For years now, the Dire Wolves have dominated the Oceanic Pro League. They won both splits in 2017 and 2018, as well as representing Oceania at MSI this year, and are now preparing to make their second Worlds appearance in as many years.
However, for the longest time the Dire Wolves had been in the shadow of teams like Legacy Esports and the Chiefs Esports Club. The powerhouses of the early Oceanic scene, the latter had held a monopoly on the title of OPL champions since its inception in 2015.
The early weeks of the first split of 2017 hinted that the Chiefs’ regional dominance would continue, as they went undefeated during the the opening four weeks, while the Wolfpack dropped games to Chiefs and the other to Legacy.
But after that the rest was history. Somehow, some way, the Dire Wolves lit up and went on a tear through the OPL, winning their next six games.
Yet it wasn’t luck, or a sudden meta shift that allowed the Dire Wolves to up heave the pecking order in the OPL – it was a new way of playing the game developed by coach Curtis “Sharp” Morgan that put the Dire Wolves on the path to success.
Their strategy was very simple, and remains simple to this day: with their jungler Shern “Shernfire” Tai calmly pathing his way through the map and shutting down the enemy jungler, he could influence other lanes that had already built small leads through individual skill. – all Shernfire had to do was to tip the scales over the edge.
Shernfire was truly the cornerstone of the early iterations of the Dire Wolves play style. When he was targeted in the draft, the Wolfpack were more likely to drop games. However, they had their own strategy in draft that put them in good stead.
Most teams draft for a phase of the game, and the Dire Wolves consistently picked themselves up late-game champions to give themselves a backup plan.
The Dire Wolves have never played proactive with this play style, relying on their mechanical skill to win games early after their opponents panic and force an engage. And if it came to it, they could rely on their late-game champions if their opposition stalled it out. With this play style, the Wolfpack had their opponents cornered.
Commonly, the Dire Wolves wouldn’t even interact with their opponents at points. They’d bounce to different points of the map, setting up to pounce on an objective the moment their opposition didn’t turn up to fight.
And this strategy worked. Not only did they win Split 1, they won Split 2 and became Oceania’s first international representatives at the new-look Worlds system in the process. With the dynasty of the Chiefs firmly behind them, the Dire Wolves looked to head into 2018 eager to both continue their regional dominance and make even more of a mark on the international stage.
The roster at the start of this year wasn’t the same however. Their leadership duo in Phantiks and Destiny both headed to the Chiefs, the former leaving the mid lane to become the coach. That didn’t faze the Wolfpack, picking up strong local talents Stephen “Triple” Li and Andy “Cupcake’ Van De Vyver to fill the breach.
Arguably, this new roster did even better as they went undefeated in Split 1, only dropping 4 games out of the 24 they played. Their spot atop the OPL ladder assured, they waited as the final boss, watching the Chiefs fight their way up to challenge them.
Two games into that final series, it looked like the dominance might be over as the Chiefs took an 2-0 lead. But a Game 3 victory energised the Wolves as they smashed the next two games to claim their third OPL title in an astonishing reverse sweep.
With a reverse sweep and for the third consecutive time the Dire Wolves become OPL Champions earlier this year.
At the 2018 Mid Season Invitational the Dire Wolves failed to make a splash in the Play-In stage. Seeded with Turkey’s Supermassive, Japan’s PENTAGRAM and Brazil’s KaBuM! e-Sports, the Wolfpack only managed a win against PENTAGRAM and KaBuM! for a 2-4 record. This could only be seen as a disappointment for a team who had shown so much promise.
Split 2 had only a single change, as Ryan “Chippys” Short moved to MAMMOTH, but the departure of the Dire Wolves’ veteran solo laner heralded the entrance of a new rising star – Brandon “BioPanther” Alexander. BioPanther immediately got to work, his glowing smile and impressive attitude drawing admiration from players and fans alike.
With BioPanther, the Dire Wolves once more seemed complete as they mounted their second undefeated split, their only loss occurring in the finals series of Rift Rivals, before the Chiefs closed the tournament out for OCE. All in all, the Dire Wolves had shown their dominance once more.
Once again, the Dire Wolves were in the final, however this was on an even bigger stage. As one of the major drawcards at the Melbourne Esports Open, LoL fans flooded into the Rod Laver Arena to watch the Wolfpack attempt to take their fourth consecutive OPL title against an in-form Chiefs Esports Club.
The Dire Wolves could smell another Worlds appearance, and blood was in the water as they took down the Chiefs in Game 1. The Chiefs fought back, claiming Game 2, but fantastic play early in Game 3 released the scent of blood into the Melbourne night and the Dire Wolves ripped the Chiefs to shreds both in Game 3 and Game 4 to lock their spot in Play-In.
In Play-In 2018, the Wolfpack are seeded with China’s Edward Gaming and Brazil’s Infinity Esports, a group which holds a strong chance for Oceania to make it out. However, with Shernfire’s two-game competitive suspension it remains to be seen if Toby “UDYSOF” Horne can live up to the reliance that the Dire Wolves had on their superstar jungler.
As coach Sharp said, the Dire Wolves have the potential to take games off anyone. They have the formula for success locked away, but it remains to be seen if they can operate under pressure and without a core member of their lineup, and do Oceania proud.
The Dire Wolves’ first opponents are Infinity Esports at 8pm AEST on Tuesday evening. They will then face Edward Gaming at 10pm the same night.
All matches will be streamed live on Twitch and YouTube, find the schedule and all the details at lolesports.com.