Inside the chaos of Valorant’s APAC rostermania

The Valorant Champions 2022 stageColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games

Some esports organizations in Riot Games’ partnered APAC Valorant league, that are new to the title, had to scramble to put together a roster. In the region, accusations began flying that some players were being pressured to sign contracts.

Once Talon Esports was informed by Riot Games that the organization was in the Pacific Valorant league, its staff hurried to assemble a roster. The Hong Kong-based organization had been the tournament organizer for some Challengers events in 2021 and had fielded a Filipino roster in early 2022. But this was something completely new for them.

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Talon announced its roster on October 25, an all-Thai team with the former core of Xerxia Esports, which it had put together in time to present to Riot Games by October 15. This soft deadline was for teams to make sure they had an eligible roster and staff in order for the start of the first split of the new league in 2023.

Talon Esports CEO and co-Founder Sean Zhang told Dexerto that working within such time constraints was difficult, coming in mostly cold to the esport, but that the organization was able to get it done without too much trouble.

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“Having to negotiate with other teams and then also looking for free agents just adds to the complexity, which obviously makes it a bit more stressful,” Zhang said. “But timeline-wise, we had done it before. We hadn’t always built the best squads in that period of time. But we had done it before.”

Riot Games rules stipulate that organizations must give players a window of 16 business hours after making a written offer. ‘Ominous,’ a writer for Run It Back, claimed that some organizations were pressuring players to sign because the soft deadline was closing in.

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Almost every team in the APAC league has announced their initial rosters for the 2023 season, but squads may not be finalized until February 1. One organization in the APAC league told Dexerto that it had difficulties putting together an ideal roster before the soft lock because of the tight deadline.

Team Secret, a Filipino organization, said that its current roster is not final and could see changes before the February deadline.

“We have told our players that we are comfortable with them but that we are still continuing to test the roster because the offseason is ongoing, and the offseason is rather long,” Team Secret CEO John Yao told Dexerto.

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Teams also had to stay true to their initial pitch to Riot, which included committing to a region that they will have to represent.

Regional representation in the Valorant APAC league

FULL SENSE group shotLance Skundrich/Riot Games
FULL SENSE battled through the APAC Last Chance Qualifier to compete at Valorant Champions 2021.

The Pacific league has a lot of ground to cover in terms of regional representation. Just like in EMEA, it encompasses many different countries, including Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, China, the Philippines, and Taiwan, among others.

Different organizations within the league will represent different regions. For example, T1 and Gen.G have a Korean core, while Team Secret plan to remain a Filipino team.

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“We represent the Filipino market,” Yao said. “We have all these fans in the Philippines, our team is Filipino, we do all these crossovers with Filipino influencers. I think for us, it would be kind of disingenuous if we did a 180º turn and went in a different direction.”

But some Valorant fans think that at least one team in the APAC league is not doing a proper job honoring the region it was supposed to represent. Rex Regum Qeon, an Indonesian organization, signed a majority Filipino roster and have been hit with backlash from fans.

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The organization did eventually go on to sign David ‘Tehbotol’ Monangin, Saibani ‘fl1pzjder’ Rahmad and Hagai ‘Lmemore’ Tewuh, three of the best Indonesian players in the market. But RRQ CEO Andrian ‘AP’ Pauline did have to address the controversy in an Instagram story when the initial roster reveal only included Tehbotol.

Tehbotol playing Valorant for BOOM Esports from APACColin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
Tehbotol showcased his skills at the highest level at Valorant Champions 2022 with BOOM Esports.

“If indeed RRQ is wrong in choosing the players, we should at least be given the opportunity to try and wait for the results,” he said in a statement. “We will also have an internal evaluation if the team’s performance does not match our expectations.”

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On October 27, RRQ released two of its FIlipino players, Nathaniel ‘Nexi’ Cabero and Kelly ‘kellyS’ Sedillo. The organization said that the team would be moving forward with a six-man roster with an equal split between Indonesian and Filipino players.

The theory fans ran with was that RRQ was looking to sign cheap players from the Philippines to pocket the stipend that Riot Games will give every team in the partnered leagues. Riot requires that players get paid a minimum salary of about $47,000 in the APAC league.

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Yao and Zhang said they do not expect to profit from the Riot stipend, or at all, in the first year or two of their participation in the Pacific league. They added they see their entrance into the league as a growth opportunity and hope to see profitability at some point in the future.

“We’re not too worried about profitability,” Yao said. “I think profitability will come if the league grows large enough and with the rise of digital items and things like that the profit sharing from there. We’re fully prepared to invest in the initial years.”

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Agents in APAC and SEA

fl1pzjder with Valorant org BOOM Esports.Lance Skundrich/Riot Games
fl1pzjder competed on BOOM Esports at Valorant Champions 2022.

Another small controversy in the APAC offseason so far has been the lack of agents in the region representing players and coaches. Player representation is commonplace in Korea and Japan, and some players in other countries are represented by agencies based in Europe and North America. Still, many organizations in the APAC league have dealt directly with players this offseason.

Yao and Zhang said they prefer working directly with players in most instances because foreign agents can cause headaches if there is a clash of cultures or a misunderstanding in negotiations. Both said they have had to reel in expectations from agents setting high prices for players that are not sustainable for organizations in the region.

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“With some of these less mature, I would say, agents and agencies, It’s a little bit of a struggle,” Yao said. “It’s easier to work directly with players because you can cut out a lot of the bullshit that happens in between.”

Zhang said that if negotiations do end up being difficult with an agent, he can end talks then and there and move on.

“That’s the key thing is we have multiple targets for positions,” Zhang said. “So if negotiations are just like [stuck]… then we have the choice to try other players. So that’s kind of like our philosophy around it,” Zhang said.

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For now, the chaos of the first few weeks of the Valorant offseason has subsided as contracts have been signed and players start to practice with their new, or old, teammates. There may be more roster moves to come, but for now, fans will have to wait to see these new teams debut on the international stage in 2023 at the VCT Kickoff tournament in Brazil.