We are reaching the latter stages of Valorant Champions 2022 and on Sunday evening we said goodbye to Team Liquid and Leviatan, after their respective losses to FNATIC and FunPlus Phoenix in the lower bracket.
Our attention now turns to the upper bracket, with Monday's matches determining the two teams that will reach the upper final on Friday.
The losers will still have the chance for redemption in the lower bracket, but all four sides will be desperate to avoid that route.
To say that DRX has been a dominant force at Valorant Champions would certainly be an understatement. The South Korean side have brushed aside every team that has come to challenge them in Istanbul and they will be looking to protect their perfect map record against LOUD.
To illustrate their dominance, DRX have won all three of their matches thus far by a 2-0 scoreline, breezing past VCT Masters: Copenhagen champions FunPlus Phoenix, 100 Thieves and FURIA to reach this point.
Throughout this tournament, BuZz has been a driving force to DRX's success, with his Jett and Chamber play causing no end of problems for the opposition. DRX have been able to rely on other individuals too, such as Rb and Zest, and there seems to be little chinks in their armour.
LOUD, Grand Finalists at VCT Masters: Reykjavik, put in a lacklustre performance in Copenhagen but have bounced back in Turkey. Their opening playoff victory over Leviatan was a return to their best, with all their individuals doing their part in a clinical performance over their domestic rivals.
They will need the same again if they are to defeat DRX, however, as their South Korean opponents have been able to rely on all five of their players to step up when required throughout the tournament.
Despite DRX’s dominance thus far, they are the narrow 8/15 favourites, which is a small surprise. If they play to the level they have shown in all three of their matches thus far, it is going to be extremely tough for LOUD to gain a foothold in this series.
The Brazilians are 11/8 outsiders in this match and given DRX's versatility across the map pool, it would be no real surprise to see this game end in two maps, likely in the favour of DRX.
Yesterday saw domestic rivals FNATIC and Team Liquid lock horns, with the former coming out on top in a barn-burning three-map series.
We have another domestic encounter in store for the second semi-final, with North American sides OpTic Gaming and XSET locking horns.
OpTic have widely been considered one of the game's best teams since Riot's tournament circuit began, as evidenced by their win at VCT Masters: Reykjavik.
They did not manage to go back to back when exiting in the lower bracket final in Copenhagen, however, and they have been workmanlike in Istanbul thus far.
Although they have won all three of their matches, they have all gone the distance and they were forced to dig deep against a plucky Team Liquid in their most recent match.
It was yay who helped pull them over the line with a herculean 249-ADR on the final map of Ascent, reminding us all of why he is a contender for 2022’s player of the year.
When yay is in the zone, he is almost unstoppable, and another top performance by the North American seems inevitable.
His brilliance is usually flanked by the strong performances of Marved and Victor, two players that OpTic will need to step up alongside their MVP if they are to come out on top.
XSET have been an emerging force in North America and staked their claim to the region's throne by defeating OpTic 3-1 to win VCT NA S2: Challengers back in June.
An early exit in Copenhagen did them no favours in that regard, but they have bounced back in no uncertain terms at this tournament, dropping just one map in victories over XERXIA, FunPlus Phoenix and FNATIC.
They have had the toughest run of any of the semifinalists and that aforementioned 2-0 victory over FNATIC proved that they were a contender to win this tournament.
OpTic come into the game as the 4/7 favourites, while XSET are narrow 5/4 outsiders. Given that these sides are domestic rivals, they will know each others' play styles very well, and we can expect a well-orchestrated game of Valorant.
XSET have the momentum but if this turns into a three-map brawl, OpTic will be more than happy, as they seem to always find a way.