The next time you feel the need to make an excuse for your poor performance in a Valorant ranked game, don’t. Just keep quiet and take it on the chin. That’s what I’ve been telling myself over the past few weeks, anyway, ever since watching aspiring South African Valorant pro Garret ‘Mangolorian’ Laird top-frag a Diamond Elo game with 170 MS.
Playing on a European server over 7,000 miles away from his home in Midrand, South Africa, Mangolorian somehow put us all to shame; we watched in disbelief as he landed headshots on players who appeared to be a foot behind his crosshair, and laughed hysterically as his dead body teleported back to a wall or box he’d passed seconds earlier whenever he was taken out.
As extraordinary as all this was to us, though, for Mangolorian it’s the norm. South Africa doesn’t have its own Valorant servers, he explained during the game, and so his best option is to play on Europe’s, which means he’s faced with the daunting task of having to compete with absurdly high ping.
Still confused and slightly disheartened that he’d just out fragged me even despite a massive disadvantage, I had to learn more. As it turns out, he’s even better than he’d been letting on, and the unusual South African Valorant scene is far bigger than I could have imagined.
“The highest rank I have gotten is Immortal,” he tells me over Discord. “A lot of European players are shocked that I got to this rank with such a high ping. They don’t believe it sometimes; I get told it’s fake, or they think I’m cheating. Some have even claimed I play on this ping for an advantage, which is funny to me.”
Funny to him, no doubt, but so utterly shocking to his victims that I can see why they might suspect something fishy was going on. Mangolorian has had to adjust his entire playstyle to compensate for the delay caused by a server round trip that, in distance, is the equivalent of New York to Tokyo…twice.
“With high ping, you can’t hold angles, and you can’t, for example, jiggle players with an OP, as by the time your player model has gone behind the wall you are still in the open,” he says. “I have numerous clips of my OP shots going straight through an enemy. It requires one to have a completely different mindset in order to play with high latency. I believe everyone (playing in South Africa) has adopted a much more aggressive style that involves a lot of wide swinging.”
It’s at this point that I’m especially intrigued as Mangolorian alludes to other South African players; to my surprise, he tells me there’s a whole scene of them not only playing ranked on European servers but scrims and even semi-professional tournament games, too.
“The Valorant semi-pro scene in South Africa is small as most of the players in South Africa are not happy to play on the high ping. Still, there are tournaments here; we are still playing in a league, and there are competitions backed by companies like AOC and Mettlestate, which host decent prize pools for the players to have an incentive.”
Mangolorian plays for Socks Up, one of South Africa’s most decorated Valorant teams, having placed within the top five of a competition called Rage Expo on two separate occasions and is currently leading the Flying Shotgun Valorant league. The organization has ambitious plans to put South Africa on the esports map, helping both to build the size of its community and showcase the undiscovered talent of the region.
A major obstacle standing in the way of all that, however, is the lack of servers. Mangolorian insists the casual scene in South Africa is “a lot bigger” than the competitive scene, but he thinks both would grow immensely if Riot would hurry up and take notice.
“Most of the hardcore FPS players in South Africa are not happy to play on the high ping; however, many of them are interested in Valorant and have told me they would leave CSGO for it if the server infrastructure was there.”
And there’s even more tangible evidence of the scene’s size and value, too, as the community has banded together to sign a petition over 4,000 signatures strong to appeal for a dedicated South African Valorant server.
It’s not a huge number in the grand scheme of things, sure, but if you consider those 4,000 are likely the hardcore already dipping in and out of Valorant as a high ping experience, how much greater is its potential with better servers? And how many more esports competitions are likely to crop up as a result?
I’d like to think Riot already has South Africa on its radar as an opportunity to expand into. After all, the publisher has recently shown its support for regions such as India, which have been neglected in the past by other competitive shooters. And with South Africa already having servers for games like Rainbow Six: Siege and CS:GO, surely it sees value in grabbing its own slice of the pie?
South African players such as Mangolorian can only wait and hope, but with the community’s interest piquing now, you’d think Riot would be best to strike while the iron is hot. The crowded nature of the multiplayer FPS scene means interest is always fleeting, and with other games never too far over the horizon, it isn’t too hard to imagine it fading and becoming replaced by something with better infrastructure.
If you’re listening, Riot, get these folks a server, if only to save the blushes of European Immortal players!
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