Who will be the dominant power in the VCS this season? Phong Vũ Buffalo, GAM Esports, or will someone else take the title?
The Vietnam Championship Series (VCS) is Vietnam’s premier professional League of Legends competition. It has been running since 2013, and as of 2018, the region now has a guaranteed slot at international events. The 2019 Spring Season is the second season as an independent region.
Matches are played offline at the GG Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and are streamed via the Garena YouTube channel and Garena platform.
The competitive season is split into two splits, one in spring, and one in summer. Eight teams participate in a double round robin format, where matches are best of three. Teams are ranked by match wins, followed by game differential if there are ties. If there is still a tie, it is broken by head to head record, total number of matches won, followed by a tiebreaker game.
The top four teams from the league stage progress to the playoffs, which has a King of the Hill style bracket. Matches are best of five, and the overall winner gets qualification to the Mid-Season Invitational stage. The top three qualify for Rift Rivals. Vietnam is grouped with Turkey (TCL) and CIS (LCL) for the Rift Rivals tournament.
The eight teams are comprised of the top six from the previous season, plus two which have come through the most recent Spring Promotion tournament. Spring Promotion features the bottom two teams from the previous summer season, plus the top two teams from the second tier VCS B Winter Round IV competition.
The eight teams currently taking part in the VCS are: CERBERUS Esports, Cherry Esports, EVOS Esports, FFQTV Gaming, FTV Esports, GAM Esports, Phong Vũ Buffalo, and Sky Gaming.
Phong Vũ Buffalo are once again running away with the VCS split, much like they did in summer of 2018. They currently have a 100% record, winning all eight of their matches. They have a game differential of 13, with 16 wins and just three losses. They’ve only dropped a single game in series against Cherry Esports, GAM Esports, and FFQTV Gaming.
Phong Vũ Buffalo’s closest rivals at the moment are Sky Gaming, who are one of the new teams in the tournament having come up from the Spring Promotion tournament. They’ve got six wins and two losses, with a game differential of +6, with 13 wins and seven losses.
Rounding out the current playoff positions are EVOS Esports, who actually won the spring split last season, and FFQTV Gaming, a team which has had middling success in the VCS since 2017.
CERBERUS Gaming and GAM Esports, a previous champion under another name, both have a record of three wins and five losses, with CERBERUS Esports slightly ahead thanks to a superior game differential.
The two bottom placed teams, and those currently heading to fight for their lives in the Summer Promotion tournament, are FTV Esports with a record of two wins and six losses, and Cherry Esports, with just one win and seven losses.
Smart money will be on Phong Vũ Buffalo to win the spring split, following on from their success in summer 2018. They went onto the World Championships in South Korea, where they finished bottom of their group, despite putting in good performances and beating Flash Wolves and G2 Esports on their way to a 2-4 record. While they might not be up to the same level as top international teams, they are currently beating all comers in their own region.
A number of their players have had fairly lengthy careers in League of Legends. Nguyễn "Palette" Hải Trung and Đặng "BigKoro" Ngọc Tài both once played for Saigon Jokers, and Phạm "Zeros" Minh Lộc once played for GIGABYTE Marines.
Sky Gaming look set to be the team to challenge Phong Vũ Buffalo right now, after making their way through the VCS B 2018 Winter Round IV and the Spring Promotion tournament with relative ease. However, they may lack the experience playing at the top level as a team when it comes to the playoffs. Trần "Optimus" Văn Cường is the player to watch out for, a mid laner who has played for Saigon Jokers and GIGABYTE Marines during his career.
EVOS Esports are still in the running though, and could very well make a good run in the playoffs. Much like Phong Vũ Buffalo, they weren’t quite up to the standard of other international teams when they entered the Mid-Season Invitational last year, however they did get wins against Fnatic and Liquid, the two top western teams at the tournament.
The VCS is being played on League of Legends Patch 9.3 at the moment, which has performed a mechanics cleanup on the likes of Aatrox, Akali, and Irelia in order to give them more weaknesses.
In the previous patch, Aatrox’s power was reduced, and now he has been given a further nerf by trading his ability to sustain off minions for higher baseline regen. Plus, Umbral Dash’s second charge has been removed.
Akali’s ability to hide from turrets in her Twilight Shroud has been removed, and her Five Point Strike no longer heals if it hits at least one enemy when cast at 180 of more energy. Meanwhile, Irelia’s Bladesurge damage to minions is going up and Defiant Dance’s damage reduction is increasing, however her Passive is being nerfed to give opponents better ways to deal with her.
In the past, Vietnam’s league was part of the Southeast Asian region, and competed with the other countries in that region for a single spot at international events such as the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. This happened at the GPL tournament, where teams from the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Thailand would also participate.
Now that Vietnam is an independent region, it automatically gets a spot at international tournaments, and has changed groupings for the Rift Rivals tournament.
The decision to make Vietnam independent came after strong performances from Vietnamese teams at 2017’s Mid-Season Invitational and World Championships. The region would also dominate other countries within the Southeast Asian region.
In 2019, the Play-In stage and Group Stage of the Mid-Season Invitational tournament will be held in Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi respectively, before the finals move onto Chinese Taipei.
Various teams have gone through phases of being the dominant power in the VCS. Saigon Jokers will be a recognisable team name to fans of League of Legends from 2015-2016, while GAM Esports, under previous name GIGABYTE Marines, have been a top name more recently, along with EVOS Esports. The current VCS champion is Phong Vũ Buffalo, a team that was only created in May of 2018.