It's official, Sentinels and Version1 will be representing the North American region at the Iceland VCT International LAN event taking place on May 24th-31st.
Sentinels have been a big name in the NA VALORANT scene since the release of the game last year, while Version1 came out of nowhere in 2021 to earn their slot. In preparation for the upcoming event, we put together a quick primer about both teams, so you can know what to look for during the International tournament!
Sentinels: The best North America has to offer
Sentinels launched their VALORANT roster in April of 2020. The team was headed up by Jay "Sinatraa" Won, the former Overwatch League MVP from 2019. They followed Sinatraa's signing by picking up seasoned CS:GO veterans Shahzeb "ShahZaM" Khan, Hunter "SicK" Mims, Jared "Gitlin" Zombs, and finally Michael "dapr" Gulino.
With this lineup, the Sentinels quickly became the rising stars in the North American VALORANT circuit. They won numerous early events, like the Pop Flash Tournament, the PAX Arena Invitational, and the JBL Quantum Cup. At Riot's first officially sponsored tournament, the First Strike North America, Sentinels ended up falling to the eventual winners 100 Thieves in semifinals.
After First Strike, the VCT competitive tour kicked off in earnest. Sentinels won the first qualifier no problem and were looking strong heading into the VCT NA Stage 1 Masters tournament. However, at the last moment, a wrench was thrown into the works. Sinatraa, their superstar slayer, was accused by his ex-girlfriend of sexual misconduct on March 10th.
Sinatraa was placed on suspension by both Riot Games and Sentinels pending the results of an investigation, which left Sentinels without a star player only a couple of days before the VCT Stage 1 Masters tournament.
By some miracle, however, the team managed to acquire Tyson "TenZ" Ngo on a loan from Cloud9 Blue. TenZ is one of the best VALORANT players in the world, so he was able to make a huge impact on Sentinel's overall success and team dynamic. Assisted by TenZ showstopping plays, Sentinels managed to win the VCT 2021: North American Stage 1 Masters regional tournament.
That win was impressive and helped cement Sentinels as a powerhouse in the NA region. However, the ultimate goal was still ahead: Qualification for the Iceland LAN.
Of course, every major team in NA wanted to qualify for the Iceland International LAN event during the recent VCT 2021: North American Stage 2 Challengers Finals. During that event, Sentinels not only qualified for Iceland, but they also did so in dominant fashion by going undefeated through the winner's bracket and eventually sweeping Version1 in the Gran Final match.
Sentinels have a pretty good shot at winning the LAN. They are an explosive team that has shown their ability to dominate North America, which is arguably the most competitive VALORANT region in the world (though we will soon test that theory in Iceland). On top of already playing super well in the online events, Sentinels will likely excel even more at the LAN since they are all veteran competitive players with a significant amount of LAN experience.
"We all looked at how many LAN we played total," DAPR explained at a press conference. "ShahZaM has 50, I have like 20, I feel like most of us have a whole bunch of experience on LAN. Compared to other players from other regions, where this might be one of their first competitive games and didn't compete at LAN, we are one of the most tenured on it, which should help us."
Given their track record of dominating high-level opponents, Sentinels are definitely one of the favorites to win the VCT Iceland Masters tournament.
Version1: NA's scrappy underdogs looking to make a name
Version1 is an esports organization currently competing in Rocket League, Call of Duty, and VALORANT. In the CDL they compete under the name Minnestoa ROKKR, while they compete under Version1 in both Rocket League and VALORANT.
Version1's VALORANT team lived out a classic underdog story to earn their slot at the International Major. No one expected the green team to qualify to the International LAN over the likes of 100 Thieves, Team Envy, and Cloud9 Blue. However, against all expectations, V1 managed to survive the entirety of the losers bracket, defeating NRG, Team Envy, and upsetting Cloud9 Blue to earn their slot at the Iceland Major.
Making matters more impressive, V1 has only been in VALORANT a short while. Version1 announced they were entering VALORANT in February with the roster formerly known as NeverDone. NeverDone briefly competed together in early 2021 and showed some signs of early success at some online events.
After joining V1, the new roster experienced some growing pains. They failed to qualify for the VCT North American Stage 1 Masters event in March and they were eliminated from the NSG: 2021 Monthly March B-Tier online tournament in the round of 16. Howver, the team persevered and eventually earned a spot to compete at the Stage 2 Finals by placing fourth at the NA Stage 2 Challengers 1 qualification tournament.
Version1 VALORANT lost Keven "PLAYER1" Champagne in mid-April and replaced him with Russian player Maxim "Wippie" Shepelev the day before the Challengers playoffs. Despite the last-minute substitution, everything really came together at the VCT Stage 2 Challengers playoffs. The team ended up only losing to Sentinels during the event, losing once in the first round of the tournament and then losing again to Sentinels in the Grand Finals.
Version1's unlikely success is inspirational and shows that with determination and hard work a roster can make huge strides in a short amount of time. That said, they looked pretty weak in the Grand Final match against Sentinels, which doesn't bode well for their performance at the upcoming major. But considering the fact that they just shocked the world by qualifying in the first place, I won't be counting V1 out just yet.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.