The OPL Promotion Tournament concludes tonight, and while many pundits and analysts had predicted Intuition were the “shoe-in favourites” to be gunning for a spot in the region’s top league after the OCS final, it’s Chiefs Academy that have earned the illustrious right.
It’s that “underdog” status that drove the squad, team and backroom staff to want to deliver a major upset to Intuition. After so many had “written [them] off” before the first champion had even been locked in during the three-game final decider, coach James “Denian” Goddard explained:
“I think a lot of people weren’t paying much attention to the OCS and they were just focusing on the fact that Intuition had beaten us once, so they were giving us the short end of the stick a bit there,” Denian said.
“When we were seeing everyone was already speaking about Intuition in the promotion tournament, or even in the OPL, it kind of fired us up and we wanted to prove them wrong for overlooking us and thinking we weren’t good enough.
“Now we’ve shown everyone that we have what it takes, and while I understand that people who weren’t following closely saw things like Intuitions’ undefeated run or Phantiks playing for them decided they were heavy favourites, but my team is fantastic and we showed that on the day.”
The three-game series fell to Chiefs Academy 2-1 in the end, with their middle game “a bit dodgy” but their opening and closing outings shoring up the necessary victories to move on to face an OPL team for a chance at the top spot.
It was Swathe that had the dominant statistical performances across the series, and guided Chiefs.A in the first and third games of the series, but Denian pointed to the rest of his Academy roster as “crucial” to that style of play.
In particular, he singled out Gunkrab as a “vital player that didn’t get many resources” and believes he was a “massive” part of the foundation of the team’s two wins in the three games.
“Gunkrab went down nearly 100CS in one of the games and that kind of deficit can often just mean you have no impact at all and can just straight lose it for your team, but he adapted well,” Denian said.
“We moved into a 1-3-1 and [Gunkrab] was just able to do his part even with those limited resources and he wasn’t a deficit to the team. That can sometime just be the key, when others are in the lead but you’re behind if you don’t impact the game at all you’ve done well.”
After the 2-1 victory, the Chiefs Academy team are preparing for their OPL trial, and a chance to “show what they have on a big stage”.
It may not be the automatic ticket into the top division in the eyes of Denian, and team top laner Adem, but the solo player still sees it as a “good chance to prove [themselves]”.
“We’ve already kind of shown everyone that we’re good enough for them to take notice,” Adem said, speaking of the victory over Intuition. “Now we just want to continue to show that.”
While coming up against higher level squads may be daunting for some teams, Adem believes the Chiefs Academy line up is “on par” with both Avant Gaming and Tectonic, and thinks the way they enter the games – with “confidence” – will be key.
“We’ve come in while we’re winning, and they’re coming in after a poor split, so that will matter a lot,” he said. “We have confidence.”
In celebration of the @ChiefsESC‘s victory and securing their spot at #MEO2018, @HystericsCasts has a very special highlight of the Chiefs Academy team’s incredible series finish against @IntuitionOCE from earlier in the week.
— Snowball Esports (@snowballesports) August 26, 2018
Denian agrees that confidence could be a vital key in the final promotion clash, with “negative results” often playing a massive part in a team’s downfall.
“I can’t really see behind the scenes for their teams, but losing all the time breaks down your mental fortitude, and you can get into a bad mindset because of it,” he said.
“We’re coming in with high confidence from our grand final victory, and we’ve been winning all split. They’re the opposite, and I think that will be a massive factor.”
One last factor that the Chiefs Academy coach thinks will play a supporting role in the match will be scrim time, or a lack thereof for the CHF.A squad.
“We’ve barely had any scrim blocks because some of our players aren’t free during the day with school, whereas OPL teams and even Intuition were getting a lot of blocks during the day,” he said. “We’ve shown that we can beat teams that are having more practice, so I think that speaks about our level of skill more than anything else.”
“To come in with less time together and less scrims and still combine for a strong victory, I think that shows that we can win on Saturday evening.”
Catch Chiefs Academy go up against Tectonic in the fight of their lives. The winner is headed to the OPL in 2019. The action starts at 5pm AEST tonight, Saturday 8th September on Twitch.