EXO Clan were once living in the shadow of Team Launch. However, now they’ve firmly cemented themselves at the top of Oceanic Valorant, taking down their bitter rivals three times on the way to Rise of Valour glory in the Valorant Ignition Series.
The tug-of-war between EXO Clan and Team Launch has been the predominant storyline in Oceanic Valorant. In the early days, the latter outfit held all the accolades, with their CS:GO experience on the biggest stages proving insurmountable. However, the battleground has flipped.
EXO Clan have been the powerhouse of Oceanic Valorant as of late, as Launch remained absent from the events between the Oceanic Valorant Open and Rise of Valour. All those extra officials under their belt proved to be worth it in Rise of Valour.
The squad managed to take down Team Launch not once, but three times in Rise of Valour, to take home the trophy and $6,000 AUD for themselves. For IGL and Cypher player Iyengaran “IyeN” Raju, it was a long time coming.
“It was a hidden rivalry ever since we lost the first Ignition Series event. We always wanted to get our revenge, and we knew that we could beat Launch. We did that — not just once, but three different times during Rise of Valour,” he told Snowball.
WE ARE YOUR IGNITION SERIES CHAMPIONS! 🥇🥇🥇— EXO Clan (@EXOClan_gg) September 24, 2020
After a display of dominance we take the #RiseOfValour Ignition Series 3-0 vs #TeamLaunch
GGWP – Thank You to @FortressMelb for hosting the event.@pl1xxval 🐐@crunchyyworld 🐐@dizzyaus 🐐@iyencs 🐐@senpai_madara 🐐 pic.twitter.com/doDT8CAFeD
It would have been one thing to say that Launch just lost in the final, but they fell down at every step before it too. In the Play-In, EXO Clan managed to sweep Launch 2-0, including a 13-0 belting on Ascent where Chris “pl1xx” Li starred with 22 kills on Reyna. They kept all of Launch to under single-digit frags.
Then, in the upper bracket final, EXO Clan managed to pull ahead once again despite falling down early on Split. While they couldn’t stem the bleeding on attack, they showed their class on Bind and Ascent, putting on their own second runs of 6-1 and 8-1 respectively to close out the series.
Launch still had one last chance to beat EXO after taking down Ground Zero to secure a rematch. However, EXO didn’t even need to tap into their one-map advantage in the best-of-five.
They continued their undefeated streak on Bind thanks to some great plays by Ethan “Crunchy” Laker on Omen on attack. While Matthew “Texta” O’Rourke pulled out the play of the tournament on Haven, his heroics — along with Tyler “tucks” Reilly on Jett — weren’t enough to stop the EXO onslaught.
The final also showed the versatility of pl1xx. While he’s known for his duelist play, he pulled out the Sova on Haven against Launch when the team needed more utility, and it paid off massively.
“Bob is our main Breach, but he’s also our main Sova player, and on Haven [against Launch] we felt like we needed them both. Breach is so strong right now, and with Haven involving a lot of map control, the two were a must. We asked pl1xx if he’d rather play Sova or Breach, and he said Sova,” IyeN said.
The difference between Rise of Valour and OVO was outstanding though. While you could label the games as close, beating Launch thrice speaks volumes to EXO’s dominance since the July Ignition Series event. It only took two changes to make everything click though.
“We reset our roles. There were major changes in our roles after OVO. I took over IGLing and we got Dizzy off Sage and onto the Jett-Operator, which we should have done earlier. Those were the two biggest changes.”Iyengaran “IyeN” Raju
The team also had to battle the meta shift. Patch 1.07 spliced the meta in Rise of Valour in half, after the major update fell between the Open Qualifiers and Play-Ins thanks to a three-week delay. The change was arguably a blessing in disguise for EXO, who weren’t necessarily affected during the event due to auto-qualifying for Play-Ins.
“We were playing Sage in all of our comps [just with pl1xx instead], but as soon as she got nerfed, we had to adapt pretty quickly. The next day, we started playing new comps,” IyeN said.
“I think we were comfortable with both metas because we put in heaps of practice. Just the fact that we can play pl1xx on a duelist rather than the Sage. When he was on the Sage we were doing really well, but he’s more comfortable on duelists.”
However, the three-week break also left EXO on the fence about where they stood on the Oceanic power rankings. It felt like an endless grind towards nothing, with no events coming to fill the void left by Rise of Valour’s delay until the Conkmodo Spring Valorant Slam, which they also won.
“There was like this huge stalemate period which was really draining for us and all the other teams. We would just scrim, and scrim, and scrim, and there’d just be no competition to put that work in,” he admitted.
Now, with First Strike on the horizon, IyeN and the rest of EXO have their eyes firmly set on continuing their dominance. They aren’t satisfied with only hitting the top in Oceania, they are looking towards international events down the line.
“We’re going to go into First Strike wanting to win it. We’re obviously going to stay on our toes with whatever patches get released and where the meta shifts. 100% we’re going to come up with a few more comps in our arsenal in case we need to catch some teams by surprise. Winning is the only goal for us with First Strike,” he said.
Having come from a CS:GO background and having to deal with Valve’s laissez-faire approach to tournaments, the difference in official support is also exciting IyeN.
“I think it’s great that it’s a full Riot tournament. You can see how Riot have run their League of Legends scene — it’s pretty impressive — so when Riot gets involved, it’s always going to be a good thing.”
If there is one team that can seemingly contest EXO at First Strike though, it’ll be Launch. While IyeN was hesitant to throw some cheeky banter at Launch, he did want to highlight one comment that was made ahead of Rise of Valour.
“I don’t want to banter Launch, but when Tucks said ‘I reckon EXO should be able to get more than five rounds in the Grand Final as well this time around,’ I was like ‘okay dude’. But that’s it.”