Vision Strikers have a lot to prove at VCT Masters Berlin. The Kings of Korean Valorant missed out on their chance in Iceland as their 104-game unbeaten streak crumbled at the worst time. It’s now time for them to prove critics wrong, says Lee ‘k1Ng’ Seung-won.
Vision Strikers were the team on everyone’s lips heading into Masters Iceland, and then it all crumbled. After being undefeated for over 100 games, they were usurped by F4Q, rueing their first loss in Valorant history — right before the biggest tournament.
It had a massive effect on the team. They had to watch their compatriots NUTURN Gaming try their best to represent Korea on the international stage.
“During Stage 2, the atmosphere in the team wasn’t so good. We were worried about the tower of 104 games that we had built up toppling, so it was troubling,” k1Ng admitted to Dexerto.
Now though, it’s Vision Strikers’ time to make up for their disappointing Stage 2 and become the formidable beast every team feared in Valorant’s first year.
“After the rebuilding of the team in Stage 3, we were doing very well in scrims and so we knew we were going to make it to Berlin. Having come here, I’m really enjoying it and all the teams here are not as strong as I expected,” he added.
Vision Strikers started their Masters Berlin campaign strong against a hyper-aggressive Paper Rex. The SEA squad gave Korea’s Kings a run for their money, especially on Icebox, historically Vision Strikers’ best with a (now) 14-1 win rate.
Jason ‘f0rsakeN’ Susanto was all over Vision Strikers on both Haven and Icebox, flying in as Jett and racking up key frags constantly. k1Ng, jokingly, likened it to “bullying” in his Korean broadcast interview.
However, the teacher stamped down on it at the half. The Koreans mounted a comeback from 3-9 down to win Icebox in regulation 13-11. While a win is a win, the close call was maybe a sign of nerves for k1Ng.
“I feel good about the win but the content of the game and how we played wasn’t so great. There’s a few mixed feelings,” k1Ng said.
“During halftime, our coach [Termi] gave us a big confidence boost. We really weren’t paying attention to the scoreline though, so it wasn’t really playing on our minds.”
What a comeback on Icebox 🥶pic.twitter.com/in3IjkQOl9
— ValorIntel (@ValorINTEL) September 11, 2021
A new Vision
The Vision Strikers in Berlin isn’t necessarily the squad everyone started watching in 2020. Original IGL and CS:GO legend Kim ‘glow’ Min-soo retired, leaving his protege of sorts Kim ‘stax’ Gu-taek to pick up the responsibility.
The dynamic within the team has also changed. Glow was very much a teacher, in k1Ng’s eyes, having held his hand first in CS:GO and now in Valorant.
“Glow really had to teach us all the way from 1 to 10,” k1Ng said.
“Having played together as a group and as a team together for a year now, with stax we are much more agile and flexible because we can communicate with each other more efficiently.”
The caring, passionate glow still radiates in the Vision Strikers camp as one of their coaches. Just the mention of his presence put a smile on k1Ng’s face — you could see it in the interview despite his mask.
“If I had to compare glow to like a family member, he’s like our father now. On one hand, you have mum who’s always bickering with you, and then you have your dad who comes along and says a word or two that’s very meaningful and heavy, so that’s what glow is doing now,” he said.
As for the mother of the squad? “We have another coach who’s named Argency, and he’s the guy who is always bothering us with every small details — that’s his role, like the mother.”
The big curveball in Vision Strikers’ strategy is a rather unique one — a map-specific sub. After Stage 2, they brought in a sixth man in Kim ‘Lakia’ Jong-min, the star Sova of the NUTURN squad that eked out a podium spot in Iceland.
Now, his role is to play in k1Ng’s place on Bind, pulling out the Skye. It’s a dynamic that works exceedingly well, and makes sense on paper given Bind was historically Vision Strikers’ weakest map (and permaban), while Bind is NUTURN’s best.
“I don’t necessarily not like Bind,” he laughed.
“The pro scene is a cold place where your position is determined by how well you play, so I think it’s only fair that Lakia plays in certain maps I perform less well in.”
Giving the world Korea’s best
Vision Strikers aren’t just playing for themselves and their own reputations though. Despite their name preceding them, there’s a bigger goal at hand: They want to break down the stereotype that Korea is just Vision Strikers’ playground.
It’s a lot of pressure to lump onto the squad, having been this far away enigma for so long that international teams really wanted to test.
It’s easy to forget though that there’s also a second Korean team in Berlin, F4Q, who are putting up a fight in Group D. The region as a whole can be competitive on the international stage, even if they aren’t the best yet, and k1Ng is ready to showcase that.
“I wouldn’t say we’re at the top as of right now, but we’re somewhere in the middle,” k1Ng claimed.
“I want to show everyone that although we’re a small region, we’re not a region to be looked down upon and ignored.
“It was really nice and it always made me happy when other teams appreciated us and respected us as a team. I was especially happy because a lot of the Brazilian teams seem to really like us.
“Pressure-wise though, it isn’t something that is really affecting our mentality.”
Vision Strikers next play Acend at VCT Masters Berlin for the coveted first-seed out of Group A on September 13.