Players competed in weekly tournaments on ESL Play to rack up points towards first earning a seed in the regional qualifiers for their respective game, where the winner would receive a guaranteed invite to the grand finals at IEM Katowice. After, the remaining teams and players had to fight it out week after week to secure one of the three remaining slots for their region.
Season 1 of the VR Challenger League had four offline regional qualifiers - one in Europe and North America for each game. The winners of these qualifiers received a guaranteed invite and top seed to the grand finals.
The VR Challenger League’s first season features two games: Echo Arena, where players glide, boost, pull and punch their way through a zero-g virtual arena to take control of the disc and score it in their opponent’s goal; and The Unspoken, where players take the role of a powerful spellcaster to duel using gestures to summon spells and beasts in order to defeat their opponent in a fighting game-style arena.
In Echo Arena, team ec.LiP.se took home the North American trophy at Oculus Connect 4 and Jacks secured their slot in the European qualifier at ESL One Hamburg 2017. In The Unspoken, Reukifellth earned his slot at IEM Oakland alongside Yawning Soldier at Dreamhack Winter in Jönköping.
Each of these players and teams would be the favorites going into the tournament, however the competition throughout the season on ESL Play showed that the other contestants are no slouches themselves. In Europe, Flushgogo rose through the ranks of The Unspoken, evening the matchup between himself and the regional champion Yawning Soldier. Team ec.LiP.se, the Echo Arena NA champions remained suspiciously absent from almost all of the weekly competitions after their win at Oculus Connect 4.
With approximately three months between the last competition at Dreamhack Winter in December and the grand finals at IEM Katowice in March, many shifts in the power ranking and metagame for both titles happened. The grand finals also mark the first time the NA and EU teams get to go up against one another offline, and as we all know LAN latency can significantly change the game from online - especially considering many players from either continent only practice with players in their region.
Flushgogo puts the NA champion Reukifellth on the ropes and takes him out with the summon, sending him to the lower bracket! GG! pic.twitter.com/BfmyTdEhKN— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
As Reukifellth is unable to stop Flushgogo, we get another taste of just how much work the remaining players have put in throughout the season. Now with both regional champions in the lower bracket, it could be anyone’s tournament. Charizard appears to completely outclass Getsu in our second winner’s bracket match, and while Getsu was able to put a dent in Charizard he is quickly taken down.
Now in the lower bracket, it’s the two regional champions from NA and EU facing off in a marquee matchup. Reukifellth and Yawning Soldier have been practicing together for a few weeks leading up to the grand finals, and knowing that they’ve both learned a lot about one another’s playstyles attempts to counter Yawning Soldier with an Anarchist pick in round 1, which ultimately doesn’t pay off and is forced to switch back to Kineticist for round 2.
Yawning Soldier proves too much for Reukifellth and moves on! Reukifellth is out of the tournament but we're looking forward to seeing him in the future pic.twitter.com/gibZyghvpS— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
“I’m really excited about winning that last match, I wasn’t sure at all - Reuk and I have been going back and forth for the last 2 weeks practicing together” said Yawning Soldier after his win, sending Reukifellth home. Next, Getsu eliminates jon 2-0 by studying his opponent, knowing in advance that he’d pick Anarchist and follow with a switch to Drifter on the second map. He goes up against Yawning Soldier in the lower bracket semifinals.
But first, it’s the winner’s bracket finals as Charizard and Flushgogo take to the stage as both players demonstrate exactly why they’ve earned their winner’s bracket placements thus far. Charizard struggles to find his stride against one of the strongest European players.
WOW! Flushgogo turns things around at the last second against Charizard to take the first round! pic.twitter.com/RaBbz2qvjk— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Flushgogo moves on to the grand finals from the upper bracket with a strong final round! Charizard must now take on the winner of Getsu vs Yawning Soldier in the lower bracket finals. pic.twitter.com/mV24vGPgzP— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
As Flushgogo advances to the grand finals, Charizard awaits the winner of Yawning Soldier vs Getsu, a runback from the first round of the tournament. Yawning Soldier looks to avoid a repeat of their previous match.
*teleports in front of you* nothin personnel kid pic.twitter.com/mx8PWUKdKB— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
As Yawning Soldier puts Getsu on the ropes, he strikes back at Yawning Soldier while he’s on match point in the second match and ties the series 1-1, followed by another 2-1 victory in the final map, eliminating the last remaining regional champion from the tournament.
Get this man a towel!!! Getsu ties the series 1-1! pic.twitter.com/de3ZLkEImd— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Getsu has done it! After losing the first match he takes the next two, securing himself a position in the top 3 - He must defeat Charizard once again to make it to the grand finals against Flushgogo pic.twitter.com/CmE54tM0aJ— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
With Yawning Soldier eliminated from the tournament, both of the winners from previous @theunspokenvr regionals are out! It's down to @Flushgogo in winners, awaiting the winner of Charizard vs Getsu! pic.twitter.com/wqvPzYU3Z3— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Getsu must now go up against Charizard, a rematch from when Charizard sent Getsu to the lower bracket. Both players, who have now secured a minimum €2000 prize in the top 3 must fight for their tournament lives and a shot at the finals against Flushgogo. We spoke with Getsu before his match:
"I am very much looking forward to that rematch. I want it." Getsu is pumped to go back up against Charizard in the lower bracket finals, but he has his work cut out for him! pic.twitter.com/uVmd9xrwvi— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Charizard takes the first map 2-0, losing only a quarter of his health in the second round. With Getsu’s life on the line, he strikes back in map 2 doing the same to Charizard.
We're going to a third map in the lower bracket finals between Getsu and Charizard! Getsu is showing incredible strength! pic.twitter.com/wWv3zZ4O4L— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Ultimately it’s Charizard who prevails in the final round 2-1 as the constant pressure from his Kineticist proves to be too much for Getsu to stop in the final round. “It came down to that final spear on the graveyard front pedestal [...] I’m still processing it all” said a somewhat flustered Charizard after an exhausting lower bracket final match.
Getsu tries desperately to hold on but ultimately falls to Charizard! Congratulations to both players as Charizard advances to the grand finals and Getsu earns himself €2000 in third place. pic.twitter.com/XMoh4rDXVH— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Charizard must defeat Flushgogo in two best-of-three sets to take the tournament, coming from the lower bracket. He opens up strong on Jackson Digsite, taking both the first and second maps 2-1 and earning a bracket reset.
Charizard drops the second round but takes the momentum back to take his first victory on Jackson Digsite! It's been a back-and-forth set so far in the grand finals here at #IEM Katowice! pic.twitter.com/DSbbL08UqR— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
Unbelievable! In a tesne rapid-fire final round, we've got a bracket reset! Charizard has won the first set 2-0. pic.twitter.com/yO84cNoLgB— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 3, 2018
As both players move into the final best of three matchup of the tournament, Charizard has been playing actively for several rounds now. VR esports combine the traditional esports aspect of strategy, execution and spirit with physical athleticism, and at this point Charizard is starting to battle both Flushgogo (who’s been waiting patiently on the winner’s side throughout his run through the lower bracket) and exhaustion from playing several high-level opponents over an extensive period.
Charizard continues to put the lessons he learned in their previous two matches on display as he smashes Flushgogo in the first round and barely edges him out in the second, putting him on map point to take the tournament. Flushgogo has only been able to take two rounds thus far against Charizard in this final.
As Flushgogo takes the first round of the second map once again, Charizard returns with full force to win the final two rounds of the second map, securing himself his second 2-0 victory over Flushgogo, €6,700 in prizes and the first-ever VR Challenger League trophy for The Unspoken!
Echo Arena took place on Sunday, March 4th, as ec.LiP.se, Kangorillaz, Phangasms and Jacks win their first match and TeamGravity and Lamplighters win their lower bracket matches. DING! exit the tournament early and Triversity did not attend IEM Katowice. Our first match is between the NA regional champions team ec.LiP.se and Kangorillaz, another American team.
For many, this match marks the first time we’ve seen ec.LiP.se play since Oculus Connect 4. Kangorillaz are able to take the match to a final round but ultimately fall short of ec.LiP.se’s tactics and teamwork.
"Every time we get into that game, everything else just disappears - we play our hearts out, it feels amazing" - @LemmingVR of #OC4 winners team https://t.co/KsofIcBcfQ are feeling very confident today! pic.twitter.com/f7wQV0yIWB— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Next up it’s Jacks, the EU regional champions, taking on Phangasms from North America. As the only European team still alive on the winner’s side, Jacks must defend their title and their homeland, and they do so in dominant fashion starting with a 9-0 lead in the second match, sending Phangasms to the lower bracket.
In the lower bracket Kangorillaz take on Lamplighters in a rematch from Oculus Connect 4, where they lost to Lamplighters. The match goes to all 3 games and they stay afloat in the tournament with a brilliant last-second goal to put them over the top and some well-earned celebrations:
Kangorillaz take it down to the wire against Lamplighters, keeping themselves alive in the tournament with a 9-8 victory! pic.twitter.com/3zWvMTGJmD— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
The lower bracket action continued with Team Gravity versus Phangasms, and it immediately starts off with a bang followed by intense back-and-forth gameplay:
These lower bracket matches are insane! Phangasms take back control of the match and prevent Gravity from scoring in the final seconds, tying the series 1-1! pic.twitter.com/Pbtx9VmwDZ— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
GRAVITY TURN UP THE HEAT! They now lead with 13 points, scoring back to back to back! This series is ridiculous right now! pic.twitter.com/l2wTCV8k0z— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Gravity's coordination is epic! After a few minutes of back-and-forth gameplay, they explode with nonstop goals using slingshot combos to finish the game 17-4, eliminating Phangasms and advancing to the lower bracket semifinal against Kangorillaz! pic.twitter.com/0prQQMAXbv— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Back on the winner’s side, the two regional champions go head to head: ec.LiP.se vs Jacks. After what starts off as an even match, ec.LiP.se go on an absolute tear against the European team, sending them to the lower bracket.
iShiny and team ec.LiP.se were feeling very confident after defeating the best European team. They’ll go on to wait for the lower bracket to play out, giving them the double benefit of being on the winner’s side and needing to be defeated in two BO3 matches as well as the opportunity to rest up and replenish their energy for the grand final.
"We already have the intimidation factor, given that the only 3 teams remaining in this tournament are the 3 teams that we put into the loser's bracket, so all of them are gonna be going into the grand finals knowing what we're capable of" - @iShiny after his win against Jacks pic.twitter.com/djgRkiJNtI— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Kangorillaz charge through Team Gravity in order to meet Jacks in the lower bracket final, with their sights already set on taking on ec.LiP.se in the grand final. It’s down to Kangorillaz, Jacks and ec.LiP.se in the final 3, securing a minimum of €6000.
"We want the https://t.co/KsofIcBcfQ rematch so we're gonna try to do our best against Jacks and go against https://t.co/KsofIcBcfQ in the finals" - Kangorillaz already have their sights set on the grand finals, but can they get through Jacks? https://t.co/aRICrqe3WD pic.twitter.com/0F4Jitr5n7— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Unfortunately for Kangorillaz, Jacks are looking to add another title on top of “EU Regional Champions,” so the NA contenders must play their hearts out to earn a shot at the trophy. Jacks come out strong in the first game to take an early lead, and as Kangorillaz pulls ahead in the second game, Jacks assume control.
Jacks with the 3-pointer!!! Kangorillaz' life is on the line! pic.twitter.com/xc4e2J5IAW— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Kangorillaz try desperately to land one final goal but the defense from Jacks proves to be too much, as the clock runs out and Kangorillaz are eliminated from the tournament in a very respectable third place, earning themselves €6000. Jacks now go up against ec.LiP.se in the grand finals, and some would say it’s fate as both teams are the top teams coming from their respective regions with the titles to prove it.
The Europeans must defeat the Americans in two back-to-back best of three sets, with little time for rest between the match. In an interview, Jacks acknowledged the more aggressive playstyle of the American teams and look to counter it with changes in their own strategy. However, the first match of what would prove to be an uphill battle for Jacks opens in favor of ec.LiP.se, earning a quick 6-0 lead before exchanging goals in the final minutes and ending the first round 8-5.
In the second round, Jacks quickly adapt their formula and take a wider stance as they break the the defense of ec.LiP.se to take an early advantage. ec.LiP.se returns the favor in short order, kicking off what would be another edge-of-your-seat match between these intercontinental rivals.
BUT ECLIPSE RETURNS IN KIND! Such impressive coordination and teamwork from both finalists! pic.twitter.com/5VANoBNydK— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
With two minutes remaining, the score is 4-4. Just over a minute later, the score is 8-7 in favor of ec.LiP.se when Jacks edge out a final goal to take the series to a third round and giving them a chance to reset the bracket:
JACKS ARE INCREDIBLE! We couldn't have asked for a better grand final as they edge out a win in game 2! pic.twitter.com/DgohzKxRxy— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
On the third round, both teams have truly started to adapt to one another’s strategy as over 90 seconds of pure neutral gameplay occurs before the first goal is scored, when Jacks pull ahead 4-0.
Jacks are working on a bracket reset as they take a 4-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/J6j1CmSJrc— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
ec.LiP.se fights back but can’t score the final goal with under 30 seconds on the clock to win the tournament, giving Jacks a shot at the trophy as they reset the bracket and we move into our second and final best-of-three series between those two incredible teams.
Boop scores two back-to-back 3-pointers while ec.LiP.se continue to score 2-pointers, tying the first match of the final series up at 6-6. As the round moves into overtime, ec.LiP.se use excellent teamwork and positioning to first win the initial joust and then to keep the disc out of the hands of Jacks as they approach and ultimately score on their well-defended goal.
Now on match point, ec.LiP.se are at an early disadvantage as Boop scores yet another 3-point goal, followed by two more 2-point goals for Jacks when things start to heat up near ec.LiP.se’s net:
Jacks are on fire! Slin slams the disc out of the goalie's hand right back into the goal to bring the lead to 9-0! pic.twitter.com/nDBDQZ78t7— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
As Jacks take round 2, it all comes down to a final five-minute round between the EU and NA regional champions. ec.LiP.se score the first goal in just over 30 seconds, followed by a perfect takedown of Jacks’ goalie by supporting player Palidore
ec.LiP.se looks to run down the clock in the final minute of the match and ultimately defeat Jacks 9-6, in an incredibly tense and emotional final. They win €20,100 and the prestige that comes with becoming the first-ever Echo Arena champions as they hoist the trophy.
"There's no one on this ****ing planet I want to be with other than these guys - I have no words" Team https://t.co/KsofIcBcfQ is feeling emotional after a thrilling victory over Jacks.— VR Challenger League (@VRChallenger) March 4, 2018
Congratulations and thank you to @oculus, @intel, @RAD_studios and everyone at home! pic.twitter.com/G4h4w45XE1
More to come
Stay tuned for more information about the future of the VR Challenger League on Twitter, Facebook and vr.eslgaming.com. Thank you to Oculus and Intel for making VR esports a reality, and finally - congratulations to team ec.LiP.se and Charizard, your VR Challenger League Season 1 Champions!