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To a casual observer, Vision Strikers’ time in pro VALORANT might seem more or less effortless. Ever since they debuted in June 2020, they haven’t taken their foot off the gas. They swept through the South Korean region for the better part of a year, only faltering once, during Stage 2 Challengers. However, they soon returned to their winning ways after that, firmly establishing themselves as the best team in Korea.

But no matter how easy it looks from the outside, every single victory Vision Strikers has racked up was earned through their constant drive to improve. Now they’re heading to VALORANT Champions, where they’ll be facing off against the best teams in the world for the honor of being VALORANT’s first global champion. For a lesser team, their local dominance might inspire complacency, but Vision Strikers are only taking it as a sign to work even harder.

“I feel proud that we are known as the only Korean representatives, because it means we got here because of our hard work,” said team captain Kim “stax” Gu-taek. “I want to play well for our region and earn two spots for the next international tournament.”

Vision Strikers’ first international tournament was Stage 3 Masters: Berlin. They dominated the group stage, emerging as clear favorites to advance in playoffs, but were eliminated in quarterfinals by eventual champions Gambit Esports. Still, Vision Strikers were the only team to take a map off Gambit in playoffs, and they showed that they weren’t just a big fish in a little pond. They were capable of competing with the best of other regions, too.

Since then, Vision Strikers have been hard at work making sure nothing like what happened at Masters Berlin happens again. Through November, they bootcamped in Osnabrück, Germany for nearly two weeks in preparation for Champions.

“We mostly focused on fixing our mistakes from Masters Berlin,” said stax. “While I can’t say what due to team confidentiality, I will say we practiced day and night for Champions and are excited to get our games going.”

Indeed, Vision Strikers are known for keeping their cards close to their chest. According to X10 CRIT player Thanamethk “Crws” Mahatthananuyut, prior to Champions, Vision Strikers refused to scrim against X10 more than once because there was the possibility they would play against each other on the international stage. It’s an unorthodox strategy but one that could very well pay off come Champions, allowing Vision Strikers to come in with the element of surprise.

More than intense focus and preparation, though, Vision Strikers’ fluid, disciplined playstyle comes from the bonds between players. The core of the team – including stax, Lee “k1Ng” Seung-won and Goo “Rb” Sang-min – has been playing together since 2019, when they were all on the same Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team. As a whole, Vision Strikers are a group of players who get along well and are able to communicate freely, allowing them to identify and resolve issues with ease.

“I personally think that our camaraderie and friendship is stronger than most other teams,” said k1Ng. “We are very fond of one another and can take each others’ criticisms professionally. And, of course, everyone on the team is remarkable talented [both] individually and as a team.”

Stax and Kim “MaKo” Myeong-kwan embrace after a win at Masters Berlin. | Provided by Riot Games

This synergy comes through in their gameplay. Vision Strikers made a name for themselves early on for how smoothly they were able to execute set plays, particularly those involving stax’s Breach, to overwhelm opponents and control sites. They’re also able to absorb an attack just as well as they’re able to execute one, making them a fearsomely well-rounded team to play against. Individually, each player is at the top of their game, too.

“If I really had to choose one key player for us, I would go with our smoker, MaKo,” k1Ng said. “I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people this tournament.”

At Champions, Vision Strikers have their eyes on a goal far beyond the group stage. They’ll be in the same group as Fnatic, FULL SENSE and Cloud9, all teams with fascinating trajectories in their own rights. Vision Strikers, though, are determined to blast past the group stage and get revenge against the team that knocked them out at Masters Berlin.

“The team I want to face on stage the most is Team Envy,” said stax. “But the team I want to face in the grand final is Gambit, to get our revenge.”

With all the work they’ve been putting into their Champions preparation, anything less than a deep playoff run would be a disappointment for Vision Strikers. But they’ve already shown that they belong on that stage among the world’s best. Now it’s only a matter of proving that they’re the best.

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