VALORANT had a wild ride in its inaugural year. From the crazy show matches during beta to the epic moments in First Strike, 2020 was full of surprises for VALORANT fans.
So what teams surprised fans the most? While some like TSM were just as dominant as predicted, many others struggled and bottomed out or defied all expectations.
3. Vision Strikers
Speaking of defying expectations, Vision Strikers was formed by members of Counter Strike team MVP PK. The Korean juggernauts are by far the most dominant VALORANT team in the world, respective to their region. Now, many fans might think, “How could a team from Korea be the most dominant in a genre that’s historically run by the west?” The answer to which lies in the stats.
Vision Strikers has…
- Won every single tournament it has participated in. That’s 15 straight first-place finishes.
- Never lost a best-of series, ever. That’s 45 straight series victories.
- The most earnings out of any VALORANT team in the world, with over $100,000 in total earnings.
Even with its enormous talent, no one expected Vision Strikers to be this dominant. No one expected any team from any region to be this dominant. With an insane run stretching from its foundation in June, to the present day, no one in Korea is even close to touching the Vision Strikers. We already know it’s the best team in the region, but the question is, how will Vision Strikers fare internationally?
With the VALORANT Champions Tour set to crown a world champion at the year’s end, fans will finally get to see the kings of Korea battle against the likes of 100 Thieves, G2 Esports and Absolute Jupiter on the international stage.
T1 entered the VALORANT scene with a bang. All the way back on March 9, Braxton “brax” Pierce was signed to T1, becoming the first-ever professional VALORANT player, nearly a month before the closed beta release.
The acquisition was followed up with the signings of former iBUYPOWER teammates Keven “AZK” Larivière and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham. In one of the most notable scandals in esports history, iBUYPOWER, an incredibly promising young squad, was banned by Valve in 2014 for match fixing. With three out of the five original members back together, the T1 teammates were ready to put their previous Counter Strike mistakes behind them and rewrite their history.
Teamed up with the talented duo of Austin “crashies” Roberts and Victor “food” Wong, T1 faced high expectations. Brax had been dominating in the beta show matches, winning four events and collecting three second-place finishes. T1 fans were ready for their favorite esports team to begin their domination of VALORANT; however, the scene was quickly catching up to brax and T1, and the fan favorites were struggling to adapt.
With the likes of Immortals, Envy, 100 Thieves, FaZe Clan and more all propping themselves into the top of North America, T1 found itself losing to all these newcomers. Its struggles eventually led to Skadoodle taking a near-two-month hiatus while he worked on his game and T1 sorted out its future.
Food and crashies were eventually cut, and the team brought in the fourth member of iBUYPOWER, Sam “DaZeD” Marine to be its in-game leader. Ha “Spyder” Jung-woo was also signed, an ex-Overwatch pro who competed under the name “Sayaplayer.”
Even with its new talent, T1’s woes persisted. While food and crashies were quickly climbing the ranks with their new team, Envy, T1 barely managed to squeeze its way into First Strike, getting knocked out in its first series against the eventual champions, 100 Thieves.
When formed, T1 was meant to be a dominant force in the North American VALORANT scene. Instead, it wound up being a middling team which struggled to separate itself from the pack. T1’s future isn’t set in stone; however, as it still possesses one of the most talented rosters on paper. Given some hard work and more time to gel, T1 could definitely find itself back on top in 2021.
In August, no one was talking about Envy. If they were, the conversation was about its inability to beat the top teams. Envy was a middle-of-the-pack roster which was able to beat its intermediate opponents, but struggled against top-tier competition. However, by the conclusion of First Strike, Envy was a bonafide top-five team in North America, pushing its way into the top three.
Envy entered the VALORANT scene in July with a roster consisting of:
Pujan “FNS” Mehta
Anthony “mummAy” DiPaolo
Jake “kaboose” McDonald
Adam “aKis” Kisseberth
Abdo “c4Lypso” Agha
After two months of not quite reaching its peak, Envy picked up former T1 players food and crashies, replacing aKis and c4Lypso. Headed by FNS, a former Counter Strike pro renown for his leadership, Envy’s new roster smashed through Pop Flash, which at the time was VALORANT’s biggest tournament to date.
Although Envy lost in the finals to Sentinels, the up-and-coming team would soon prove that its Pop Flash performance was no fluke. In the First Strike NSG Tournament, FNS and Envy rolled through their opponents, beating 100 Thieves in the finals, and claiming the first-place prize of the event. The now-feared Envy squad managed to take down Immortals in First Strike, before losing to TSM in the Semifinals.
Although no one had their attention on Envy during the summer, the team managed to defy all expectations set for them. All eyes will be on its players in 2021, as they set out to prove that they really do belong at the top of North American VALORANT.
As wild as the competitive scene was in 2020, VALORANT’s sophomore season is gearing up to be just as entertaining. The Champions Tour is set to begin in early February, and fans can only hope that it will be just as full of surprises as 2020 was.