Despite a close match and a crowd cheering against them, DRX prevailed.
The VALORANT Champions tournament continued today in Istanbul and the first match of the day was between EMEAs Fnatic and Koreas DRX. These two teams both desperately hoped to move on and avoid elimination. Despite both attending nearly every international VCT tournament, Fnatic have never been able to top second place and DRX continuously seem to get stuck in the playoffs.
But today, DRX broke their top-six curse and ascended to the semifinals of VCT Champions 2022. Despite struggling in the first map, the DRX players rallied together around their stars, BuZz and Rb, and beat Fnatic 2-1 to knock the EMEA team out of the tournament.
The match began on Icebox, Fnatic’s map pick. The team suffered on this map earlier in the tournament during the group stage against FURIA, but overall this year, they’ve relied on Icebox as a strong pick. DRX, on the other hand, hadnt played Icebox yet at Champions, or much during the 2022 season in general.
Fnatic came out swinging and Derke was clearly warmed up, getting a 4k in the opening pistol round. By round three, the Chamber player already had his ultimate. Though Fnatic started off with a handy four-round lead, DRX and their Jett player BuZz slowly started to wake up. They were able to salvage the scary start to the map to be down just 7-5 at the half.
Despite showing signs of hope, DRX were only able to get two rounds on their attack side and lost Icebox 13-7. On Fnatic’s side, one of the best players during this first map was Mistic, who has been showing the best form hes ever had on LAN during this Champions tournament. His supportive gameplay has made a difference several times for his team and his Sage walls on Icebox were both flawless and innovative.
Moving to DRXs map pick, Ascent, both teams opted for a composition that featured Jett. Most teams during VCT Champions havent been playing the duelist at all, instead using Chamber on this map to capitalize on the long sightlines.
The crowd in Istanbul was clearly behind Fnatic the whole way, continuously chanting Alfajers name. Playing on stage in his home country, the 17-year-old continued to perform on LAN and even out-fragged Derke, Fnatics usual star.
Despite Fnatic coming out with another strong performance, Mako and BuZz pushed their team over the line in overtime to silence the EMEA-biased arena and take Ascent. DRX won the map 14-12.
Running on the first bit of momentum they had in the match so far, DRX rushed forward onto Fracture with a blazing pistol round win on defense. BuZz continued his stellar performance, this time on Chamber, and Rb stepped up by playing confidently and aggressively on Neon.
Though the Korean team started to look unbeatable, Fnatic kept up the pace as best they could, shuffling the rounds back and forth in the second half. Compared to his counterpart Rb, who was flying effortlessly around the map, Alfajer struggled to make an impact on Neon and losing his presence was detrimental for Fnatic.
Rb ended the map with a KDA of 21/15, impressive for someone who was taking risks constantly. DRX secured three rounds in a row to take the map 13-9 after a tumultuous half.
DRX took the match 2-1 in close fashion. The cheers for Fnatic died out across the crowd as the DRX players chanted their team name along with their small show of fans in Istanbul.
DRX have now beaten their previous best finish in an international VCT tournament by moving on to the semifinals. They will face the winner of FPX vs. XSET next and hope to continue through the lower bracket to make the grand final.
The team will have two days of rest before their next match on Sept. 16 at 12pm CT.