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In August 2023, Riot Games officially announced the addition of China to the Valorant Champions Tour, making it the fourth International League in the history of professional Valorant. Along with the Pacific, EMEA, and American regions, China is now part of the premier level of competition in Valorant.
In order to qualify for the VCT or Valorant Champions Tour China, Riot Games, in partnership with TJ Sports has established a promotional tournament set to take place in December 2023. Qualification for the promotional tournament will be determined by the number of points acquired in the Valorant China Evolution Series, also known as the Fearless Covenant China Evolution Series Open Tournament.
The teams invited to participate in the Valorant China Evolution Series include squads from several prominent LPL teams such as EDward Gaming, Bilibili Gaming, Weibo Gaming, JD Gaming, LNG Esports, Rare Atom, and Royal Never Give Up. Interestingly, FunPlus Phoenix has found its way back to Chinese home soil after shifting its base from EMEA back to its home geography in China. However, they will not receive direct admittance to the Champions Tour at the end of the year despite having already won a Masters event in 2022.
The Evolution Series is split into three major legs: Act 1: Variation, Act 2: Selection, and Act 3: Heritability. The playoff stage of Act 1 kicks off on September 23. All games in this leg follow a double elimination bracket with winners being decided by the best of three rounds, while the Lower Final and Grand Final are best of five. The top four teams will move on to Act 2: Selection, which follows a format similar to the opening leg of the tournament.
Act 2 will also feature a separate Play-In stage allowing fresh teams to occupy the four remaining slots in the tournament. The top four teams from Act 2 will then move on to Act 3, the grand final of the Valorant Evolution Series. The double-elimination format and best-of-five structure remain the same across the three acts. Teams with the most points at the end of the three Acts of the Evolution Series will receive entry into the Chinese leg of the VCT, scheduled for December 2023.
FunPlus Phoenix has already qualified for the Valocation Champions Tour 2023: China tournament by finishing the qualifier in third place behind EDward Gaming and Bilibili Gaming. The qualification also granted them a direct invitation to the Evolution Series. Even if they perform poorly at the upcoming tournament, which is unlikely to happen, they will still be able to participate in the inaugural Valorant Championship Tour China.
On the other hand, Rare Atom competes at a slightly lower level. They had to go through the open qualifiers and play-in rounds to receive entry into the Valorant Evolution Series. Rare Atom has fielded a Valorant team only starting in February 2023, while FunPlus Phoenix has hovered at the very top of international professional Valorant esports since 2021. In 2022, they won their first Masters in Copenhagen, effectively making them one of the very best Valorant teams in the world. Accordingly, it’s easy to see why the sportsbooks have rated FunPlus Phoenix so highly in the upcoming tournament.
FunPlus Phoenix and Rare Atom have never played against each other in the past. However, if we go by the rankings, FunPlus Phoenix comes in at #7 while Rare Atom are ranked #393 in the world. The disparity in skill levels is surely going to be a crucial factor in the upcoming match in the opening round of the Valorant China Evolution Series.
Despite being so highly rated against their opponents for this upcoming matchup, FunPlus Phoenix is likely to play a conservative game to get a feel for the current tournament. For 2023, the team is playing with a refreshed roster featuring Chinese players AAAAY, TZH, WudiYuChEn, and Lysoar, Taiwanese player BerLIN and Australian player autumn. With an average player age of 20 years, the team took the world by storm when they pulled off their now-famous Masters win in 2022.
However, they were not able to find any consistency since the big win and experienced a slight skid in form shortly after. At the VCT 2023 Lock In tournament, they finished towards the bottom of the table, with a final ranking of 17th-32nd. This could be due to the fact that since the Masters win, FunPlus Phoenix underwent a complete roster change.
Their most recent outing at the Valorant Champions 2023 tournament didn’t provide an opportunity to shock the world either, with the team improving slightly, but still bowing out with a finish in 13th to 16th place.
While Rare Atom is in good form overall, they have not been anywhere near the level of competition that FunPlus Phoenix has. With that said, they did win both the open qualifiers and play in stages of the Valorant China Evolution Series.
While it’s impossible not to rule it out completely, there’s a small chance that Rare Atom will put up more of a fight than what is expected of them. Currently, the active squad consists of Chinese players MarT1n, Spitfires, Viva, and YiHao along with Korean players stew and yeoman.
With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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