Welcome! It’s been a little while since we’ve talked Valorant as Fanduel sadly doesn’t offer it anymore. However, with the 1st ever Valorant international LAN starting Monday, May 24th, I wanted to highlight it and take a look at some futures. I won’t be betting anything super heavily at the start of this tournament, as we really don’t know the relative strength of the regions since they’ve never played against each other, and all tournaments have been online so far.
Before we look at the actual odds, it’s important to understand the structure of the tournament. Also because I want to go on a bit of a rant. Up until now I think Riot has done a great job with their professional scene. My only complaint has been that they rush all their tournaments, teams play multiple Bo3’s on the same day even in their major events. This tournament though, holy shit it’s like they held a contest for who could design the worst tournament possible. They whole thing is crammed into 1 week and there are only 10 teams invited. And you can spare me the Covid excuses, because MSI for LoL is currently ongoing had 12 teams invited (only 11 were able to attend), and 3 separate stages across multiple weeks. There’s absolutely no reason they couldn’t have done a similar tournament for their FIRST EVER Valorant LAN.
Even accepting that they are only going with 10 teams, that’s not even close to the end of the issues. Riot decided to combine EU, CIS, and Turkey into one region, and only give them 2 spots in the tournament. I know that CIS (which for anyone not familiar is basically Russia and former Soviet countries) isn’t that big in LoL, but they’re arguably the best region right now in CSGO. To have them combined with Europe and to only give 2 slots is insanity. Especially when somehow Brazil and the rest of LATAM are separate regions. Brazil has 2 spots while LATAM has 1, meaning that South America gets more slots than both NA and EU????????????????????????????????????? Now, South America is strong in CSGO, and I expect them to be competitive with EU and NA, but them getting more slots is absolutely insane.
Okay, okay, so there’s only 10 teams and the breakdown of where they’re from is terrible, but surely the actual structure is good? Something fair that will really give the teams a chance to prove they’re the best in the world? Like a round robin group stage? Guess again. Instead of any sort of group stage there’s an absolutely horrible bracket. It’s double elimination which I guess is good, but beyond that it’s terrible. Here’s the bracket:
Liquid and Sentinels were chosen to get “byes” because they were the winners of the two biggest (by player pool) regions, then the remaining teams were randomly seeded. But they don’t even really have byes as much as there’s an “opening round” akin to the play-in games in the NCAA tournament. It’s set up to have 2 NA/EU matchups in the quarterfinals. And did I mention that 3 of the 4 teams considered to be the favorites (Sentinels, Fnatic, Sharks) are on the same side of the bracket? It’s not great. I’m still excited to see the teams play each other, but man does this structure leave much to be desired.
Anyways, now that that’s out of the system, let’s take a look at the teams/regions before diving into the odds.
For anyone who may not be familiar with FPS (first-person shooter) games or maybe are coming over from LoL, the Western World has traditionally dominated the genre. Asia is usually weak, and from watching the teams play and reading reports coming out of Iceland in scrims, I’m inclined believe that will again be the case here. There are 3 Asian teams in the field.
The Korean winners are NUTURN Gaming. Korea is generally considered the strongest of the 3 Asian regions, and I’d tend to agree. They play meta compositions and are fairly innovative. They have some unique ideas about economy too. When they play Attack if they lose pistols but plant the bomb, they usually force buy sheriffs round 2, while nearly every other team hard eco’s. It gives them a lot better chance to win the 2nd round, although if they lose they’re on another deco (sheriff buy) round 3, which can really hurt their half. NUTURN are hurt more than anything by their placement in the bracket, as they’re in the brutal top half, meaning they’re likely to end up immediately in the lower bracket.
The Japanese winners are Crazy Racoon and the Southeast Asian winner is X10. These regions are both developing, and I wouldn’t expect much out of them in this tournament. They’re simply not as good at utility usage and are usually behind the EU and/or NA meta in terms of agents used.
Moving to South America, the LATAM, so non-Brazilian, winner is Kru esports. Now, while the players aren’t actually from Brazil, they scrim against Brazilian teams all the time and from everything I’ve seen appear to be just as good as the Brazilian teams. This team is a lot of people’s dark horse, and I tend to agree. Unfortunately, they are in probably the worst possible situation in terms of the bracket. Not only are the in the top half, but they drew Fnatic in the “opening round” game. They’re likely to end up in the lower bracket before the tournament even really starts. If they do manage to upset Fnatic, they’d have a nice matchup with Sentinels waiting for them. This team could have some solid value as an underdog (or small favorite) in the lower bracket though.
Within Brazil, Vikings stand out above the crowd. They can play with the trademark Brazilian aggression, but they’re also able to slow the game down and play a controlling style. They’re largely considered to be the 4th best team in the world, joining the 2 EU representatives and Sentinels. Of course, they’re in the brutal top half of the bracket, but they’ll at least only have to face one of Sentinels or Fnatic in the upper bracket. Meanwhile, Sharks are a more typical Brazilian team. They play an in-your-face style, that while it can work against the lower level teams in this tournament, I’d be surprised to see it work against the EU or NA teams. They do get the benefit of being in the bottom half of the bracket, so a small upper bracket run is definitely possible, but I don’t think there’s really any chance to win.
Now, on to the big boys. NA and EU are largely considered to be the top regions. NA has had by far the largest amount of CSGO pros that were in/near the T1 scene switch over to Valorant. NA teams are littered with names you’ll recognize if you played CSGO Draftkings in 2020. EU has not had nearly the same phenomena, almost no one has left the CSGO scene. Now, it is worth noting that NA CS teams that are fringe T1 in NA have gone to Europe and gotten smoked in T3 EU CS, but the point stands. Now the exception to this is Liquid. They have both Scream, who was retired from CS before starting Valorant, but was once a top pro nonetheless, and Jamppi, who until very recently was banned from Valve events so the switch made sense. He is even rumored to be looking at going back to CSGO now that his ban has been lifted.
Unfortunately, V1, the second qualifier from NA, will be playing with a sub. Wippie (who is a Russian citizen on a student Visa in the US) unfortunately was not able to get a Visa in time, so Jammyz will be taking his spot. V1 were already considered by far the weakest of the 4 NA/EU teams, but this hurts their chances even further.
Liquid, Fnatic, and Sentinels are by far the favorites of the tournament. It is well deserved. They set the meta which everyone else ends up copying. Liquid did edge out Fnatic in the EU Challenger finals, but the series truly could’ve gone either way. Meanwhile Sentinels has a habit of starting slowly before coming on strong, which they again did in Challengers, culminating in a decisive victory over V1. If the tournament structure wasn’t so bad I could see any of these teams taking down the tournament.
However, Liquid have a clear advantage because of the horrible structure. Assuming Fnatic beat Kru, which is by no means a cakewalk, they are rewarded with a matchup vs Sentinels. Meanwhile, that will be Sentinels first game on LAN so a slow start is definitely possible while Fnatic will have already been able to get out the jitters. And then the winner of that has to face presumably Liquid in the upper bracket final.
I say presumably Liquid because boy is their path to the upper bracket final free. As free as it can be in a tournament with the supposed top 10 teams in the world. While I think they’re about equal in talent to Sentinels and Fnatic, their easy path makes me like them much more for futures. Anyways let’s take a look at the actual odds to win the tournament.
These are taken from Pinnacle on Sunday afternoon:
Crazy Racoon +3400
I’m not going to do anything crazy with futures, but there are 3 spots that I’m going to make small bets on. Those spots are:
Liquid +312 (1 Unit) – This is primarily because of their easy path to the upper bracket finals. They only have to win 2 series against top teams to win the entire tournament.
Vikings +509 (.5 units) – I think South America could surprise people with the quality of their teams, at least Vikings and Kru. Vikings are essentially a super-team within Brazil, and have the firepower to take down the tournament if things break their way.
Kru +4120(.1 units) – My longshot bet. They have the hardest possible path to win this tournament, but this is a good team. They’re much better than Crazy Racoon and should be better than NUTURN and Sharks, teams that both have much lower odds than Kru. Only a tiny position here, but I do think this team is better than their odds indicate.