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VALORANT First Strike: North America Crowns Their First Champion

100 Thieves were crowned the champions of VALORANT First Strike: North America after defeating TSM 3-1 in the best-of-five grand finals on Dec. 6. 100 Thieves took home $40,000 for winning first place; TSM won $20,000 as runner-up. 

“I think we’ve definitely set a statement now that we are one of, if not the best team in North America,” 100 Thieves captain Spencer “Hiko” Martin said post-match.

First Strike is League of Legends developer Riot Games’ first official tournament for VALORANT, the studio’s first-person tactical shooter released in June 2020. The tournament is the game’s first foray into the competitive esports scene. 

Open qualifiers were held in a 128-team tournament from Oct. 26 to 30. Qualifying teams were then funneled into two tournaments that each sent four winning teams to First Strike. The First Strike tournament took place from Dec. 3 to 6, with the top eight teams from the region competing for a piece of the $100,000 prize pool and the title as tournament champion. Six other teams — Envy, Immortals, Renegades, T1, Sentinels and FaZe Clan — competed alongside 100 Thieves and TSM. By claiming the championship in the first official VALORANT tournament, 100 Thieves will enter 2021 as arguably the best team in the NA region.

While other teams had been practicing together since as early as the game’s closed beta in April, 100 Thieves had a late start in building their roster. An earlier iteration of 100 Thieves was scrapped in mid-August, and Martin hand-picked Nicholas “nitr0” Cannella, Joshua “steel” Nissan, Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk and Quan “dicey” Tran to join the team. Their roster wasn’t completed until Oct. 2, just two months before the tournament.

With three former professional CS:GO veterans and two young stars, 100 Thieves has a typical mix of players in the competitive VALORANT scene. However, Martin, Cannella and Nissan stand out as decorated CS:GO in-game leaders in the NA region. Altogether, 100 Thieves has an ideal combination of experienced leadership and raw star power.

“The fact that we’re able to come in with a newish roster — we made this team something like two months ago — and we’re already making it to the grand finals of the first big event that we play, I think that shows that you can’t just get a team full of young, hungry, inexperienced players,” Martin said in an interview with the Washington Post. “You need the experience. You need the support.”

Martin ended the grand finals leading all players in the tournament at 73 kills, with the highest K/D ratio of 1.38, fitting for the champion team’s captain.

100 Thieves’ X-factor was markedly visible throughout their battle with TSM for the champion title. Despite finishing up the first half of the initial match at 7-5 in favor of TSM, 100 Thieves managed to bring the match to overtime through an aggressive defense and secured the win at 15-13. In the second match of grand finals, Mazuryk acquired a stunning Ace on round 17, bringing the score to 10-7 favoring 100 Thieves and prompting caster Sean Gares to call him a “superstar duelist.” 

Gares also praised the team for their mastery in blending together players from diverse backgrounds into a cohesive unit. 

“I think 100 Thieves is going to be the blueprint for how teams construct their rosters in the future,” Gares said.

The First Strike tournament stream was immensely popular, garnering over 300,000 concurrent viewers during its 22 hours of air time. Despite the virtual format of the competition, 300,112 viewers tuned in to the grand finale between 100 Thieves and TSM, and an average of 93,140 viewers watched the stream throughout the tournament.

“VALORANT is a deeply competitive title with global appeal and the necessary elements to become the next premier esport,” Whalen Rozelle, senior director of esports at Riot Games, said. “First Strike will provide our thriving competitive ecosystem with the platform to showcase their greatness, build regional legacy, and a foundation that will support the esport for years to come.”

Due to the overwhelming interest in VALORANT at the competitive esport level, Riot announced a VALORANT Champions Tour set to take place in 2021. Notable organizations such as Vitality and Fnatic have been persuaded to join the VALORANT scene through the tournament’s massive success. First Strike marks just the beginning of VALORANT as an esport, and there are still far grander events to come.

Chelsea Pan is the 2020-2021 Managing Editor. She can be reached at manager@newuniversity.org.