Is the reign of the Sentinels in the VCT over?

Once again, Sentinels have taken the spotlight at the VALORANT Championship Tour. In the third stage of the VCT, all eyes are on Sentinels after their dominant performances in the previous two stages of the largest VALORANT tournament in the world: winning both the first stage in North America and the second stage in Iceland.

Their record on the global stage is unmatched, having only lost one map across Stage 1 of the VCT against the top teams in North America, and zero maps in Stage 2 in Reykjavik back in May of this year.

With a record of 38-3 across all global qualifiers and championship series since the acquisition of star-player Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, Sentinels left many analysts and fans with the impression of a similarly electric performance in Berlin as VCT Stage 3 opened into its group stage; however, the two-time champions are off to a rough start.

TenZ Sentinels Valorant VCTFighting in the only 3-team group of the stage, Sentinels were pitted up against G2 Esports, the 4th and final EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa region) qualifier, and F4Q, the second and final KR (Korean) qualifier.

Both of these teams qualified in the last slot for their region, leaving many to predict an easy stomping for Sentinels and a guaranteed trip into the bracket stage as the #1 seed of the tournament.

As anticipated by most, in their opening match against G2 Esports, Sentinels dominated the first map, Split, winning decisively 13-6. However, the second round on Icebox left many fans nervous as G2 Esports defeated the Sentinels 13-8, marking the first time Sentinels have lost a map on LAN and the first time they have lost a map in the group stage since VCT Stage 1 back in March of this year.

Unsurprisingly, Sentinels showed the resilience that the championship team needed and won the third map, Haven, 13-8, closing the match 2-1. While they maintained their top spot in their group 1-0, concern about the state of Sentinels was high as a rematch against G2 Esports was slated to determine the leader of the 3-team group.

In their second game of the group stage, Sentinels won handily against F4Q 2-0. Their first map, Split, was won by a smaller margin than against G2 Esports, with a 13-9 win on F4Q’s pick; however, they swiftly and more definitively asserted their champion-like dominance over F4Q on their map pick, Breeze, winning 13-4 and continuing to lead their bracket 2-0.

Their final match of the group stage, and quite possibly the most anticipated rematch of the stage thus far, left many fans disappointed as Sentinels took their first career loss on the international stage against team not based in NA (the region the Sentinels still hold the #1 spot in).

New Kids on the Block

Unlike in their first meeting, G2 Esports took the first map 13-3, a triumphant victory over Sentinels: who have not seen round wins that low since their 13-1 loss against Cloud 9 Blue in the VCT Stage 2 NA Upper Bracket Finals. It didn’t stop there, however, as G2 Esports closed the match 2-0, winning the second map, Split, 13-11 and handing Sentinels an unprecedented loss in the group stage.

Although Sentinels certainly are not out of the VCT, they are coming second in their group stage. Despite their historical supremacy in the global VALORANT scene, this unexpected loss raises some serious questions about the future of Sentinels’ legacy.

With G2 Esports being the 4th best team in the EMEA region, Sentinels fans are worried about the upcoming matches against the top 3 teams in the EMEA region: Acend, SuperMassive Blaze, and Gambit Esports.

Acend and SuperMassive Blaze are currently competing in Group A for the second and final spot to make it to the bracket stage, after having already lost the opportunity to qualify together to Vision Strikers, the top seed in the VCT KR Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs and the only Korean team ahead of F4Q.

Most signs point to Acend making it out of the group stage as they have already defeated SuperMassive Blaze 2-0, despite losing to them in the upper bracket finals of the VCT EMEA Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs back in August.

Gambit Esports, however, the winner of the VCT EMEA Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs, who defeated G2 Esports 2-1; Acend 3-1; and SuperMassive Blaze 3-1; poses the biggest challenge to Sentinels’ legacy, on paper, as they have a 1-0 record against G2 Esports.

While this record implies a daunting matchup for Sentinels, Gambit Esports has also already lost the opportunity to seize 1st seed in their group after losing to 100 Thieves, the 2nd place team in the VCT NA Stage 3 Challengers Playoffs behind Sentinels, 2-0. This is great news for Sentinels fans as, historically, Sentinels have a winning record against 100 Thieves, claiming 7 of the 9 matches played against the NA runner-up.

Furthermore, those two losses against 100 Thieves were incurred prior to Sentinels’ signing of TenZ, who is widely considered to be the best professional VALORANT player in the global scene after dominating the previous two stages of the VCT to bring Sentinels the victory in both.

Wrapping Things Up

Despite this small upside, all of the uncertainty surrounding the Sentinels and their loss to a 4th place EMEA team who claimed the final qualifying spot for the international event raises some serious questions about the longevity of their legacy.

At the end of the day, even if the G2 Esports victory was a fluke, there are at least two other, “better” EMEA teams in the bracket whose “flukes” could knock Sentinels out of the championship for real this time.

Now is not the time for Sentinels to fall asleep at the wheel if they want to secure the “three-peat” victory. They were lucky to have been in the group stage for this loss, because the bracket stage will not be nearly as forgiving.

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