Can dominant map control and methodical strategy push NUTURN over the edge?
There are few teams better at submitting their opponents before the spike is even planted than NUTURN Gaming. Situated in Group A for the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT): Masters, NUTURN Gaming have a tall task in front of them if they want to make the playoffs. While they’re grouped alongside two teams hot with momentum, they also are situated right next to their unbeaten regional rivals, Vision Strikers.
With the odds stacked against them, can NUTURN Gaming make a deep run at VCT: Masters Korea - Stage 1, or has the group of death already claimed a victim before the matches have begun?
As much as VALORANT is finding its sea legs, NUTURN Gaming is led by some well-seasoned veterans. In-game leader and captain, Kang "Solo" Keun-chul, comes from an extensive background in Counter-Strike (CS). Echoing that same experience is smoker and support player, Jung "peri" Bum-gi. Coming off a more recent transition from Counter-Strike is the team’s Sova ace, Kim "Lakia" Jong-min.
While these two players are younger in their career length, you shouldn’t let that fool you. Both Seo "Suggest" Jae-young and Park "allow" Sang-wook play up to, and even surpass some of their seniors.
While Lakia and allow are two of the team’s biggest performers and often times do put up some serious numbers, that shouldn’t paint NUTURN in a certain light. They are as methodical and tactical they come. Solo’s ability to make mid-round calls are impeccable, and without Suggest's insane rifle and peri’s support, the aces wouldn’t be as obvious. Not often are you going to see NUTURN make a lurk play to try and catch opponents off guard.
More likely than not, your standard NUTURN Gaming round is very patient, gathering as much information as they can, before exploding onto a site or playing a very patient retake on defence. One such example takes place in their most recent match with Vision Strikers.
After taking a mid-control, NUTURN push up Catwalk and begins to lean into an A-Site hit. Once Lockdown is used to clear the majority of A-Site and push them back against the wall, allow and Suggest swing through A-Link and fight through Window before retreating and holding position. From here, they threaten multiple directions at once without much worry that a deep flank will shove up from A-Main.
Not only do they pose the possibility that they wrap around the defender’s rotating from B-Site, but they also can push directly through Window to help the two post-plant defenders or, if things go belly-up, they can push and support through A-Link onto the site. Again, even if both defenders lose their duels, allow could easily swing around A-Garden and take the high ground fight as the defence pushes down to defuse the spike.
This focus onto A-Link funnels the defence into taking an off-site fight before even staging a push towards the site. NUTURN plays with space extremely well and abuses it give themselves as many options as possible. They could poke up and look through window for information; they could flank around the rotation as it's happening through Garden, NUTURN could even take skirmishes with the defence as it rotates, knowing they have the entire site to fall back to. This fog of war demands resources Vision Strikers would otherwise like to use assaulting A-Site itself, not having to deal with allow and Suggest controlling A-Link.
This kind of multi-faceted post-plant defence is a NUTURN staple.
Haven is easily NUTURN’s best maps, and it’s for good reasons. This absolute stranglehold of a round against World Game Star perfectly showcases just how calculated NUTURN Gaming are at playing with the space they create. Allow pops Bladestorm and walks into B-Site uncontested. However, they use that as leverage to divide the map in half and attack C-Site instead. These positions allow perfectly to both catch greedy A-Site defenders rotating through B-Site while also keeping him close enough to support a fight if it were to breakout towards Garage.
His play here, creating a fog of war over the entirety of B-Site obfuscates one of the quickest rotation paths and further limits the defenders moments. Knowing that Jett was last heard/seen on B-Site and the defenders know she has used her ultimate, the likelihood they win a duel is not odds most people are willing to take.
Once allow settles in, a two-pronged push comes up through C-Long and Garage and, with overwhelming numbers, the C-Site defenders have to retreat back around into C-Link—exactly the funnel the A-Site defenders are having to run through. If the defence has a lurker making a push through attacker’s spawn into C-Lobby, Lakia and peri are there to shut that down. Suggest, and solo have Window bolted shut and, if need be, allow can jump right over to support—which he ends up doing. Once again, through nothing but posturing and resource use, NUTURN Gaming has bottlenecked a defence into playing into their hand. These clips do justice to NUTURN’s slow but calculated style.
However, with the calibre of opponent awaiting them this weekend at VCT: Masters, these plays are going to have to evolve if NUTURN wants to make a play for Champions at the end of the year.
While NUTURN Gaming has a bright future ahead of them in the South Korean VALORANT space, their group for VCT: Masters is stacked to the brim with some of the best teams at the moment. Both APEX People and TNL Esports are coming off a strong finish at Challengers 3, with the former upsetting TNL in the head-to-head to advance as the first seed. And the other team in Group A is the undefeated Vision Strikers. It doesn’t get much more difficult. However, NUTURN has taken Vision Strikers close in the past, most recently at Challengers 2, where their match ended in a draw.
That said, NUTURN Gaming does have clear keys to victory they need to execute on.
While it sounds cliche, they have to balance their measured pace while also not playing sluggish. Teams in the past have punished them for taking too long to execute their attacks. The pace can be slow, but if it is too rigid, then they open themselves up to a massive flank threat.
If NUTURN can keep to their wheelhouse of Haven, Ascent, and Bind, NUTURN will perform up to their potential. However, if they end up on Split, some changes need to be made. Their attacks looked uncomfortable in their recent bout against Vision Strikers.
The fact of the matter is that NUTURN seems far too reliant on Lockdown to get them into some of these attacking rounds on Split. If they want to continue to take more direct five-man shoves, then the tempo needs to come up, or mid-control needs to become more of a priority to facilitate a mid-round call.
And when it comes to Icebox, NUTURN hasn’t played a game of it, and we doubt that is a coincidence. Now is not the time to splash a new map in the pool to throw opponents off guard, and to be fair to them, they don’t feel like the team to do that.
Even with all the platitudes in the world, with all the praise you can muster, this group might be decided by who shows up on the day. It is that tight of a window. NUTURN Gaming needs to be ironclad this weekend if they want a break out top-four finish at VCT: Masters and further establish themselves as one of the contenders in South Korea. NUTURN has cemented their names as one of the best teams in the early days of South Korean VALORANT; if they want to surpass that, they have to strike gold at Masters.
Images via Riot Games