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Shroud Joining Sentinels Is Set to Drive Engagement to Record Heights

Shroud Valorant Settings
Esports

Shroud Joining Sentinels Is Set to Drive Engagement to Record Heights

shroud has been retired from competitive play for four years. So why did he suddenly decide to restart his competitive career?

Michael “shroud” Grzesiek was recently announced as the final piece of Sentinels’ Valorant team. He is rounding out the active roster following Hunter “SicK” Mims’s announcement that he would not be competing with the team for the North American Last Chance Qualifier, which will take place in August following the conclusion of Masters 2: Copenhagen next week.

However, after being retired from competition for over four years, and with his Twitch and YouTube channels being among the most prominent in the FPS space, why would shroud return to competitive play? While we might not truly know unless we ask him ourselves, here are some speculations as to why shroud might have chosen to dive into the Valorant esports world as a player.

The Competitive Itch Never Truly Goes Away

Anyone who has competed in high-level competition knows that one’s competitive drive and spirit rarely ever fade away entirely. After years of competing and countless hours of honing skills to be the best, it’s tough to simply walk away from something that was such a massive part of one’s life. It’s the same reason why many coaches in professional sports had previous careers as professional players.

Shroud has indicated on recent streams that this was a major contributing factor to his decision to return to competitive play. In fact, it was he who reached out to Sentinels to put his name in the hat of potential candidates for the team, rather than the team reaching out to him to see if he was interested in competing once more.

Those aware of shroud’s history in competitive FPS games know that he rose to prominence through Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with Cloud9, from 2014 up until his departure from the active roster in 2017 and eventual retirement from competition in 2018 to pursue streaming — though, his announcement of retirement didn’t fully stop him from trying his hand at competing in minor tournaments with friends. In late 2018 he competed with Samuel “SileNt” Portillo, Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert, Sean “[email protected]” Gares, and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham on Old Guys Club in the Katowice 2019 qualifiers.

They took first place in the fourth open qualifier, giving themselves a ticket to the closed qualifier against 16 other teams that would be fighting for a spot in the Americas Minor Championship, but the squad opted to forfeit their matches and not continue to participate in the tournament. Diehard fans would’ve certainly wanted shroud and company to continue to test their prowess against other top teams, but a less stressful life outside of competition appealed to shroud more, and his growth on his Twitch and YouTube channels certainly reflected it.

New Engagement Heights for Both Parties

This isn’t the first time shroud has dabbled into competing in Valorant competition, however. Last year he competed with a number of streaming personalities as What’s going on in the Stage 3 Challengers qualifiers. That squad bowed out in the round of 64 to ez5, who later ended up forming the first core of Akrew in Fall 2021. Although it was his first time competing in the VCT, he did compete in Twitch Rivals events shortly after Valorant’s launch with other popular content creators.

Furthermore, he’s participated in a host of streamer competition events in PUBG, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Valorant among a wide roster of other titles that the streaming world has chosen to captivate itself with over the years.

Ultimately, the gaming world is a part of the greater games and entertainment industry, which like many online-based platforms, has heavy ties to the number of users that interact with a certain individual or organization’s platform. It’s the reason why the big video game streamers like shroud are able to make a living playing games online to an audience. Their name and likeness are valued so highly that it’s marketable and can become profitable.

This absolutely applies in shroud’s case, and it is likely a large part of the reason why Sentinels would have been so enthusiastic about bringing shroud onboard. The combined intrigue of TenZ, ShahZaM, and now shroud is sure to attract legions of fans to watch Sentinels play.

Additionally, with the Valorant franchised league coming in 2023, and with over 150 teams around the world applying for the league according to Dot Esports, a spot in the league is going to be highly coveted. Teams that have strong followings like Sentinels will undoubtedly bring viewership up for their matches and are therefore more likely to be considered even if they don’t qualify for Valorant Champions or have a deep run in the North American LCQ.

The announcement of shroud joining the team has over six million views and nearly a quarter of a million likes on Twitter at the time of writing, which is further proof that the organization’s focus on popularity and engagement is working out for them.

The Beginning of a New Chapter for Sentinels

Sentinels quickly rose to prominence in 2021 by being Valorant’s most dominant team, winning a host of domestic titles and even having an undefeated run at Stage 2 Masters: Reykjavik. However, new teams rose to prominence following a shift to a competitive meta that relied heavily on Viper and Astra’s utility, and Sentinels struggled to keep up with the meta shift.

The team finished Valorant Champions–the year-end premier capstone event of the 2021 competitive year–without a playoff berth following an upset loss at the hands of KRÜ Esports in the Group B decider match.

Going into 2022, many controller agents were changed, leading to a drastic shift in what agents smokes player chose on certain maps. The most exciting change was Brimstone, who had a resurgence in popularity on maps like Bind, and when combined with Viper, who wasn’t quite as powerful as she was in the prior months, could effectively do the job of a single sentinel agent like Cypher, but to a better degree.

Additionally, teams began to experiment with welcoming Omen back into their team comps, which proved worthwhile, as nearly all controller agents barring Astra, who still makes appearances here and there, but isn’t nearly as much of a mainstay as she once was at the end of 2021.

With SicK out of the active lineup for the LCQ, shroud will fill in as the team’s primary controller player, barring some exceptions. SicK’s shoes are not easy ones to fill, however. Those foolish enough to discount SicK as “just a player that was really good at Skye” discount how wide his agent pool actually is, and how well he can play that agent given enough time.

Following the benching of Jared “zombs” Gitlin, their previous smokes player, and the addition of Eric “Kanpeki” Xu, formerly of Akrew, SicK took it upon himself to switch roles to allow his teammates to continue playing the agents they had honed for extended periods of time.

While Sentinels have struggled to produce results comparable to early 2021 so far, this acquisition could be the Hail Mary play that could bring them to the top of North American competition once more. It’s a crowded place at the top, however, as OpTic Gaming and XSET have staked their claims as North America’s two best teams. Furthermore, teams such as Evil Geniuses, NRG Esports, FaZe Clan, and even Ghost Gaming have shown that they can be competitive, so Sentinels’ journey will not at all be an easy one.

With all that in mind, a major concern to point out about this new roster is their lack of tournament participation outside of the VCT. Are they willing to break their streak of not participating in non-VCT tournaments to prepare themselves for the Last Chance Qualifier? It’s become painfully obvious that teams that forego playing in other tournaments don’t place as well as others that have been grinding tournaments vigorously, like Built By Gamers Academy, Oxygen Academy, and Knights.

Even Cloud9, a team currently in the top 10 rankings on multiple dedicated Valorant esports outlet rankings, have taken part in the Knights Circuit Championship and are currently competing in the third season of MEL Premiership.

Simply put, there are plenty of opportunities for Sentinels to get enough tournament experience under their belts before the Last Chance Qualifier, because everyone else that’s going to be in attendance has a shot at securing a seat at Valorant Champions, the biggest capstone event before franchising comes in 2023.

Ultimately, shroud joining Sentinels’ Valorant team is a move that, at its core, is intended as a catalyst to help them compete at the top once again. There’s no reason for anyone on Sentinels to hold back now when it comes to preparing for the upcoming LCQ.

More than anything, it would be one of the wildest Cinderella stories for Sentinels, one of the most popular Valorant teams out there, to bounce back from disappointing results in the first half of the year and make another appearance on the international stage.

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