Few could have anticipated how the Valorant Champions 2022 semifinal ties would go down. Every prediction and every statistic pointed towards victories for OpTic Gaming and FunPlus Phoenix, but the optics were not good for the NA representative, and the fun abruptly ended for EMEA’s last hope for VCT glory.
There was a slow start to the day’s action, which was reflected in the Istanbul crowd taking some time to warm its vocals. Bind started out about as well as most expected it would for OpTic, which quickly established a 4-1 lead over its Brazilian rival. Coming into the match as one of the favourites to win it all, it appeared that the first of the Valorant maps would not take long to finish.
However, LOUD would not settle for a drubbing, and 4-1 turned into 6-6 by the end of the first half. With Jaccob ‘yay’ Whiteaker on his fabled Chamber, one would think that OpTic would have the Defender side – which it has traditionally performed strongly on – on lock.
But LOUD had other, superior plans, taking seven of the 11 rounds played as the Attackers, ending the map 13-10.
Throughout the Volkswagen Arena fans started to murmur, questioning if LOUD really could 2-0 OpTic. After all, the second map was Ascent – the map LOUD currently has a ridiculous 95% win rate on. In fact, the only team to beat LOUD on Ascent was OpTic itself back in the 2022 Masters Reykjavik grand final.
Unfortunately for OpTic, LOUD’s game plan was simply better, and the Brazilians cruised to a 13-3 victory despite the Istanbul crowd doing everything it could to empower the North American juggernaut.
With the balance of power shaken, the murmurs manifesting an upset became a chorus when FunPlus Phoenix and DRX took to the stage. As DRX established a first half lead on Icebox – a map FPX had yet to drop at Champions – the chants of DRX began, firstly in small pockets scattered throughout the arena, but by the time the Korean representative closed out the map after coming back from 11-8 down, it had infected the bulk of the audience.
Of course, FPX was not going to take losing its map pick lightly, and Haven – which FPX had defeated DRX on in Copenhagen – would see an absolute banger of a finale to the series.
Against the roaring DRX chants, FPX put together a stellar defence, which was bolstered by the introduction of Viper to the international stage on Haven for the first time since 2021’s Masters Reykjavik event. And it wouldn’t be long before one fan with a voice like a foghorn would chant a long, weighty “FPX”, instantly reminding the Istanbul crowd who their regional representative was.
“FPX”, “DRX”, the chants went back and forth throughout the map like a sonic tug of war, neither side of the crowd giving up an inch of space in the airways at its cacophonous peak. FPX went 9-3 up – that cursed scoreline.
Although we don’t believe in the 9-3 curse, we do believe that what happened next was a remarkable show of mental resilience from a DRX team whose mental had been questioned repeatedly in the past.
Round by round, one by one, DRX dismantled FPX on defence. Without dropping a single round, 9-3 turned into 13-9 as DRX completed the sweep. The scenes as the game closed out were ecstatic, with the DRX players turning to celebrate and chant with the crowd which had willed it on throughout the series.
Indeed, with the semifinal results going the way they have, a weird and wonderful precedent has been set for these final two days of play. As we eagerly look forward to DRX vs OpTic later on today, all predictions are fully off the table.
Next time you’re climbing the Valorant ranks and your game is looking doomed, let DRX’s comeback remind you that every game is winnable. Well, nearly every game.