This article is part of our VALORANT series.
The VCT Champions 2022 group stages are closing up with the best teams in the world set to compete for the world title in 2022. With Masters 2 silver medalists Paper Rex already eliminated and some of Europe's top teams already faltering here's a look at some players to target and fade in the knockout stage.
Players to Target
OpTic Gaming's sniper yay has been inconsistent of late, but on the international stage with everything to play for he has stepped up in a huge way. yay has a 1.34 rating currently through the group stage and is looking set to guide OpTic to the business end of yet another international event. The sniper has been in brilliant form and with OpTic qualifying as one of the top seeds it looks likely that he could have the chance to compete for the title once more. The only concern for OpTic is the inability they've shown to compete with European teams, which they didn't have to face in the group stage.
A second North American player in the blue, and it's another utterly unsurprising superstar - Zekken. This is one of the top riflers in the world and he's finally getting the chance to show that on the international stage. Zekken has long formed one of the most deadly duos in North America alongside Cryocells but in their previous international event they fell out at the first opportunity. That wasn't going to happen twice in a row as Zekken and co. not only advanced through the group stage, but won their group. Zekken has been showing some absurd form with a 1.27 rating and with a top seed in the playoffs there's no reason XSET can't compete for the title.
Shy is the support and entry for Leviatan, but at VCT Champions 2022 he has looked like one of the best players in the world. Despite his tough role Shy has put up a 1.30 rating, the third best in the tournament and the best of any of the South American rosters. Shy has been in excellent form before Champions though there were doubts about his ability to take that level to international play. Those doubts were evidently pointless as Shy has shown a level matched by only the top players in the world so far, and led Leviatan to the top spot in their group.
Players to Fade
Enzo isn't a bad player by any means, but VCT Champions 2022 has been an awful event for Fnatic's support as he continues to show some of the worst play of his career with a 0.77 rating at the event. Fnatic is in a decider match against 100 Thieves and if Enzo doesn't step up it's possible that the team many tipped as the best team in the world will be going home early. Enzo would also be a candidate atop any sort of "bounce back" list, but still, it's hard to pay a premium for a player that's best-case scenario is bouncing back to their usual superstar level.
XSET has done phenomenally well to win their group and qualify for the knockout stage as a top seed, but despite that AYRIN left the group stage with a 0.80 rating and sits among the worst players left in the event. XSET will need their in-game leader at his absolute individual best if they are going to make a surprising deep run in Champions. Fantasy managers will be hoping for the same thing, but the real question is if AYRIN's best is even worth targeting and I tend to think not. Add in that he's taking on the seven other best teams in the world and it's impossible to trust AYRIN.
The entry for ZETA Division finds himself in the red after an awful Week 1 where he left with a 0.83 rating despite playing some of the higher priority agents. ten and ZETA are in a decider and still have the chance to take down LOUD and make their way into the knockout stage. Even if they qualify for the knockout stage it's hard to trust ten who has been taking a role on duelists and struggling to convert his chances. Laz has been the superstar of ZETA Division and he's the player to target from this roster. ten could always bounce back to his domestic level, but it's hard to predict that when he's struggled so mightily in international competition.
Stats courtesy of Thespike.gg