Written By PeeKay - 2022-04-08
Last year’s Masters Berlin runner-ups and Champions attendees continued their strong performances into the 2022 VCT season. The North American powerhouse turned around their shaky group stage into a marauding run through the playoffs of NA Stage 1 Challengers to book their ticket to Masters Reykjavik. Here’s how their impressive journey to Iceland panned out.
OpTic Gaming (previously Envy) entered Stage 1 Challengers at the group stage, by virtue of being one of the highest ranked North American teams in 2021. They had an inauspicious start with a 1-2 loss to a resurgent Rise, who themselves had narrowly missed out on Champions last year with a 2nd place finish at VCT 2021 - North America Last Chance Qualifier and had to make their way through the open and closed qualifiers this year. Fans and analysts were immediately skeptical of the team’s strength, especially critical of Jaccob "yay" Whitaker’s reduced impact playing Chamber instead of Jett on Bind.
But as all elite teams do, the Pujan "FNS" Mehta-led squad bounced back with convincing wins over NRG Esports and then Sentinels. They were humbled by an on-fire Version1, losing 5-13 on Haven and Icebox, but looking at Version1’s form, the Green Wall could hardly be blamed for the defeat. In the final week of the group stage, they wrapped up a second place spot with a clean victory over Pittsburgh Knights, notably playing on the new 4.04 patch that saw a new look Jimmy "Marved" Nguyen main Brimstone in the series.
OpTic Gaming had a very difficult opening quarter final match against XSET, but the team rallied around secondary star Victor "Victor" Wong, who dropped 51 kills en route to a 2-1 win. Other than an appalling Split, which made clear FNS and co’s defensive side issues on the map, the team grabbed Ascent 13-9 and Bind 13-7 to advance to the Upper Bracket semi final.
Things only got harder from there, as Cloud9 emerged as their next opponent. Going up against Nathan "leaf" Orf and Erick "Xeppaa" Bach in the form they were in was a horrifying task, but OpTic stole away C9’s Haven in overtime and were already looking good for a 2-0 win. The vanity-led team surprisingly fired back on Fracture and the two teams traded each other’s map picks. Ascent was the decider and the first half was extremely competitive, but OpTic were unbreakable on the defense and took the map and series 2-1.
With arguably the best team in North America out of the way, the Green Wall were just one win away from making Masters Reykjavik. In their way stood The Guard, who had previously beaten the relatively easier Luminosity Gaming and Sentinels. In a match that viewers had hoped would be highly competitive, the tie fizzled out with OpTic winning The Guard’s map pick of Split 13-10 and then their own Bind 13-4. It was a real shame that some of the latter’s hard hitters, namely Ha "Sayaplayer" Jung-woo and Trent "trent" Cairns didn’t show up in the way they usually do, but OpTic weren’t complaining, as they became the first North American team to qualify for Iceland.
The finals of the event turned out to be an epic rematch against The Guard, as the two teams were playing to skip the playoffs of Masters Reykjavik. It went the full distance to five maps, with yay yet again leading the OpTic scoreboard with 82 kills and a ridiculous 20 first kills. But this time around, valyn and co. had the better of FNS, winning the decider Haven 13-11 to claim the series 3-2. Even despite the result, NA Challengers marked the continued success of OpTic Gaming and they look ready to do some damage at Iceland.
Ascent is OpTic Gaming’s go to map, and they have beaten top teams like Cloud9 and The Guard on it, so expect to see it in their veto at Masters. They weren’t half-bad on Bind either, winning it despite it being other teams’ pick, meaning they will likely float it in the veto. FNS has chosen Fracture a few times but it has not worked out too well for them, including losses to Cloud9 and Sentinels. The squad’s Split has improved and Haven is decent too, so expect to see them play those occasionally.
Jaccob "yay" Whitaker
It is hard to think where OpTic would be without their superstar, who has been invaluable since his arrival from NYFU. His transition to Chamber has not been without its bumps, but he looked much better with the sentinel in the playoffs. He was the sixth highest rated player at the tournament, with a 1.15 rating, and now has a partner in crime in Victor. Be sure to keep an eye out for the American’s heroics at Iceland.
OpTic Gaming will field the following lineup at Masters Reykjavik:
Chet "Chet" Singh (Head Coach)
You must be logged in to be able to post comments.