<
>

FaZe Clan VALORANT Invitational: What to watch for in the finals

Have Wardell and TSM cracked the Sentinels' code? Adela Sznajder/Dreamhack

After three days of heart-racing action, the FaZe Clan VALORANT Invitational comes down to three teams on its final day. The winners of the first two Ignition Series tournaments remain alive on championship Sunday, along with a team of young guns hoping to play spoiler to the favorites and win their inaugural title.

On Saturday, those two former Ignition winners, Sentinels and TSM, played in the upper-bracket final to see who would get a direct path to the championship. While the game ended in a 2-0 sweep for the underdogs of TSM, snapping Sentinels' 19-match winning streak, it was deemed an instant classic -- and perhaps the best VALORANT match in the game's short history -- by the fans at large. TSM first beat Sentinels on their signature map of Ascent before taking the game that defined the series on Haven, where both teams fired haymakers back-and-forth at each other before TSM finally put Sentinels down in an epic 18-16 overtime thriller.

Here's everything you need to know to be ready for Sunday's festivities on what could be a defining day for VALORANT's esports scene.

Alright, I'm in. Where and when can I watch?

All games will be streamed on FaZe Clan's official Twitch channel at Twitch.tv/Faze. The lower-bracket best-of-three final between Sentinels and Immortals will begin at 5 p.m. ET/ 2 p.m. PT. The best-of-five grand final with the winner of the previous series against TSM is slated to begin at 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT but may change depending on the length of the lower-bracket final. Derek "wtfmoses" Moseley will be manning the virtual desk as host for Sunday's finals.

So if TSM and Sentinels had such an amazing upper-bracket final, is that going to be our grand final as well?

Good question. While oddsmakers in Las Vegas would be heavily leaning towards TSM and Sentinels putting on the gloves once more to see who'll take the championship, don't sleep on Immortals. Where TSM and Sentinels were both known quantities even before VALORANT's launch, both sides chock-full of star players from other competitive first-person shooter titles, Immortals are a team that is banking on being the future of the VALORANT scene. Though they don't have the same success as either team they hope to topple on Sunday to win the Invitational, they have some tricks up their sleeve that could make them dangerous for either foe.

Immortals possess 17-year-old phenom Peter "Asuna" Mazuryk and newcomer Quan "diceyzx" Tran to make up their one-two upfront in the attack. Both players have taken over games for Immortals in the event, with their aggressive pushes and knack for picking up quick first bloods providing the team the momentum needed to take over matches. Asuna and diceyzx sit in the tournament's top 10 for kills-per-round heading into the final day, the entry specialist Asuna sitting at 0.80 (No. 10) while diceyzx, the team's newfound primary sniper on Jett, has had a stellar first event with 0.85 (No. 3).

Diceyzx was brought into the fold for one of the team's founding members, Joseph "Bjor" Bjorklund, as the team wanted to bring in a player that could play Jett and serve as the team's first-class Operator player. Bjor remains on the roster and Diceyzx is only trialing for the team, but with how he's performed this event, especially in tandem with the team's ace Asuna, Immortals would be foolish to not have the Jett standout somewhere in their future plans.

What kind of teams are TSM and Sentinels?

Well, for TSM, I like to call them the Louis Vuitton squad of the VALORANT world. It's not to do anything with their purchases outside the game -- though team ace Matthew "Wardell" Yu does talk at length about a Mercedes-AMG outside his door -- but for how they play inside of it. TSM love the Operator, the game's most frightening (and expensive) gun that is a one-shot death sentence for anyone who doesn't respect its long-range sniping ability.

TSM is at its best when Wardell is humming along with his Jett making big plays on the Operator while sometimes exerting even more pressure on the opposition by having two Operator players on the field to make it impossible for the enemy to find safety. When things are going well, TSM look unstoppable, their pockets overflowing with credits in the game's result-based economy system, always possessing at least one sniper rifle in the team's arsenal. Yet, when the team is pushed off the Operator or forced to scrounge for money, only capable of buying some of the cheaper guns in the game, they've struggled to find the same success without Wardell or in-game leader Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik on the Operator.

This tournament has been a bounce back to regular form by Wardell and Subroza switching over to playing the entry role on Phoenix that has taken TSM to another grand finals appearance. If Asuna and diceyzx have done a good job getting first bloods and opening the map for Immortals, then Wardell and Subroza have been world-class, No. 2 and No. 3 thus far in the tournament when it comes to opening a round with a kill.

If TSM is all high fashion and luxury cars then the Sentinels are the 20-somethings who do their shopping at the thrift store and choose to ride electric scooters over fancy cars. They're unorthodox a lot of times in how they play the game. They're aggressive when put on the defensive side of the map and when it comes to their guns of choice, they'll play everything and anything, utilizing every piece of metal given to them in the virtual VALORANT store to gain an advantage over their opponents.

Team ace Jay "sinatraa" Won has popularized playing the heavy-duty Odin, a mammoth weapon that spits out bullets at lighting speed with minimal control over where they're going to land. TSM is classically structured where they have their designated carries and support players while Sentinels' leaderboard can change on any given day, with their "support" players Hunter "SicK" Mims and Michael "dapr" Gulino routinely atop of the score sheet in terms of kills.

As you'd expect between two teams with different ideals of how to create and play as a VALORANT roster, there has been plenty of trash talk between the pair of elite squads. Sentinels dominated the series between the two until this recent classic of an upper-bracket final where Wardell posted on social media that TSM had "cracked the code" that was keeping them from defeating Sentinels. Although TSM has surely won the most-recent battle in this ongoing war, they'll need to win the Invitational to feel they've finally turned the corner against their greatest foe.

One thing is for sure: The more these teams play, the more fans are clamoring to watch VALORANT. Almost 100,000 viewers tuned in on Twitch to watch their upper-bracket final that went past midnight over on the east coast. If the two teams meet again in the final, viewership records could be broken for the ever-growing VALORANT esports scene.