On the first day of MSI 2019, Phong Vu Buffalo came out on top of Group A with a record of 3-1. They fell only to the Bombers, a team whose fresh roster rocked the Oceanic League this split, and are looking to prove themselves on the international stage at MSI. Fans of PVB can remain unworried though, as they also beat the Bombers, and only fell in the final game of the day, with a very different composition than they are used to.
PVB have plenty of fans cheering for them at this year’s MSI, as it takes place in their home country of Vietnam. This year, they dominated the VCS Spring Split, dropping only one series to the GIGABYTE Marines. Led by Top Laner Phạm “Zeros” Minh Lộc, they defeated nearly every challenger, rarely being taken to three games. Almost always utilizing a Top Lane Carry, tanky Support, and playmaking Jungler, PVB found success in the fast paced VCS.
Though their solo lanes are often talked about, much of their recent success has been driven by their Bot Lane synergy. Đặng “BigKoro” Ngọc Tài works well with the protection provided by Nguyễn “Palette” Hải Trung, and can be counted on in lane as well as in team fights. The only roster adjustments this season have come in the Jungle, with Bùi “XuHao” Hoàng Sơn Vương occasionally subbing in for Hoàng “Meliodas” Tiến Nhật.
Showcasing their versatility on Day 1, they pulled out a total of 15 different champions over the four games.The one consistent key to their success, both on Day 1 and throughout the season, has been the Galio Support. Palette is known for playing tanky Supports, but Galio has been an especially valuable pick for PVB, as Palette is 10-0 on the Champion this season.
This value was especially showcased in their match against 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports as they paired it with BigKoro’s Kai’Sa. With the gap-closing ultimate of the ADC, and the follow-up potential of Galio, they can provide a game changing combo. They pulled this off beautifully in a team fight above the Baron Pit, and crushed their opponent.
Though not from what is considered a main region, PVB are no stranger to international tournaments. Last year’s appearance at Worlds did not end as they had hoped, but it does provide some promise for their run at MSI 2019. Though they went out in the Group Stage, they handed defeats to G2 Esports and Flash Wolves, both of whom are here with them at MSI.
While the meta has changed since Worlds, the thing that makes Phong Vu Buffalo, as well as other minor-region teams such a threat in the early parts of international tournaments, has not. These smaller regions tend to have a playstyle that is fast paced, early-game focused and resulting in a high kill count. This shift in pace can be enough to throw off more skilled teams that have spent a full split playing more methodically. If they can continue to play as well as they have been, and bring that spark when they face off against some of the larger regions, they could make a deep run at MSI 2019.