The Vietnamese League of Legends circuit has historically been feared as one of the top regions in competitive League of Legends. They introduced eccentric yet effective ways to play League of Legends that surprised even the major regions. As such they have been recognized as an intermediate region that is expected to be on the same level as the PCS. However, the recently concluded MSI 2023 tournament exposed the downfall of the VCS as a region and we’re looking into how this came to be.
The Downfall of the VCS
The VCS has long been respected for its aggressive playstyle and unique strategies that accelerate the pace of the game by getting early kills. At the height of the Korean meta where scaling and low-activity strategies were rewarded, the VCS stayed true to their identity of forcing fights and getting as many kills as possible during the early game to secure an advantage which made it hard for the opponent to scale.
Unfortunately for the region, Vietnam had strict travel restrictions once the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world which meant that they were not allowed to participate in international tournaments. The domestic scene was also postponed due to Covid protocols which meant that the tournament scene was non-existent for a few seasons. No one would know how devastating having a competitive hiatus would be in terms of their performance until Worlds 2022.
The Worlds 2022 performance of both VCS seeds was disappointing but they had some standout performances that kept the fans believing they might still have it in them. However, MSI 2023 came around and the region felt truly exposed when they lost to LLA’s Rainbow7 2-1. This proved that the minor regions have improved through continuous competition while the VCS declined due to having a prolonged hiatus period that prevented them from adapting to the growth of the competition.
As an intermediate region, the VCS wasn’t expected to be knocked out early in the competition by a wildcard team. Their understanding of the game and meta felt completely off as they purely relied on their ability to snowball early leads, true to the VCS style but in a less coordinated way. This tournament feels like the start of the downfall of the VCS and with the Asian Games right around the corner, the region needs to prove to the world that they haven’t declined to the level of a wildcard region.
Explosive Growth of Wildcard Regions
Vietnam didn’t really degrade that much in terms of skill level over the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s most probably untrue to say that they suddenly became a bad region just because they didn’t have tournaments for a few seasons. However, the biggest factor in the downfall of the VCS is the fact that all of the other regions have had explosive growth due to the massive changes in the esports formats that allowed for more competition during the Play-In stages.
For example, Japan’s LJL and Brazil’s CBLoL have had outstanding performances in the past few competitions. They have been giving major regions a difficult time during their games. In 2021, Japan’s DFM managed to dethrone the LCS to take the top spot in their group during the Worlds 2021 Play-in Stage. While a few other wildcard teams were removed in 2023, we can still see that the remaining teams are slowly developing their strategies to overcome the regional skill difference.
Levi Returns to the World Stage!
Levi has been one of the VCS’ superstars and is a name that many League of Legends esports fans know about. He had a breakout performance in 2017 when the Gigabyte Marines took a game off Fnatic with their crazy turbo Nocturne strategy. Immediately after that performance, he was considered one of the best players in the world which led him to many opportunities to play in major regions. He eventually accepted an offer to play with 100 Thieves Academy in 2017.
His career in North America didn’t take off. He remained an academy player without any significant achievements and eventually left the team to play in the LPL with JD Gaming. However, he lost all his games with JD Gaming which opted for the team to go with a different jungler instead. Despite being considered a mad genius in his time with the Gigabyte Marines, he failed to achieve any success in other regions which opted him to go back to his old team (now named GAM Esports).
Many people debate whether or not he ruined his career by immediately signing with foreign teams when he hasn’t reached his peak yet. Performing with academy teams in a region where the language barrier proved to be one of the biggest challenges might have stunted his growth as a player. However, it’s impossible for anyone, other than himself, to say if he didn’t grow as a player by competing in the major regions.
The downfall of the VCS isn’t tied to one player alone. The VCS has produced many superstars in League of Legends but none were as successful as the Gigabyte Marines in 2017. We have seen that Vietnamese players are able to produce world-class players like SofM from the LPL and Neo from the LCS. It’s only a matter of time before the region introduces another talented player that’s able to showcase a new and exciting way to play League of Legends.
The Future of the VCS
Riot Games needs to raise the competitive standard of League of Legends esports by rewarding the performance of every region. If the VCS continues to lose to wildcard teams, there is no premise for them to keep their 2 slots at the World Championships. They are essentially a wildcard region and they should be treated as such if they stay as they are.
The best way for the VCS to prove that they still have what it takes to compete with the world is for their Play-Ins representative to make it into the Group Stage. Otherwise, it will only contribute to the downfall of the VCS. Getting eliminated by wildcard teams is unacceptable as an intermediate region so it’s only natural that we criticize the region for such a huge blunder.