Semifinal breakdown: Dire Wolves vs Legacy

By Alex Manisier

Since the OPL started, Dire Wolves have been battling it out with Legacy eSports for the title of Oceania’s second-best team - both teams being just a cut under the illustrious Chiefs eSports Club. Legacy’s track record made them the favourite for the second seed throughout the Oceanic Pro League, but it was the Wolves who came out on top in the end, with a two-game lead over Legacy, and a 2-0 record in the head-to-head.

Yet, the OPL’s tournament structure means that the second-place team will always play the third-place team. In some sense, these two teams have spent the last two months preparing for each other. Stepping into the teams’ Teamspeak servers, I find them both winding down from the seventh round of regular season games: the Wolves chatting and solo queueing, and Legacy playing each other in some StarCraft friendlies.

Anticipation in the Air

Dire Wolves are tense after their disappointing 1-1, but their attention is already on the upcoming semifinal. It’s consensus among the Wolves that this match will be their biggest challenge yet in the OPL, and despite their considerable experience together, a tournament semifinal is still uncharted territory for them. Mid laner Curtis ‘Sharp’ Morgan is the only constant from last year, with all the other players either recently joining or switching positions.

Jungler Luchio ‘Soulstrikes’ Park is a little nervous, but determined to see his debut season through to the end. “This season was my first time playing competitively - replacing Rippii was a huge responsibility. It’s kind of scary and nerve-wracking that I’m playing Legacy in the semis, but I’m still looking forward to it.” He’s not alone, though, as AD carry Calvin ‘K1ng’ Truong is also a newbie to top-level competition.

In the Legacy camp, it’s business as usual as jungler Tim ‘Carbon’ Wendel is trying (and failing) to get the guys to stop mucking around for a few minutes (“I’ve got bacon stuck in my teeth and it’s tilting me!” cries James ‘Tallywhacka’ Shute as Aaron ‘ChuChuZ’ Bland asks if the rest of the team is joining him in StarCraft), but finally finds the space to express his thoughts on the upcoming match.

“Dire Wolves are a very good side with some very notable strengths in their top lane and AD carry. They’ve had the better of us in both our OPL games so we definitely respect their ability to perform in competitive games. We’re pretty confident coming up against them, though...I think in a best of 5 series we’ll be able to adapt better.”

Walking the Tightrope

The key matchup in this semifinal will undoubtedly be the interaction between the jungle/mid pairings of Soulstrikes/Sharp and Carbon/ChuChuZ. For the Wolves, this matchup is all about containing the incredible carry threat that is ChuChuZ: a challenge that Sharp is more than willing to take on. “If ChuChuZ gets ahead, he can easily carry Legacy. The team revolves around him...if Carbon gets successful ganks off on me, it’s going to be hard to deal with, since ChuChuZ is such a skilled player and uses leads well,” he explains.

Carbon agrees, acknowledging that putting ChuChuZ ahead and letting him do his thing is the key to victory. He sees his own role in the upcoming match as being more of a guardian for Legacy, protecting them from his rival jungler. “The games we lose against Dire Wolves are the ones where Soulstrikes goes off,” he says. “Soulstrikes has really good fundamentals, and we could get tripped over if I’m not able to deal with his basic ganks and rotations.”

Considering the teams’ proficiency at snowballing leads and closing out games, we could be up for some intense games. “A huge distinction between the two teams is the way we adopt and employ strategies. I expect some of these games will be decided from who gets ahead in the draft phase,” says DW coach Josh ‘Jish’ Carr-Hummerston.

Despite his assessment, he still believes there is potential for some interesting late-game situations. “Both teams have shown that they can claw their way back from deficits, so even if one side gives up an advantage, we could still see some drawn-out games and comeback plays.”

Legacy coach Marcus agrees with Jish, but is actually hoping for some longer games. “When it comes to the mid-to-late-game, ChuChuZ outclasses Sharp. So our side lanes will just be trying to survive against Perfection and K1ng, and setting up ChuChuZ to carry later.”

Reaching the End

This semifinal promises to be a fantastic one, especially considering the extra effort that both teams are putting in to prepare for each other. Given their regular season performances, what are the crucial factors that the teams are working on?

The Wolves respond in chorus: “Communication!”.

“We just need to play more,” explains K1ng. “If we play more with each other, we’ll improve from there. One step at a time.” Perfection echoes K1ng’s sentiment, adding that their losses have mostly come from poor communication and strategic disagreements. “We need to be on the same page, or it’s over before it begins.”

Legacy, ever the confident veterans, are focusing on eliminating risks and playing to their own level, rather than “up or down depending on our opponents”, in the words of Carbon. “Our 100% is the best in the region. The Chiefs are close, but our maximum is better than them or Dire Wolves.”

An ‘Minkywhale’ Trinh rises from his game-induced trance to offer some final words. “You shouldn’t judge a team on their record over a long period like the OPL, but rather their form. We’re in form right now, we’re coming in hot,” he beams. “Also, top lane is the most important lane by far in this match.”

The Legacy Teamspeak erupts in a cacophony of sledging and yelling, and I take that as my cue to leave.

4 years ago

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