After a promising start to VCT NA Stage 2 Challengers, NRG Valorant are now struggling. The team’s 10-0 map streak snapped after a 2-0 loss to XSET, and they continued to add to their loss column after a sweep by Ghost Gaming this past week.

However, despite the difficult losses, NRG showed off one very interesting strategy that may just be pure genius. By buying only half shields in the majority of their rounds, even when they had sufficient credits, the team ensured that they almost never had to save.

This was the case even after losing multiple rounds in a row, which would have forced a team routinely buying full shields onto pistols.

While NRG was unfortunately unable to convert its strategy into a win, it did achieve its goal of forcing more gun rounds per half.

Ghost Gaming had to contend with NRG’s rifles in nearly every round

Gen.G Esports s0m at DreamHack Open Anaheim 2020 North America
Credit: HLTV

NRG may have lost Haven and Breeze 13-6 and 13-5, both fairly large margins, but the team had remarkably few eco or half-buy rounds.

For example, on Haven, Ethan “Ethan” Arnold and his team managed to buy Vandals in the vast majority of rounds. The team lost both opening pistols and were forced to eco, but nearly every round after that saw the team gear up with rifles.

Even after losing four straight rounds on defense, they still had enough credits to buy four Vandals with shields for the last round in the half. Their fifth player, Ian “tex” Botsch did not have to buy a gun, relying instead on Chamber’s Tour De Force ultimate.

While some fans were quick to call out NRG’s decision to deliberately put themselves at an armor disadvantage as the reason the team lost, that may not necessarily be the case.

Ghost Gaming had bought Vandals for the most part, which meant that four bullets to the body would still be needed to take an NRG player down at any range, regardless of whether they had bought half shields or full shields.

NRG Valorant Half Shield
Screenshot by Koh Wanzi/ONE Esports

It is only with the Phantom that light armor might begin to put a player at a disadvantage. Between 15m to 30m, the Phantom requires four body shots to kill with light armor, and five with full armor.

In CS:GO, some players similarly forego buying a helmet when playing against AK-47s, because headshots from the rifle are one-shot at any range.

On Breeze, NRG was still able to buy four Vandals and a Guardian with half armor in Round 4, despite losing the first three rounds. Another loss in Round 4 finally forced them to save, but the team were back with five Vandals and half armor once again in Round 6.

The team then continued to purchase at least four Vandals in the next three rounds, despite losing all of them.

An odd buy in Round 15 even netted them a win. The team invested in a glass cannon Operator with no shield for tex, with the remaining players picking up a Sheriff, two Marshals, and a Stinger.

However, Ghost’s dominance on both maps makes it unlikely that the outcome would have been different even if NRG had bought full shields where they could. Their ability to reliably create early 5v4 advantages on defense and historically high retake success rates perfectly targeted NRG’s weakness in post-plant situations.

A stunning performance from Marc-Andre “NiSMO” Tayar saw him drop 50 kills across two maps with a +29 K/D differential, double that of his next closest teammate. The 28-year-old is currently one of the highest-rated Raze players in North America, finding eight first bloods against NRG.

NRG are currently 1-2 in Group A of the Stage 2 Main Event. They play their next match against 100 Thieves on June 6.

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