Cloud9 Korea have gotten their Valorant First Strike Korea campaign off the ground with a 2-1 win over Crazy Hamster, but it wasn’t a clean one. Despite the messy victory, Byeon “Munchkin” Sang-beom is confident the title contenders can upset the unstoppable Vision Strikers, and finally hand them a loss.
Cloud9 Korea entered First Strike as one of the favourites to reach the Grand Final. It’s just a shame that standing in their way is the 45-0 Vision Strikers, who are yet to lose a competitive series in Valorant.
Despite this, the team is heading into their do-or-die series on Saturday with a winner’s mentality. They showed the potential of their roster to its fullest against Crazy Hamster in their 2-1 victory, but it wasn’t without some shortcomings.
Cloud9 broke out to a dominant lead on the first map in Haven, winning in a flawless 13-0. Their coordination was on point, showcasing the perfect MOBA-esque utility usage Korean Valorant is known for. They also just happened to bring the firepower when it mattered as well.
Crazy Hamster didn’t curl up into a ball though. They fought back, clawing back a victory on Bind thanks to some heroics by Kim “Sunday” Min-soo on Sova and “C1nder” on Raze. They couldn’t close it out in regulation despite their 11-8 lead, but Cloud9 were slowly running out of gas.
That was especially evident on the Haven rematch, where Crazy Hamster had seemingly solved the puzzle. However, there was one wildcard, and that was Munchkin. His 24 kills blew the lobby out of the water, stabilizing C9 as they cruised to another victory on their strongest map.
Cloud9 did come in as heavy favourites, but not even Munchkin was expecting them to come out of the gates as fast as they did.
“On the first map, we didn’t expect the 13-0, but we expected to dominate Crazy Hamster. Maps 2 and 3 didn’t go as planned though. We struggled a little bit, but ultimately we still won,” he said in the post-match interview.
“We did think we were going to beat them easily, but in map 3, we struggled because Crazy Hamster understood how I was lurking. I love to flank and wrap around, and in map 1 they didn’t stop me. They waited for me in map 3, played patiently, and picked me off.”
“They started off well, but they were never able to finish out the map. They made small mistakes that backfired.”
Cloud9 Korea has had to undergo some soulsearching ahead of First Strike. After removing DoYa, Smoothie, and Try in October, they had little time to try and patch together a new strategy around Overwatch veterans Munchkin and Park “Bazzi” Jun-ki.
Thankfully, bringing on CS:GO IGL Son “xeta” Seon-ho and young guns Lee “Hate” Ye-hun and Yu “BuZz” Byung-chul have helped stabilize the roster. Munchkin also had to go through a role change from Cypher to more of a flex — picking up Viper and Killjoy — but he’s taken to the new lurker like a duck to water.
“One of the biggest reasons is because of the recent patch, all of Cypher’s utility is null and void if he dies, whereas Killjoy, even if she does die, she can still utilize her turrets and nanoswarms and get a trade. Her ultimate — the zone control during a retake is a lot more useful compared to the Neural Theft,” he said.
Now, Cloud9 Korea are booked in for a rematch with Vision Strikers. The 45-0 Gods of Korean Valorant will be keen on setting their record to 46-0, but Munchkin believes the current Cloud9 roster is the strongest iteration yet, and the biggest challenge to the seemingly unstoppable squad.
“We’ve played Vision Strikers previously but we lost because it was right after we rebuilt the team so we weren’t as ready. We’ve always wanted to beat Vision Strikers, and we go in with that mindset regardless. Now with everything sorted, we’re very confident we can finally beat Vision Strikers.”
Cloud9 Korea plays Vision Strikers in the First Strike Korea Regional Finals on December 5 for a spot in the Grand Final.