Confirmed to be the longest international map ever played, the marathon Ascent went to six overtimes before DRX finally overcame their demons and defeated the Masters Copenhagen champs FPX.
With Ascent being the FPX map pick, DRX needed to close out on their map pick Breeze to conclude the series and get their biggest win to date. Heading into the second half up 9-3 on Breeze, it was all a matter of sticking to their game plan and closing the huge lead.
Each DRX player stepped up in the clutch moments. Finally proving to the world that this team has what it takes to be legitimate contenders for VCT trophies.
Winning in front of a crowd a “dream come true” for DRX
After the historic and electric victory, I asked Kim “stax” Gu-taek to walk me through the emotions he was feeling on stage. Winning in front of a roaring crowd, hanging at the edge of their seat after every kill.
“It was a dream come true for all of us on the team to be able to play in front of all these fans. We weren’t able to do this in the past. We’ve been able to play in front of fans in Korea but not abroad so it was a dream come true. On the map, especially the first one, it was very close but we were just focused on winning.”
DRX’s Improved Mentality at Valorant Champions
In every unique scenario, starting with responding swiftly to the Ardis “ardiis” Svarenieks absurd 1v3 clutch on Ascent in OT or the 2v5 anti-bonus round with stax on Breeze, the DRX mental game held firm. The unraveling after a bad map loss or round has been their downfall at past events, but this looks to be a different DRX.
Moreover, it’s a team not settling for one statement win. In the post-match press conference, DRX players were still aware of mistakes that could’ve closed out Ascent sooner. For Kim “MaKo” Myeong-kwan, he looked at the ardiis clutch as a missed opportunity, identifying the problem with that very play.
“Unfortunately, in that specific situation, there was some missed communication between the three of us and so we actually gifted ardiis the opportunity to three 1v1’s rather than one 3v1 so that was really unfortunate. And, as you said, it was a round where we could have ended it all.”
DRX adjustments paying huge dividends
With five map points for DRX on Ascent, it pushed their mental game to the limit. Needing one round to steal the FPX map pick and failing could start to spread doubt amongst the players. But, the resolve was stronger than ever before, even with unfortunate round losses, the team stuck to their teamwork and didn’t attempt the hero plays. The 77% KAST in the win, a stat DRX often lead at Masters events, shows them trusting their calls and system. It all eventually led to the map win in the sixth overtime.
Turning to adjustments made, stax has taken the IGL role over from Kim “Zest” Gi-seok. Since the switch, the team has made significant improvements. Starting with Zest, who turned out a +15 KD in the win. His new role allows him to focus on his singular purpose around the Sova utility. While stax showed the world why he’s considered the best Initiator, and now maybe the best IGL.
He appeared to always have the correct reads on FPX’s positioning with superior mid-rounding. He often called nicely timed rotates, finding bomb sites wide open. For him to have that much spatial awareness while still dropping 135 ADR in the win is beyond impressive.
BuZz on the role change
Furthermore, switching Yu “BuZz” Byung-Chul onto a permanent Duelist role has made a world of difference. For starters, he is one of the best fraggers in Valorant regardless of agent. But, Jett undoubtedly allows him to actively search for duels.
“I used to play Jett a couple of events ago, and personally, I have a very aggressive style of play. And, so while I played a Sentinels role in the last couple of events, I think we transitioned off of that into an entry role because with these agents I can play a lot more aggressively which fits my style of play”
In what many are describing as an instant classic on Ascent, BuZz was the player making the game-winning plays under pressure. In overtime alone, BuZz had five first bloods and 10 overall on the map. It showed his star prowess on the Jett in primetime. It wasn’t always him working off utility either, but his innate feel for positioning and the ability to win on contact duels, using Jett’s getaway options with the dash.
In 36 rounds, BuZz ended with 36 kills on Ascent. Since the start of Champions, he’s proven the Jett switch was the correct call. In the three DRX wins, BuZz has dropped a staggering 263.7 ACS. Playing Jett allows him to actively seek out fights rather than waiting back on the Chamber and solely playing angles. The philosophy switch has opened up many doors for DRX in a meta hellbent on committing to the Chamber roles.
Taking the next step
In 2022, DRX has been in this exact situation twice before. Entering the Upper Semifinals with a chance to make it to the Upper finals. Both times DRX failed to get past OpTic Gaming, eventually falling in the lower bracket, and missing out on the top six.
However, DRX fell to FPX at Copenhagen 2-0 in a rather one-sided series. Here in Istanbul, they flipped the script and handled a dangerous FPX team. Many deem DRX strong enough to win a championship but the talent hasn’t translated to results. Is this the team to finally lift a Masters trophy at the most prestigious event of the year?
Again, no one has ever questioned their talent. In the best Controller players converation, MaKo is right there. Same goes for stax when discussing the best Initiators and now BuZz has elevated this team to new heights with his Jett play. Momentum favors this Korean side with tons of experience in these moments and plenty of disappointment to fuel them. The sixth place curse hasn’t been lifted yet. But, this team is on the recipes, needing only one more win against Brazil’s super team LOUD.
DRX will play LOUD on Monday Septmeber 12th at 7 am PST
Featured image courtesy of Photo by Lance Skundrich/Riot Games