The first Valorant Masters of 2022 is only four days away, as teams travel to Reykjavik ahead of the scheduled matches.
We're now into the second full year of professional Valorant, and narratives are starting to take shape.
Ahead, we'll discuss the biggest storylines that we'll be watching when the players take the main stage.
Even as an NA fan, it's impossible to ignore that EMEA seems to have pulled ahead in recent months.
Professional Valorant changes on a dime, but the recent Masters and Champions winners have all come out of the EMEA region.
That said, the winner of EMEA, FunPlux Phoenix, won't be participating in this event. G2 and Fnatic lead the way as the frontrunners.
Teams I wouldn't be surprised to see win the whole thing: G2, Fnatic, The Guard, and OpTic Gaming.
Prove me wrong, all other regions but EMEA and NA.
As usual, the underdogs tend to be any team that isn't coming out of EMEA and NA. At this point, it might be appropriate to say that even NA teams are underdogs.
Ninjas in Pyjamas, XERXIA, LOUD and DRX will all be making their international debut in Masters 1, so it's probably a long-shot that any of them they'll take home a win.
Some underdogs with a bit more of a chance include KRU, The Guard, and ZETA DIVISION. Even Team Liquid could fall into this category, considering the fact that they weren't supposed to qualify.
The Cindarella story
Although there are bigger underdogs going into Masters 1, the Cindarella story of the event has to be The Guard from NA.
The freshest team in the region consistently beat the established teams in NA, giving them the first seed and allowing them to skip the Group Stage.
As an NA fan, I'll be rooting for them to finish their Cindarella story with a championship - which could be NA's best chance.
Can KRÜ repeat their Champions success?
One of the biggest stories out of Champions 2021 was KRÜ Esports, who defied expectations to make it out of a tough group stage to make a deep run into the playoffs.
After making it through Sentinels in groups, KRÜ took on Fnatic in the playoffs before losing a hard-fought series to Gambit in the semi-finals.
No one expected KRÜ to make it this far, but we're not falling for it this time.
I'm not expecting KRÜ to win, but it will be interesting to see if they were able to improve enough to take the next step.
Was it a fluke run or is KRÜ another Valorant powerhouse? Masters 1 will answer that question.
Liquid's lucky break
Liquid fell short of qualification in the EMEA playoffs, placing fourth after losses to FunPlus Phoenix and G2.
Fortunately for them - and unfortunately for CIS Valorant fans - FPX won't be attending the event due to the war in Ukraine.
This means that Liquid will be taking their place. It would be quite a story if a team that wasn't supposed to qualify wins the whole thing.