Pre-Masters 2: Valorant in Asia, a complex balance
With then days to go before the launch of the first Valorant international tournament, we decided to give you a little more insight into these regions and teams that are not often talked about in the West. Today, we're taking a look at Valorant's Asian scene, as well as the three teams that will represent it at the Valorant Masters 2 !
Valorant's Asian scene is extremely diverse. It consists of three major regions, South Korea, Japan and South East Asia. On paper, they are disconnected from each other, but the first two also have a great influence on each other.
Korea and Valorant: a complicated start
In South Korea, Valorant got off to an extremely rocky start. While Overwatch quickly overtook League of Legends upon its release, Riot Games' FPS, which could have been expected to have a bright future, ran into a significant problem unique to the country. In South Korea, the majority of gamers do not own their own computer. When they want to play a competitive game, they go to PC Bangs, internet cafés specialising in video games. The success of a game in Korea is measured by its success in PC Bangs.
The problem is that Vanguard, Valorant's anti-cheat security system is absolutely incompatible with machine rental systems where one account can be connected to multiple computers and where many computers end up with the same IP. This had the effect of limiting interest in Valorant from players and, by extension, from professional organisations. The situation was such that Riot Games had to deploy an exceptional investment plan to motivate Korean teams to get started.
Valorant's success in Japan
On the other side of the strait, things are quite different. In Japan, esports have been booming since 2018, following the relaxation of the Premium Act (a law limiting corporate payments to individuals, and therefore cash prizes). The Japanese public is becoming more and more open to competitions and developing its own scenes. There is even talk of subsidies for players and esports courses in schools. Valorant arrived in this climate and met with unexpected popularity on the archipelago. This massive interest in the game led to many sponsors investing in the game and its competitions.
In the end, Korea and Japan have opposite problems. Korea is full of extremely talented players, steeped in esports and competition, but Valorant is struggling to attract players and investors. While in Japan, esports organisations and sponsors are willing to put a lot of money on the table, but players, who are starting on the global competitive FPS for the first time, do not have the level to offer the best competitions. This is why we have seen a massive exodus of top Korean talents to Japan. The majority of the finalist teams participating in Challengers Japan contain two Korean players, the maximum allowed by rules.
Asian rising stars
As far as the rest of Asia is concerned, there is one major absence: China. Indeed, Valorant is not yet available in the Middle Kingdom. The "Asia" region of Valorant's servers actually includes peripheral countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines.
With the exception of a few Overwatch defectors, the majority of players in these regions had no experience prior to Valorant. This weakness has positive consequences, as it results in highly motivated teams that are able to approach Valorant in a different way than the veterans of CS:GO. It's this fresh take on the game that makes for a rather surprising spectacle.
Three teams who want to prove their worth
The interesting thing about this first global competition is that all three teams from Asia have something to prove, whether to themselves, their countries or the rest of the world. As such, the duels between NUTURN Gaming and Crazy Raccoon will be particularly important for their respective countries, as their goals are incompatible. They are probably the biggest rivals of the Masters.
Best player: Zepher
Best Map: Icebox (WinRate 88%)
Worst Map: Bind (WR 53%)
Preferred side: Attack
Crazy Raccoon is without doubt the best team in Japan. They have dominated the scene since the beginning of the VCT. Unfortunately, they suffer from the bad reputation of their region. In the few duels between Japan and Korea that have been seen at the Ignition Series, Korea has always won. Crazy Raccoon itself began to find success when it recruited Munchkin, a former Cloud9 Korea player, but more importantly an Overwatch League player.
However, the team is not lacking in talent. Zepher is the pillar of the Japanese team. The former Fortnite player brings the strategic intelligence and controlled aggression of his original game to Valorant. He is a flexible player who takes the initiative for his team. He is supported by each of his teammates who, although they do not stand out in particular areas, are capable of playing in different registers, with a real general cohesion.
Best player: Suggest
Best Map: Bind (WR 83%)
Worst Map: Icebox (WR 33%)
Preferred side: Defense
The qualification of NUTURN Gaming to the Masters is almost a surprise. In Korea, Vision Strikers has been dominating the scene since the launch of Valorant. NUTURN Gaming, founder on 1st January 2021, was the perennial number 2 until the last Challengers where the team managed to beat its nemesis for the first time. NUTURN must now live up to Korea's expectations or face the wrath of Vision Strikers' fans.
Fortunately, it can count on both experienced players and young prodigies. In this respect, Suggest is clearly the best player in the team. He uses Raze's abilities in an original way to surprise his opponents. NUTURN can also count on Allow, an excellent, fiery, albeit irregular Jett player. To back up this new blood, we find veterans of the Counter Strike scene, Peri, Solo and Lakia. Their combined talents make for a two-tiered team that is particularly difficult to break down on Defense.
Best player: Patiphan
Best Map: Ascent (WR : 95%)
Worst Map: Split (WR : 69%)
Preferred side: None
The team X10 Esports has dominated the SEA server since its creation. They don't lose any of their matches, and even worse, they win them hands down. In fact, the team suffers from a problem that the best teams have: when no one is strong enough to worry us, how can we continue to progress? In this respect, the Valorant Masters is likely to be a particularly stimulating and interesting experience for this young team.
X10 Esports can count on the experience of Patiphan. This former Overwatch League player is the only one who was already participated in major international competitions. He inherited from Overwatch his twirling and aggressive style of play on his Jett. However, he is a free agent in the team, as the other players are mostly focused on zone control, using smokes and devices. Patiphan is usually in charge of creating a numerical advantage by taking a few kills, while the rest of the team suffocate the survivors.