The first year of professional Valorant was dominated by two regions: EMEA and NA. NA had their time in the sun before EMEA came back with a vengeance to close out the year.
Although several teams rose and fell in both regions, they remained at the top of the heap in the eyes of viewers and analysts.
This year, heading into Masters 1, we expected to see much of the same. Liquid, Fnatic, G2, The Guard, and OpTic were the four favorites to win the event.
Now, with the final four set, only OpTic remains in the hunt.
Minor regions lul
Fnatic lost to NIP and ZETA DIVISION back-to-back to be one of the first teams eliminated from the Group Stage. Team Liquid fell to LOUD and ZETA DIVISION in the playoffs.
The Guard lost to Paper Rex after falling to OpTic in the first round (friendly fire, doesn't count). G2 beat ZETA DIVISION before losing to LOUD and Paper Rex.
OpTic hasn't lost, and they're now the last team standing from NA or EMEA. They're joined by LOUD out of Brazil, Paper Rex out of APAC, and ZETA DIVISION out of Japan.
These are three regions that were considered "weaker" going into 2022. All three have at least one EMEA and NA scalp to their name.
In retrospect, we saw the makings of the current landscape at last year's Champions event. It was the first time that other regions stood a significant chance of winning, but EMEA was still the big brother to everyone.
Now, NA's undefeated OpTic looks like a favorite to win after fighting through the Group Stage. Brazil's Loud will be waiting for them when the action resumes on April 22 to see which one will secure the first spot in the Grand Finals.
The good news for all Valorant fans is that the future of the VCT will be a whole lot more exciting than it was in its first year.
"Minor regions" have caught up, and are finally beginning to win the meta battle that EMEA and NA had on lock.
I'm already excited for the next Masters, to see how other NA and EMEA teams react to their newfound competition.