Tier Who? The Guard take down Sentinels, T1 on way to Ludwig x Tarik Invitational grand final

The distinction between franchised and unfranchised is slimmer than we thought.

The upper bracket of the Ludwig x Tarik VALORANT Invitational concluded with a thrill despite time concerns that forced the upper bracket final to be played out as a best-of-one.

The final BO1 of the day took place on Split, a controversial map that only made its return to the competitive VALORANT pool four days ago. In a tightly-contested match, tier two team The Guard prevailed on the map against North American giant Sentinels.

In order to get there, The Guard first had to go through yet another franchised team that will compete in the top division of the VALORANT Champions Tour, Korea’s T1. After beating the Korean team, The Guard were poised and ready to take Sentinels on. Split was a chaotic back-and-forth affair of clashing styles. After being sent into overtime, The Guard prevailed 16-14 and send Sentinels to the lower bracket.

After the franchising chaos of late 2022, many highly skilled players across the world were left without a spot on a franchised roster. The Guard is an example of a team that stuck together to play through the tier two scene despite the organization not receiving a franchising spot. The Ludwig x Tarik Invitational, however, ignores those tier distinctions, giving The Guard an opportunity to show what the can do against the franchised squads.

Returning to their origins as a team, Sentinels opted for a double duelist composition. This type of composition has faded in popularity among professional teams, especially with the rise of the Chamber-focused meta in 2022. But Sentinels, newly equipped with not only TenZ but also star-caliber player zekken, opted for the super-aggressive strategy that found them success all the way back in 2021.

On attack, this strategy worked fairly well, even with the map’s new design.

The newly designed Split proved challenging. The map’s changes now force a heightened emphasis on rotations and controlling mid, since the entry points to both sites A and B are more convoluted. The Guard did a good job of holding their ground, but occasionally the pressure of both TenZ and zekken was too much to hold back.

Trent was on top of his game tonight and used Viper’s kit perfectly to counter Sentinels’ every move.

Noticeably absent from both team’s compositions was Sage, an agent that previously was considered by many to be a must-pick on this map. Her wall and utility were able to control mid and B site in a way not many other agents could. But for The Guard, utilizing Viper and Astra instead seemed to fill that hole better on the map’s new choke points.

Though there were a few moments where The Guard seemed to lack concentration towards heaven, in general Sentinels were shut down, and the unfranchised team kept up with their every move.

In overtime, The Guard remained strong under the leadership of IGL valyn. Off the back of more incredible plays from trent, they finally dismantled Sentinels and proved that the gap between franchising and tier two is slim in North America.

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