It has been a long journey, but VCT Champions is finally here. 16 teams from seven different regions will face off in Berlin from Dec. 1-12, to decide the first-ever VCT world champion. For those who have been following the VCT tour thus far, there are some familiar faces like Sentinels, Gambit, and KRU Esports. There are also some teams that have yet to compete in international VALORANT, like Furia, Cloud9 Blue, and Team Secret.
To help you follow, and enjoy, the champions tournament, we put together a quick overview for each team, covering some of their strengths, their weaknesses, and the players to watch.
Here is the Inven Global complete VCT Champions 2021 cheat sheet!
KR | Vision Strikers
JP | Crazy Racoons
LA | KRÜ Esports
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: The Sentinels have been on top of the NA scene throughout much of the VCT 2021 season, and won the first major at the VCT Iceland Reykjavik event. They are very good at theory-crafting setups and executing their plans with precise and deadly coordination. They are also known for aggressively taking map control in the early round, though with a new coach in tow, we might see them mixing it up at Champs.
On top of their team coordination, they are led by two of the deadliest duelists in the game, Sick and TenZ. So it is difficult to make a convincing bet against this team, even if they ultimately fell short at VCT Masters Berlin.
➖Weaknesses: The biggest weakness for the Sentinels is that they have become more predictable with time and other teams are learning how to counter them. As one of the winningest teams in VALORANT, there is a lot of information out there for opponents to study and dissect, allowing the more analytical teams to gain a strategic advantage if they work for it. To address that, the Sentinels brought on Rawkus as a coach for this tournament, a fresh pair of eyes to help mix up their looks.
🔑Key Player - Tyson "TenZ" Ngo: TenZ has been a shining beacon for this team since they signed him to replace Sinatraa earlier this year. He consistently top frags not just for his team, but for entire tournaments. His ability to consistently perform and clutch out essential plays has been a life-saver for Sentinels this year, as it not only helps them win rounds, it also helps keep the momentum going in their favor.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: While Envy has been hovering around the top of NA this year, they only recently ascended to the NA throne at Masters Berlin, where they attended the finals on the back of a brilliant performance from Yay and the whole roster. Envy is a counter-puncher, always working hard to adapt to enemy playstyles and exploit the holes in their game. Beyond that, they also feature good fundamentals founded on experience. Envy's players know how to respond well to a wide variety of situations, and that often translates into strong map streaks and pulling out rounds that a less experienced team might falter on.
➖Weaknesses: Envy’s biggest weakness is its struggle to close out high-pressure games. In their match against Gambit at Berlin, for example, they dominated the first half of map 2 on offense, but then lost the map after Gambit was able to hold them to only 3 round wins in the second half. So while Envy can win pretty much any round, they have also shown inconsistency on buckling down and claiming rounds when they count. At Champs, this team needs to show they can step up to the plate in a big moment, or they will likely falter.
🔑Key Player - Jaccob "yay" Whiteaker: Formerly a player for Andbox, Yay joined Envy in the lead-up to Masters Berlin. He made all the difference. Not only is Yay an excellent leader on this team, and a reliable performer, he has also proven excellent in intense clutch situations. He pulled off a highlight reel-worthy 3v1 clutch against Gambit in the Grand Finals, and even though they lost that match in the end, he proved that he is capable of great things under pressure, something this team definitely needs.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Cloud9 Blue qualified to Champs via the embattled NA Last Chance Qualifier. This team has gone through a lot of iterations over the past year but recently found success under the guidance of new IGL vanity, who formerly competed with Version1. C9 Blue's playstyle combines effective utility use, precise aim, and map awareness to gain the upper hand against their opponents. They have proven very adaptable during matches and seem much more coordinated since the addition of Vanity.
➖Weaknesses: The biggest weakness of Cloud9 Blue, like many teams on this list, is its inconsistency. While they have incredible mechanics as individuals and have finally started to pick up steam lately, there are still plenty of questions about their ability to hang with major teams like Gambit, Envy, or Sentinels when it comes to full-scale strategy and winning big games under pressure.
🔑Key player - Anthony "vanity" Malaspina: Formerly a competitor for Version1, vanity's addition to this team has really turned around their fortune. His presence and leadership have helped translate the individual skills of Cloud9’s players into a more coordinated and disciplined team. He helped lead the team to qualify to Champs, now he has the task of leading his team at Champs.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Gambit is arguably the best VALORANT team in the world right now. They are known for their defensive prowess, but this team was able to execute on both attack and defense to claim victory at the Stage 3 Masters Berlin Major in September. Coming into Champs, they are definitely one of the biggest strategic and mechanical threats competing at the event, with nAts deadly lurking playstyle shaking things up in a serious way.
➖Weaknesses: Gambit’s biggest weakness is its attack side, though truth be told Gambit hasn't even shown much of a weakness on attack lately. They are still primarily a defensive-focused team, but at this point they aren't showing any obvious holes in their game.
🔑Key player - Bogdan "NAts" Naumov: NAts is without a question the best player on this team. He consistently has the highest Kills and ACS on his team, and it was his strategic decision-making and terrifying flanking plays that carried this team to the major victory in Berlin. If NAts brings it to Champs, this team is very likely going to claim the 2021 VCT Championship.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Acend has one of the best rosters playing out of the EMEA region. They primarily rely on CNed’s Jett play, and build their aggression around him, in hopes that they can overwhelm the enemy with their slash and burn playstyle. They have been described by some as playing more like NA with raw aggression, and less like the CS:GO-inspired playstyle that formerly dominated their home region.
➖Weaknesses: This team finally got its shot at international competition in Berlin, but they ultimately fell short in the quarterfinals against 100 Thieves. They seemed pretty shaky in that match, losing multiple key rounds and often looking like they were confused. They need to figure out how to operate consistently under unexpected circumstances. This team has a lot to prove at Champs, to show they can hang in international competition, not just win in their own home region.
Key player - Mehmet Yağız "cNed" İpek: Turkish player cNed has helped lead Acend to their qualification to Berlin on the back of his incredible skills on Jett. Not only are his aim skills on point, his mastery of all the different abilities that Jett has access to helps him surprise enemies and initiate successfully initiate fights. If Acend does make a run at Champs, you can be sure that it will be CNed leading the way.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Fnatic looked very strong earlier in 2021, displaying well-planned tactics and solid CS:GO-type fundamentals while playing in the EU region. They ended up making a run all the way to the finals, where they lost to Sentinels. Their best bet at Champs will be to come in with well-thought-through plans and discipline that they are known for and outlast the more aggressive teams they are likely to face.
➖ Weaknesses: This team has shown a lot of potential in the past, but other teams have outgunned this roster in recent months. When they lose, it's usually because they aren't winning their duels or their team fights, despite typically being in a relatively good position to do so. As a result, they failed to qualify to Masters Berlin, and they only qualified to Champs on the back of Gambit’s regional slot rolling down.
🔑Key Player - Jake "Boaster" Howlett: Boaster is the IGL for Fnatic. While he won’t always top Fnatic’s leaderboard, his experience and leadership have been essential foundations to this team’s success, and his antics on stage can provide a big morale booster for his teammates. Considering how strategy-focused this team is, Boaster's leadership will be crucial at Champs. Another player to watch is Derke, who brought in the high damage and kill scores for this team at Berlin.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Team Liquid slipped into Champs via the EMEA LCQ event. When they succeed, it is on the basis of their deadly aim skills and ability to pull out key rounds under pressure. When they are playing well, it is very hard to arrest this team's momentum. Since they play with such fluidity and individual confidence, it can be very difficult to win a challenge, especially against ScreaM.
➖ Weaknesses: The biggest flaw in TL’s VALORANT game has been their poor mid-round strategic decision-making, which can often come back to bite them. This is especially true during post-plants, where on occasion TL can appear directionless. For example, against Gambit at the Berlin qualifier, they made a series of odd post-plant decisions on Breeze that cost them the map. They also stopped their own momentum by calling a timeout right before overtime on the final map, after clawing their way back. A more disciplined approach to their decision-making would benefit this team.
🔑 Key Player - Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom: ScreaM is this team's rock, and is one of the best VALORANT players in the world. He is a consistent high-level performer who has also shown a keen ability for clutching out important rounds under pressure and win the majority of his engagements. While Jamppi can also have a significant impact on TL's success, he has also proven to be a wildcard in some series. It is ScreaM that everyone looks to when the going gets tough.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Vikings are a strong team playing out of Brazil. When they succeed, it is because they are able to take aggressive positions and overwhelm enemies with well-applied pressure in the early round. They like to open their rounds with a large amount of utility and make early-round moves the majority of the time.
➖ Weaknesses: Team Vikings invest a lot of their utility in the early round, at least on the attack. When this works, they are able to pick up quick, demoralizing wins over their opposition. When it doesn’t work, however, they can be left without much utility for retaking sites and other late-round objectives. They are a bit of a one-trick pony. As a result, well-prepared teams can play around their aggression and take the teeth out of Viking's game. It will be interesting to see if they switch up their style for Champs, in an attempt to address this limitation.
🔑Key Player - Gustavo "Sacy" Rossi: Sacy is one of the best initiators in the world. Sacy can put his team on his back and carry them to the victory by picking up huge entry frags. Given Vikings' preference for early aggression, his ability to win early-round gunfights is one of Team Vikings’ greatest advantages in any given match.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Keyd Stars are also known for their aggression. Much like Team Vikings, Vivo Keyd is primarily interested in securing early-round map control and then turning that into victories with well-timed utility usage. This strategy has proven effective in their home region and against some of the weaker teams on the international stage, but when countered by their opponent, they don’t have much left in the tank.
➖ Weaknesses: This team hasn’t shown much promise in international competition, in part due to their limited playbook. They weren’t able to get out of the group stage in Berlin, because their playstyle lacks the flexibility that top-tier teams display. When the chips are down, teams need to be ready for anything, and up until this point, Vivo Keyd has not been.
🔑Key player - Olavo "heat" Marcelo: Heat is a highly skilled Jett player who is unmatched in Brazil, and he is going to be the star player that Keyd Stars looks to at Champs. At the Berlin Major, he had some great performances, particularly in the match against ZETA Division, which they won in convincing fashion. They need him to show up at Champs to have a fighting chance at winning.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: Furia has been in the conversation for Brazilian VALORANT all year, but Champs is the first international event they have qualified for. This team plays a lot like the other successful teams from their region, fast and loose. Even on defense, Furia likes to take aggressive peeks, push wide on flanks, and retake sites very quickly when opponents plant the spike. They really do play like a BR VALORANT team.
➖ Weaknesses: A lack of patience can really bite Furia. While sometimes Furia's fast-paced, impatient playstyle catches enemies off guard and applied pressure, there are other times where such haste costs them rounds. This team definitely puts itself in a corner at times with their predictable pacing. More advanced teams are likely going to be able to counter Furia's playstyle if they can't find a way to introduce some uncertainty to it.
🔑Key player - Alexandre "xand" Zizi: There are a lot of strong players on Furia, but perhaps the most influential is xand, their Jett player. He had the highest ACS/Map rating at the SA LCQ, and was the top fragger at the whole event. His performances are going to be essential to Furia’s chance at success while competing at Champs.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: X10 Crit is the unquestioned king of the South East Asian (SEA) VALORANT scene. X10 Crit is known for its high levels of preparation before a match. They always seem to be one step ahead of their opponent in planning and have proven to be very dangerous adversaries in their home region.
➖ Weaknesses: The biggest limitation of X10 Crit is their aim and sometimes questionable decision-making. Their aim is pretty good, don't get me wrong, it’s just not the best in the world compared to someone like ScreaM, NaTs or TenZ. So it might not hold up against the likes of the Gambit, Sentinels, or Envy, all of whom have rosters filled with seasoned FPS veterans. Sometimes X10 players will also make questionable decisions, whether it be wasting an ultimate for no apparent reason, or getting caught out of position.
🔑Key player: Patiphan "Patiphan" Chaiwong is the latest addition to this roster and has made a big difference for the team. Before jumping to VALORANT, he competed for Talon Esports in Overwatch and represented Thailand in the Overwatch World Cup. Although he is only 17, Patiphan has already proven himself to be one of the best players in SEA and the level of his contributions in Iceland will likely be the difference between X10 Crit winning and losing their matches.
➕Playstyle/Strengths: Team Secret signed the former roster of Bren Esports to form their first VALORANT team in September. That team got to bring their circuit points with them, and as a result, Team Secret is heading to champs. This team is known for their solid communication and play execution, and have demonstrated the ability to adapt quickly to enemy strategies in their matches in SEA.
➖ Weaknesses: This team hasn’t faced international competition yet, so they are untested. They had to miss Berlin because of issues with their Visas. So the question remains, will they be able to adapt their playstyle against non-Asian teams? Champs will be our chance to see how Team Secret stacks up against the rest of the regions.
Key Player: ayvee "DubsteP" Paguirigan is a Filipino player who formerly competed in CS:GO before switching to VALORANT. He more or less serves as the slayer for Team Secret, as he has the highest kill count and ACS/map at the SEA Stage 3 challengers playoffs, which his team won. While no single player on Team Secret carries this team, DubsteP’s performances are key to their success.
➕Playstyle/Strengths: FULL SENSE is a Thai team that managed to advance to Champs by defeating NUTURN gaming, DAMWON Gaming, and Northception at the APAC last chance qualifier. The team works together well, but their primary source of success is riding the waves from individual pop-offs from players like John Olsen and PTC, both of whom put up impressively consistent numbers throughout the tournament.
➖ Weaknesses: While they have proven they can beat the best talent in Asia, it is unclear if they will be able to adapt to playing against other regions. Inter-regional competition can be a challenge for teams that rely on individual skills over strong strategic lineups. While they coordinate well, FULL SENSE has not demonstrated the sort of strategic depth that helps teams go far in international events.
Key Player: Chanawin "JohnOlsen" Nakchain is a former pro-CS:GO player who is now the star slayer for FULL SENSE. He plays primarily Jett, though he can also be found on Sage and Reyna on occasion. He has incredible game sense, and his individual performances have played a massive part in this team’s success.
➕Playstyle/Strengths: Vision Strikers are the Korean team who went on a massive 102-series lossless streak that finally ended in April. This team has shown off incredible levels of team coordination, strategy, and individual mechanical skill that have elevated them to legendary status in their home region of Korea. According to Vision Striker's player Stax in an interview with One Esports, the team has been practicing the "Gambit Esports Meta", adopting the aggressive lurks from Gambit, so we will have to wait and see how that works for them.
➖ Weaknesses: When they were eliminated by Gambit at Berlin, the problems were primarily with their ability to counter nAts lurking playstyle. They were able to pick up a map against Gambit, so the issues are definitely addressable, but coming into Champs VS is hoping that their practice on the "Gambit meta" will leave them more prepared to counter the EMEA playstyle than they were last time.
🔑Key player - Yu "BuZz" Byung-chul: BuZz is a top performer for Vision Strikers, having topped their charge for average ACS/Map at the berlin major. He also had a solid K/D ratio, alongside teammates stax and MaKo. The truth is, there is no one key player for VS, they all need to execute for this team to succeed.
➕Playstyle/Strengths: Crazy Racoons is the most successful team playing out of Japan. They rely on raw aggression and personal skill to win the day. Their ability to win aim duels from aggressive flanking position helped them qualify to Champs, but they have continuously come up short in international events.
➖Weakness: Crazy Racoon remains strategically shallow. While their individual skill is impressive, their struggle to adapt to enemy strategies holds them back from being competitive. It's not enough to be able to win aim-duels, you also have to be able to outthink your enemy.
🔑Key player - Byeon "Munchkin" Sang-beom: Coming from the Overwatch League, Munchkin is the most consistent performer for Crazy Racoons. Before joining Crazy Racoons he competed for Cloud9 Korea’s VALORANT team. As the only player with previous pro-level experience, Munchkin’s contributes both raw skill and leadership to this team.
➕ Playstyle/Strengths: KRÜ Esports is an Argentine organization that hails from Latin America. Their playstyle is informed by the aggressive but methodical NA playstyle since the NA and Latin American regions often scrimmage against each other. The biggest difference between KRU and NA teams is that they are generally less skilled individually.
➖ Weaknesses: KRÜ Esports has a decent playstyle and solid fundamentals, however, they likely lack the individual prowess required to overcome top-tier teams in straight-up gun duels. They lost 0-2 to G2 Esports in the Quarterfinals of Masters Berlin, because they just weren't winning out their fights.
🔑Key player: Juan Pablo "NagZ" Lopez Miranda is the sniper for KRU Esports. His reliable skills with Jett and a sniper rifle have been a huge boon to KRU Esports during their run to qualify to Champs in the first place. If the past is anything to judge by, KRU's success will depend heavily on Nagz hitting his shots with the Operator.
*All images via their respective owners
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.