Former OpTic core shines in NRG debut at VCT LOCK//IN

Despite a shaky start, NRG look strong.

The first match of the official 2023 VCT season kicked off today in São Paulo, Brazil, where the best VALORANT players in the world have converged for the start of the franchised league.

The tournament’s first matchup was between two heavyweights, North America’s NRG and EMEA’s KOI. Both teams feature players who have won previous Masters stages of the old VCT format.

Though both rosters have their stars, all eyes were on NRG since three former players of OpTic made their way onto the franchised North American roster. In-game leader FNS is joined by former teammates Victor and crashies, with s0m and former EMEA player ardiis to round out the five-man squad.

NRG had a shaky start to their first big match of 2023, but in the end, they pulled out the win 2-0 over KOI.

NRG opted to start out on Icebox, far from a surprise map pick given the history of the former OpTic team. They opted to lock in a composition that featured no duelist and no Chamber, a result of a shifting meta that has seen the French agent all but disappear from the agent roster.

Despite this compositional choice, NRG were still highly aggressive even when starting out on defense. They chose to take close fights, pushing up on B site to meet KOI. But unfortunately for the North American team, this didn’t quite work out as they might have envisioned.

KOI opted for a composition that featured Jett in a fragging role, a prediction that has been floating around in some other camps prior to LOCK//IN. Their Jett player, Wolfen, was making his international LAN debut today and overall performed well on a roster surrounded by former champions. Yet two of these former stars, sheydos and starxo, hadn’t seen international LAN play since 2021.

After four rounds straight of KOI bulldozing their way through a confused-looking NRG, the North American team finally got themselves on the board, though it wasn’t the cleanest approach.

S0m continued to stand his ground and was the pivot point for NRG to start making their comeback. Even on desperate save rounds, s0m used a Marshal and his Viper utility to make the most out of each chance his team got.

Round 10 was the turning point for the map.

NRG somehow managed to execute a flawless retake, which left even the casters surprised since the round was far from clean and calculated.

From there, once NRG got settled on their attack, they were able to finish out Icebox with a close scoreline of 13-11.

The two teams pulled out mirrored compositions on Haven, and it was time for NRG to show off the expertise of ardiis.

There is considerable pressure on ardiis’ shoulders coming into LOCK//IN because he is being widely regarded as the replacement for former Chamber master yay. Despite a slow start on Icebox, ardiis came alive on Jett after some warm-up time and looked as crisp as ever.

NRG took Haven 13-9, breathing a bit easier after a tense Icebox.

The LOCK//IN single-elimination bracket means that KOI are now out of the tournament. We will see them again later in the VCT season.

NRG will face off against the winner of DetonatioN FM vs. Giants, who play later today.

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