Comebacks and stomps were seen on day one of the first international VALORANT event of the year, and day two might follow in its footsteps.
Karmine Corp will face off against FunPlus Phoenix in the VCT LOCK//IN tournament, while DRX will face off against Paper Rex in the BBL Esports championship. Three teams will be sent home while the other three will continue in the single-elimination Alpha bracket.
Here are my own predictions for today's VCT LOCK/IN tournament.
Karmine Corp vs. FunPlus Phoenix
I won't pretend to know everything about the Chinese teams that will compete in this event, although I don't think the majority of the players know much. Despite this, we have some important findings to report on when it comes to the caliber of the region.
EDward Gaming was eliminated by FunPlus Phoenix in the FGC VALORANT invitational tournament in December, but they were eventually eliminated 2-1 in Champions 2022, the most prestigious event on the calendar.
The problem is that we're talking about FPX rather than EDG. Both teams appear to be fairly similar on paper in terms of skill level, but we've never seen FPX on the international stage, which is quite different from regional matches.
Karmine Corp., on the other hand, has one of the most well-known and prolific fraggers in FPS esports history, ScreaM, who even took up the position of in-game leader for his team. I don't expect them to go deep into the tournament, but this should be a victory for them.
ScreaM and Nivera, two players who have competed at the highest level in VALORANT, have been added to Karmine Corp. from the previous KCorp iteration. He looked solid considering he was playing a bunch of different agents.
xms, a former MAD Lions player, is now on the KCorp roster, and he hard-carried his former team. According to VLR.gg, he had the highest rating of any player with a 1.32 and a decent 250.9 average combat score.
The blue wall is nothing to scoff at, and they have a solid roster to cheer for. I expect KCorp to win this match.
BBL Esports vs. DRX
At this event, the DRX have a lot of eyes on them. They seem to only lose against international opponents and remain the dominant force in the APAC region. After all, the roster is the child of the legendary Vision Strikers team.
To achieve success, they must overcome the last obstacle that has kept them from achieving an international trophy since their inception. Do I anticipate this to happen at the largest international VALORANT tournament ever held? Maybe.
All things considered, DRX have had a relatively easy start to the tournament. BBL Esports are pretty middle of the pack in the EMEA region with mediocre results. If they were facing Team Liquid, Natus Vincere, or Fnatic, I would have felt different.
Last November, BBL Esports was defeated by the Giants as their most recent match. DRX took part in the ONE Pro Invitational tournament in December and won both their matches against DetonatioN FocusMe and ZETA Division.
BBL Esports is expected to put up a fight, but I don't see them winning against one of the world's best teams.
DRX will withdraw from this tournament after the second or third round, aiming to win the Masters in June, according to early estimates. I know, this is a fairly bold statement, right? Fans from across the world can probably agree that they must demonstrate that they can hang with the very best.
DRX will at the very least take the first blood, however.
Cloud9 vs. Paper Rex
This is the big one. Here's a matchup that will see one of North America's best teams compete against one of the best teams from APAC.
Cloud9 have some high expectations as the organization acquired the best player in the world at the time, yay, along Zellsis, who was one of the best initiator players at the time under Sentinels and Version1.
Paper Rex has the same core that dominated the APAC region and was just inches from winning Masters Copenhagen against FunPlus Phoenix last year.
C9 are the better team on paper, but you shouldn't be tempted to dismiss them under any circumstances, because they have a unique fast-paced playstyle, one that yay has deemed "unpredictable."
If C9 loses this match, I wouldn't be surprised. Paper Rex are an extremely tough opponent to face in your opening game. Their last match against a North American team was OpTic Gaming at Masters Copenhagen in July 2022. They won this match 2-1.
Just to clarify, these guys are terrifying. This is why I'm predicting the first major upset of the tournament to be Paper Rex moving forward in the event with a victory against C9.