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VCT 2023 season: Yay, Zellsis join Cloud9

North American esports organization Cloud9 has officially signed former OpTic player Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker and former Version1 player Jordan “Zellsis” Montemurro to complete its VALORANT Champions Tour 2023 roster.

The star players joined Nathan “leaf” Orf, Erick “Xeppaa” Bach, Anthony “vanity” Malaspina and Mateja “qpert” Mijovic (Substitute) in the first and only North American team to win a Major. They will be coached by ex-The Guard Matthew “mCe” Elmore (Head Coach), Erik “vapen” Sutton (assistant coach) and Gaël “vexel” Attal (coach).

Previously in September, C9 sidelined Rahul “curry” Nemani and Mitch Semago, leaving two roster spots open. Both players will investigate their options as C9’s restricted free agents. C9 also lost Son “xeta” Seon-ho to T1 in May and found it difficult to achieve the same success in Stage 2.

Yay, Zellsis’ records

Yay is one of the best Chamber players, and he is widely regarded as the best pure mechanical player in the VALORANT scene. Despite OpTic’s loss in the grand finals, Yay was a strong candidate for MVP at Champions 2022, finishing No. 1 in both overall K/D (1.5) and kills per round (0.93), according to VLR.

His final K/D figure is in a class by itself, with the other top five players in overall K/D all finishing with ratings lower than 1.4. Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev of Fnatic came in second in both categories, with a 1.39 K/D and 0.92 kills per round rating.

The 24-year-old player was one of Istanbul’s most fearsome opening kill players, finishing with 96 total first-bloods. He also had the second-highest opening duel (first-bloods vs. first-deaths) success rate at 70 percent.

Yay also had the most effective rounds, with two kills or more in a whopping 117 rounds. The American player finished the tournament with a kill-assist-survive-trade (KAST) percentage of 73, one of the highest for a Chamber/Jett player, who doesn’t generally get many assists due to the agents’ abilities and playstyle.

Zellsis is one of the best Flex players who can switch between initiator and duelist roles with ease. He briefly joined the Sentinels with rookie Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek at the NA Last Chance Qualifier after turning heads on V1 during the 2022 season with some impressive numbers.

However, the team was unable to complete Champions, and while Zellsis had assumed that he would remain with the team indefinitely, the Sentinels parted ways with him just as Champions began. Before joining C9, he briefly rejoined V1.

Zellsis’ transfer to C9 reunites him with Vanity after their successful 2021 spell in V1, their first destination after leaving CS:GO.

Cloud9’s difficult year

It remains to be seen whether the players can help C9 find a way out of its conundrum, as it is no secret that the team has been having a difficult year. The team went from squeezing into VALORANT Champions 2021 via the Last Chance Qualifier to not participating in any international events in 2022.

At first, C9 performed admirably on VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 1. They came close to qualifying for the Stage 1 Masters event but were defeated by The Guard in the lower bracket final of the North American qualifying tournament. In Stage 2, the team’s form plummeted, finishing 2-3 in the group stage and missing the playoffs.

C9 will compete in the VCT Americas league alongside Sentinels, Evil Geniuses, NRG and 100 Thieves. VCT 2023 will begin in February with a kick-off tournament in São Paulo, Brazil, featuring all 30 partnered teams.