Vision Strikers' k1Ng played his 'heart out' on final map against Cloud9
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When Lee “k1Ng” Seung-won and the rest of Vision Strikers were down on Breeze against Cloud9, they pulled out whatever they thought would work. The South Korean team tried a number of strategies from the team’s playbook, with each coordinated play making the series tighter until they were only a couple rounds away from victory.

The end of the three game series was in sight, but something didn’t feel right.

“At one point, I pressed tab and realized I was the top fragger,” k1Ng said through a translator after the match. “But with our comp, I should be the bottom fragger — and that’s when I realized something was not really going to our plan. So, I decided that this was a map I was going to have to carry.”

K1Ng finished the map with a 19/15 K/D. He earned four more kills and died fewer times than his teammates across multiple clutch plays, although it wasn’t enough to secure the win. The series was incredibly close. So close that the thought of losing didn’t cross his mind.

“After map 1, having lost Ascent, we all got in the huddle. I was confident we would take the next two maps,”  k1Ng said. “There wasn’t a thought in my mind that we would actually lose.”

Vision Strikers knocked out of Champions by Cloud9

Vision Strikers had the steep challenge of escaping the so-called “group of death” at VALORANT Champions. They were plopped in Group D alongside Cloud9 and Fnatic and unable to take out either in order to make it to the quarterfinals. Vision Strikers were viewed as one of the top teams going into the final VALORANT tournament of the year, but those expectations didn’t come to fruition.

Stax
Kim “stax” Gu-taek was quick to talk trash against both FNATIC and Cloud9 | Photo by Lance Skundrich for Riot Games

“I think they kind of pressured themselves too much with the press they did. I saw an interview where they said they were the best team here,” said Cloud9 player Nathan “leaf” Orf. “To be honest, they are also kind of overrated. They’re really good, but some of the things they do are too readable. They need to learn to be more flexible.”

Vision Strikers are still one of the top teams throughout Asia, although there will be a lot to work on during the offseason. Until then, K1Ng and others are looking forward to a long rest after “sacrificing” so much during their rigorous 2021 practice schedule. That practice paid off with how beautiful their play design looked, but they’ll need to work on the other side of VALORANT heading into 2022.

“Flexibility. Adjusting off enemy rotations and potential positions better, not having to rely solely on coordinated executes on attacker’s side,” said APAC VCT commentator Clint “Paperthin” Bader about what the team needs to work on going forward. “They have some of the best set plays in the world, but they need work on their on-the-fly reactions. A lot of that will have to come on Stax if he remains on VS and as the shot caller.”

Vision Strikers’ VALORANT legacy

Vision Strikers have a stellar record within the first season of competitive VALORANT. They decimated the rest of their region, winning multiple online tournaments in South Korea. However, they didn’t make it out to Iceland for the first international LAN and only placed seventh at Stage 3 Masters: Berlin.

“We were very confident that we would finish in the top four for champions,” said Vision Strikers coach Kim glow Min-soo. “But, I guess what we can leave behind for this year was the was that great feeling that we had when we we made it to the quarterfinals during Stage 3 Masters. But furthermore, what I want the fans to know is that I’m really helping the players on our team improve and I think the expenses this year will help them grow further and stronger.”

K1Ng was too disappointed to comment on Vision Strikers’ overall performance throughout 2021, instead pointing to First Strike Korea as the highlight of his year playing VALORANT. It was the first major online tournament that his team won.

xeta
Son “xeta” Seon-ho helped mentor several of the players on the Vision Strikers squad | Photo by Michal Konkol for Riot Games

K1Ng and the rest of the Vision Strikers squad could take solace in the fact that they lost to their former Counter-Strike teammate, Son “xeta” Seon-ho. Those two players, along with Goo “Rb” Sang-Min and coach glow, played with xeta on MVP PK. Xeta and his former teammates were overjoyed to see each other in Berlin.

“I wanted to see them so bad, because I don’t know when I’ll go back to Korea,” Xeta said. “It felt really good. Some of them look older than the first time I met them.”

Xeta also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try and grab some of the South Korean instant noodles that he misses dearly. He jokingly tried to get some from his former teammates.

“We came across each other a couple time in the hotel lobby,” k1Ng said. “Whenever we met, we would say, ‘do you have any noodles? I have some noodles, you want some noodles?'”

K1Ng added that he learned a lot from Xeta and that it was nice to see him. He said he wishes him the best going forward in the tournament.

We’ve seen the last of Vision Strikers for the 2021 VALORANT Champions Tour season, but this is only the beginning. The team is already looking ahead to a chance at redemption in 2022.


Aron Garst looks at esports from a different point of view by tackling the ways games are molded and broken by players around the world. He covers Call of Duty, Fortnite, Super Smash Bros, and everything else for Upcomer. You can read his previous work at WIRED, Rolling Stone, ESPN and elsewhere. Rise up red sea.


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