Valorant: Competitive power rankings, EU closed beta
While I’m calling this a ‘power ranking’, let’s get this out of the way first: I’m not going to try to dress it up with some silly pseudo-statistical system, because insofar as that ever feels applicable with this sort of thing, it really doesn’t in the context of a month-old tournament and team ecosystem.
These rankings are subjective, and similar to some of my previous pieces (my Mandatory Cup rundown, my look at Solary Cup finals), what I’m more interested about here is exploring the landscape — who are these teams, why are they interesting, what are they good at, and so on.
That said, I stand by these rankings; just understand that they’re opinion, and I’m not going to claim more than that.
Anyway, competitive Valorant anywhere and everywhere is at a completely nascent state right now, so the first challenge is trying to figure out which tournaments matter and which don’t. In terms of trying to compare between different tournaments, this is broadly what I’m working on:
The A-tier tournaments are ones where it’s pretty clear that the field represented a good cross-section of the best teams in Europe (yes, there is a bit of an ouroboros quality to this, but it is what it is). The B-tier ones are ones where the field was weaker, but a) had plenty of teams that placed well at other tournaments, b) represent a good cross-section of different national scenes.
The C-tier tournaments are the rest — generally having their playerbase confined to a single national scene or along those lines. (Honestly, despite being a €10,000 tournament, LVL Clash should probably be C-tier too on the grounds that basically nobody outside of Germany played in it, and certainly nobody who’s done much in other B-tier tournaments, but VALORANDO need something in the bio)
I have referenced tournaments that haven’t finished yet in the text, but I’m not putting them in the team summaries. For reference, the big two are Epulze Valorant Prodigies — which is absolutely the best field to date, easily A-tier —and Absolute Masters — which has been in a weird spot with a lot of teams dropping out, it’s probably still A-tier in theory but it’s a 32-team field and it’s going to be weeks until we see really relevant matchups there so…eh.
For more details on any given tournament, Liquipedia so far seems to be the best source (to the point that it usually gets updates on a lot of these tournaments before the social media people at said tournaments do).
The fluid nature of a few of these rosters means I have to take liberties at times with what really counts as a result for the same roster; in case where there’s enough overlap to mention it, but it’s clearly not really the same, I’ve put it in italics.
Fish are very, very, very good, but even if you haven’t been following EU Valorant so far, you probably already knew that; so, let’s try to briefly sum up why they’re so good. Firstly, the part you are likely aware of from things like e.g. ESPN’s reporting on Solary Cup — they do play more cohesively than any other team in EU Valorant. They’ve been one of those teams that has been planning their switch for months, their IGL ec1s (Breach) is in that sweet spot of having enough experience in similar games to carry over while being fresh enough (he’s only 19) to not carry over too many preconceptions, and if there are egos on the team, they’re in check for now.
Secondly: they understand how the game is supposed to be played right now, by which I mean they’re aggressive and press every single advantage. Thirdly…I am going to repeat this every single time it comes up because it’s not consensus yet, and it should be: ardiis (Brimstone/Jett/Sova) has genuinely been the single best player I have seen in EU closed beta.
I looked up a couple of basic stats for the two serieses that Fish played in the span of two days against Prodigy last week. ardiis had the most kills by a good clip, but the real insane thing was the first-blood count. He had 36 across the 6 maps. The next-highest in the series was draken, with 17; mixwell had 16.
Yes, I fully acknowledge that primary Operator users poll out well in that particular category. But the fact that he was that far ahead, across that many maps, with that consistency, and all against the #2 team in Europe…I really don’t think he’s been getting the credit that he deserves so far, particularly given that the aggression he brings to the role has been transformative in getting Fish to beat teams down as they have.
In any case: aside from the occasional dafran fan whining about the Solary Cup drama, I don’t really think that anyone can seriously dispute Fish as #1 for the time being. They’ve just been too far ahead of the rest of the field, and the only question at this point is whether they’re a REUNITED or an IDDQD — a dominant team that’s more than the sum of its parts but eventually cools against a wider talent pool, or one that ends up passing into legend over the coming months and years as an incubator for the early true stars of the game. (I absolutely think it’s more likely the latter, but we’ll see)
Competitive periods in betas can throw up funny things. For example, here we have a team at #2 in the rankings that isn’t really a team! Prodigy is an esports talent agency (who, among others, also happen to represent ec1s and ardiis), and have fielded…suffice to say, a disparate array of rosters under the Prodigy name. You see JEROME? As best I can tell, JEROME is Jérôme Coupez. Who is Jérôme Coupez? He’s the agency CEO — an experienced businessman with a decent background in esports on the management and marketing side, but whose biggest accomplishment as a player prior to this amounted to 3rd place in a French BYOC once.
So, really, kudos to him for being able to produce as he has in these matches. But in any case: this is very much a succession of true mixes (there have actually been more players than this even, but I’m only counting A and B-tier events here). The only two constants have been those two old CS pros — ScreaM, who plays Sage and (mostly) frags out, and mixwell, the eclectic primary AWPer turned primary Operator (mostly Breach, has pulled out Viper before).
Still, you can’t entirely argue with the results. I mean, I’m absolutely going to in the next paragraph, but you can’t. 1st at Fnatic PG, 2nd at Solary Cup, QFs at COOLER Cup (and only because they ran into Fish in quarters), QFs at Mandatory Cup (their only non-Fish defeat, to NiP). This doesn’t even count the Take the Throne invitational showmatches, which saw them beat HyP in #1, beat a mixed stack in #2, and lose 2–1 to fish123 in #3, and saw a TENTH player (former CS pro ALEX) thrown into the mix. The team and its rotating cast of ringers has been working out.
Alright, on to arguing with results time. Prodigy is clearly good, ScreaM is pretty good, I think mixwell has a legitimate shot at switching over successfully long-term to Valorant if he wants it. I don’t think ScreaM is a superstar talent, and I have no read whatsoever on whether a generic team built around ScreaM will still work a few months down the line.
Yes, they’re playing well, but it’s clearly very much a slow, stacking style of play, and it’s pretty telling how badly fish123 beat them on every single map except Haven (and even there, Prodigy nearly blew an 8–4 lead on O when they switched to D) in the Take The Throne Bo3 last week following a much closer series the previous night (Solary final); as much as these lineups have all their quality, they are never going to be able to move around the map in the same way as Fish and the like do.
I really don’t know how this’ll pan out, but if they’re serious about pursuing this, hoping that this settles down into a proper lineup soon — can only speak for myself here, but it’s just a lot more interesting that way.
As with many great albums, this one is self-titled. HyP is another one of those guys who was playing pro Overwatch at the start of the year — he was on the Paris Eternal for both the 2019 and 2020 seasons as a flex support (and also played for French at the Overwatch World Cup in 2019, where they got 4th overall), and was starting regularly this season, before suddenly announcing his retirement on April 2nd.
After playing with random stacks for a couple of tournaments, HyP teamed up with three players from a stack that had shown up decently at COOLER Cup — Fearoth, CREA^, and PetitSkel — and, with LaAw as their fifth (because, of course, the fifth is always the Sage player), the HyPstack, or HyPHyPHyP, or whatever you want to call it, was born.
Initial results were pretty good. If you include the 3/5ths at COOLER Cup, the stack has actually played at every major tournament, and showed up well in each, taking an upset win over NiP en-route to 2nd at Mandatory Cup, and getting 3rd at Mandatory Cup in a result that unfortunately might end up being more remembered for the drama than what was a genuinely good performance (running Prodigy down to the wire, 10–13 Haven 13–6 Split 11–13 Bind) — albeit blowing a 10–1 lead at one point in that final map. Even at FnatiC PG, their run was only ended in the quarters because they drew fish123.
For very result results…they took a surprise upset to a random stack in a qualifier for the LeStream x BMW ‘Tournaments’ (effectively a French scene show match, an Ex6TenZ/Happy/Maniac stack will be playing BlackBelts on Wednesday for the final iteration pre-open beta), and went out of Epulze in a real shocker today, first getting 2–0ed by Worst Players (see #7) and then dropping 13–10 Haven 8–13 Bind 12–13 Split against DREAMCHASERS (the latest of a succession of respectable but mediocre stacks headlined by long-time T2 CS player emilio). A shame, and I have to suspect that they might end up much lower if we rank these teams again in a month just on that basis; but, for now, there’s still no-one who’s shown out better.
For what to watch, despite being the man with the name on the sign, HyP (Breach) has not really been the big performer for this team. The two I’d tend to single out are LaAw (Sage) and CREA (Omen). For LaAw: forget ScreaM, I genuinely think that LaAw is the single best Sage in Europe. He’s at the heart of every push this team does, right out in front (without being in full entry frag mode).
For CREA: it’s a little more complex. CREA’s actual numbers have been heavily variable; he’s had way too many games where he’s stuck down on a positive K/D, but 12 kills after 20 rounds or something similar. However, when he does go off, he can be incredibly effective, and, more importantly: he is THE Omen player in Europe right now — he plays it on every single map, and it actually seems to have single-handedly pushed some other teams into trying it out, notably Prodigy (bramz) at Solary Cup.
Say what you like about solo queue one-tricks, they’re always fun in competitive. (I will note that rhyme over on NiP also plays primarily Omen, but he moved off of it during the biggest games they played in Mandatory Cup, so…he doesn’t get the title for now)
Tend to think that NiP right now are barely, BARELY holding onto this #4 spot right now. The org came out of the gate well — they took the classic approach of porting over a large part of their (former) roster from another game (their Paladins world champions squad) and took a very strong second place in COOLER Cup, beating Fish in groups and playing them respectably close in the final.
Since then…eh. The team put in a respectable showing at Mandatory Cup, taking out Prodigy in the quarter-finals and finishing 3rd overall, but they missed Fnatic PG, missed Solary, weren’t in either Valhalla Invitational, and as a result, they’ve really not had a chance to match up against almost anyone else in this top-10 in the last couple of weeks — their big tournament win at Elite Rivalry Bowl saw them lose to Demise (who were unimpressive at Fnatic PG and Solary) in the upper bracket and get played very tight by FABRIKEN in the final (13–12 Bind, 3–13 Haven, 13–11 Split).
There’s definitely things to like about this team. Yacine (mostly Raze) has been a revelation as a pure rifler (and is fairly consistently top-fragging), and bonkar (Cypher) in particular has been improving after some very shaky performances in Mandatory Cup. However, the thing that’s going to be dogging them over at least the next couple of months is going to be that classic question: given the nature of the roster being constructed here, is this a team who peaked on day 1 of the beta? Fingers crossed that we see them against better competition soon (they will at least be playing in Epulze next week, albeit against one of the weaker groups).
Has anyone started calling ROYALS ‘baby fish123’ yet? No? I guess I’ll start. ROYALS, or as they’re also known, baby fish123, share some very key similarities with fish123 — they’re a primarily British lineup, they’ve come over pretty directly from the CS scene there, and they have players with very annoying usernames (just as ardiis uses ‘icepaperhands’ for reasons I’m not clear on, leaken goes by KROKODIL, and neph just straight-up has Japanese characters for a name — I am shaking my fist very, very impotently right now). They even replaced fish123 when they pulled out of Absolute Masters.
But does this nickname that I bestowed upon them approximately 20 to 30 seconds ago actually fit their play? From what I’ve seen…eh, not really. leaken (Cypher) seems to be their primary Operator player (I felt like I saw it in his hands more often than DPS’s, I may be wrong about that), and in general they don’t play with the same sort of aggression as Fish from what I’ve seen — they’re far more conservative on offense, doing far more to slow games down, playing for retakes, all that sort of stuff. Fundamentally sound Valorant, if such a thing can be said to exist this early.
So: solid, and DPS (Breach) and leaken both look like fairly tidy players (leaken performing on an agent in positions that tend to be low-fragging, DPS filling a bit of a jack-of-all-trades role while also apparently being IGL), just nothing too special as of yet. The only issue is that so far, they’re pretty untested against big teams — they were only at Fnatic PG (where they lost 11–13 to 2G4L in the semis), and hence unless I’ve missed something, have never played any of the top-4 teams on this list.
However, most of the teams below this list haven’t had that luxury themselves, or at best have done it once, and ROYALS have now twice ran the field without dropping a map against everyone below them at Valhalla —7–0 over #7 PartyParrots and #8 2G4L among others last week, 7–0 over 2G4L and #6 FABRIKEN among others this week. So, #5 it is for now.
Fortunately, they have made it through to Epulze through the qualifiers and placed in the strongest top-to-bottom group (Prodigy, FABRIKEN, 2G4L), so should be a very good test for them. For now: the consecutive Valhalla wins for me put them firmly as challenger to NiP’s ‘best of the rest’ throne.
Of all the teams in the top 10, I’d say FABRIKEN is probably the one I feel the least comfortable talking about, just because of how little I’ve seen of them against guys that I knew were good at the time — the only one of the four big events they’ve played was Fnatic PG, and they were out in Ro16 in the absolute weakest portion of the bracket there. Still, you have to put them up here at this point, because they’ve been dynamite in that second tier of competitions lately.
In any case, we can talk a little about them. They’re being led by LATEKS (previously a tank player for a couple of decent T2/T3 OW teams in Europe), and are an all-Swedish mixture of ex-OW, CS, and Apex Legends guys. In terms of results: won TL Academy W4, 2nd at Valhalla W4, and as mentioned, played NiP very, very tight at Elite Rivalry Bowl.
Meddo (Cypher) has done well, and has a fun bit of backstory as it happens. Once upon a time, there was a reality TV show called GAMERZ: “Gamerz is a reality show where 10 great talents divided into 2 teams compete against each other to win a pro contract in a new CS:GO team.” It was incredibly cheesy, not without its controversy, and ran for two seasons in 2017 and 2018.
Anyway, for the second season, GAMERZ made an agreement that the winning 5 players would represent Fnatic as their Academy side for an undetermined period (it ended up being about six months due to a Valve rules change regarding team ownership). I feel like I should reiterate: yes, this did happen in 2018. Not 2008. Anyway, there was a trial period of one month, at which point Fnatic signed four of the five and brought one more in.
This was the 5:
ec1s is now on fish123. luckeRRR is now on VALORANDO (see #10). And: here’s Meddo. A full majority of that Fnatic Academy team in CS:GO now find themselves on top-10 EU closed beta teams. It is my favourite piece of trivia ever. (Addendum: to boot, rhyme from NiP was on the 2017 season of GAMERZ).
However, from what I’ve seen, ShadoW (Breach) is probably the one to watch here. Let me put it like this — if anyone is going to take ardiis’s crown as best closed beta player, it will probably be him. Using Breach as more of a pure flasher/Operator than most other players (the five in the teams above him here are ec1s, HyP, mixwell, and Zyppan — between them, one primary Operator user, and mixwell doesn’t exactly put up numbers usually), he’s put up some ridiculous numbers in FABRIKEN’s best showings (most notably 57–39 for 1.46 KD in the losing effort of that Elite Rivalry final Bo3).
So far, we’ve not seen much from what would generally be termed the CIS region in Valorant; there were a couple of very, very early CIS tournaments in April, but not much as far as I’m aware since then, and there haven’t been too many teams doing much even in the OQ-heavier tournament formats.
In effect, there’s been two ‘teams’ that have made a bit of noise. One is Worst Players, a stack headlined by a respectable name from CS, ex-AVANGAR and Gambit player dimasick; as mentioned, they took down HyP pretty convincingly in Epulze groups on Saturday (before losing to DREAMCHASERS to finish 2nd in the group — i.e. qualified for playoffs), and have done decently in a couple of TL Academy tournaments. The other is PartyParrots, which boast a very big name — ANGE1.
For those unfamiliar, ANGE1 was never a superstar in CS:GO, and arguably rarely got the credit he deserved, but he was a fixture of the pro scene for an incredibly long time — he spent FIVE YEARS (2014–2019) as IGL at HellRaisers, a CIS org that had quite a few famous names pass through its ranks (s1mple, oskar, woxic all come to mind) and who were somewhat famous for always overperforming, rarely winning tier-1 events but always finding a way to get top-8 at the Major and requalify for the next one.
He finally left HR entirely in April of this year, so one would have to imagine that he’s all-in on VALORANT at this point; and, given how consistently HR seemed to be able to produce ex nihilo, I’m honestly far more interested to see what he can do than a lot of the other CS names.
Anyway, back to how he’s done so far. He showed up to the first really big EU tournament — Fnatic Proving Grounds — as part of the Reserv stack that had won one of the aforementioned CIS tournaments; unluckily, they ran into HyP in the Ro16 and got bounced narrowly (11–13). They then proceeded to get annihilated 2–13 in the Ro32 at Mandatory Cup, and he hasn’t played with that stack since.
However, over the last couple of weeks — at Valhalla and at TL Academy — a new lineup has shown up, which seems to be something of a merger with two other lineups that placed highly in early CIS tournaments (ANGE1 and dinkzj from Reserv, 7ssk7 and Art1st from Peace Duck, Shao from PogChamp). Results have been encouraging — runners-up at TL Academy W3, 3rd in W4 (including a loser’s bracket win over ROYALS), and a Valhalla berth this week that saw them 3–0 in groups over 2G4L (although they went down pretty convincingly to FABRIKEN in the semis).
As with everyone else on this list except Exceptis, they’re going to be at Epulze (in a group with NiP), so we’ll see, but would say that they look good form going into it. As for what to watch, feels like Shao (Sova/Phoenix/others) is the best raw aimer of the bunch, but ANGE1 (Brimstone) himself has been making the miracles happen with 2Ks and 3Ks out of nowhere — think pickup basketball, he has absolutely got that old man game.
A rough couple of weeks for 2G4L. The shining lights of the Battalion 1944 pro scene burst into Valorant in surprisingly strong fashion, making it through OQ (as did fish123 and 3/5ths of HyP) to COOLER Cup, and had a couple of nice early results — topped their group there (although ultimately fell in quarters), made a run all the way to the final at Fnatic PG, and got through to day 2 of Mandatory Cup.
Ultimately, Mandatory Cup ended in disappointment — 0–4 in semis and the third-place match in fairly convincing fashion — and results since have been firmly ‘meh’. As far as I can tell, like NiP, the stack didn’t attempt to qualify for Solary Cup, and didn’t receive an invite. Unlike NiP, they have been playing in Valhalla at least, but they went down in semis to PartyParrots last week, appear to have kicked Raze specialist JESMUND, were pushed extremely hard to even get through groups this week using Fortnite pro embo as a sub (lost to PartyParrots again and had to go the full 25 rounds against the completely unknown M4L1K after opening 7–0), and went down 2–0 to FABRIKEN in semis this week.
The concerns for this team for me after Mandatory Cup was that old FPS cliché: firepower. You can read more about it in the Mandatory Cup article, but basically, if you took every player on every major EU Valorant team, and just weighed how many hours they had in CS:GO (and therefore how much they’re used to CS-style gunplay as opposed to other FPSes), I’m fairly confident that 2G4L — the CoD4 Promod and B1944 specialists — would be last. replan (Breach) (who also happens to have by far the most CS experience) has been consistently pretty good (and shown ability on the Operator, which is always nice), but the rest of the team has blown cold way, way too often, especially synde.
It’s possible that they can get a better-fragging fifth and start getting more out of the remainder (especially synde (Sage)— Fake was never a huge fragger in B1944 anyway from what I can tell), but the trajectory so far has not been positive, and there’s a chance that they fade out quickly; would be a shame if true, but time will tell.
I haven’t run the full numbers, but I would have to imagine that if you just include true team tournaments, VALORANDO would likely be something like the #2 or #3 earners in EU Valorant so far, simply because they won LVL Clash, which was a €10,000 prize pool tournament. The German sports/esports ecosystem truly is a wondrous thing.
The issue with LVL Clash was that, despite the prize pool, there was no real field to speak of (German teams exclusively from what I can tell). When going up against broader pools of competition, VALORANDO have been…underwhelming, to put it politely. To put it somewhat less politely, it has resembled a snuff film, with multiple 13–4/13–5 losses most times that they’ve run into another top-10 team. Despite this, they’ve still gotten out of groups each time in the Valhalla invitationals and Wave Invitational (losing 2–0 there to DREAMCHASERS), but haven’t ever really looked in it in any of their semi-final matches there.
In any case, Caint — previously the team’s Sage player, and a long-time teammate in pro PUBG with Braexco and ItzzChrizZ — has apparently now left the team (at his own behest, if Braexco’s comments are to be believed), so will see what happens next; they’re still doing well in any national scene tournaments that come up, and played at Epulze on Sunday with sim19 (from middling-to-good tier 2 space fillers Purple Cobras) as a sub (they went 0–3 in a group with Absolute Legends — who’d probably slot in the #11-#15 range — and Izak’s pubstack, which is…ugly), so seems likely they’re going to tough it out — just a question of whether they can start showing up.
Keep an eye on luckeRRR (Brimstone) — he had a reputation in CS as a quick learner, and his Operator play has pretty often been the difference pushing them over the top when they have won.
Truth be told, I think at this point, there’s a lot of teams you could potentially put up at this spot, all following a pretty similar mold — generally played at both Mandatory Cup and Solary Cup, did respectably there overall, either made it to Ro16 or QFs, maybe put up a good performance against a big team, and so on, and so on. A few that come to mind: Inetgamer, Demise, BlackBelts, etc. I won’t deny that a lot of these teams are themselves a bit of a victor of circumstances in that regard — Mandatory Cup and Solary Cup were both run by French organisers, and these stacks are overwhelmingly French or Francophone — but I think you ultimately have to prioritise the teams who are at least proving that they can keep some pace with the big boys over the guys not quite making it happen against the FABRIKENs and 2G4Ls of the world.
For now, we’ll put Exceptis here. The core of iDex/BouLy/Ada got to semis at Solary Cup (albeit mostly due to playing the clear weakest of the 1st-placed group finishers in the quarters) and got top-4 in the first two weeks of TL Academy’s closed series (they crashed out in second round of loser’s bracket this week, but to be fair, they ran into Worst Players, which is, to say the least, not a particularly normal matchup in terms of power level for that point in that field). Funnily enough, they didn’t actually play at Mandatory Cup for personal reasons.
Should note that iDex (Cypher), the team’s presumptive captain, has also shown up in a few other places — he was on the StartedFromCS team with Ex6TenZ/Maniac that got to quarters at Fnatic PG and subbed with HyP during a tournament qualifier last week. Performances didn’t stand out to me, but Cypher players rarely do anyway; in any case, a name worth keeping in mind going forward.
Will note this to finish up: out of any possible disagreements, the one I entirely accept is that there are teams that you might want to put up above both VALORANDO and Exceptis. Worst Players, DREAMCHASERS, Absolute Legends, and a bunch of the French stacks all come to mind as having decent cases for this.
As of right now, though, VALORANDO is still showing up acceptably and getting to the latter stages of these smaller invitationals, and Exceptis looks most likely to be actually coalescing into a longer-term team rather than just swapping out players every single tournament, so they got the last two spots.
I am absolutely sure that things will start shifting very quickly into open beta, but…well, we’ll see, right?