Grand final breakdown: Dire Wolves vs Chiefs

By Alex Manisier

Two months, eight teams and 56 games - and it’s coming to a close. The inaugural Oceanic Pro League Split 1 will conclude with a best of 5 series between Dire Wolves and Chiefs eSports Club, and there’s more at stake here than just bragging rights.

The winner of the Grand Final will qualify for the International Wild Card Invitational in Istanbul, Turkey to compete against other wildcard champions like Japan’s DetonatioN FocusMe and Turkey’s Besiktas e-Sports Club. Victory at the IWCI would give them a spot at the Mid-Season Invitational in Tallahassee, USA, where Oceania’s top team could potentially face off against other regional champions.

Our OPL finalists have met twice this split, with Chiefs coming out on top both times. Chiefs aren’t invincible (as Team 4Not was all too happy to prove), but having only lost one game in the entire OPL, they present a formidable challenge to the Wolves. Yet, Dire Wolves have already risen above expectations with a victory over Legacy eSports. If there’s any way this fairytale underdog story can finish, it’s with a victory over Oceania’s greatest team.

Dire Wolves: Killing giants

For the Dire Wolves, Split 1 of the OPL has been a time of growth and discovery. In spite of their relative inexperience, the Wolves have clinched a Grand Final spot by virtue of their incredible talent and burgeoning teamwork. Jungler Luchio 'Soulstrikes' Park promises that the Wolves will be an even stronger team in the wake of their victory over Legacy, and it all comes down to motivation. “I don’t think we’ve ever scrimmed this hard as a team before. We want this win so badly.”

Indeed, for every underdog that claimed victory through sheer circumstance, many more achieved success through hard work and smart practice. Support Trevor 'ChuffeR' Lao jokes that his team’s improvement is a result of their volume of practice (“We scrim for six hours every day, and breathe solo queue for the other eighteen!”), but mid laner Curtis 'Sharp' Morgan believes that his team will need to make some new entries in the Dire Wolves playbook to stand a chance against Chiefs. “We’re mostly getting comfortable on champions that are shifting into the meta. Not so much as a team, but individually.”

With so many factors at play for the Wolves, it’s impossible for them to refine and perfect every single aspect of play in time for the final. This is a team that will grow beyond the Grand Final, whether they win or lose. In Soulstrikes’ eyes, they just need to take it one game at a time. “As long as we can adapt to what the Chiefs do, we can extend their one loss to four.”

Chiefs eSports Club: Battling Pressure

Considering how dominant Chiefs have been over the last few years, it may come as a surprise to learn that they haven’t actually won a premier tournament in a year. Their last victory came at the Autumn Regionals, and while they’ve had success in CGPL, the Chiefs have not tasted big-stage victory in quite a while.

Top laner Brandon ‘Swip3rR’ Holland is aware of the Chiefs’ tendency to struggle in crucial matches, and has been working towards translating the team’s regular success into important matches. “Our biggest challenge in the final will be ourselves. We’ve choked a bit under pressure - like in Winter Regionals and Regional Finals - but we’re all confident in our ability to take this final and prove our worth to Oceania, as long as we bring our A-game.”

Swip3rR’s concerns are well-founded. Given their incredible regular season performance, for Chiefs, victory should come from defeating their inner demons and finishing as strongly as they started. This is a task easier said than done, especially considering the haphazard nature of the Wolves and their potential to pull out an upset. Despite this, support Andrew ‘Rosey’ Rose is not phased. “We aren’t really worried about any aces they have up their sleeves. As a team, I think we're good at adapting quickly in-game. We might even have some surprises of our own,” he smiles.

The challenges associated with being the best team in a region are certainly plentiful, but there’s one more shadow that hangs over the Chiefs’ heads - the fear of the plateau. For mid laner Simon ‘Swiffer’ Papamarkos, Dire Wolves will need to prove that the Chiefs have peaked, or else Oceania’s greatest team will continue to grow.

“This is a question that's constantly at the back of all the player's minds. When will we finally fall? How much longer can we consistently beat everyone else in the region? It's hard not to ask yourself this when you've arguably been the best for such an extended period of time. In that same breath, the fact that we've managed to play at such a high level for several years is, in my opinion, a testament to how much we've continued to evolve as a team.”

 



Swiffer’s assessment of his team’s situation is fair. The constant presence of Chiefs at the top of the Oceanic scene is far from an indication of stagnation. If anything, it means that they have a penchant for adapting to shifts in the metagame.

“It's a given that teams will improve over time. The fact that we're still winning seems to suggest that we're evolving at an equal or greater rate to other Oceanic teams. Until we actually begin losing to teams on a regular basis I can't say that we've stagnated. In that respect, I think that we haven't reached our full power and I think our results reflect this,” Swiffer concludes.

The Road to Tallahassee

For Dire Wolves and Chiefs eSports Club, one more match needs to be won before they can close this chapter in their esports careers. One team will move on and challenge the global scene, while another will have to stay at home and cheer for their rivals-come-representatives. For now, they are focusing on the Grand Final before them.

This momentous match will be played out live from 6 PM AEST on Thursday April 9 at www.twitch.tv/riotgamesoceania

 


3 years ago