With Worlds 2022 about to begin, the Vietnam Championship Series’ champions GAM Esports are one of the 24 teams from across the world that are making their way to the biggest event of the year. Every team entering the League of Legends World Championship have the same goal: to stand at the top uncontested and hoist the Season 12 Summoner’s Cup high.
The VCS have been missing from Worlds since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and this year we’re finally seeing them return. Saigon Buffalo performed their very best at the Mid-Season Invitational and now it is GAM’s time to show the fans what they’ve been missing.
GAM Esports (VCS) Worlds 2022 starting roster breakdown:
- Top: Trần “Kiaya” Duy Sang | Signed in 2018
- Jungler: Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh | Signed in 2019
- Mid: Đặng “Kati” Thanh Phê | Signed in 2020
- Bot: Mai “Sty1e” Hoàng Sơn | Signed in 2020
- Support: Trần “Bie” Đức Hiếu | Signed in 2020
- Substitute: Phạm “Elio” Thạch Nhân Băng | Signed in 2022
- Head Coach: Phan “JackieWind” Huy Phong | Signed in 2020
- Team Manger/COO: Nguyễn “Izumin” Khánh Hiệp | Signed in 2020
How GAM Esports got here
First things first: GAM used to stand for GIGABYTE Adonis Marines but this is no longer the case, as they not sponsored by GIGABYTE Technology or Adonis Icyber Gaming. Now, they are just GAM Esports, but make no mistake, they carry on the same legacy and dominance from the Marines of old, and enter Worlds 2022 with the swagger expected from the back-to-back Vietnamese champions. They are back, and Fnatic fans will remember their fateful encounter in 2017.
Due to national obligations of having to compete at the SEA Games 31, fans missed the chance to see GAM at the Mid-Season Invitational 2022, especially since GAM, to put it lightly, completely subjugated the VCS in spring. Their total win record of 31-3 echoes the same way T1 dominated the LoL Champions Korea (LCK) in spring.
And at the SEA Games, it was more of the same, according to VCS English caster and analyst Noah “Yulwei” Schaar.
“They won every single game over there, most of the games didn’t even go to 20 minutes,” he said. “Honestly, everyone knew that the other teams were not on the level of any of the professional teams. So GAM basically just had an extended vacation, smashed the other teams, and brought home the gold medal.”
While Saigon Buffalo battled valiantly at MSI 2022, it left fans with a greater hunger to see GAM return to the international arena. With such an impressive showing in spring, one would expect GAM to utterly crush their competition once more…but that was not so.
“Summer came around and it was actually a very weird season from the GAM perspective because they started really badly,” Yulwei said. “At the start of the season, they went 1-3 in series score, but their game scores were even worse. It was less than 50% for some weeks and they looked really bad. They didn’t even look like a top-four team.”
Yulwei explained there were two reasons for this. The first was due to their star support and MVP of spring Bie falling very ill and since he was their main shotcaller, GAM were left directionless. The second was a ‘half-confirmed’ thread from Reddit (now locked) on Riot Korea locking or banning all VCS pro accounts. While there’s been no official statement as of today, it was talked about due to the noticeable lack of activity from these accounts.
GAM had to endure a difficult first half of the regular season before Bie made a triumphant return. His presence galvanised the spring champions, ending the season on top at 11-3 and set to blaze through playoffs once more. According to Yulwei, GAM “looked a little bit subdued” at the start of playoffs and despite defeating SBTC Esports 3-1, it was closer than the score suggested. But then shockingly, GAM would fall to their rivals Saigon Buffalo 3-2, forcing them to make a Lower Bracket run if they wanted to reach Worlds.
“Saigon Buffalo have very consistently been the second best team and always lost to GAM in best-of-fives. They have never won against GAM before this series and they finally did it,” Yulwei said, adding that the Buffalo’s bot lane constantly defeated their counterparts in GAM as the key factor to them winning the series. GAM had to dig in deep once more.
They promptly dispatched Team Secret 3-0 in the Lower Bracket to set up a rematch against the Buffalo’s and in the ensuing finals, stomped their rivals 3-0. GAM were going to Worlds once more. It was somewhat of an anti-climatic finale, and Yulwei praised GAM’s ability to adapt with picks to neutralise the Buffalo’s bot lane duo given so little time between series.
GAM IS OFFICIALLY THE CHAMPION OF VCS SUMMER 2022.
GAM has finished its #GAM7 campaign, successfully defending its title and winning the team's seventh national championship. We still have a long way to go, let's support GAM to have a good performance at Worlds! pic.twitter.com/SyaHowiwaA
— GAM Esports VN 🇻🇳 (@GAMesportsVN) September 5, 2022
“Saigon Buffalo didn’t really have any answer to GAM’s Varus pick. It was one of the biggest adaptations and you have to consider this was a really short turnaround time,” he said. “They played Saigon Buffalo on Wednesday and then they had to play Team Secret on Friday, and then their rematch with Saigon Buffalo on Sunday. GAM figured this out in two or three days. Hopefully, this also will bode well for them if they ever fall down in the first week of Worlds, because we now know they can adapt in very few days and find new strategies.”
Players to watch
At the glance, international fans will immediately recognise jungler Levi. The aforementioned Fnatic match still lingers fondly in the minds of many, but maybe not so much for the black and orange faithful. However, while Levi is now tied with most titles in the VCS and one of the most successful players there, he’s not the star of the show this season, especially since the meta was skewed more towards facilitating, tanky junglers compared to the farming, carry junglers like Nocturne which he still loves.
No, the man of the hour for GAM is their maestro and support Bie.
As mentioned previously, Bie was the glue that held the team together and in his return to GAM, revitalised the team. Without his leadership, GAM might have very well not made Worlds. Other than his shotcalling prowess, Bie’s versatility in his champions picked as well as how he is able to make them work to his style of play, is truly what makes him a standout candidate. He plays both tanks and Enchanters and even loves pulling out the Ashe support (ARAM players rejoice) specifically against Renata Glasc.
“One thing Bie does better than anyone else in the VCS is roaming, and often showing up in top or mid lane at ridiculous times,” Yulwei said. “He had two games back-to-back on Yuumi and Lulu when he came back in the middle of the season. If you think of Lulu and Yuumi, they never roam, right? But he actually managed to make Yuumi roams work, without boots, without flash, without anything! Bie’s a very exciting player. His laning is fine but it’s nothing special. It’s more of his ability to lead the team and read the map.”
When pressed on that one interesting Shen support pick he played against SBTC Esports, Yulwei promptly responded with “I don’t think we want to talk about that”.
On Shen, for a second player that might catch the audience’s eye, is a player that should theoretically pilot it more efficiently in top laner Kiaya (he’s never played it though). Kiaya is a stalwart of GAM and has been with them since 2018, and international fans will remember him at Worlds 2019 as a mid laner, rather than his natural position in top lane. He also happens to be Yulwei’s favourite player from the VCS and he describes Kiaya as a solid player.
“He’s very stable and very good at laning. Kiaya doesn’t really go for super aggressive plays most of the time, but can do if needed,” he said. “He doesn’t really have the highest number of solo kills or anything, but he almost never dies.”
Indeed, despite enduring a rocky summer, statistics from Oracle’s Elixir back this up. For players that have played over 30 games in the VCS regular season, Kiaya has the least deaths (81) and second last deaths of all top laners in playoffs (32) despite playing the most total games at 15. He’s almost always positive in terms of Experience and Gold difference at 10 minutes and has some of the lowest Gold Share of all top laners in the VCS, 21.8% in the regular season and 22.1% in playoffs.
Kiaya has been very proficient in piloting many carry picks from Aatrox to Gnar, and he has been a menace when he gets Jax and Camille, one of his favourite picks.
“He also started to play Ornn after his coach insisted over and over again. His coach loves the Ornn,” Yulwei said, adding Kiaya has become a more complete player now going into Worlds. “You always have to look out for Kiaya, especially when top lane is in such an unpredictable state with Patch 12.18. No one really knows what top lane is going to look like just yet. In terms of carry players, he’s the most interesting on the team.”
How GAM Esports can succeed at Worlds 2022
GAM have been seeded directly into the Worlds 2022 Main Event, just like their outings in 2017 and 2019. They’ve been drawn into Group C with LoL European Championship (LEC) champions Rogue and the LoL Pro League (LPL) second seed Top Esports. The third team remains undecided till Play-ins conclude, but if DRX were to make it through, they will almost certainly be drawn here.
— LoL Esports (@lolesports) September 11, 2022
While Group D looks the easiest on paper, there have been no real easy draws for this Worlds. No Vietnamese team has ever made it out of groups before, with GAM coming close in 2017 with the three-way 2-4 in their group and losing the eventual tiebreaker.
Despite how the draw has gone, Yulwei maintains the group is somewhat decent for GAM and it will most likely be a race for second.
“It’s never going to be easy for any VCS team in the group stage, but they do have Rogue and very likely DRX,” he said. “I think Rogue is the second weakest number one seed after Cloud9, and DRX is the weakest team from the LPL/LCK representatives, right? So you already have two decent draws.”
He does, however, think that TES will be mostly insurmountable for GAM. “TES is probably unbeatable for GAM. It’s best-of-ones and LPL teams have traditionally been somewhat susceptible to dropping games there, so we can always hope to get a random win,” he said. “But I think the problem with TES is they are insanely good in the early game, and GAM is not actually that early game focused anymore, so I don’t really see a way how GAM can really win against TES unless they int the late game.”
But perhaps the greatest enemy of all for GAM is the American immigration system, which has worried many VCS fans with how long the applications are seemingly taking. Luckily, their VISA applications have been proceeding as planned; looks like GAM will be attending Worlds 2022, barring any complications.
— GAM Esports VN 🇻🇳 (@GAMesportsVN) September 21, 2022
With GAM finally bringing all the fanfare of Vietnam back to Worlds 2022, it would be deflating to see their run cut short. From their dominance in spring, to wading through the harsh seas of summer, to adapting in just a few days to sweep their way to Worlds, GAM could very well be biggest surprise at Wrolds 2022. To that end, Yulwei remains cautiously hopeful.
“I think it’s mostly through top side and teamfighting that GAM can get out of this group, and if Kiaya and Levi hit the highest highs they’ve had in the last few years, I think it’s possible,” he said. “So, hopeful, not delusional…but hopeful.”