports' Adarsh J Kumar, Cloud9's Nathan "leaf" Orf discussed his team’s performance after their victory against Pittsburgh Knights in the quarter-finals of the VCT 2022 Stage 1 NA Challengers.
Q: The victory against Knights was Cloud9's sixth straight win in the VCT 2022 Stage 1 NA Challengers. How do you feel about the team's performance in this matchup?
leaf: I think it was one of our worst days, individually and as a team. We whiffed a lot of easy shots but Knights hit theirs really well. We didn't work together as well as we usually do. Overall, it was an off-day and I'm glad we at least won.
Q: This was Cloud9's first official match against Knights in over a year. How do you think they performed today?
leaf: They played pretty good. Individually, they were all decent. They definitely had good strategies. Just by playing against them, I could tell that they had watched a lot of our matches and know how we play. So it was definitely tough to play against them when they were looking pretty good.
Q: You have consistently been one of the best players for Cloud9 over the course of the VCT Stage 1 NA Challengers, while playing on a variety of Agents like Jett, Viper, Breach and Chamber. What do you have to say about your own performance?
leaf: To be honest, I think it's just another day. I just played the same every single match. And over time, I think that our team is just getting better. It makes me play better as well, since we have more cohesion. It helps having good teammates.
Q: Patch 4.04 and its changes were introduced to VCT 2022 Stage 1 NA Challengers at the end of the Group Stage. Considering the shift in the meta, what do you think about the changes that the recent patch brought about?
leaf: Astra getting nerfed hits a lot of teams really hard. We are one of the few teams that aren't affected by it as much. Astra was annoying to play against all the time, so it's good for the Agent to finally be gone. As for the maps, Bind was affected the most.
This is one of the few patches that has brought in a variety within the Agent pool. I feel like the previous ones didn't bring as much variety as this one did. However, I think the changes are pretty good overall.
Q: In the semi-finals of the VCT NA Challengers, Cloud9 are scheduled to meet the winner of OpTic Gaming vs XSET. Which team out of the two would you like to face?
leaf: I'd like to play OpTic just because I want to see us against one of the other top NA teams who were with us at Valorant Champions 2021. I just think it will be a good match and both teams will play really well.
Q: Cloud9 were one of the most successful NA teams at the Valorant Champions 2021. After enjoying a perfect Group Stage run and a victory in the quarter-finals, how confident are Cloud9 in winning the VCT Stage 1 NA Challengers and claiming a spot at the Stage 1 Masters?
leaf: We are pretty confident. We knew that we would probably go 5-0 up (in the Group Stage) and that things would get tougher in the playoffs since that's when teams would start bringing up their pocket-strats and things like that, especially the teams that have previously qualified.