Despite being the region’s second seed in their first international appearance in two years, the VCS’ Saigon Buffalo has stormed into the MSI 2022 Rumble Stage. Jungler Trần ‘BeanJ’ Văn Chính isn’t stopping here and is warning the world to expect even more come Worlds.
International League of Legends desperately missed the VCS. The Vietnamese teams had always brought an exciting game, pushing the world’s best to their micro limits with constant fighting.
After a two-year absence, there was mild concern about how the region could have fallen off the pace. Those issues compounded when the VCS was the only team to send its second seed — Saigon Buffalo — to MSI 2022 due to winners GAM Esports playing in the SEA Games.
However, those fears were unfounded in the end. Saigon Buffalo ended second in Group A with a 4-2 record, including decent games against the dominant T1 and nail biters against eventual third-place DetonatioN FocusMe from Japan.
You could feel forgiven for thinking the Vietnamese team just took the achievement in their stride — look at how mid laner Bùi ‘Froggy’ Văn Minh Hải reclined in his chair, center stage in Busan Esports Arena, after they secured their spot early on Day 6.
Internally though, there was equal amounts hype and relief, jungler BeanJ told Dexerto.
“I’m feeling very happy right now because our team has tried our very best to get to the Rumble Stage,” he said. “We told ourselves if we had the skills and capability, we would have moved forward. If we didn’t have them, then we would have just gone home!
“In the final moments [against DFM], we just had to keep calm and tell ourselves that ‘everything would be fine’. We played to our composition’s strengths and executed well to win the game.”
Saigon Buffalo were the shining light of what many considered a dull Group Stage. They made every game exciting with the highest combined kills per minute at 1.28 according to Oracle’s Elixir.
They weren’t afraid of skill checking their opponents, even T1. Nguyễn ‘Shogun’ Văn Huy, who was seen by many as just a “role player” heading into MSI 2022, set the tempo himself with the first kill of the tournament on Lee ‘Gumayusi’ Min-hyeong. He ended the Group Stage with a combined 35/22/35 KDA.
It was signature VCS aggression, but BeanJ said it should have been expected given the region’s notoriety.
“The VCS has always been famous for our aggressive playstyle, so I don’t think it should come as a surprise to teams,” he said.
However, it does show that if Saigon Buffalo are pushing the limits as a second seed, what damage could Vietnam’s best GAM Esports do?
“We’re only the second seed but we’re already in the Top 6,” BeanJ stated. “You guys should be waiting for a lot of surprises when the VCS goes to Worlds. The world should be scared of GAM.
“We have silenced all the critics who doubted us because we were only the second-best in the VCS.”
The Group Stage provided the young squad — who have an average age of just over 18 years old — plenty of experience. Not only did they finally get some international exposure after two years of isolation, they felt every cheer of the crowd.
The tutelage of veteran Đặng ‘Bigkoro’ Ngọc Tài and head coach Nguyễn ‘Ren’ Văn Trọng definitely helped, but the young Buffalo weren’t fazed.
“We definitely feel a bit of pressure because we aren’t just playing in front of a crowd, but an international audience too. However, this also gives us more motivation to play better and be more explosive,” BeanJ stated.
“The most important thing [about Bigkoro and Ren] is that they help us keep a very positive mentality and feel comfortable in the game. They make sure we go into every game feeling 100%.”
Now with a tougher Rumble Stage ahead of them with China’s RNG, Europe’s G2 Esports, and NA’s Evil Geniuses in the mix, the writing is on the wall for Saigon Buffalo according to some.
However, much like how they approached the Group Stage, they’re taking it in their stride.
“If we have the skill, we will also advance to the Knockout Stage. If not, too bad, we’ll just go home.”