It was an inspired return for the VCS at MSI 2022. Saigon Buffalo pushed through to the Rumble Stage, and while they went home shortly afterward, top laner Lâm ‘Hasmed’ Huỳnh Gia Huy says the team “made Vietnam proud” with their performance.
Vietnam’s return to the international League of Legends stage after two long years was one of the big storylines at MSI 2022. It was two years of missed opportunities, but an explosive comeback would have made it worth the wait.
And did they do just that. From the first game against T1 to the last, the young Saigon Buffalo brought the fight to the world’s best. Only the second seed from the VCS, they beat Japanese side DetonatioN FocusMe to make the Rumble Stage.
While they didn’t find much success in the Top 6 — losing their first seven games only to play spoiler for PSG Talon and G2 Esports at the tail end —, they ultimately achieved their goal for MSI, Hasmed told Dexerto.
“We’re very happy because we have accomplished our primary goal for MSI — making it to the Top 6 and further if it was possible,” he said after their final game against T1.
“We felt a bit down after all the losses to start the Rumble Stage but we knew we had to experience those defeats to learn from them. This is an international event where every team is top tier and playing at the highest level, so this experience helped us come back stronger every game and achieve good results in the last two days.”
Saigon Buffalo at least didn’t end the event on a sour note thanks to those two late wins on the final days. Once the team was mathematically eliminated, the pressure was off and they were freed up to play true to themselves.
Jungler Trần ‘BeanJ’ Văn Chính was all over the map against the PCS and LEC representatives, and Hasmed got a lot of attention in the top side like he normally does in the VCS.
“When we got eliminated and the pressure came off though, we felt like we were allowed to play freely and enjoy the games more,” he said. “We didn’t have to think about reaching the next stage or anything, so we could just play with no limits.”
However, what made everything sweeter was defying a lot of expectations placed on them. They were only the second seed. They came from a region untested for 24 months. No one really gave them a second look.
At the end of it all, Saigon Buffalo proved everyone very, very wrong.
“We came into this tournament with very low expectations because we were only the second seed from the VCS and hadn’t played internationally for two years,” he explained.
“We did some secret training, though ,so other teams didn’t know much about who we were or what our plans were, and as a result they definitely underestimated us. We feel so happy that we were able to play spoiler in the Rumble Stage, even if we didn’t make the playoffs, and prove ourselves against the teams in the Top 4.”
Big learnings for a young team
MSI 2022 was somewhat daunting for Saigon Buffalo because of all those factors above. It’d be remiss to say they just ignored them — they were very present in the back of their mind.
The crowd, especially against T1, was ringing through their ears above the white noise. Given their lack of international experience, it took a while to get used to, and those nerves were evident, especially at the start of Rumble Stage.
Hasmed says he fared better than his teammates, and that allowed him to focus more on his individual performance.
“I feel like for our team there was some pressure from the crowd that meant we didn’t play our very best. This is our first international experience, our first time on a big stage, but for myself I didn’t feel much of that pressure. I have a very relaxed mindset and I didn’t fear anyone — I just tried to do my best,” he said.
“My playstyle didn’t change much from the VCS to MSI. At these top tier events, though, I have to show my A-game, and I think I have here. I listened to my coaches, we followed the game plan, and I had a very solid laning phase to really set a good foundation.”
Brushing shoulders with the world’s best has instilled him with an amount of knowledge that was unfathomable before he left Vietnam. Just by playing against other regions on stage he was able to learn valuable lessons to take home.
“I think I definitely learned a lot from the other top laners like Zeus, Bin, and Impact. How they control the laning phase, the wave, how they build their champions, their trading patterns when you go to get farm — watching them do that against me has been an invaluable learning experience.”
However, nothing really beats the feeling of doing his region proud. While there’ll always be ‘ifs and buts’ about the performance, what matters is putting those lessons into practice.
Hasmed is vowing to do just that, and everyone better watch out when the VCS comes to Worlds this October.
“I feel like we made Vietnam proud — but only a little bit. We have not achieved our peak performance and we could have played better according to our expectations, but we did at least achieve our goal,” he said.
“We’re going to go home, get even stronger, and see you guys at Worlds.”