2017 was the Year of the Wolf and 2018 is on track to be the same. An undefeated year while making roster changes in Split 2 is a remarkable achievement and the Dire Wolves are one series away from punching their ticket to Worlds for the second year running on their quest for international redemption.
At the start of the split, Dire Wolves decided to part ways with the Split 1 MVP and top lane carry Chippys and promote their OCS top laner BioPanther in his absence. BioPanther has done a stellar job filling the giant expectations of replacing a former MVP, leaving teams terrorised with his Mundo play as he picked up the Rookie of the Split award.
From there, the Wolfpack has gone from strength-to-strength, only dropping 4 games all split which earned themselves a guaranteed place in the OPL final at MEO. A different journey to other teams who have had to slug it out through the gauntlet series, I was able to ask K1ng and Sharp about the challenges of navigating a different schedule.
When K1ng was asked which team he preferred to play against in the final, he said “we went into the gauntlet expecting either ORDER or Chiefs to be our opponents in the grand finals and out of those 2 we preferred ORDER. Chiefs are just the strongest team out of everyone in the gauntlet.”
Sharp was able to give insight to how the team spends the extra week off. “When you get the extra week off, it’s more about grounding yourself and identifying your strengths rather than scouting opponents.
“It’s usually a good time to reflect on the previous weeks of the split to figure out where everyone’s head is at, and get aligned with how we view the game.”
WATCH: BioPanther comes up huge, getting himself a quadra-kill after the Dire Wolves lose a fight against the Chiefs in Week 5 of the OPL Split 2.
The final sees a rematch from last split with the Dire Wolves taking on the Chiefs. The teams played each other once this split with the Dire Wolves taking the series 2-0. While everything seems to favour the Dire Wolves in this match with recent history, the Split 1 Final was an incredibly close 5 game series and the Chiefs can certainly push Dire Wolves to the limit.
There is also a weight of expectations on the Dire Wolves. What is the value of an undefeated calendar year if you fall over on the final hurdle? Sharp explained that a week to week focus is able to keep them grounded.
“Our focus as a team has generally been on a week to week basis. Our attention and effort is concentrated on defeating whoever is in front of us. Due to this nearsighted intense focus, the undefeated story line hasn’t crept into the teams mind.”
For K1ng, he’s playing against a storied rival in Raes and his former Worlds laning partner Destiny, so there is more pride than usual on the line.
“I’m not sure about my teammates but for me I feel there’s a lot of pride on the line when playing against former teammates. It goes without saying it shows who was “right” in their decision to stay or leave.
“I’m not particularly focused on Raes specifically but I like to show I’m still at the top of my game compared to all the new ADCs in our region. FBI, Lost and Raes have all given me a run for my money for the past two years but as always I come out on top and I would like to keep it that way.”
Calvin ‘K1ng’ Truong
Of course there is more than just pride – this is a chance at Worlds redemption for the Dire Wolves. Oceanic fans, despite seeing our teams have minimal success internationally, are hungry for a taste of progression on the world stage.
With last year’s experience behind them, both K1ng and Sharp had admitted that their minds had wandered to thoughts about Worlds. Sharp pointed to a lack of flexibility for previous disappointment, saying “honestly, I have been thinking of Worlds and somewhat reflecting on our past international performances.
“The main theme that keeps appearing in my mind was our lack of flexibility heading into these matches, and I feel with the introduction of BioPanther we can overcome the challenges we’ve had in the past.”
K1ng, however, is remaining focused on the match ahead. “I’m definitely thinking about Worlds but I haven’t skimmed over the task I have at hand. The Chiefs are an extremely good opponent and I’ll be doing everything in my power to make the series as fast and clean as possible. The thought of me not being able to redeem myself internationally fuels my work and effort.”
The Dire Wolves have had an outstanding split, but for a team that has Worlds ambitions a loss at Rod Laver Arena would be a shock to the organisation. The Chiefs are a formidable opponent and the Wolves will need to make sure that their bark is as big as their bite or they could be found only biting on the ankles of the Chiefs.