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What the Domination of TenZ and cNed Means for the Future of Valorant

Valorant fans saw Tyson “TenZ” Ngo and Mehmet “cNed”Yağız İpek dominate their respective regions in Masters. TenZ had only days of practice with Sentinels, and cNed was an underdog with his team, Acend. Nevertheless, the pair’s domination was relentless, with their gun skills and playmaking abilities causing gameplans to crumble.

Courtesy of Riot Games

While teams like FunPlus Phoenix, Team Heretics and Envy all showed incredibly strong foundations, these teams were all soundly defeated at the hands of an aggressive playmaker. It’s important to note, however, that TenZ and cNed only reached this level of domination after being properly facilitated by their teammates. So what does their domination mean for the future of Valorant? What does it say about upcoming tournaments?

The Playmaker Difference

Courtesy of BLAST

The difference an exceptional playmaker brings to a Valorant team can be monumental. The looming threat of a TenZ or cNed pop-off adds a whole new dimension for the opposing team to play around. TenZ is not just any other Jett on the server, TenZ is a game-changing factor which has to be constantly monitored and tracked to be kept in check.

The resources which a cNed-esque player expends from the opponent leaves less room for them to work with later in the round. It doesn’t matter how strong a post-plant is on paper, if cNed already picked someone off and wasted the enemy’s utility, cNed’s team is going to have the advantage.

The Value of a Stylistic Fit 

Watching TenZ’s potential finally be unleashed during Valorant’s biggest tournament yet had to bring up a mix of emotions for Cloud9 fans. Since he switched over from Cloud9’s Counter Strike roster, fans have been waiting and waiting just to see TenZ pop and take over the region, and now he’s finally doing it, but for a different organization with just days worth of practice. It’s a bit of a shot in the gut to fans who watched Cloud9 struggle to find an identity for months on end, and Sentinels hit the nail on the head instantly. 

The value of a stylistic fit cannot be understated. Sentinels have a roster perfect for facilitating TenZ’s aggression. Cloud9 just wasn’t able to back TenZ up in the chaos of gunfights in the way Sentinels players Hunter “SicK” Mims, Michael “dapr” Gulino and Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan can. 

So, while Cloud9 with TenZ looked like a middling team struggling to break through to the elite, Sentinels with TenZ looks like an unstoppable beast. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a player is individually if their teammates don’t fit stylistically. Note that the opposite can also be true; if players on a team aren’t as talented individually but they synergize well together, the team can still find success regardless. 

Even the Strongest Foundations Can Collapse

Courtesy of cNed

FunPlus Phoenix was thought by many to be the best team in the world heading into Valorant Masters. The mind of Kirill “ANGE1” Karasiow backed by some of the most talented fraggers in Europe has created one of the strongest foundations in the world, and the sturdiness of FPX was visible during the tournament. Despite its strength, FPX still fell victim to the wrath of cNed and Acend. 

TenZ and cNed proved that preparation can only go so far in Valorant. It doesn’t matter who plays more intelligently if TenZ is forcing duels, and his opponent can’t kill him in a gunfight. While preparation and macro play remain two of the most important factors in winning a match in professional Valorant, it’s important to remember that no foundation is unbreakable and that all it takes is one star player to cause gameplans to collapse. 

What Does This Mean for Europe vs. North America?

In Valorant’s one-year history, Europe has produced intelligent teams with sturdy foundations: FunPlus Phoenix, Team Heretics, Fnatic, etc. Meanwhile, across the pond, North America has made a name for itself as a very aggressive, skirmish-heavy region, relying on mechanics and out-dueling as opposed to out-thinking and out-maneuvering. However, that’s not to say teams of both schools of thought don’t exist in both regions. Envy is a great example of a North American team which plays a very cerebral game, while Acend loves to frag whenever it can. But with no international play having yet occurred, we can’t yet say which style will win out in the long run.

So what does TenZ and cNed’s domination mean for future NA vs. EU matches? Well, in truth, we still can’t say…

While yes, TenZ and cNed did prove that a stand-out playmaker can cause the collapse of stable foundations, we also learned that Valorant is simply an unpredictable game. No one expected TenZ and Sentinels to dominate the way they did; similarly, no one expected cNed to pop off the way he did despite everyone knowing his potential. 

Just because the aggressive playmakers won this time, who is to say that strong foundational play won’t win out the next? Is it not possible that ANGE1, Pujan “FNS” Mehta and other IGL’s and coaches will develop strategies to counter the TenZ’s and cNed’s of the world? The Valorant scene is just too young to be able to definitively say one way or the other. 

TenZ and cNed’s domination will be long remembered, but with Stage One now behind us, the scene moves forward as Stage Two begins. Masters 2, Valorant’s first-ever international tournament in Reykjavik, Iceland, is just a few months away, and fans will just have to wait to see how the action unfolds. 

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