North America's first major VALORANT tournament, the T1 x Nerd Street Gamers VALORANT Showdown, kicked off the VALORANT competitive season in earnest this past weekend.
While previous events had included a mixture of popular streaming personalities and aspiring pros, the T1 x NSG Showdown was the first true competitive NA event, with recently announced competitive squads facing off in a group and then double-elimination tournament bracket.
The T1 x NSG Showdown also offered the largest snapshot to date of the competitive meta in North American VALORANT. Here are some key takeaways.
Viper is still not a priority in North America, and other differences from Europe
Despite recent buffs to Viper, she still only saw play a grand total of twice out of a possible 154 times (1% pick rate) she could have been picked. Although there are a few Viper players in Europe who have stuck with her and seen occasional success, the same has not happened yet in North America.
Other differences between Europe and North American VALORANT can be seen in Jett and Breach priority. During the T1 x NSG Showdown, Group D went without a single Jett pickup, while no team in Group B picked up Breach at all.
Mini metas in the group stages
We're still in VALORANT esports' infancy, which is one of the reasons why tracking these statistics is so much fun. That newness also mean that some interesting mini-metas were born in the individual groups of the T1 x NSG Showdown.
The most notable one was that of Group C, where wildly-popular streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins and his team played the same composition of Sage, Sova, Omen, Raze and Jett in every match. While it makes sense for Ninja's team to continuously lock in what they're best at -- Ninja is good at the game but not at the pro level -- it also skewed the Group C numbers significantly.
Group C had the highest Jett priority at 50% which is courtesy of Team Ninja (six of the total 13 Group C Jett picks) and Code 7 (seven of the total Group C Jett picks). This group also had the highest Omen priority at 77 percent (tied in Group C with Cypher who had the highest pick rate overall in the entire tournament) which can partially be explained by Team Ninja sticking to their specific composition. Omen is also heavily prioritized on Ascent and Ascent made it into every single match in this group. Both Omen and Sova, the two must-picks on Ascent, were 100% picked in every Group C Ascent match.
Expanding that outward, Omen had a 75% pick rate on Ascent in Groups A and D and a 67% pick rate on Ascent in Group B. Meanwhile Sova enjoyed a 100% pick rate on Ascent across all groups save Group A, where he was not picked by Together We Are Terrific, who preferred the Reyna selection more than other teams.
Other outliers included the aforementioned absence of Breach in all of Group B and similar absence of Jett in all of Group D. North American teams don't value these as highly as their European counterparts. However, as the tournament progressed, top teams like Team SoloMid and T1 showcased just how powerful Jett and Breach, respectively, could be.
TSM locked in Jett for Matthew "Wardell" Yu in half of their group stage games with heavier priority on her in the later bracket stages. As an aside, TSM's dominance and the fact that they came through the winners bracket (along with Cloud9 and Tyson "TenZ" Ngo being eliminated in groups) could be one of the reasons why Jett has such a low pick rate in the T1 x NSG Showdown compared to some community expectations.
In groups, Breach saw the most play in Group D, which should come as no surprise given how Sentinels' Shahzeeb "ShahZaM" Khan favors that agent. Group D's Sentinels and Gen.G both prioritized the Breach.
Are Sage-less compositions worth it?
Since the VALORANT beta, there's been a lot of talk about Sage and her ridiculous amount of utility as well as being the only agent with heal and resurrection abilities, which are contentious parts of any competitive game and multiple esports.
Due to her high pick rate, Sage has received round after round of nerfs, but until recently, they still weren't enough to deter teams from picking Sage at every competitive event. Part of this has nothing to do with her numbers and everything to do with the fact that, unlike other agents in the game, she has no healer counterpart to contend with. Sage was (and arguably still is) an essential part of every competitive VALORANT team composition.
Now, after the latest round of Sage nerfs, teams are beginning to challenge that idea with Sage-less compositions. Over in Europe, where teams tend to experiment more with agent picks or simply stick to agents that their specific players are best at, teams have already tested out Sage-less compositions in tournaments. They also made an appearance in the T1 x NSG Showdown.
Cloud9 and TSM were the two most high-profile teams really testing out running something other than Sage in groups, although Code 7 also went Sage-less, favoring Reyna in a Reyna, Sova, Omen, Jett and Cypher composition.
TSM had the most success, forgoing Sage on Ascent for a Brimstone/Sova/Omen/Phoenix/Cypher composition that destroys opponents with an excess amount of smokes and vision. Cloud9 tried to do something similar on Haven and Bind with a Jett/Brimstone/Breach/Cypher template and adding Raze on Bind or Phoenix on Haven, but they lost all three games.
While the jury is still out on going Sage-less if you look at the winrate, TSM's insistence on running their smoke-heavy Ascent composition was one of the more interesting things at the T1 x NSG Showdown. They're indisputably the best team in North America right now, so perhaps other teams will start giving these types of compositions a chance.
We'll know that they've become more meta once teams become comfortable enough with them that they force a mirror matchup, at least on Ascent.