Whenever Invictus Gaming’s squad qualifies for international tournaments, it’s always a moment of celebration. But, simultaneously, it’s also a moment of worry, hope, and prayer for its players and fans.
“As of (the 5th of August), our flights are already booked for the 12th, everything is ready,” begins team captain Glen “Lunarmetal” Suryasaputra. “HysteRiX, 80% chance he will be able to go, but Jrdn is a 50-50. And SpeakEasy… close to 100% he’s going.”
The two reasons why none can be sure of the full roster’s attendance stems from where it hails from -- Singapore.
Similar to Israel, South Korea, and a few other countries around the world, Singapore mandates a two-year national service, where able-bodied adult males are rostered for enlistment at the age of 18.
Lunarmetal has gone through the process years ago. So had former teammate Adrian “Ysaera” Wui. But, aside from the Indonesian-national of Jose “Jo” Iman, no one else on the current roster is free of it yet. Jeremy “HysteRiX” Tan still has five months of service left, Jordan “Jrdn” Cheng is schooling and has thus been able to defer enlisting, while Matin “SpeakEasy” Yunos has not yet had to enlist.
And there lies the second reason, one that affected SpeakEasy until recently and one that affects Jrdn right now -- schooling. Dropping out, especially for an esports career, is almost unheard of in Singapore and invites incredible social pressure while also closing off most doors in a post-esports job search.
The Asian mentality of education being the only path forward is very much prevalent in the country, and any alternative career option -- be it music, sports, or esports -- is looked down upon. On top of that, not having an undergraduate degree rules out many white-collar roles, while not having a polytechnic diploma would almost certainly rule out most of the remainder.
So, when examination schedules and esports events clash, the choice becomes an uncomfortable dilemma.
Such a clash nearly saw Jrdn miss out on the Six Mexico Major, but he will be able to attend after his examinations were shifted following an endorsement from the Singapore Esports Association (SGEA).
The uncertainty was not limited to the abilities of its members to attend events, either.
Right after returning from an unsuccessful Six Invitational 2021, the players had been in quarantine in Singapore when they had been informed that Giants Gaming was going to be dropping the roster.
“It was definitely a surprise,” recalled Lunarmetal. “We thought that we’re going to be a big part of the rebrand (that they rolled out), even from our meetings (with them), ‘Hey something exciting is going to happen on this date… So look forward to it, we’re going to send you new sets of jerseys and stuff like that.’”
But right after the event, as the team was working on its roster change and its play style change, it suddenly had to work to find a new organisation as well.
“We had to do that while quarantined, so it wasn’t really a good three weeks,” said Lunarmetal. “We found out probably about 12 hours before the public did.”
But despite the abrupt loss of an organisation just two weeks before the start of Stage 2 and the team’s rough form, the Singaporeans emerged well through the flak with Invictus Gaming.
With its change after the Invitational, though, Invictus Gaming’s roster is no longer entirely Singaporean. After a period of over five years together, Ysaera had been dropped and the team substitute Jo had been moved up to the core roster -- though not simply because he had been a convenient option.
“I was trialing eight players in total, but I can’t name them,” said Lunarmetal. “The thing with Jo is that he’s been around the longest, so he’s definitely the most comfortable in a very hectic, pro-play environment. I could have just picked up Jo and not made him go through the trial, right? But I felt that, on top of giving everyone else a shot, I wanted to test him in a pressure situation as well.”
The shift in the roster seemed to work out well for Invictus Gaming, as it went from sixth place in Stage 1 to fourth in Stage 2, securing qualification to the APAC Playoffs. There, the team hit its collective stride despite an initial misstep against Elevate and is now set to attend its third straight international event.
That attendance, however, can also be significantly chalked up to the tough elimination the Singaporeans had to endure in the group stage of the Invitational this year.
“We learnt the way we were playing is not going to cut it,” said Lunarmetal. Instead, the then-Giants players realised from their scrims against the teams in Paris that they needed to “emulate a lot of the way EU teams play”.
“This season was a lot more about spreadsheet work, about strategy-work,” he shared. “We had longer documents with more detail on what each player was supposed to do.”
It may come as a surprise that the team that took down the now-Rogue roster with a furiously aggressive style at the Pro League Season 10 Finals and dominated APAC North last year is stepping away from what worked.
But what worked in APAC North, where “the play style is very similar team-to-team”, did not work in APAC South. In APAC South, the variation between teams like Knights and 7th Heaven meant that adaptation was equivalent to playing into the opposition’s hands.
“Now… let’s say Consulate attack, we have positions down to a T. Like if we do Plan A, HysteRiX is here, SpeakEasy is here, I’m there, follow A-B-C,” revealed Lunarmetal. “We try to minimise the decision making that you have to do so you can focus on the fights.”
Now, turning his sights to Mexico, Lunarmetal is under no delusion that the group with Invitational finalists Team Liquid, European League leaders Team Empire, and North American League runners-up TSM FTX will be easy. But he is confident in his own team, stating that “every group has scary teams”.
Catch Invictus Gaming next at the Six Mexico Major against TSM FTX, set to be played on the Rainbow6Bravo Twitch channel on the 16th of August at 4 PM CDT (UTC-5).