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MSI Preview: VCS’ second-best, Saigon Buffalo carries hopes in international return

Aggressive skill-checking has always been Vietnam Champion Series (VCS)’s forte, but the region improved its macro play away from the international fans’ eyes. However, as VCS teams have been away from the spotlight since the coronavirus pandemic’s start in 2020, their representative arrives as an unknown quantity on the world stage.

Moreover, the VCS is sending its second-best team, Saigon Buffalo, as champions GAM Esports will represent Vietnam at the 2021 Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam. Even then, second-best is scary enough, a harbinger for things to come at the 2022 World Championship.

GAM Esports’ participation in the 2021 Asian Games prevents them from attending, but second-place Saigon Jokers will be more than enough.

How they got here:

Saigon Buffalo may not be the VCS’ finest team, GAM Esports. They are not the undefeated juggernaut that swept the regular season. But they are the only team to fight them as equals in a bo5 finals series. Better yet: they are all young and inexperienced, yet skilled and talented enough to match up with GAM.

Indeed, unlike GAM, Saigon Buffalo are extremely aggressive in their teamfight decisions and would rather fail spectacularly than flop over without resistance. This lack of lucidity will likely doom them against more organized opponents, but their play is solid enough to disrupt the best laid plans by squads other than T1 and Royal Never Give Up.

Player to watch: Hasmed

Beyond Saigon Buffalo’s knack for strong-side top lane play, Hasmed has thrived for his contributions during the laning phase and teamfights. When opponents failed to keep him in check, he has taken over games on Kennen, Gwen and many others.

As such, the top laner stands out beyond his teammates, although none of them are experienced on the world stage due to the VCS’ absence from MSI and Worlds in 2020 and 2021. To compensate, other than AD carry Shogun, the squad stands unchanged since 2021—potentially surprising lineups with lower team chemistry.

Jaxon’s Prediction: Darkhorse #2 for semifinals spot

The upset potential is strong with the VCS, especially if pitted against North America’s Evil Geniuses. If they are allowed to go past Group A, they may cause the greatest upset in international League of Legends as they would finish in the semifinals and score the VCS’ strongest international showing ever. However, they must be careful: DetonatioN FocusMe exists, and Evil Geniuses’ early game may improve before MSI.

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