The group stage of Challengers Stage 1 is about to kick-off for NA and EMEA, with the top teams moving on to the main event.
This is the first competitive Valorant event of the year and will set the stage for how these teams will perform in 2022.
We have some returning rosters as well as some new-look teams trying to make some noise. Let's get into our predictions.
After a devastating performance in the NA LCQ, Luminosity restructured their roster around moose and their IGL, dazzle, adding TiGG, mada, and bdog.
Already, this team has struggled against top NA teams in 2022. They have losses to Complexity, Rise, NRG, and even TSM on their records to start the year.
It's far too early to write off Luminosity, but they'll probably need to log some more hours before competing with teams at the top of the power rankings.
Knights are another young team that came together at the end of 2021/beginning of 2022.
XXiF and Frosty are the Knights veterans at this point. We'd love them make some noise, but haven't seen it quite yet.
10. Evil Geniuses
Evil Geniuses are starting the year with an almost entirely new roster from 2021.
We'll have to see how the group performs in Challengers, but have high hopes for 2022.
Hopefully, these boys can stick around and gain some chemistry. They're all talented players, but will likely struggle against some of the more established teams in the region.
9. The Guard
The Guard is one of the younger of the top Valorant teams in NA. All of their current members were added in November of 2021 or later.
Still, there is some promise here. The Guard handled both Luminosity and Faze Clan, and XSET already this year, with plans to do more in the Challengers Group Stage.
NRG had a rough 2021 in comparison to the teams ahead of them.
Still, they remain one of the most active teams in the recent past, getting reps in with their recent addition, hazed of TSM.
It doesn't seem likely that this roster will overcome Envy and Sentinels, but I'm open to being proven wrong.
Rise has been trying to break into the top tier of NA Valorant for some time, and 2022 could be their year.
Last year's team is returning for 2022, with almost all of their players having nearly a full year of experience playing with one another.
It's still an uphill battle for Rise, but they're my sleeper pick for Challengers Stage 1.
Version1 and XSET are in similar situations - both underperforming to end 2021 before adding a new player and starting 2022 with consistency.
5 and 6 could be swapped here, but Version1's loss of Vanity and subsequent fall from grace plays a role.
We'll have to see how Zander, V1's new IGL, can elevate the squad in Challengers.
Along with 100 Thieves, XSET was among the NA teams that fans expected to secure a Champions spot through the Last Chance Qualifiers.
After struggling in that event with losses to CLoud9 and the aforementioned 100 Thieves, XSET added free agent Cryocells to their roster.
XSET has only lost one match since then, and looks to continue that trend heading into the Challengers Group Stage.
4. 100 Thieves
There's no other way to say it: 100 Thieves dissappointed fans at the end of 2021.
It's tough to totally blame them, as a surprise drop of Steel ahead of the LCQ was enough for other NA teams to catch up and pass them.
With new toys like BabyJ and IGL, ec1s, we expect a substantial improvement from the hoodie org this season.
They'll need to prove it, though, before they move up in the power rankings.
Envy, the third NA Champions representative, didn't have the best finish to 2021.
Losing to Acend is no big deal, but Envy lost the rematch to X10 CRIT to miss the playoffs and go home early.
Still, Envy is sporting the same roster and was one of only three teams to make it to Champions, justifying an easy 3 spot on the preseason power rankings.
I was about to rank Cloud9 at number 1, just because they were the last NA team standing at Champions - the only one to make the playoffs.
Upon further review, we're giving it to Sentinels. Cloud9 lost to Fnatic in the Group stage but had an easier path to the playoffs - where they were swept by Team Liquid.
Cloud9 is more of a 1B than a 2, but here they are. Their returning Champions roster will look to improve on past success.
Sentinels was once the best team in the world. Sadly, after an NA massacre at Champions, they'll have to settle for the best team in their region.
Although Sentinels didn't make it to playoffs, they lost to Team Liquid - one of the best teams in the world - and KRU - the Cindarella story of the tournament.
Sentinels will look to regain their position as "best team in the world" in 2022. The first step will be securing NA in Challengers 1.