The Asian VALORANT scene is one of the most exciting in the world right now, as the proximity of nations to each other means they can play events together. This week saw the A.W EXTREME MASTERS ASIA INVITATIONAL, pitting the best teams from Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia against each other. In the end, it would be Korea asserting themselves as the dominant region, with an underdog nearly winning the entire event.
Group A put Japan’s dominant team, Absolute JUPITER, against Korea’s No Mercy and Thailand’s Attack All Around. The group proved to be extremely close. Absolute JUPITER would be the team qualifying for the semifinals, but their opponents made it tough: No Mercy took them to 7 rounds of Overtime on Haven, while Attack All Around actually won that map against them. Group B saw the other dominant team from the region, South Korea’s Vision Strikers, roll over Japan’s DeToNator and Hong Kong’s Only One Word with ease. Group C turned into a two-horse race between DetonatioN Gaming and Cloud9 Korea, with the Korean roster ultimately coming out on top after 3 maps, 2 of which went to overtime. Lastly, in Group D, Korea’s T1 Korea, Japan’s REJECT, and Taiwan’s ahq e-Sports Club all won a match against each other, with T1 going through on map differential.
The first semifinal was the one many people thought should be the final: Absolute JUPITER vs. Vision Strikers. The two teams had dominated their region, with Vision Strikers winning their only previous matchup in the finals of the AfreecaTV Asia Showdown. The first map, Haven, went all the way to overtime, but a stellar few rounds from Kim “stax” Gu-taek brought Vision Strikers the win. Split wasn’t as close: the Japanese representatives couldn’t get Shogo “takej” Takemori’s Reyna going, the Korean side dominated on attack, and Vision Strikers took the series 2-0.
The other semifinal pitted two western-owned Korean rosters against each other, Cloud9 vs. T1. Cloud9 were the favourites coming in, based off their recent performances in the Clan Battles and the A.W.E.M. group stage. However, T1 showed up to play. The meta of rifling Jetts and passive Operator play was perfect for T1’s Jett Anaks, who posted a 238 ACS over the match, the highest in the lobby. Kim “ROK3T” Min-soo had been hit or miss all event, but put up a very good performance. Combine all that with some very good clutch plays (a 3k in the open with a Bucky!) and T1 saw themselves through to the finals.
The fully-Korean finals began with a bang. Choi “10X” Jin-woo had an absolutely massive Haven map to kick off the set, pulling T1 to a convincing 13-7 win. On Bind, Anaks was back to his usual self, playing around the map and his team perfectly to put T1 on match point, and on the verge of upsetting the tournament favourites to take the win. A crazy 3k and clutch from T1’s Harry became the highlight of the series.
But Vision Strikers began pulling it back. Split was a monstrous map from Kim “Zest” Gi-seok on Sage, putting up nearly 400 ACS and a 2.6 K/D. Ascent proved to be entirely defender-sided, as T1 pulled out to a 7-2 lead only to lose it on their attacker side. This sent us to a map 5. Haven would be replayed to determine the series.
Vision Strikers took a massive advantage as they won the first four rounds, but T1 pulled it back with three of their own. Then, disaster struck.
Anaks had technical difficulties which led to a pause. The issues were determined to be Anaks’ personal ones, and as per tournament rules, T1 were forced to play on a man down. 5 rounds were played like this, one of which T1 actually won, but it sucked all momentum out of them. By the time Anaks reconnected, Vision Strikers had taken the half 8-4, and would not relinquish their lead as they won the map 13-7, completing the reverse sweep and winning the A.W. EXTREME MASTERS Asia Invitational.
The win sees Vision Strikers take and strengthen their #1 place in THESPIKE.GG’s Asian rankings.
Final Standings for the A.W. EXTREME MASTERS Asia Invitational:
1. Vision Strikers – $25,000
2. T1 Korea – $12,500
3. Absolute JUPITER – $7,500
4. Cloud9 Korea – $5,000
5-8. No Mercy
5-8. DetonatioN Gaming
9-12. Attack All Around
9-12. Only One Word
9-12. Team SMG
9-12. ahq e-Sports Club