The Dire Wolves have announced their entrance on the World Championship stage, claiming a 1-1 opening day in the Play-In group matches after a dominant late-game against Infinity Esports and a courageous performance against Chinese titans Edward Gaming.
The Dire Wolves trailed in their opening match at LoL Park however, falling nearly 2k gold behind Infinity Esports – the LAN representatives at Worlds – and giving over first blood and a second kill to fall behind for the first 14 minutes of the clash.
Then Stephen “Triple” Li, playing comfort pick Azir in the mid lane, swooped in to claim the Wolves’ first kill of the international tournament with a ‘Shurima Shuffle’ that sent Cotopaco back to the summoner’s platform and put the Oceanic squad on the board.
From there the Dire Wolves maintained control of the clash against the Mexican representatives, as the kills stretched to 9-4 in their favour, with k1ng (Tristana) finishing with a 4/0/4 record.
It was Triple that picked up the player of the match for his playmaking on Azir however, rounding out his dominant performance with three kills, five assists and no deaths in the 34 minute victory.
For Triple – who joined the organisation at the tail end of 2017 – it was a mixed day however, as the Wolves fell to Edward Gaming after keeping pace for much of the team’s second challenge of the day.
“I don’t feel satisfied with the results, obviously one-and-one was a solid first day and it was probably a more realistic finish on the first day, but the Edward Gaming match was close and we could have pushed advantages a bit more,” Triple said.
“That match against EDG showed us that they’re not as good as we thought they were, and that gives us a massive amount of confidence going into the next games.
“We’re looking to be more decisive on our decisions, we believe Shernfire might even be able to get an advantage in the matches on Day 4 so we’re going to focus on that and look for the upset.”
Upsetting Edward Gaming, one of the biggest teams coming out of the LPL in recent years, would be a “awesome” finish to the groups for Triple and the Dire Wolves, and one they’re aiming their sights towards as the back half of the round robin continues.
“Matching up against them on Day 2 showed me that we really do deserve to be here, we matched up against them well, both in the match and on solo queue, and we want to push that further,” Dire Wolves’ mid laner said. “I think we can get second in the group easily, so now we’re focused on potentially grabbing that first seed finish.”
“The thought of getting into a best of five with one of the Pool 2 teams is really great, I think apart from maybe Supermassive – who I thought would beat G2 – we’re the best wildcard team that’s here at the moment so we’re pretty confident against anyone of the same level.
“If we can upset Edward Gaming then it really shows that we’re here, and that we can go far. That’s what we’re aiming for, if we can face a wildcard team in the best of fives that would be pretty awesome, and a lot more free.”
Triple, who played Syndra in the 33 minute defeat at the hands of EDG on Day 2, pointed to the early-game disadvantage the Dire Wolves put themselves in after an attempted one-for-one turret trade that gave Edward Gaming first turret as the main sticking point the team would be working on.
“That really showed our indecision, and it cost us a bit early, which then snowballed further out and put us in a bad position as the game went on,” he said. “That whole situation then forced us into the risky Baron [Nashor] play and it all went down hill from there.”
The Dire Wolves will now face Infinity Esports and Edward Gaming on Day 4 of the Worlds Play-In group matches, with Shern “Shernfire” Tai returning to the starting line-up after serving his two-game suspension.
The return of their star jungler puts more confidence in the hearts of the Dire Wolves, and Triple explained Shernfire’s return could.
“There’s a bit of a thought that because we won with Toby on day one we could do even better with Shern because we have played with him a lot more,” Triple said. “That win on the first day was a bit of a confidence booster, so we’re looking forward to the next days.”
“I’m really glad that we’ve even had the opportunity to play against a big name like Edward Gaming, as a player this is where you want to get to at the end of the season, and hopefully we can walk away with some great memories against them.”
Finally, Li addressed the fans that had already tuned in for the opening day of the Dire Wolves’ campaign, and would be back in front of their televisions and computers against come Thursday evening.
“To the Oceanic fans, and the Wolfpack, never stop believing in our region – we’re improving faster than other regions are,” he said. “Thanks for all your support despite the ban situation.”
The Dire Wolves kick-off Day 4 with their re-match against Infinity Gaming at 9pm, before facing the Chinese third seed EDG at 11pm. Infinity Gaming and Edward Gaming will face each other in the earlier 7pm time-slot. Find the full schedule and all the details at lolesports.com.