Achilios spoke with esports.gg during the Grand Finals of VALORANT Champions 2023 to give his thoughts on the current state of the esport.
Seth "Achilios" King is one of the voices of VCT Pacific. He's a staunch fan of the region's teams and has been at the desk for many of 2023's top moments. And he was kind enough to step away for a moment during the VALORANT Champions 2023 Grand Finals to chat with us.
He provided insight into the match up happening just above us, along with a look to the future. You'll find his thoughts on the world's finest VALORANT players, underrated ones who will shine next year, and how he hopes to continue playing a part.
Note: This interview was conducted during map three of the VALORANT Champions 2023 Grand Final.
Achilios on what he sees for VALORANT's future, including Pacific players who will shine in 2024
"It’s been a big year for the Pacific league. A lot of high placements, but still missing that trophy. Map three of the Champions 2023 Grand Finals is happening upstairs right now. What did you think of Paper Rex’s performance in maps one and two, having kept things even with EG?"
Achilios: "I'm really happy that they were able to keep things even. I would've been a lot happier had they not let that Split get away from them. They had a really strong start. They came out with an 8:4, which is an inverse from what we saw from the last time they played Split versus EG over at Master Tokyo.
"They were down at half that time and they were able to run it back and get a 13:10 victory. This time, it was very much the same, but for EG to get the win. So, that was a bit of a shocker. I think it was a really good adjustment from EG to change up the composition.
"The Chamber clearly wasn't really finding value for them. I think it was a very good pace change. And it was just Jawgemo and Demon1 hitting the shots. Obviously, coming alive a little bit more on map two was a really good sign. Still a lot closer than I think it needs to be for Paper Rex, in that regard.
"They got up to 12. It looked like maybe we were even going to end up at an overtime, but they were able to close it out. The current state of affairs on Bind isn't great. But I trust in the boys. I know that they have the firepower. I know that they have the willpower to be able to run this back."
"We saw you hyping them up to the crowd before the game, predicting a big win. So, what is it going to take for them to close it out and lift that trophy?"
Achilios: "I think it's going to take them just not getting in their own heads. Something, obviously, you know, we have this kind of conversation about rookie players and Demon1 continues to be the one that comes up. But something is very much right there alongside him.
"He's got a very strong veteran core to reinforce and to keep him encouraged. But sometimes you can see that the nerves are getting to him and he's also admitted that in the past. So, I think it's kind of on all of them to just rally together, and make sure that everyone's focused up and keeping their heads in the game.
"And I think if they're able to do that, alongside with alecks when he's calling his timeouts and whatnot, then I think that they should be able to run this back. Even if this bind doesn't go their way. With the remaining maps that they do have in the pool to be played, I think that they're in a pretty good spot. Because they're very strong on Lotus. They're very strong on Pearl."
"Alright, so let’s talk more about your time in the Pacific League. Tell me about your passion for that region in VALORANT."
Achilios: "My passion for the region here goes all the way back to my passion for the region in the LCK, which obviously is a bit more insular in Korea. But ended up extending into things like Overwatch when I was casting that. And then at the start of VCT when it was just Korea that I was casting.
"Obviously once we get the expansion and I'm now a Pacific caster, I'm a supporter of every single team that we have in that region. I'm no longer just the DRX shill guy, who is going to support them at international events and talking about how strong Korea is. I'm here to talk about how strong Asia is, and it's something that hasn't shown improvement in past tac FPS games.
But I think people have become very well aware, and have been very well aware of their strength for quite some time now in VALORANT. But we're still lacking that trophy. That would really be icing on the cake. To really cement that this is a region that you have to be fearful of, that you cannot take for granted.
"You can't look at the failures of the past. I'll put in quotations because a lot of tac FPS' in the past, Asia never really even tried in. You can't just look to that and say, 'Oh, well they don't play these games. They're not good at them.' That's just foolish, ignorant nonsense. So, I'm going to continue to shout from the rooftops and say that Pacific will be able to win at all, whether they do or not."
"Give me a comparison to how you feel the region matched up prior to the implementation of International Leagues to now."
Achilios: "I think that overall, the teams play somewhat comparably. There's a lot more tight knit competition now within Pacific compared to before, because you did just have your standouts. You had your DRX, you had your Paper Rex, you had your X10, from the different APAC regions, which would then compete against each other to try to get a spot over at one of the Masters events, and then eventually at Champions and whatnot in the past.
"So, I think that the overall level of regional competition has become stronger, because we do just have these 10, soon to be 11 teams that have been very regularly competing against one another. They can also scrim against Tier 2 teams and whatnot, because the ping is very low across Asia.
"It's upped the level of competition across the board. We finally got to see teams actually challenging DRX, besting DRX, which is something that had not happened prior in Asia. In that regard, I think it's great. As far as international performance goes, it's definitely on the upward swing, but it's not like we were lacking in that presence in the past.
"Obviously Paper Rex is in their second ever Grand Finals, going for a trophy. I think the biggest surprise for everybody is going to be the Chinese teams who are going to be competing in their own leagues next year, but we always had the likes of X10, XERXIA, and Talon that were able to compete. That were able to knock Team Envy out of the tournament forever ago.
"Asia has always been there, kind of just lingering on the outskirts. They are a bit more, I'd say in the spotlight this year, especially considering that half of the top eight was comprised of Asian teams. It's a bit more in the forefront, but it's not like this came out of nowhere. These teams have always been chomping at the bit, they've always been nipping at the heels of the other squads, and finding upset wins against them. It's just this year, it's really come full force."
"You mentioned China's showing here at Champions. I’ve got to know your thoughts on the Chinese teams we’ve seen, and how do you feel the region will progress with full VCT inclusion?"
Achilios: "It's going to be be really curious to see. I think that China's in a very similar position to Korea, where it was widely, aside from the first Masters event that NUTURN competed at back at Reykjavik in 2021, that they're in a somewhat similar position. Where it's like EDG is kind of the DRX of the region and they're going to continue to dominate.
"They'll drop a game here or there, but for the most part, they're always on top. I think that with EDG and Bilibili, Attacking Soul even, as well as FPX, depending on who is going to be getting into franchising for next year. I think that the bounce back between the teams that have no international experience versus the ones that do, that's going to really just help the entire region grow."
"If you're looking to improve, you need to play against people who are better than you. So, if you come in as a new five-man squad picked up by a Chinese company and you're looking to become the next EDG, you need to get your *ss beat by EDG in order to become them. Yeah.
"Anybody will tell you that if you're playing FGC, if you're playing FPS, whatever game it is, if you don't get your *ss handed to you, you'll never learn from your mistakes, you'll never learn how to improve. It's going to take a little bit of time. Already the bright spots, though, of Bilibili and EDG look really strong.
"They've proven they can contend on an international stage. I'd expect that that's likely to continue assuming the rosters stay the sam going into next year. Then over time we're going to see whatever these other organizations are, that are gonna be competing within China, starting to rise up and meet them. And then have that very similar to VCT Pacific level of competition within the region itself."
"You've gotten a front row look at some of the best talent in the world by being on the desk. Who are your top five players right now?"
Achilios: "That is a tough one off the cuff. Top five players? I mean it's definitely gone up and down, throughout this tournament at least. And I'd still probably give a shout to MaKo just given his performances throughout. Even with DRX making a slightly earlier departure than we saw from them last Champions.
"MaKo is still looking incredible. I'd have to give it to d4v41, f0rsakeN, and Jinggg. I mean that's already four and they're all from Asia. Something, I have to put respect on his name for sure, just given the way that he has been performing and it sounds like that map (map three on Bind) just ended, so I can imagine what happened with Demon1.
"So, right now, I think that's a five. It's really tough to to call. Obviously if EG ends up winning the series, it could rebalance it as well. Jawgemo is another really good shout, who's right on the cusp. Because the guy is absolutely insane. He's also a sweetheart behind the scenes. I guess I'll just push that forward."
"And who do you think is an underrated talent from the region that will or should get the opportunity to shine in 2024?"
Achilios: "Underrated talent. I think there's several. They all kind of exist on the teams that were on the cusp of trying to be able to qualify to this tournament and into the internationals. One of the first ones that really comes to my mind is of course gonna be Lmemore.
"I think that there's plenty of other players out there that I could name such, such as xffero, such as fl1pzjder, but they're a bit more known quantities. Just given that they have performed on the international stage, they were able to have that incredible Breeze versus OpTic back last year.
"But I'd say Lmemore is one of those ones for sure that very much comes to my mind. Him or JitboyS, who also had an incredible performance even despite all of the issues that we saw from Talon. He was always a standout. He was a really big instrumental part of their run back at LOCK//IN, when they were challenging DRX to get into that top four position. I'd go with either of those two."
"Lastly, it’s been a long and exciting year of VALORANT competition overall. How excited are you for the future of the game, and what do you hope that future holds for yourself?"
Achilios: "For me, I hope the future is continued involvement because I love this scene. It's fresh, but it's already super lively. There's so much support from the fans. The turnout for this event has been absolutely incredible. Both here at the Forum, as well as when we were at the Shrine. The turnout as well in Pacific for our championships and just regular season matches has been awesome to see.
"So, all I can really hope for myself is that I can continue to be involved in this upward growth that we've been seeing from VALORANT. There's not really an end in sight, because the game has got so much going for it. It's so popular at the moment and you can tell that the developers, as well as the staff that are running the events, just care so much about this product. They're not going to be letting it go anytime soon. I'm just hope I'm along for the ride."