It has surely been a long long journey from the initiation of Valorant to its first Major, of sorts. The obvious ongoing pandemic makes it difficult to have a LAN event, which saw Riot Games announce a string of region-dedicated Majors in the form of Valorant First Strike.
The North American region is considered, by far, the most competitive region right now, and the teams did not disappoint. The viewers were testament to a series of scintillating matchups and the start of new rivalries as the Qualifiers took place. Eight teams managed to book their place in the Finals, with most of the favourites, except Cloud 9 Blue, making it.
There are some players who put in a real shift for their respective teams and were instrumental to their qualification. Yet, they have somehow flown under the radar for a while now and deserve to be highlighted for the sake of the viewers watching, if not for anything else.
Valorant First Strike NA: Three Underrated Stars to Watch
1. Andrew ‘ShoT_UP’ Orlowski | Team: Immortals
The 20-year-old had a brief stint in CSGO and might not have been a household name then, but his stocks have ShoT_UP considerably since switching to Valorant. Andrew has impressive statistics to back his love for duelists and loves to run with Reyna in officials.
ShoT_UP was influential in Immortals’ run to the Finals of the Renegades x Nerd Street Gamers Invitational, losing narrowly in a best of five series in the Finals. The 20-year-old is up there with the best of the best in North America, ranking 3rd in terms of Average Combat Score in officials (262.6) in the region, with a hefty Kill/Death Ratio of 1.25.
Immortals have been able to impress and surprise a lot of fans and experts with their performances and ShoT_UP has been instrumental in that. Pick up any charts or parameter and you will find ShoT_UP in the top 10 of the list in the North American region.
While the 20-year-old failed to be an integral part of Immortals’ qualification to Valorant First Strike due to illness, he will be raring to go up against the bigwigs and prove just why he is starting to be rated so highly by his peers. Up against an ever-improving Envy side in the Quarter-Finals, it will be up to ShoT_UP to win the duels early on and put pressure on the opposition.
2. Andrej ‘BABYBAY’ Francisty | Team: FAZE Clan
Another duelist to appear on our list of underrated stars, FAZE Clan fans would agree that BABYBAY has often been overshadowed by his teammate, Jimmy ‘Marved’ Nguyen. The 25-year-old was one of the stars to make the switch from Overwatch and has proven his mettle against imports from other esports well so far.
In fact, he is THE star of the FAZE Clan Valorant roster in terms of pure numbers recently, boasting an Average Combat Score of 233 in officials in the last couple of months, despite being versatile on the server and not playing the Duelist role in a few matches. BABYBAY’s go to agent is the Jett but he has grown to be equally comfortable on Raze.
One key ingredient in BABYBAY’s play is his ability to rack up kills quickly and in the space of a few rounds, which has often seen him go from having no kills to being on top of the leaderboard in a short space of time. When the 25-year-old gets going, it is tough to find ways to counter his aggressive playstyle and is quite frankly, entertaining to watch from a neutral standpoint.
Now, FAZE Clan are heavy underdogs going up against Sentinels in the Quarter-Finals. However, Sentinels have looked shaky and BABYBAY will directly be up against Shahzeb ‘ShahZaM’ Khan in terms of a straight Jett-Operator duel. FAZE Clan would be pinning their hopes on the 25-year-old to come out on top against the former Csgo professional on the server.
3. Taylor ‘drone’ Johnson | Team: TSM
TSM go into First Strike North America finals as one of the heavy favourites to land the Major win. But, often when the name TSM is mentioned, fans immediately envision the likes of Matthew ‘wardell’ Yu and Yassine ‘Subroza’ Taoufik as the stars of the lineup and perhaps, rightly so.
However, one name that has been continuously keeping his stocks up and stepping up when duty calls is drone. Often regarded as the third duelist in TSM, drone has been so much more, boasting a credible 1.28 K/D throughout his career. What makes him Mr. Dependable in the lineup though, is his ability to convert clutch situations, with a 22% success ratio when it comes to clutches.
A master of finding heads, with 30% headshot ratio, drone has stepped up even more recently, with wardell and Subroza taking turns to have off days. TSM will be up against Renegades, who have truly sprung up as a surprise package recently, with their tactical and calculated playing style. Their opponents also seem masters of cheese strategies and we might have to see the third TSM duelist step up once again to rescue them from the Renegades.
Note: statistics have been extracted from VLR.GG.