VCS Winter 2021: Preview

The year is 2021 AD. After the conclusion of Worlds, the professional scene is entirely in hibernation. Well, not entirely… One small league of indomitable Vietnamese has decided to hold a tournament amidst the off-season…

CORONA OUTDATED
PLAYERS VACCINATED
LONG HAVE WE WAITED
VCS ACTIVATED

The bloodiest region in the world is back: After cancelling the whole Summer Split due to the pandemic, the league has decided to just organize a VCS split in winter instead – much to the delight of Vietnamese supporters, and maybe also you!

Your insatiable appetite for pro play is not satisfied by upcoming joke competitions such as Demacia or KeSPA Cup and your daily wet dream of Team McDonald’s hoisting the Summoner’s Cup? Well, then this will be right up your alley. Here are answers to all questions you may have, didn’t know you may have, and definitely never had.


What happened to Vietnam this year?

Due to strict lockdown regulations, VCS Summer 2021 did not take place. Online competition would have required external referees who were however not allowed to visit gaming houses in order to prevent the spread of the virus. For Worlds, just bringing the players to China would have been hard enough as the Vietnamese government is very rigid when it comes to citizens leaving and re-entering the country. The relocation to Iceland made it impossible for teams to obtain the necessary visas on short notice. Therefore, VCS missed out on its third international tournament in a row.


Will Vietnam return to the international stage in 2022?

It is impossible to foresee how the global COVID situation will have developed until May 2022 and which lockdown measures will still be upheld by the Vietnamese government by then. Optimism is warranted – still, any kind of prediction at this time would be pure speculation. TL;DR: Nobody knows.


What is the format?

VCS consists of eight teams which will compete in a Bo3 double round-robin Group Stage. Ergo: 14 matches for each squad. The top four teams will qualify for playoffs where a Bo5 double elimination bracket will decide the first ever winner of a VCS Winter split.


When will games take place?

Regular Season takes place between November 16th and December 17th, the Grand Final will be on December 31st – yes, we are playing on New Year’s Eve, because, why the fuck not. For Vietnamese people, it’s not real New Year’s Eve anyway. Due to the condensed timetable, there will be games from Tuesday to Sunday with two matches daily. Matches start at 09:00 GMT. If you are used to LCK or LPL timeslots, this will be familiar to you already.


Will Akshan and Vex be enabled?

Both Akshan and Vex are enabled, Week 1 will be held on Patch 11.19 (= Worlds patch). It is unclear if VCS Winter will shift over to the pre-season patch at some point, but in any case, if you want to see some of the new champs and changes in pro play, VCS is pretty much your best bet. More information to follow. 


Will Levi play?

Yes. Despite seeking opportunities abroad, he will compete for GAM Esports in VCS Winter 2021.


Will VCS see its first import ever?

Because player base is high and salaries are not, there has never been an import in VCS. This is could possibly change as Korean-owned CERBERUS Esports (4th place team in Spring) has secured a work permit for Korean top laner Poss (formerly playing for Team WE), going all-in for the domestic title they have coveted for a long time. However, there is no definitive guarantee that Poss will actually play as CERBERUS has another top laner (Pun) who started throughout the entire Spring Split for communication reasons. One entire year to gel with his teammates may be enough to finally unleash Poss, but in recent scrims, he has not been fielded.


Why should I watch VCS Winter?

You are always the best option if you are the only option.” (Sun Tzu)

Combining the ingenious and the demented, Vietnam is both the zenith and nadir of League of Legends gameplay. This is a one-gear region: Possessed by the irresistible desire to kill every enemy champion on sight, players are never shy to abandon superfluous principles such as map rotations or objective setups in order to fulfill the unwritten one-kill-per-minute quota, once again making VCS the most combative league in the world for the gazillionth time in a row.

But don’t get fooled by the mess, most teams have a solid understanding (albeit sometimes baffling interpretation) of the game and the necessary mechanical skill to make their rowdy style entertaining. That said, games still routinely degenerate into unadulterated chaos, leaving you with three unanswerable questions: Is it good? Is it bad? And does it matter?

Hide your wife, hide your kids: VCS is not for the faint of heart and will most likely cost you some braincells. But you will like it, godammit!


What do I need to know about the teams in competition?

GAM Esports (Spring 2021: 13-1 in regular season, 1st place in playoffs)

Line-up: Kiaya – Levi – Kati – Divkid/Sty1e – Bie
Best player: Levi

Spearheaded by Levi who is as good as ever and anchored by two very strong solo lanes, GAM boasts outstanding individual talent in all roles. Apart from ADC, all their players are Top 2 (arguably Top 1) in their role without a doubt. On top of that, GAM has now acquired a carry-oriented marksman in Divkid who can be very error-prone but also possesses a high ceiling and should be an upgrade over their previous bot laner Sty1e. GAM’s bruteforce macro approach could use some more finesse, but thanks to their sheer skill, they are be the team to beat. However, they could be vulnerable at the beginning as Kiaya had to sit out the past weeks for health reasons and has just recently rejoined the team.

Prediction: Favourite for the title.


Saigon Buffalo (Spring 2021: 10-4 in regular season, 2nd place in playoffs)

Line-up: Hasmed – Bean J – Froggy – Arrietty – Taki
Best player: Bean J

Forget the Marines: This right here is the most exciting team in VCS. Literally all their players are still teenagers, making them the youngest squad in the league by quite some margin. However, this didn’t stop them from legitimately challenging GAM in the Spring Final, and it is reasonable to assume that they have continued to grow since then. The Buffaloes’ biggest strength is indubitably their high-octane jungle-support duo: Both rookies, Bean J and Taki are the engine to SGB’s fast-paced playstyle. Despite these two prodigies and top lane ace Hasmed, their most interesting player is mid laner Froggy, an unconventional oddball straight out of the Cryin school of “lose lane, win game” who is both known for woeful CS numbers and a hilariously idiosyncratic champion pool. This absolute madman has not only played Kayn, Shyvana, Rammus, Kalista and Ghost-Heal Galio in his career already but has also recently begun to spam Teemo in SoloQ. Get ready for a wild ride, especially as SGB’s inexperience is reflected in their poor late-game decisions which will keep you on the edge of your seat no matter what. 

Prediction: Contender.


Team Secret (Spring 2021: 8-6 in regular season, 3rd place in playoffs)

Line-up: Nagiya – DNK – Pake – Eddie – Phi1
Best player: DNK

Whatever happened in Spring Split couldn’t be more irrelevant now. Except jungler DNK, an explosive early-game menace and nashor kleptomaniac who however has been stagnating in his development for quite some time, Team Secret has parted ways with all their starters. To put it mildly, the replacements are not exactly clear upgrades, but with talented de-facto rookies in top, ADC and support, their ceiling may still be decently high. Keep an eye on Eddie in particular – he has performed splendidly in his few VCS games and is seen by many as a future star.

Prediction: Meh.


CERBERUS Esports (Spring 2021: 9-5 in regular season, 4th place in playoffs)

Line-up: Pun/Poss – EGO – Yado – Artemis – RonOP/Hieu3
Best player: Artemis

The Vietnamese version of Gen.G, CES’s unhurried playstyle mostly revolves around their bot lane. Artemis is an astounding talent with sublime mechanics who attracted high praise from none other than 1v9 machine Doggo himself and has peaked Top 25 on the Korean server this year despite playing on high ping from Vietnam. Just as their Korean counterpart, CES has however failed to replicate their regular season success in playoffs multiple splits in a row, and Artemis will have to up his clutch factor if they want to win it all. It is also unclear who will start in top and support, but at least one question has been answered: After sitting out most of Spring Split due to illness, EGO will be the starting jungler for CERBERUS. With the ability to match Levi on his best days, he could be the deciding factor this team was looking for if he manages to shake off stage rust.

Prediction: Contender.


SBTC Esports (Spring 2021: 7-7 in regular season)

Line-up: Hiro02 – Penguin – Artifact – Celebrity – CBL
Best player: Celebrity

Another team which has revamped nearly its entire roster with only veteran ADC Celebrity left from its Spring Split iteration, SBTC Esports have weathered a stormy off-season, culminating in star mid laner Dia1 getting banned for one year after violating poaching rules. To their credit, SE actually managed to fill out their squad with solid players: Artifact, Celebrity and CBL played together in Summer 2020 already, but how much can SE build upon that synergy? It is very doubtful whether they can challenge the top dogs, but at least post-season seems like a realistic goal. This will also depend on Penguin, an underrated jungler who will play with competent teammates for the first time in his career.

Prediction: Meh.


Team Flash (Spring 2021: 3-11 in regular season)

Line-up: Yoshino – Dante – Harvey – Jetsu – Palette
Best player:
who even knows

Stark has moved to head coach position since, DQH renamed to Harvey.

How far the mighty have fallen: Winner of both Spring and Summer 2020 yet denied an introduction to the global stage, FL was not able to fulfill the salary demands of their players, leaving them with only Yoshino and Palette remaining from their title-winning squad. With new additions in jungle, mid and bot, they barely hobbled into 6th place in Spring and have now made changes in these three positions once again. Their new players are all rookies, and while Yoshino and Palette are very good on paper, team atmosphere and morale are said to be on an abysmal level with the entire organization in turmoil. If rumours about scrim performances are true, this team is destined to regain first place, but only if you turn the table upside down.

Prediction: Favourite for relegation tournament.


Burst The Sky Esports (Spring 2021: 3-11 in regular season)

Line-up: Ryuk – Draktharr – Glory – Aomine – Elio
Best player: Glory

Let’s answer the most interesting question first: Yes, their team acronym is BTS. However, they might as well change it to LLL because they are gonna amass a lot of those. Already fairly bad in Spring, they only made one change in the ADC position, seeing off former PVB great Bigkoro into retirement and replacing him with Aomine, a sidegrade at best. Their young top side of the map, especially mid laner Glory, still has heaps of potential left, so you could see them make a sudden jump to a new level in an ideal world. Personally, I never had a very lively imagination.

Prediction: Hopeless.


Luxury Esports (Spring 2021: 3-11 in regular season)

Line-up: Coated – Killerqueen – Blazes – Shine – H3
Best player: Killerqueen

Not exactly a paragon of ambition, the LXE management has made two minor changes in the offseason. Replacing their volatile top carry Kemken with the equally inconsistent Coated and acquiring support H3 in exchange for Bisbo may slightly move the needle but will most likely only make you wonder why the sewing machine ran out of juice. The sole beacon of hope is the promotion of Killerqueen into a full-time starter position – a true carry jungler at heart, he will have to do some heavy lifting to ride the LXE bus out of relegation zone.

Prediction: Hopeless.


Where can I follow the games?

We have broadcasted every game for the past two years and will continue to do so. You can check out our broadcast on Twitch. VODs will be available on YouTube shortly after. Also, feel free to follow us on Twitter for all news and updates!

You can also join a very active Discord community here.


Which memes may I encounter in chat?

  • Lord Hani: Former Team Secret top laner and Worlds attendee 2019, Hani quickly became a legendary figure amongst VCS fans. Initially revered for his dependable ability to lose every lane, his unselfish playstyle and modest demeanor quickly transformed this ironic apotheosis into genuine adoration, earning him the well-deserved “Lord” moniker. There are also multiple Lord Hani copypastas which are regularly cited although the deity himself has transferred over to Wild Rift a long time ago.
  • “sập”: Don’t even try to pronounce this word as this may get you sent directly to Azkaban. In short, it means something like “crash”, referring to the frequent game pauses caused by collapsing internet which are reliably marring every single broadcast. No week passes without this word being spammed, often mockingly in form of an altered logo of tech giant SAP.
  • 3/ba: Popularized by fans of local streamer hero Baroibeo (also known as Teacher Three), the seemingly innocuous number 3 (in Vietnamese: ba) is used as a universal indicator for any kind of tremendous misplay and usually integrated into the name of the responsible player. Well-known examples are Bavi (instead of Levi), Dia3 (instead of Dia1), and 3let (instead of Palette).

The rest…you will have to discover for yourself 😉


What are some interesting matches in Week 1?

As a certified VCS aficionado, I am obviously obligated to inform you that literally every VCS game is a must-watch banger and should be prioritized above everything else, even your own wedding or funeral. Still, as time is finite, here are three matches to look out for:

  • 16th November, 0900 GMT: SBTC Esports vs. Team Secret
  • 17th November, 1200 GMT: GAM Esports vs. CERBERUS Esports
  • 20th November, 1200 GMT: Saigon Buffalo vs. SBTC Esports
Full schedule for Week 1
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