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The 2022 VALORANT Champions Tour season has officially begun across the world.
Over here in North America, reigning league champions Sentinels will be putting their domestic crown on the line against 11 opposing organizations over the next two months. The top two teams will qualify for the first international event of the year, masters, where they’ll take on the best the rest of the world has to offer en route to the world championship, VALORANT Champions, later this fall.
Every Monday, I will unveil my weekly power rankings for the teams in VCT North America as we move towards the playoffs and the championship final.
After an opening slate of games, here is my hierarchy.
1. Cloud9 (1-0)
I said it last year following their exit in the quarterfinals of Champions: If this starting five stays together and gains more experience, they will win an international trophy. So far, so good, as they took care of business against a remodeled 100 Thieves roster.
2. Sentinels (1-0)
Love them, hate them, it doesn’t matter. Sentinels transcend VALORANT and bring eyeballs whenever they play. Over 260,000 concurrent viewers tuned in to watch them beat NRG Esports in a competitive 2-1 series in which Tyson “TenZ” Ngo reminded people he’s still one of the game’s best duelists.
3. XSET (1-0)
Matthew “Cryocells” Panganiban was one of the premier, up-and-coming transfer targets in the offseason, with XSET winning out in the end to secure his services. While it’s going to take months — maybe even longer — for him reach his full potential with his new squad, the early results point to his acquisition being what could possibly be the element to take XSET to a new level.
Just as Team Envy (now OpTic) evolved after adding Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker to their starting roster, Cryocells could have a similar impact. Their Week 2 clash with C9 will be the match of the weekend and a quick test for their new star.
4. Version1 (1-0)
While XSET can boast that they added the best carry prospect to their arsenal in the offseason, Version1 could say they somehow one-upped them by snagging the scene’s brightest young in-game-leader. Alexander “Zander” Dituri was teammates with Cryocells last year on SoaR, and now the former tandem will be weighed up next to each other all year long. Which prospect-turned-star can lead their new home to grander heights?
In the opening week, V1 might have put on the most complete performance by any NA team with their demolition of the Pittsburgh Knights.
5. Rise (1-0)
Rumors are swirling on whether the Rise boys might end on another organization sooner rather than later, but that didn’t stop them from a statement win in NA VCT Week 1 over OpTic Gaming.
They shook off a relatively unimpressive qualification into Challengers and turned it on when it mattered; Jason “neptune” Tran having a breakout match with 65 kills across three maps.
6. The Guard (1-0)
With talks of who the better prospect is between Cyrocells and Zander, the answer might just be Trent “trent” Cairns. The 17-year-old came out of the blue, with little hype behind him, to becoming one of the most-talked-about players in all of NA, putting up a highlight-reel play almost every time he steps into the server.
Beyond his viral moments, he’s been unbelievable in his short time on The Guard. In a region that houses some of the best Sova players in the world, there might be a new contender for the throne if trent keeps up his strong play.
7. OpTic Gaming (0-1)
OpTic are higher than the seventh-best team in NA, but it’s hard to rank them above any winning teams in VCT Week 1. These were their first games since disappointing at the world championship and, though the loss to Rise will sting, they will need to have a bounce-back performance against a tough NRG Esports.
8. NRG Esports (0-1)
Although they fell in Week 1 to the Sentinels, NRG might have been one of the teams that excited me the most. They have the necessary firepower across the lineup to hang with the cream of the region, along with having one of the better IGLS behind them in James “hazed” Cobb. It’s almost unfair that one of NRG and OpTic will start the season with a 0-2 record.
9. 100 Thieves (0-1)
Getting smashed by C9 in the season’s first games wasn’t the debut 100 Thieves were hoping for. Luckily, C9 is a team that this new-look 100T squad should probably lose to at this stage in their development. If they fall to The Guard, though, another team in a similar period of growth as the new 100T, there’s going to be a lot of nervous fans wondering if their new starting lineup has what it takes to win trophies in NA.
10. Evil Geniuses (0-1)
I won’t beat around the bush: I love this Evil Geniuses squad. I’m a fan of everyone on the starting roster and think they have one of the higher ceilings in the league if things click together. For this spring season of Challengers, though, it might be a bit of a struggle, especially against the likes of XSET, who they fell to in NA VCT Week 1.
Their next matchup with Luminosity Gaming is almost a must-win, with both squads having to believe that they are each other’s easiest matchup in the group stage.
11. Luminosity Gaming (0-1)
As with EG, there’s a ton to like from this LG squad. For me, it’s all about the players on the team finding their specific roles in the starting five and seeing who emerges as the team’s ace player. When LG plays, it almost feels like a different player has a big game, and then they follow it up with lesser performances in the next.
The silver lining for LG is that they have players capable of putting up high-level performances even facing the best in the league. If they can find some consistency, at worst, they’ll play spoiler and, at best, they could be a dark horse later on in the regular season.
12. Pittsburgh Knights (0-1)
And I thought Patrick Mahomes battering the Steelers was the worst loss Pittsburgh was going to have to witness so early on in the year. Yet, V1 dismantled the Knights and put them at the bottom of the pack after Week 1 of NA VCT play.
On the positive end of things, the Knights have beaten teams above them, like The Guard, in recent weeks. While that was in a third-party tournament, Pittsburgh will take anything at this point with an upcoming match with the Sentinels on the horizon.
Damion “XXiF” Cook is a former Fortnite pro, though, so expect him to turn into a god sometime in Week 3.
[Disclosure: Luminosity Gaming is a subsidiary of Enthusiast Gaming, which owns and operates Upcomer.]
Tyler Erzberger is entering a decade of covering esports. When not traveling around the world telling stories about people shouting over video games, he’s probably arguing with an anime avatar on Twitter about North American esports.