Written By PeeKay - 2022-04-11
An exciting day two of VCT 2022 - Stage 1 - Masters Reykjavík sees a new-look Ninjas in Pyjamas play on the international stage for the first time against an experienced Fnatic side, while the Group B Winners Match pits XERXIA against Team Liquid.
Ninjas in Pyjamas make their way to Masters for the first time since March 2021, a time period during which they’ve transitioned from a European lineup to a Brazilian one. The squad climbed the ranks quickly in South America and now look a real threat to the elite European lineup of Fnatic. The latter won’t be sweating just yet, considering their meteoric run through the group stage of VCT 2022 - EMEA - Stage 1 - Challengers - Main Event which saw them go undefeated and then beat the likes of G2 Esports and M3 Champions in the playoffs. The Jake "Boaster" Howlett-led team will no doubt be heavyweights in this tie, but as XERXIA have shown against OpTic Gaming yesterday, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Fans and neutrals should keep an eye on the exciting clash between the Jetts of Nikita "Derke" Sirmitev and Alexandre "xand" Zizi, considering crucial moments will likely be decided based on either players’ impact. A lot of credit also needs to be given to James "Mistic" Orfila, who has looked really good on a variety of controllers even despite the large meta shift that came with the 4.04 patch, and is an enabler for the high risk plays that Derke often goes for.
Both teams overlap in playing Icebox and Fracture, so expect those to be really interesting maps if they get picked. NiP might look towards Ascent, while Fnatic like Haven, making this a possible three map series that Fnatic are definitely favored in.
Not many people would have expected either team to be in the Winners Match, and for two different reasons. Liquid had the good fortune of coming to Iceland after FunPlus Phoenix were unable to travel, and they made the most of it with a decent 2-0 win against KRÜ Esports. XERXIA, on the other hand, qualified for Iceland fair and square, and then went on to shock OpTic Gaming with a 2-0 scoreline to set up this matchup.
While most people would still favor the European mix to take the series, the Itthirit "Foxz" Ngamsaard-led team cannot be taken lightly. Everyone on the squad had their moments against OpTic, especially Thanachart "Surf" Rungarphajaratsakul, who managed to handle the superstar that is Jaccob "yay" Whitaker, and Panyawat "sushiboys" Subsiriroj came in with multiple high-impact frags across the series. Liquid clearly have vulnerabilities on their map pick of Ascent, and the lack of a dedicated Jett OPer and an established in-game leader will no doubt hinder them. It is hard to call XERXIA an underdog now and the series will likely be closer than most people think.
Surf was a constant thorn in OpTic Gaming’s side with his aggressive entry duels and he will thrive against the weaker operators of Nabil "Nivera" Benrlitom and Elias "Jamppi" Olkkonen. On the other side, it is up to none other than Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom to be the veteran mind of the team and make big plays when the team calls on him.
Team Liquid need to be careful when picking Ascent against the Thai squad, considering they just beat OpTic on it. XERXIA like Icebox and Liquid like Split but it is possible they ban each other’s maps, so we might see Haven or Fracture pop up in the mix. The map veto here will be more important than ever for XERXIA if they want to be able to take the series the distance against slight favorites Team Liquid.
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