Endurance key to LG winning VALORANT Winter Championship

by Bill Baer

Look up the word “endurance” in the dictionary and you’ll see a picture of Luminosity Gaming’s VALORANT roster. The squad went the literal distance to win the Nerd St Gamers VALORANT Winter Championship.

After losing their opening match of the tournament to XSET, LG escaped victorious in four consecutive 2-1 series, including 152 rounds in the playoffs on Saturday, to earn the right to play Sentinels in the grand finals on Sunday. LG defeated Sentinels — in five maps, of course, which spanned 119 rounds — to take the championship.

LG’s roster is incomplete, with only three players on the active squad: in-game leader Alex “aproto” Protopapas, Brenden “stellar” McGrath and Brady “thief” Dever. Diondre “YaBoiDre” Bond and Kaleb “moose” Jayne filled out the roster as temporary stand-ins during both the NSG x Complexity Invitational and the Winter Championship.

In two Group C win-or-go-home matches, Luminosity did their best work when they had their backs against the wall. Facing 2D in the elimination match, LG dropped the first map before storming back to win the next two. In LG’s rematch with XSET in the decider match, XSET took the first map, followed by two map wins by LG.

In the quarterfinals on Saturday, Luminosity played what might have been the second-most memorable series of the entire tournament. LG and NRG went to overtime on Split, with Luminosity narrowly escaping 16-14. The two sides again went to overtime on Map 2, Bind, with NRG emerging victorious 19-17. Luminosity closed out the series with a more comfortable Map 3 win.

Capping off a slog of a day, LG split the first two maps with Equinox in the semifinals, but it was in the third game that Luminosity’s tenacity and endurance shined through. Equinox jumped out to an 8-4 lead at halftime, but LG responded by going 9-1 on defense in the second half to take it 13-9.

On Sunday, Luminosity entered their match with Sentinels as heavy underdogs. Despite VALORANT’s brief history, Sentinels are already a highly decorated team, finishing first in the PAX Arena Invitational, Pop Flash and the JBL Quantum Cup. Sentinels could arguably be the game’s No. 1 team in a ranking of North American teams.

Luminosity and Sentinels went to overtime on the first map, Icebox, with Luminosity barely winning 15-13. LG then jumped out to a 2-0 series lead with a 13-10 regulation win on Bind. Back on their map pick, Sentinels won the next two maps to send the series to a fifth and final game.

LG showcased their stamina and resilience yet again when facing elimination. Five maps and 119 rounds with Sentinels later, Luminosity won the tournament and $15,000.

All told, Luminosity played 438 rounds and just over 14 hours throughout the tournament.

  • vs. XSET: 1 hour, 8 minutes
  • vs. 2D: 2 hours, 16 minutes
  • vs. XSET: 1 hour, 53 minutes
  • vs. NRG: 2 hours, 54 minutes
  • vs. Equinox: 2 hours, 3 minutes
  • vs. Sentinels: 3 hours, 46 minutes

In contrast, Sentinels played only 335 rounds at the Winter Championship.

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It would have been impressive if Luminosity had secured non-competitive 2-0 wins over all of their opponents throughout the tournament. It is, in many respects, even more impressive that LG managed to stave off elimination as many times as they did (five times, to be exact) continuing to stick to their game plan and nailing down their shots when they needed to most.

The fact that none of Luminosity’s individual players had standout stats overall shows the importance of team play in VALORANT. In the Sentinels series, Stellar was the only one in the green with a +8. YaBoiDre had a plus/minus of 0, while moose, thief and aproto registered -3, -7 and -15, respectively.

It’s easy to look at aproto’s -15 and think he wasn’t carrying his weight, but the stats don’t show how important his Cypher — which he played in Games 2 through 5 against Sentinels — was to his teammates, extracting valuable information over the course of those final 91 rounds.

Aproto also shined in Game 11 of Match 5. Armed with just a Sheriff, he turned a sure loss into a win for LG. With successive shots, he hit both Michael “dapr” Gulino and Hunter “SicK” Mims with headshots. He took a breath, then fired one more shot into Shahzeeb “ShahZaM” Khan’s head for good measure. Through the smoke, aproto shot a couple times and landed another headshot on Jared “zombs” Gitlin for a quad kill. He was not able to pull off the ace, however, as Jay “sinatraa” Won finally took him down, but Luminosity won the round they were supposed to lose.

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Just two-and-a-half weeks into the new year, the Winter Championship is in the books and the VALORANT Champions Tour is just around the corner. You could say Luminosity’s performance has created a lot of fluidity among the top VALORANT teams in North America, creating tons of intrigue for upcoming tournaments. Luminosity are certainly in the mix for “best team,” especially once they finalize an actual five-man active roster and get a chance to prove that their performance over the weekend wasn’t just a fluke.

Image credit: Luminosity Gaming/Twitter

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