After 53 Straight Wins, How Could Vision Strikers Suffer Their First Loss?
Fifty-three straight wins. That is the current win streak of the titans of South Korean VALORANT, Vision Strikers. An impeccable record, untouched with a set loss, Vision Strikers is by far the best team in the region. While they draw teams from time to time, and while a loss might feel impossible for such a roster, the shadow of a potential loss is starting to accumulate over their heads.
Strategically and perhaps even mechanically, Vision Strikers feel like they’ve lapped an entire region in the marathon of VALORANT, but how long will that last? If you were going to, how would any team in South Korea beat Vision Strikers?
While we can applaud Vision Strikers until we’re blue in the face, but the reality is that they recently have been slowly showing signs of plateauing in the last few months. During Challengers 2, they uncharacteristically drew both ZFGaming and NUTURN Gaming in the groups and only advanced as Group A’s first seed thanks to their map differential. This stands in stark juxtaposition to their dominant performances during Challengers 1 and First Strike. However, they still have yet to be toppled in a best-of-three set. That kind of record is a sign of a complete team, a team that feels like they can do it all. Aggression, defence, strategy, loose calls, Vision Strikers has a “full game” on their hands and demands a lot from their opposition if they want to be competitive.
While the gap separating South Korea from the Vision Strikers is narrowing day by day, teams like ZFGaming can stick a feather in their caps, knowing they helped dent the lead Vision Strikers has built up. This match among Vision Striker’s other close calls is starting to build a blueprint that teams can follow to give them the best chance possible in stopping the streak.
In their 1-1 draw with Vision Strikers, once they stemmed the bleeding on Haven, what ZFGaming did so well was enabling Kim "ROK3T" Ju-yeong’s jab-like pokes that acted as entry points for their offence. He would posture up, create his own space, then hold and wrap Vision Strikers, throwing them for a loop. To be fair to ZFGaming, they also took Vision Strikers close on Icebox as well. ROK3T’s tendency to lurk on defence took its toll on the clock, and his ability to lock down B-Site pin Vision Strikers into leaning heavily into A-Site attacks. Even with a limited attack path, Vision Strikers still ends the half 7-5.
What Vision Strikers does extremely well is controlling the pace of the game through their overwhelming map control.
Vision Strikers loves to take centre control on most maps. This opens up the most possibilities while also giving them the chance to slow defensive rotations from happening. Take this clip against ZFGaming. Knowing that Lee "k1Ng" Seung-won has Cypher’s ultimate, Neural Theft, this early pick in the courtyard leading into B-Site is a death sentence for the round. ZFGaming has to immediately respect the fact that Vision Strikers knows exactly where they are defending from, and they give up space—which also gives them control of the middle of the map.
However, more crucially, this shows Vision Strikers that C-Site is poorly defended, and they immediately go for the plant with a quick Omen teleport with Goo "Rb" Sang-Min covering the channel. Their set play against ZFGaming is a good representation, but this is a consistent threat that all teams in the Korean VALORANT space have to prepare for.
- Vision Strikers divide and conquer on Ascent.
Another great example is round 15 against NUTURN Gaming on Ascent. Kim "glow" Min-soo pushes with the cover of Kim "Zest" Gi-seok’s Owl Drone and a key smoke to deny the angle pushing out of catwalk to lock down the middle of the map. From here on out, NUTURN have to consider that there could be a threat looming there, or they could use that ground gained as a staging point to push in B Site.
NUTURN’s response is to close the door from Boathouse, denying a possible push into B Site. This, however, ends up being a double-edged sword as it locks them in so much as it closes off an angle for Vision Strikers. This also makes it incredibly hard for B Site defenders to be able to quickly rotate if there happens to a rotation to A Site. Backed into a corner, NUTURN is forced to cut their losses and take the round loss. That’s the power of Vision Strikers at work. They constantly divide the map and have impeccable decision-making mid-round to execute a spike plant on the half of the map that is deemed weakest.
While ZFGaming had its own unique style, NUTURN Gaming does a great job of playing very methodical VALORANT that mimicks Vision Strikers’ own. Showcased in both Challengers 1 and 2, NUTURN has been able to consistently take maps from Vision Strikers by matching their pace of the game.
However, slow and calculated is one thing, passivity is something completely different. Vision Strikers does not let you run the clock without being punished. The speed at which Vision Strikers adapts to how slowly NUTURN creeps up the map is one of the biggest reasons they’re so deadly. Zest’s flanks across the map and trapping the flank on B Main was the result of five rounds of conditioning. If teams are going to continue to gain ground on Vision Strikers, they have to keep pace with them mid-match.
And that’s what so exciting about NUTURN Gaming. Right after Zest’s backstab, they execute a similar push and don’t allow Vision Strikers the opportunity to flank behind them. They know that the play inherently wasn’t bad; the issue was how much time they gave such an intelligent team to figure them out.
This all begs the question; would a team have to do to deal Vision Strikers their first loss in nearly 53 sets of VALORANT?
If a team could find a way to take Vision Strikers to an uncomfortable map, something like a Bind or an Ascent, this would crack the door to the match, but it most certainly isn’t going to gift you the win.
That said, gimmicks and tricks are not going to pay off in the long run, so toss out the ideas of pocket picks and off-meta agents. The best-case scenario is playing standard VALORANT against that is quick to identify how they’re playing while also having a clear and actionable vision for how to beat it.
Fighting them for mid-control on maps like Haven and Ascent stop them from cutting the map in half; however, you cannot be rigid against them and only have that in mind. They can and will rush through and take a fast, direct attack on a site if they suspect you’re investing too heavily into defending positions off the objectives.
Another thing to note is from Challengers is that teams are not going to beat Vision Strikers with a proactive defence. It is a fool’s errand to push aggressively into them. When we review Vision Strikers’ attack rounds against teams like ZFGaming and World Game Star, they are not often caught off guard with lurks and solo aggressive pushes. When we’ve seen them look the most vulnerable, it’s when you starve them out of information and time. Teams want to, oddly enough, play their pace, make them show their hand and adapt accordingly.
Again, the picture painted is bleak, that goes without saying, but it’s slowly being coloured in as Vision Strikers continues to be challenged. At the end of the day, this is one of the most clutch teams, one of the most intelligent teams, and one that melds veteran experience into a game that allows it to flourish. Playing against Vision Strikers feels like fighting a chess grandmaster who has perpetual control over the middle of the board while also making their pieces do things you didn’t think were legal.
If we had to place a bet on a team that is going to stop Vision Strikers’ streak, NUTURN Gaming has to take the nod. Not only do they have the strongest track record against them, but they possess the right style to be able to take Vision Strikers to their limits.
Images via Riot Games