The Oceanic Valorant scene was in all fronts considered to be moving out of its infancy stage. Despite a lack of a constant flow of high-level tournaments, the region had seen a few, which was shaping the quality of gameplay the community had begun to expect from some of its talented players.
However, while the region had finally begun setting up for what could only be described as a flying start, Riot arrived onto the stage to pull the rug right from under their feet.
When the game released in beta in April earlier this year, it saw Oceanic gamers rush to play the game on North American servers, to try their hands at a game that would possibly have a massive impact on the current FPS genre.
To understand how almost seven months in, the brightest talent in this region have almost poetically come full circle by going back to those very servers that sparked such interest in Valorant for the region, I reached out to Chris “pl1xx” Li of EXO Clan.
A player such as pl1xx can in many ways be considered the quintessential Oceanic Valorant pro. He has a history in playing at a highly competitive level on two major FPS titles: Counter-Strike Global Offensive and Overwatch. This has been the common story for quite a few pro players currently plying their trade in top-level Oceanic Valorant, which comes as no surprise considering the similarities between them.
The EXO Clan star, however, stands out as someone who has a deeper understanding of pro Valorant not just domestically, but internationally as well.
The current state of the pro scene
One of the biggest issues currently being faced by Tier 1 Oceanic Valorant teams is the lack of teams to essentially scrim with. With the region being small compared to most and the obvious geographical restrictions it exacerbates the problem of teams trying to really stand out from each other.
“We can’t just keep playing scrims against the top 3 teams repeatedly. This allows them to understand how we play and the strats that we use,” he said.
The competitive circuit, however, has expanded. Both Gravitas and Legacy, who were established OPL organizations, picked up rosters that would prepare to compete in the First Strike regional qualifiers. Dire Wolves, Order, and Avant invested in the scene earlier.
2-0 for Swiss stage today. Some rocky games but got there in the end. pic.twitter.com/F2DSfkcaGq— EXO pl1xx / CHRIS (@pl1xxval) November 14, 2020
This along with teams such as FunCrew, Waterbottle, and RipNTear jumping in with all guns blazing, the environment has diversified in terms of the options teams have to practice with. However, pl1xx highlights that a growing underlying problem between the quality of rosters that currently play has widened.
“The gap has become larger [between the teams]. The game will showcase how quickly a team can adapt to a new meta. If the team does not put effort into learning, then they will fall behind very quickly,” he said.
This, as pl1xx highlights, is what “limits the options” for his roster when compared to other regions, where a larger number of teams are competing for the top spot.
Oceania & the Valorant Champions Tour
On November 25, Riot announced their ambitious plan to push their game to the upper echelon of esport titles. The 2021 Valorant Champions Tour would see a competition being divided into three levels, Challengers, Masters and Champions with the latter featuring 16 of the best teams in the world facing each other to be crowned a global champion.
It was a matter of much excitement in Oceania, however, almost akin to a Breach flash, the region was blindsided. The dreams and hopes of an entire region were reduced to a mere foot mark. “OCE teams will have qualification paths through NA events,” it read, which led to massive outrage on social media.
The lack of transparency from Riot was concerning as a dark cloud loomed over what the future holds for pro Valorant in the region. While matters seem like they could possibly improve, this means little to the objectives pl1xx and the rest of EXO Clan currently has.
“We all had goals of playing internationally before the VCT announcement, and if anything, it has given us the push to achieve our goal faster. Our current focus remains to maintain the top spot in our region; however, we have also been given the green-light [from EXO] to seek international opportunities,” he said.
“Hypothetically, if we moved to NA, we would give it our best to scrim/practice/learn from the teams over there. We are all committed to moving and adapting to the new environment, which is one of our stronger characteristics as a roster.”
Like most in the region, pl1xx himself was quite upset with the existing plans in place for VCT. Many believe that if Oceania was pushed into the same bracket as South-East Asia, it would give the region a fairer chance at competing. However, the EXO star believes this makes little difference to the plans his team currently have in mind while having a larger overall impact on the region.
“[Riot] are slowly killing off the motivation and drive of a lot of teams and players. The announcement shows clearly how much faith they have in us as a region. However, I am sure they have their reasons that are beyond my understanding that have led them to make their decisions,” he added.
We’re exploring other potential paths for OCE in 2021, while intl travel is restricted. Setting expectations, OCE won’t have a dedicated slot and will need to play through another region, but we’ll see if there’s a more practical option than NA. Tagging @sozo_labs for vis.— Whalen Rozelle (@RiotMagus) November 27, 2020
EXO’s international standing in the overall Valorant pro scene
As a player, pl1xx is unique in his own rights. An accomplished duellist, he is also known to play agents such as Sova in certain maps to further aid the way his team sets up their approach to matches. This makes him an immense asset for his roster as his versatility opens up a host of opportunities and keeps EXO’s opponents guessing.
While pl1xx can be described as an incredible surprise wildcard any team would be lucky to have, he backs his roster to prove their pedigree overseas.
“If given the chance, my roster will rival top teams in any region. While I continue to individually improve myself as a player, by watching VODs or specific agent related skill sets, there is a focus on growing my own profile through streaming and social media.”
In October, on the Run It Back Podcast, pl1xx had a lot to say on how the Oceanic region would fare against North American teams and was confident that his team would put up a show. “I still hold that opinion. Every day we are thinking of ways to improve our individual talent and teamwork,” he said.
1b2g pic.twitter.com/BZvTstNack— EXO pl1xx / CHRIS (@pl1xxval) November 23, 2020
“Players from teams such as Order and Dire Wolves, I respect very much. I believe the top three teams of our region have very high raw mechanical skill and talent. From what I have seen in general, NA teams play a very aggressive playstyle that balances raw mechanical skill and strats.
“SEA teams, on the other hand, have the strats but lack the firepower. Our teams can easily stop almost any type of aggression from their individual skills alone. Of course, there is a lot more to it, but this is the most elementary explanation of the scenario. In my opinion it would be a very competitive match if the top 3 teams in EU/NA and Vision Strikers played against us.”
While pl1xx’s perspective on North American teams is positive, his views on South-East Asian teams are, in his opinion, indisputable.
“Our teams would absolutely crush them. I sometimes force myself to watch multiple SEA teams play to make sure they are not just having a bad game. Their level of play in many ways, disappoints me. I believe EXO would rank number one in SEA.”
One can see why a player of his calibre holds strong opinions such as he does. If the brightest talent in the Oceanic pro Valorant circuit don’t have the confidence to back themselves up, who will?
At a time where many ambitious players in the region are thinking of turning their back and wondering what could have been, it’s a breath of fresh air to understand how one of the most talented players here has decided to face his challenges full steam ahead. Only time will tell how the future pans out for Oceanic Valorant and its best organizations.
Pl1xx and EXO Clan will face off against Wildcard in the First Strike Oceania Finals on December 3.
You can catch the action live on the Fortress Melbourne Twitch channel.