North America’s last Ignition Series event, the T1 x NSG Showdown, was a resounding success. With TSM emerging as the victors over T1, most fans considered those two teams the favourites heading into the PAX Arena VALORANT Invitational, NA’s next Ignition Series tournament. But when everything was said and done, T1 were upset by a team formed just 5 days prior, 100 Thieves finished fourth in their group, and Sentinels emerged as the champions. So what exactly happened in NA’s most action-packed event yet?
Due to some miscommunication between Pax and the teams, and some last minute decision making, there were very few streams for the first day of group play. This was incredibly unfortunate as we saw some interesting results. 100 Thieves lost to Homeless, a team formed only 5 days prior to the tournament, while Renegades, Built By Gamers, and Envy picked up their first wins as organizations in VALORANT. Otherwise, the day went about as expected, with teams like TSM, T1, Gen.G Esports, and Sentinels each picking up multiple wins.
Streams returned for day 2 of group play, when observers were allowed to broadcast the games on their channels. And it was a great thing to do, because some more great matches were seen. Immortals beat Gen.G to claim first place in group C, with Peter "Asuna" Mazuryk putting up 337 ACS over the course of the series. In group D, Sentinels beat Cloud9 to claim first place, while Complexity scored their first VALORANT wins. Group B had T1 beating Team Envy in a close set. But group A was where the action was at.
TSM beat 100 Thieves to secure first place, but not without Spencer "Hiko" Martin and co. picking up a map. It was Homeless who put on a show, though, dominating Built By Gamers to claim second place in the group.
The four quarterfinals drawn had TSM vs. Team Envy, Sentinels squaring off against Gen.G, T1 pitted against Homeless, and Immortals playing Cloud9. Team Envy played TSM, considered by most the favourites, extremely closely. TSM only won by two rounds each game, with the first, Haven, going to overtime. But it wasn’t meant to be for Team Envy. They pulled out to lead on each map, including a massive one on Haven, only to let TSM back into the game each time to sneak the victory.
Sentinels vs. Gen.G was a relatively straightforward affair, with Gen.G making it quite close. But Sentinels showed their potential by playing aggressively and making excellent set plays. And we got this incredible play from Jay "sinatraa" Won on the third map, Split.
The next game was absolutely shocking, though. Homeless, a team formed only 5 days prior to the tournament for the express purpose of playing in it, beat T1, the runners-up from the previous Ignition Series tournament and favourites to win it all, in probably the biggest and most high-profile upset we’ve seen yet in VALORANT. The star of the show was undoubtedly Phat "supamen" Le, whose incredible rifling skills even led some people to accuse him of cheating. Everyone played great for Homeless though, and besides Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, T1 were undoubtedly off their group stage form.
Finally, Cloud9 bested Immortals in a straight 2-0. Tyson "TenZ" Ngo continued to prove his worth for Cloud9, while Mitch"mitch" Semago established himself as a very competent OPer and the team’s default secondary fragger.
The first semifinal, TSM vs. Sentinels, was hyped as probably the tightest matchup of the day. But it didn’t turn out that way at all, as Sentinels dominated TSM 13-3 and 13-4. Sinatraa was absolutely on fire throughout. Sentinels executed plays around their utility extremely well, all while maintaining their signature aggressive style, and the former kings of NA couldn’t match them. Sentinels were on to the finals.
In the second semifinal, the surprise of the tournament, Homeless, could not match their previous form, and fell to Cloud9. Supamen was playing nowhere near the level he had against T1, and "Laski" ended the second map, Ascent, with only four kills, and had none for most of the game. Mitch and Skyler "Relyks" Weaver showed up big for Cloud9, showing that C9 was no longer just TenZ’ show. C9 also began, through this series and the last, to run a very aggressive style that worked wonders for them. The finals were set: in an unlikely bracket, it was Sentinels vs. Cloud9.
The finals started on Ascent. Sentinels on the attack started out winning 8 rounds out of 9, but Cloud9 clawed their way back in, winning the next four and having a relatively good attack. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome the lead Sentinels had built, and Ascent finished 13-11.
Haven became the TenZ show, as he put up over 300 ACS for the second map in a row - 339 this time - en route to a smashing 13-6 victory for C9. TenZ' stellar stats all tournament would make him THESPIKE.GG's tournament MVP.
Bind was an incredibly tight match. Here, we saw Hunter "SicK" Mims atop the scoreboard for Sentinels. He had been hugely impactful all match so far, and that wasn’t changing. This time it was Cloud9 who started out hot, winning 5 of the first 6, but Sentinels found a way back in. Defense was just as tight, but Sentinels managed to pull out an extra round and the win, 13-11.
In the meantime, more people were interested in VALORANT than ever. Undoubtedly due to a number of factors - the consistent growth of the game, the presence of a large streamer, TenZ, in the finals, and the CS:GO player break, the Pax Arena stream peaked at around 80,000 viewers. No matter the outcome of the finals, it was a massive win for VALORANT esports.
With Sentinels on match point, we headed to Split. Starting out, we got a massive surprise as TenZ picked Viper in such a crucial moment. And it all looked over. Off some stellar play in the opening rounds by sinatraa, Sentinels won 8 consecutive rounds off the start of the game.
But then Cloud9 began to find a way back in. They managed to secure 3 rounds in the back of the half, and there was some hope yet for them.
This continued as they picked up 4 rounds at the start of the second round. The score was 9-7. Cloud9 had all the momentum on their side.
But just as C9 picked it up in the first half, Sentinels did the same. They would take the next 3 rounds to make it game, series, and tournament point. In the very last round, SicK, again proving his value on Sage, picked off TenZ at B Heaven and rushed to B. He planted the Spike and finished out the 1v3 clutch with kills on "vice" and Relyks. Sentinels were the Pax Arena VALORANT Invitational champions.
Final Standings for the Pax Arena VALORANT Invitational:
1. Sentinels - $10,000 2. Cloud9 - $5,000 3-4. TSM - $3,000 3-4. Homeless - $3,000 5-8. Team Envy - $1,000 5-8. Gen.G - $1,000 5-8. T1 - $1,000 5-8. Immortals - $1,000 9-12. Built By Gamers 9-12. Way 2 French 9-12. MIXUP 9-12. Complexity 13-16. 100 Thieves 13-16. Echo 8 13-16. Prospects 13-16. Renegades 17-20. 100 Blifted 17-20. Team Kephrii 17-20. Team Mang0 17-20. OWL
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