This article is part of our VALORANT series.
VCT Stage 1 is heading into the playoffs in North America, while out-of-server issues have pushed the final week for Europe back to this week. It's a mismatched week, but one where teams will look to leave their mark on the opening stage, whether making a playoff run in North America, or clinching a playoff berth in Europe.
Players to Target
There isn't much that can be said about leaf that hasn't been said before. He is the best player in North America, and one of the handful of players from the region who can compete with the best in the world. He has been dominant throughout the group stage and now gets to take on Pittsburgh Knights in the opening match of the playoffs. While that isn't a match that Cloud9 should struggle in, even if they do, leaf will produce. In the past three months, leaf has a 1.31 rating and 264 ACS, as well as 169.98 average damager per round. Those stats are simply otherworldly, and there's no indications that leaf is going to do anything other than roll through the North American playoffs.
M3 Champions, formerly known as Gambit, have been forced to rename, and miss the past three weeks of matches due to sanctions levied against the Russian Federation. Well now nAts gets to play three matches in one week, and he seems set on reminding everyone that he is still the best player in the world. The Sentinel player is an unmatched presence on the map, and the only reason he doesn't find himself as the best player in the world is perhaps his teammate Chronicle, who has been putting together video game numbers... in a video game.
Chronicle is back in the 'Players to Target' section for the second week running, and if he keeps up his current level then it's likely he will be right back here next week. Enough of my waffling, here are some stats. 1.52 Rating, 286 ACS, 1.56 K/D, 179.28 ADR. Remember when leaf's stats made him far-and-away the best player in North America? Chronicle laughs at those stats and raises them with his eyes closed. To call Chronicle a human cheat code would insult cheaters. Chronicle might not be human. In this form he certainly isn't something terrestrial, and with a three-match week ahead of him, we might as well give Chronicle the player of the week already. I, for one, welcome our new utility-player overlords.
Players to Fade
LDN UTD play only one match this week and it's against M3 Champions (formerly known as Gambit) and that is perhaps the toughest match in the world right now. LDN UTD, and Destrian himself have acquitted themselves admirably in VCT Stage 1, but this just isn't going to be a pretty week. If Destrian and LDN UTD can somehow produce a major upset they would qualify from the group, so there is certainly everything to play for against M3 Champions, and that motivation may lead Destrian to surprise us mightily.
OpTic Gaming, a choose your own adventure book... are the (best team in the world/worst team in North America) [flip a coin]. FNS and OpTic could come out and dominate XSET in a one-sided 2-0 stomp, or they could win eight total rounds across two maps in an embarrassing loss. FNS is the in-game leader and this inconsistency hits his individual numbers harder than anyone else. When OpTic is great, FNS is a fringe player, when they are bad, he is the worst player on the slate. That range isn't one that we are huge fans of, and one that puts FNS down here in the 'Players to Fade' section. His 0.78 rating and 155 ACS simply aren't worth targeting in any fantasy formats.
Sentinels looked like the best team in the world for much of 2021, but 2022 has been far less kind to the reigning North American champions. Really it could be zombs, dapr or SicK here, but we've gone for zombs, who has struggled lately, including two rough showings against Version1 and OpTic Gaming. Sentinels could dismantle The Guard with ease and it wouldn't be shocking, but zombs isn't likely to be a major fantasy producer, even if Sentinels take over the match. The Guard also come in as heavy favorites, the final nail in zombs very, very inconsistent coffin.
Stats courtesy of Thespike.gg