How a roster change gave Singapore's Paper Rex a dream run at VALORANT Champions

It's been a season of success for the runners-up of VALORANT Champions 2023, but what were some of the vital changes the squad made from last year?

Could Paper Rex make the dream come true? (Photo: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot)
Could Paper Rex make the dream come true? (Photo: Riot Games)

Paper Rex's run at VALORANT Champions 2023 has been no short of a dream run for the Singapore org.

After cruising through the group stage with comfortable 2-0 wins against KRÜ Esports and Edward Gaming, Paper Rex continued their winning streak with their first match of the playoffs, in yet another lopsided 2-0 victory against FUT Esports.

But the upper bracket semi finals against the reigning champions LOUD, would prove to be a challenge. Paper Rex would open the scoreline first, forcing a 15-13 overtime win on Lotus, before LOUD answered with a resounding 13-2 win on Split to level the scores. Paper Rex would eventually take the final map, Pearl, in a hard-fought 13-10 victory.

Having beaten Evil Geniuses in a 2-1 in a tight finish in the upper bracket final, Paper Rex were set for a rematch against EG in the Grand Final, after EG defeated Loud 3-2 in the lower bracket final. But eventual champions proved to be too strong for Paper Rex, and the team fell 3-1, ending their fairy tale run.

Just a year prior, Paper Rex failed to make it out of the group stage in Champions 2022.

Since then, they have won VCT Pacific 2023, and now they are Champions title contenders in 2023. The improvement and growth Paper Rex have shown in the past one year has been nothing short of extraordinary.

But how exactly did Paper Rex do it?

Following the announcement of franchising in VCT 2023, Paper Rex made some major changes to their roster.

Since having a sixth man was one of the requirements in the new franchised league, Paper Rex signed Patiphan “cgrs” Posri in October 2022. While cgrs had multiple professional stints playing CSGO, PUBG, Apex Legends, and Overwatch, the Thai national was mostly known for being a content creator on Twitch.

Ilya “something” Petrov joined the team in March 2023. (Photo: Colin Young-Wolff/Riot)
Ilya “something” Petrov joined the team in March 2023. (Photo: Riot Games)

Despite cgrs being the sixth man, this signing would shake up Paper Rex’s roster for good 4 months later in March 2023, when the team announced the signing of Ilya “something” Petrov, a Russian national from a Tier 2 Japanese team, Sengoku Gaming.

He caught the attention of Paper Rex after putting up mind-boggling numbers. According to VALO2ASIA, the Russian player had an ACS of 300, and a K/D of 1.58. That meant that for every one death, he got an average of 1.5 kills. A 300 ACS is the equivalent of a football player who’s not just good at scoring goals, but makes crucial tackles, key passes, and contributes to both the offence and defence significantly as well.

With his aggressive and flashy playstyle as a duelist (the player that usually initiates first contact for the team), something would fit right in to Paper Rex’s “WGAMING” philosophy.

WGAMING stems from the W button to move forward in first person shooter (FPS) games, and is a nod to their in-your-face, fast-paced style.

The arrival of yet another duelist player meant that Paper Rex had to change up their roles, and with that, the roster as well. In June 2023, Paper Rex announced that Benedict “Benkai” Tan, the IGL (in-game leader) at the time, would be benched.

Instead, something would take his place, which meant Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto taking a step back from the duelist role, and picking up the role of a flex (someone that plays multiple roles) player instead.

The newly minted Paper Rex roster to take on the remainder of the 2023 season would consist of Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie, something, Khalish “d4v41” Rusyaidee, Aaron “mindfreak” Leonhart, f0rsakeN, and cgrs as the sixth man.

Paper Rex 2023

The debut of this brand new Paper Rex team would come out guns blazing from the get-go. They would win the VCT Pacific 2023 League, after reverse sweeping DRX in a close 3-2 victory. Something would snag the MVP title at his debut Tier 1 tournament as well.

Riding on their impeccable form, PRX became serious contenders for Masters Tokyo, which took place in June 2023.

However, a major roadblock would stand in Paper Rex’s way. As a Russian national, something was unable to get a visa in time to travel to Japan to play the tournament.

This meant that cgrs, a signing who was just meant to be their sixth man, with close to zero professional VALORANT experience, had to step in to fill for something.

With minimal time to practice and big shoes to fill, cgrs was doubtful and afraid he wouldn't match up to expectations. He commented that he was “secretly shocked” at the last minute news in an interview with ONE Esports.

“There was pressure because something was the VCT Pacific League grand final MVP, and it was tough for me to actually play,” he said. “I was afraid I wouldn’t perform well enough because he’s (something) really good.”

Despite having to play with a substitute, Paper Rex would place Top 3, just missing out on the Grand Finals after a tight 3-2 loss to Evil Geniuses (EG) in the Lower Bracket Finals.

In particular, cgrs impressed everyone in an intense 1v1 situation against NRG’s Sam “s0m” Oh. In a tight 13-13 situation, cgrs would come out on top, bringing the scoreline to 14-13 in Paper Rex’s favour, with the team closing out the first map 15-13. Paper Rex eventually knocked out NRG in a 2-1 victory.

What's next for PRX?

The Grand Finals on 27 August was the last match that this roster played together for the foreseeable future.

That’s because Jinggg announced earlier that he would be leaving Paper Rex at the end of the 2023 season to fulfill his mandatory National Service.

Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie is one of the best players in the world. (Photo: Riot Games)
Wang “Jinggg” Jing Jie is one of the best players in the world. (Photo: Riot Games)

“Jinggg is leaving Paper Rex at the end of the season, and will not be playing in 2024,” alecks said in a statement to Round Up Gamers, adding that the sooner Jinggg enlisted and served his mandatory military service, the sooner he could return to the org.

In the post-match press conference after Paper Rex’s 2-1 victory against EG in the Upper Bracket Finals, Jinggg emphasised that to him, it doesn't matter if they win or lose, and that he just wanted his team to have fun.

“We try not to think about that (Grand Finals being the last match for him) too much. We just focus on this tournament right now and we're just enjoying the ride I guess. I mean, if we win, we win, if we lose, we lose," said Jinggg.

"As long as everyone is happy, I’m happy, (we) just wanna have a happy tournament. We have already exceeded our expectations, and we’re in (the) Grand Finals. Honestly for me it doesn't matter if we win or lose, I just want everyone to have fun and be happy, and just enjoy ourselves I guess.”

With Jinggg’s departure from the team, it means that there are no more Singaporean players in Paper Rex’s roster.

Only time will tell if Paper Rex's dominance in VALORANT continues, and if Jinggg's success leads to a new generation of VALORANT pros among Singapore's growing community.

However, the impact the team have had on elevating the Singapore esports scene, especially in the VALORANT arena, is already undeniable.

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