How Did Sentinels Lose At VALORANT Champions?
On the world’s stage, anything can happen and as VALORANT Champions reach its first few playoff berths, we are consistently seeing that fact play out. Hailed as a team to beat, North American representatives and Masters Reykjavík winners, Sentinels, were paired off with a plucky team from Latin America, one who fans possibly remember for previous international events.
KRÜ Esports was not supposed to dent Sentinels, let alone beat them. Yet here we are. The underdog story to end all underdog stories, KRÜ Esports has toppled the North American giants to advance to the playoffs of VALORANT’s biggest event all year. The only thing we’re left asking is; how?
Fracture for the most part went according to game script; Sentinels cements their mechanical capacity and showcases why they are considered one of the tournament favourites. After minor strings on success, the economy breaks apart for KRÜ Esports on round 17. Juan Pablo “NagZ” Lopez Miranda ends up missing nearly seven straight Operator shots across multiple rounds. Strong enough showing from KRÜ Esports, they tie together some plucky force buy rounds, select duels go their way but this was two mismatched teams on this first map. Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan impressed with Breach, landing a high volume of his Fault Lines and being incredibly active on the map. However, Haven begins to undermine this narrative.
After having a rough first map, NagZ opens Haven with a confident pistol round and begins the charge for KRÜ Esports’ eventual upset. One you can attribute to KRÜ Esports, which stands for the entire series as a whole, is the agility on the map.
Haven showcased a lot of movement from Angelo “keznit” Mori, floating from B-Site around and being an aggressive threat on their defence of Haven with Nagzet often pressuring from A-Short. This left the map feeling much more like a battle than a one-sided affair between a tournament favourite and a team hopeful to advance past the group stage.
Even strategically, KRÜ Esports showcased a wide bag of tricks. Round 18 on Haven showcases how much control KRU has over the tempo of the match. Contrast this pace with just a few rounds later and they look like a completely different team, methodically controlling the map and attempting to corral Sentinels into poor positions.
Not only was Split the final map, but it revealed the biggest downfall for Sentinels. After losing the final two pistol rounds for the series, which results in Sentinels with a 2/6 pistol conversion, any Sentinels forge is undercut by their economic drought to start rounds. With little wind in their sails, they end up attempting to have a fairly uncharacteristic aggressive presence on defence through mid and through A-Lobby.
This feels like they need a way to build confidence and throw the momentum of the match in their favour–and this is the last way that feels plausible. And for as much as we can point fingers at the North American representatives, KRÜ Esports’ “volleyball-style”, taking peaks and quickly dipping back into cover and allowing teammates to play off their contact, was paramount in flipping this match around.
Past the quiet day for North American golden boy Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, Sentinels simply looked mortal against a team that had everything to prove. Mechanics aside, this was a team that lacked proactivity and whose adaptations felt more akin to gambles than measured takes on the state of the game. KRÜ Esports came in, showed their fortitude and ability to stay in the game after their slow start, they showed a unique and slippery style of offence, and went toe-to-toe with the best North America had to offer.
Perhaps North America has to revisit their leaderboards, perhaps KRÜ Esports has a difficult chance in the playoffs, both are mutually exclusive. What we do know is that KRÜ Esports and the Latin America region–and most overlooked regions in general–have more talent than the VALORANT community at large give them credit for.
Images via Riot Games