What we learned from VALORANT's T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational

Riot Games

The largest VALORANT tournament to date happened on Monday as Gen.G took home the $20,000 grand prize in the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational tournament. In the grand final, Gen.G's newly acquired French-Canadian roster defeated the heavy favorites of the competition, Team Brax, made up of a bulk of the T1 VALORANT squad alongside North American Counter-Strike legends Tyler "Ska" Latham and Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski, in a close 2-1 series.

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The T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational was the first of what are expected to be many hefty prize pool competitions around the world in the near future as VALORANT's official summer launch approaches, and it didn't lack for exciting matches or high-level play. Here are five things we learned from Monday's marathon of a competition.

1. Gen.G have arrived

When I first was told who was on Gen.G's VALORANT roster, I asked myself "who?" before Googling the entire team's backlog history. Unlike other organizations that looked to grab headlines with flashy signings, Gen.G went with a measured approach, scooping up a team of five French-Canadian players that had a history together in the minor leagues of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and had further developed their chemistry in the early days of VALORANT.

While they were expected to make it through the first round against an aptly named Team Prospects, no one could imagine the run they would go on afterward, beating down the rest of the competition to win the S20,000 top prize while only dropping a single map along the way. Similar to Gen.G's other Riot Games esports team in League of Legends, the VALORANT squad played with a machine-like approach, never overstepping their boundaries and working in unison to structurally destroy their opposition.

Keven "PLAYER1" Champagne, one of the few players in the world to have reached the top rank in the game during the beta, inhabited the role of his agent character Brimstone, becoming the dogged, blue-collar commander his team needed him to be. It was a masterclass performance by the rest of the team as well, from Danny "huynh" Huynh's seamless sniping on the Operator to Michael "MkaeL" De Luca's countless clutches on the Moroccan spy Cypher.

When the team was announced early on Monday, they were relative unknowns. By the end of Monday night, they settled themselves as the current kings to beat in North America's VALORANT scene.

2. Sentinels have (partly) arrived

Where the Tigers of Gen.G took a low-profile approach, the Sentinels announced their arrival into VALORANT from the rooftops, having just signed away reigning Overwatch League world champion and MVP Jay "sinatraa" Won to be the face of the franchise in VALORANT. It wasn't only sinatraa, though, as the Sentinels put together a star-studded roster around him with famed players from Counter-Strike and Apex Legends, most notably Shahzeeb "ShahZaM" Khan.

The Invitational was the stage for Sentinels to show off their new luxury talent, ready to challenge the world. Though it started well, with Sentinels breezing through the first round, they lost a close best-of-three against Team Brax, narrowly falling in both games and losing the first in overtime. Down in the lower bracket, their debut came to a screeching halt with an elimination by a makeshift squad built around famed first-person shooter players Spencer "Hiko" Martin and Michael "shroud" Grzesiek.

Overall, although Sentinels didn't have the same impact as Gen.G did in their VALORANT arrival, there was a lot to like about their play in the Invitational. They're not Gen.G in the way they play -- sinatraa in particular showing no fear when it came to playing aggressively -- but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Though some of the team's in-your-face play backfired, more time playing as a unit and solidifying a starting-five roster will twist those blunders into stylish victories.

3. The Quartet of Death has been established

A constant sight throughout the Invitational and other recent VALORANT tournaments is the four-pack of Sage, Cypher, Brimstone and Breach. Together, all four work in beautiful harmony, bringing as much utility as possible to a team, with the fifth spot in the lineup usually left open for a duelist of choice (Phoenix, Raze, Jett) or, if the team wants even more utility and information, Sova.

It would be easy to start calling for nerfs and changes to force composition diversity, but I actually didn't mind the repetitive nature of some of the team compositions. When a team composition based around the deadly quartet is played to perfection, it's beautiful to watch. And it's not like we didn't get to see any other heroes aside from the staples, with even some teams pulling out agents like Viper in certain situations or going with multiple duelists to play with a sharper bite.

We only have 10 agents in VALORANT, with 12 to be out by launch this summer. If Sage, Cypher, Brimstone and Breach are still the go-tos by the end of 2020 and they're unbeatable at the highest level, leading to a myriad of mirror matches, then it would be time for a change. Until then, however, and I'll sit back and continue watching teams figure out the best ways to play with (and against) the quartet of death.

4. The best VALORANT player ... isn't going to play VALORANT

At times during the Invitational, watching Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski play was like watching an NBA center slam dunk on a bunch of 5'6 high schoolers in the gym. Team Brax's coordination wasn't as seamless as some of the other iterations that Brax and T1 have concocted during their closed beta (their squad with Hiko in particular) but there is no denying EliGe's pure talent in the game. It almost got comical at times, with the casters playfully reassuring themselves that a one-on-three for the Team Liquid Counter-Strike superstar would be little trouble for him before he actually turned the impossible situation into a routine cleanup.

Although people will be wondering if EliGe will be making the switch over to VALORANT as top pros like sinatraa have done from other games, don't get your hopes up. Sources have told ESPN that EliGe isn't going anywhere as part of TL's loaded CS lineup as the organization knows how valuable their crown jewel is in the center of the roster.

5. Hiko is really, really, really good at video games

There really isn't anything else that needs to be said. VALORANT has been out in closed beta for a month, and I challenge you to find a better play from around the world than this. Hiko, the best Breach player in the world, no debate.