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Is C9 Back On Top? Unpacking The Knights Arena Valorampage

The North American VALORANT third-party circuit has seen its initial champion crowned shortly after the start of the new year. Cloud9 reigned supreme at the Knight’s Arena Valorampage defeating the likes of NRG Esports, Ghost Gaming, Renegades, Akrew, and Pioneers. What can the North American crowd glean from such an early event? Is Cloud9 gunning for a seat at the table or is the amateur scene ready to compete with the cream of the crop? 

After sweeping Version1, Akrew, and Ghost Gaming, Cloud9 ended the event only dropping a single map in their grand finale against NRG Esports. Erick “Xeppaa” Bach had an incredible showing on Icebox in the grand final against NRG Esports. Boasting 345 average combat score (ACS), a +16 kill to death differential, and 223 average damage done, Xeppaa has proven that he belongs on this team moving forward. This performance alone should increase any hesitation or misgivings. 

The usual crowd of Nathan “leaf” Orf and Son “xeta” Seon-ho continued to impress and establish themselves as tier 1 talents in North America. Ending the final with 286 ACS, over 60 kills, 190 ADR, and 10 first kills, leaf’s Raze was something to behold. Saddled up behind him, xeta had a strong performance as well with over a +20 kill to death differential by the end of the match. Even though their narrow loss on Bind, xeta had a huge performance racking up 233 ACS, 23 kills, and 150 ADR. 

With the trio of Luminosity Gaming, Gen.G Esports, and T1 all dropping out of the event for one reason or another, NRG Esports capitalized in a big way advancing past Radiance, Built By Gamers, Renegades and meeting Cloud9 in the grand final. While a ton of stock should not be put into third part events, especially ones without a mass of top teams, this performance from NRG should add to a pooling sense of confidence around them.

On the other side of the coin, NRG Esports is another name that deserves respect when it comes to their standing in North America. Toppling the likes of Radiance, Built By Gamers, and Renegades, NRG continued to embed itself into the North American VALORANT landscape 

Duelist Sam “s0m” Oh continues to demonstrate that he is a potential contender in the North American space. During their semi-final match against Renegades, s0m managed a 258 ACS, 165 ADR, and over 40 kills throughout the set. 

Even their support elements like Bradley “ANDROID” Fodor had an impressive showing. Breaking out Chamber on Breeze with an impressive performance charting 185 ACS, ANDROID and NRG Esports seem not only capable but ready for a possible metagame switch with how much volume they used the agent. Throughout the entire event, ANDROID held a significant amount of playtime on Chamber, which also could raise speculation as a shift may have already occurred post-Champions.

Past the team’s more creative look, ANDROID alone rose to the occasion, which should bode well for NRG Esports this year. Ending the 2 map affair with an average 235 ACS, 145 ADR, and 6 first kills, he and the team look incredibly promising. To top it off they did manage to dent Cloud9’s perfect record so there is hope yet to capture. That alone speaks volumes of how close this year is set to be for NA. With all the roster changes and questions surrounding top teams, both Cloud9 and a slew of tier 2 talent could be making a move up the rankings in the not-too-distant future. 

Images via Riot Games

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