Get excited, because the World Championship for everyone’s second-favorite tablet-based esport is getting started. That’s right: the biggest Vainglory tournament in the world starts today, and I am thrilled in a totally non-ironic sense. Allow me to play hype-man, for a moment.
It may not have the numbers of League of Legends or the pedigree of Dota 2, but Vainglory is a great game to watch for those of us with low attention spans. Matches happen fast, and are high on the action. With no direct ward equivalent, teams don’t always have the option of playing cautiously, meaning that kills come early and often—but thanks to low death timers and a short walk back to the front lines, they aren’t necessarily as disastrous for a team.
As a spectator, you’re unlikely to miss anything pivotal: with only one lane, and the jungle located beneath that, most of the characters are perpetually on screen. Gone are the 45-60 minute endurance matches of more traditional MOBAs, too. In Vainglory, 25 minutes is considered a long game.
This championship in particular is exciting because the lack of consistent cross-regional play makes for a sort of in-game clash of cultures at international events—think the Carthaginian war elephants meeting the Roman centurions in battle. In most esports, competitive metas are more or less consistent across borders, thanks to regular international scrims. Not so in Vainglory, where one caster announced early on that “We don’t know what the meta will be by the time we get to Worlds.” The dominant heroes and strategies range wildly from region to region, meaning it’s hard to know what to expect.
Unfortunately, skill levels between regions also vary pretty heavily. The first game of the day, between the European team Snow Avalanche and Infamous Legion from Southeast Asia, was one of the most savage beatings I’ve seen in any esport. The game ended in fifteen minutes, with a kill count of seventeen to one. Phoenix Armada, a team continuing the Korean tradition of absolute international dominance, is the favorite to win right now, with a champion pool that spans almost the entire character roster. And hey, TSM is in there too!
If you needed one more reason to check out Vainglory’s professional scene, it’s one of the very few that is actually co-ed. At this World Championship, the Chinese team Hunters is captained by Pan “Queen” Ruo-Tian. In the current esports climate, I’ll take any opportunity I can to watch a woman kick ass at videogames.
The Vainglory World Championship is ongoing all weekend at the TCL Chinese Theater in LA. You can also watch it on Twitch.