VALORANT has lifted off, millions are playing it around the world, and it's time for some esports.
In partnership with game creator Riot Games, Twitch will be crowning the first global champions in VALORANT's full release, with more than 300 players competing this weekend to see if they can climb their respective region's mountain for a piece of the overall $200,000 on the line in Twitch Rivals.
While events will be happening from Europe to South America to the mecca of esports, South Korea, the marquee event will kick off on June 6, when North America takes the stage. No region has taken the challenge of this Twitch Rivals more seriously than North America, with full starting-fives signed to major organizations entering the competition, setting the tone for a tournament that could be a glimpse into the early future of the competitive landscape in VALORANT.
With pros and popular streamers included in 16 teams vying for the North American crown, what else could we do to preview this monumental esports kickoff spectacle but a good old fashioned power ranking?
From No. 1 all the way down to the bottom, here's how the teams stack up heading into Saturday's festivities.
1. Team Brax (T1)
Team Brax is literally the T1 starting-five that was just completed with the signing of former Counter-Strike world champion Tyler "Ska" Latham. This team, pound-for-pound, might have the highest ceiling of any signed VALORANT team in the world, and T1 are in a tournament against a bunch of thrown-together five-stacks and streamers. This is going to be fun.
2. Team TenZ (TenZ & Friends/C9 Trial)
While not officially signed to Cloud9, this is the team that played under its banner for the North American Rivalry Bowl, where Tyson "TenZ" Ngo and his teammates mopped the floor with everyone in the competition. The fact that this group is running it back is a good sign that this could be the actual C9 roster built around TenZ as the VALORANT competitive scene begins, and if it is, watch out. T1 might have a challenger for the top team in this tournament.
3. Team Hiko (Hiko & Gen.G)
It's ridiculous how much talent is combined at the upper-echelon of this event. Gen.G only competed in one major tournament during the closed beta, but it was the biggest one, and the French-Canadian squad rolled through the competition to win $20,000 in the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational. Although it's not the entire Gen.G squad dropping into Twitch Rivals, the fill-in possibly makes this squad even stronger on paper: Newly-signed 100 Thieves VALORANT pro Spencer "Hiko" Martin will be captaining the team.
4. Team Aceu (Sentinels and two monsters)
Keeping on with heavy-hitter after heavy-hitter, we have Team Aceu. Not only is the team led by the human highlight-reel Brandon "Aceu" Winn and surrounded by three strong players from the Sentinels roster, but current Counter-Strike: Global Offensive superstar Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski will be anchoring the team. Though the Team Liquid ace isn't looking to switch from CS to go pro in VALORANT anytime soon, he's already showcased his talents on stream and in the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational, where he outmuscled most of the pro competition. It'll be interesting to see how their chemistry shakes out, but from a pure skill standpoint, Team Aceu can beat any team on the board.
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C9 VALORANT pro Tyson "TenZ" Ngo goes into detail on what he thinks can be improved upon in the VALORANT ranked system including solo and duo queues.
5. Team Dizzy (These guys can aim pretty well)
In a similar mold to Team Aceu, Team Dizzy is a stack made up of a bunch of mechanically skilled players seeing if they can mesh well enough together to advance over teams who have been practicing together for far longer. The player I'm most excited to watch is Corey "Corey" Nigra, who recently retired from the Washington Justice of the Overwatch League to dive full-time into VALORANT. Any time his name gets brought up in a conversation with a top North American player, the response is the same: "Corey is good at this new game, really good."
Although not signed to a pro organization yet, make no mistake, it's not because teams aren't interested. Twitch Rivals could be the first step in Corey becoming one of the biggest names in VALORANT if Team Dizzy can function as a collective unit.
6. Team Myth (TSM)
This squad is Team SoloMid but not TSM at the same time. All five members are signed to the TSM organization, but only four of them are on the TSM VALORANT squad, with the Twitch Rivals captain, Ali "Myth" Kabbani, as the outlier. It's going to be up to Myth to prove he can play and win against pro players. If he can withstand the pressure and perform well, as he's shown he can on stream playing alongside and against some of the best North America has to offer, Team Myth could be fighting for a spot in the final come Sunday. If he falters, however, it could be a long day against a slew of pro teams and five-stacks composed of FPS royalty.
7. Team Jakenbakelive (Immortals, anime and an IRL streamer)
Here we have another team with a pro core in Immortals and 16-year-old FPS standout Peter "Asuna" Mazuryk with all eyes on the captain to see if they can hold up against the stiff competition. Jakenbakelive is a popular in-real-life streamer and might seem like an obvious weak link, but he was high diamond during the beta and wasn't playing on a team alongside some of the best players in North America when grinding. It'll be a similar situation with Myth, where if Jakenbakelive can thrive and not stick out like a sore thumb, this five-stack has a good chance of leapfrogging some of the teams ahead of them.
8. Team fl0m (The first team not in either Group A or B)
Yeah, you read that right: Of the seven teams we've gone through already, all of them are in either Group A or Group B of the Twitch Rivals tournament. I'm not going to say the groups are severely imbalanced and it's even worse to think about when you realize only one team per group makes it to the playoffs, but ... no, that's exactly what I'm going to say.
Team fl0m, however, are the big winners of the groups being so lopsided, with Counter-Strike star Erik "fl0m" Flom piloting an impressive five-stack that should be heavy favorites in Group C.
The player I'm looking out for on this team is Timothy "sYnceDez" Putrow, an Apex pro and member of the Team Canyon side that won our very own ESPN Esports VALORANT Invitational in April. He's been quiet competitively since grabbing that win, but Twitch Rivals could be the perfect place for sYnceDez to showcase his skills and find a pro contract with a tier-one organization.
9. Team Mendo (A Swede, a tattooed man and a dream)
In the ninth position we have another Team Canyon alumni, Lucas "Mendo" Håkansson, coming in hot to this Twitch Rivals with a team that is a fusion of top-level talent, big-name streamer popularity and some pure troll potential. Out of all the squads in this tournament, this might the most difficult to actually rate, with Mendo alongside the likes of fellow closed beta standout Hunter "BabyJ" Schline, while the other half of the team is more variety streamers that aren't looking to make VALORANT their main game.
Timothy "Timthetatman" John Betar was originally supposed to be on this team, but Team Liquid's Jake "Stewie2K" Yip has replaced him in the lineup. It might be an upgrade adding the pro CS:GO player, as Timthetatman went 0-5 in his ranked placements and ended up in Silver during the beta.
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10. Team Kephrii (Unlucky)
Honestly, Team Kephrii is a good squad. The members were highly ranked in the beta, and though none of the players are signed to tier-one organizations as VALORANT pros or won anything major in the beta, it would be foolish to overlook them. Well, except that they got the draw of death and have to beat out Team Brax, Team Aceu and Team Jakenbakelive to make it into the playoffs.
If this was Vegas, Brian "Kephrii" St. Pierre would be yelling at the dealer right now for giving him the worst hand possible.
11. Team sh0ts
12. Team Jordanfisher
13. Team StPeach
14. Team bnans
15. Team CDNThe3rd
16. Team Austincreed