Is DWG KIA’s slow tempo the key to beating the titans of South Korea?
As the new kids on the block, all eyes are on DWG KIA as the South Korean region heads into the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Challengers 2. Advancing as the clear leaders from Group A during Challengers 1, DWG KIA stand opposite one of the most dominant forces in all of VALORANT.
Domestic control is now synonymous with Vision Strikers, a team that has not lost a match in the last eight months. This has led many fans and pundits to begin to speculate on who could be the first to make the titans of South Korea bleed. Does DWG KIA have what it takes to topple Vision Strikers, or will they fall like the rest?
Throughout their run through Challengers 1, DWG KIA has been an incredibly difficult team to read mid-round. Majority of their attacking rounds are slow and methodical, creeping the spike up the map after a site has been secured. However, this isn’t to say DWG KIA can’t be aggressive. They have strong, direct executes that often throw the defence off-kilter because of their rounds of slower-paced conditioning. That stylistic matchup alone could be problematic for Vision Strikers.
For example, take this play against World Game Star on Bind. After 20 seconds of posturing, DWG KIA fights and gains control of A Site. While this is happening, World Game Star pushes their B Site defenders up to potentially wrap around the possible push, but as DWG KIA executes, both defenders double-back and teleport towards A Site. Knowing that this leaves B Site with little to no defence, DWG KIA teleport across the map. This lessens the amount of positional skirmishing they’d have to do to fully lockdown A Site. With a wide-open B Site, they not earn the best post-plant angles while also creating a fog of uncertainty now that World Star Gaming has to run all the way back to B.
When it comes to focal points, entry fragger and all-around ace, Kim "t3xture" Na-ra, has been the offensive spearhead in DWG KIA’s efforts in Challengers 1. According to vlr.gg, during DWG KIA’s 2-0 victory over ZFGaming, t3xture put up a 296 average combat score (ACS) and had 172.5 average damage per round (ADR). To put this into perspective, his career statistics with DWG KIA tell a similar tale across a wider range. Over 271 rounds, t3xture has a 1.44 kill to death ratio and has maintained a 267.6 ACS. He is DWG KIA’s ace in the hole and one of their keys to success if they happen to meet Vision Strikers in the future.
However, DWG KIA faces their fair share of adversity.
Both Lee "Hate" Ye-hun and Jung "RyZzi" Gi-jin have parted ways with the team ahead of Challengers 2. On top of that, losing RyZzi is a gutshot to the team. As one of the team’s support players, this is generally more impactful than losing one of the duelists. Now DWG KIA has to bring their new support player up to speed or create a whole new set of strategies all within a few days. That is likely to cause some dip in performance and cause some growing pains.
Hate at First Strike: Korea alongside Cloud9 Korea
Losing Hate as well is not a vote of confidence for DWG KIA. As someone who took on more of the anchor, with agents like Killjoy and Cypher on defence and more of a lurk style on offence, Hate was an integral part of the DWG KIA lineup. Losing a consistent threat is not something you’d wish on any team heading into a chance to qualify for VCT: Masters 1 let alone battle against the best team in South Korea.
Backed into a corner, the loss of these two players puts DWG KIA in an incredibly difficult position. However, it isn’t impossible that they are better because of these moves. Context is important to judging performance, and one area often overlooked is how our own rigid view of wins and losses don’t take into consideration the maturity of the game. The laws of VALORANT are still juvenile when compared to many other esports titles, meaning sometimes a chaotic system requires chaotic solutions. Perhaps they believe their style is dated? Maybe they’re acquiring a promising duelist or rounding out a more rigid agent lineup?
This all begs the question; does DWG KIA have what it takes to beat Vision Strikers?
It is a tough ask with their recent roster volatility to put DWG KIA ahead of a team with a pedigree as pristine as Vision Strikers. Not only that, it has been clear since their match with TNL Esports that DWG KIA is struggling with identity issues. Those two points alone punch holes in any kind of upset talk. However, they have some foundational bricks in place to perhaps warrant a different answer at a later and more important date.
With their upcoming performance at Challengers 2, we need to see DWG KIA continue to manipulate the map, especially on maps like Ascent and Bind, with their more calculated style. That style seemed to work wonders against the vast majority of very aggressive and direct teams.
One of the major questions still left unanswered is who fills Hate’s shoes, and how does DWG KIA adapt to their new players? That in and of itself is going to be an interesting narrative point moving forward. The nod after their bout with TNL Esports was RyZzi moving more into an active role but seeing as they’ve both departed the team, one of the new recruits has to step up to the plate. Will we see Kim "Secret" Ha-jin continue to move into a role as a threat on Raze with the option to swap back to more supportive picks like Breach and Sova? It is clear that the DWG KIA core is strong, but will the new additions measure up to their older counterparts?
Someone is going to have to fill in this gap in a big way if they have any hopes of taking Vision Strikers close. This team cannot be “t3xture and friends” if they want longterm success.
That said, silver linings are in order as DWG KIA is on track to perform well at Challengers 2 which would qualify them for Masters 1. There, what we think of as a thought experiment and an exciting storyline is more than likely a very real match up.
DWG KIA is going to have rally quickly because Vision Strikers isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Images via Riot Games