Challengers competition kicked off around the world this week, and Korea was no exception. Korea’s an incredibly interesting region to follow at the moment, as with the disbandment of T1 Korea and Cloud9 Korea, many smaller organizations have been building up rosters with the ashes of those teams and uncovering new talent as well. This event was the big coming-out moment for teams like BearClaw Gaming, ZFGaming, World Game Star, and DWG KIA. The other big storyline was the big Vision Strikers winning streak – for the uninitiated, this team, considered one of the strongest and most creative in the world, has not lost a single VALORANT match in their entire competitive history. This all made for a great event to watch.
Group A put First Strike finalists TNL Esports up against World Game Star, who’s roster had previously failed to qualify for First Strike under the name THE START W but had been surging coming into the event off the back of a victory over NUTURN, one of the biggest organizations in Korea, DWG KIA, and a Chinese start-up organization that had signed some promising free agents, ZFGaming. TNL were easy to pin as the favourites, but ultimately disappointed in this group. They failed to win a match, drawing their Bo2s against DWG and ZFGaming while losing against WGS.
The real stars of this group were DWG. They bossed around most other teams, dropping a single map, the one against TNL, all event. Kim “t3xture” Na-ra is an absolute beast on Jett (perhaps second only to his opponent in this group, Kim “HANN” Dong-ho) while Lee “HATE” Ye-hun plays a very similar style to Alex “aproto” Protopapas in North America, playing sentinels and duelists, and has the fragging ability to back it up. DWG KIA will be a dangerous team for a long time.
But don’t discount World Game Star either. Following up their big upset win over NUTURN, they continued to impress this week, scoring a 2-0-1 record, only losing to DWG. The aforementioned HANN is also an incredibly skilled Jett, and Lim “Has1ra14” Hyuk has been a joy to watch as one of the most creative Raze’s out there.
Lastly, ZFGaming mostly disappointed this week. They have a decent lineup, but their most skilled players are definitely their controllers in Lim “LuZ” Ui-jun and Kang “TRY” Tae-wook, leaving a big gap in fragging ability that very clearly shows. This team either needs more time to jell or a Andrew “ShoT UP” Orlowski-type carry duelist to truly take them to the next level.
The highlight of Group B was, of course, Vision Strikers. Always a joy to watch, they didn’t face much of a challenge from their group opponents except for a 14-12 Split game against BearClaw. The undefeated streak was kept alive, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be toppled any time soon.
“Although our performance this week was not as dominant as it was during scrims and practice, I am content with our first place finish,” Kim “stax” Gu-taek told THESPIKE.GG. “In our last match against BCG, we could have defeated them much more easily, but we made some major mistakes such as relaying the wrong information to each other, as well as trying to overachieve on certain plays. This made the match much harder than it needed to be. Once our next match rolls around, we’ll make sure these mistakes aren’t repeated and show the world that South Korea is one of the best regions in VALORANT.”
“I’m very happy that we took the first place this week. But looking at myself and the team overall, I don’t think we are completely satisfied with our performance. We know that there will be stronger teams coming up through the qualifiers, so we will practice harder and aim to keep our undefeated streak alive throughout the season,” Goo “Rb” Sang-Min chimed in.
BearClaw also showed up this week, not quite taking down Vision Strikers but securing themselves a pretty comfortable second place. Yu “BuZz” Byung-chul and Kang “iNTRO” Seung-gyun have proven to be an absolutely deadly duelist duo, and the clutch factor that Choi “10X” Jin-woo and Kim “Harry” Han-gyu bring also massively helps this team. They’re in a solid spot right now, and still only moving up.
Hamtori ZunDeJinx, made up of former F4Q members who reached the quarterfinals of First Strike, were good in groups as well. Ultimately, their -3 map differential means they’ll have to go through the open qualifiers again, but this team is still deadly. GodDead particularly was dynamite this event, and a player to watch out for for sure. This is definitely the best unsigned team left in Korea, and are well worth to pick up.
Lastly, I think it’s fair to say that not much was expected out of GOMA, and they did end up falling in last place without winning a map. They’ll set their eyes on the next open qualifier to try and get themselves back on the big stage.
ⓒ Riot Games Korea
Due to the upcoming New Year holiday, Korea’s next open qualifiers have already begun, and will run until Tuesday, February 9th. Four teams from here will qualify to join DWG KIA, World Game Star, Vision Strikers, and BearClaw Gaming in the next Challengers event, beginning on February 18th.
Final standings for Korean Challengers 1:
1. DWG KIA – ₩4,000,000 + bye to KR Challengers 2
2. World Game Star – ₩3,000,000 + bye to KR Challengers 2
3. TNL Esports – ₩2,000,000
4. ZFGaming – ₩1,000,000
1. Vision Strikers – ₩4,000,000 + bye to KR Challengers 2
2. BearClaw Gaming – ₩3,000,000 + bye to KR Challengers 2
3. Hamtori ZunDeJinx – ₩2,000,000
4. GOMA – ₩1,000,000