After a strong opening game against Infinity Esports, and a clash with Edward Gaming that came down to the wire before ending in defeat, many could be forgiven for assuming the Dire Wolves were on-track for a play-off appearance at the 2018 World Championship Play-In.
Infinity had been run over by EDG in the opening match of the group, leaving the LAN representatives clinging to hope with a 0-2 record, and keeping the Wolves in pole-position for at least a second seed heading into Day 4.
Only disaster awaited the Oceanic representatives who had looked so dominant in the opening games however. Infinity Esports collected one of the biggest scalps of the tournament when they knocked off Edward Gaming, before wiping the Dire Wolves off the Rift in their second match.
Despite an early tussle keeping the Dire Wolves in the match, Infinity began to find skirmishes across Summoners Rift that saw the gold lead continue to blow out, with Sergio “Cotopaco” Silva commanding the map with inch-perfect plays on his mid lane LeBlanc pick.
Leaving the Wolves on 1-2, now behind their Costa Rican counterparts who were 2-2, it meant the OPL heroes were forced to square up to the biggest team in the play-in stage – EDG – with any hopes of making it out of the groups, a task that proved too difficult to navigate in the end.
The focal point of conversation in the hours and days after the capitulation at LoL Park in Seoul was the return of Shern “Shernfire” Tai, the Dire Wolves’ commanding jungler that had guided them to their fourth title in the domestic league.
After being whacked with a two-game ban for toxicity on the Korean ranked solo queue ladder, Shernfire was forced to sit out and watched as Toby “UDYSOF” Horne filled his boots in the roaming playmaker position.
Pundits, fans and spectators alike eagerly awaited the return of Shern to the starting roster, with the five-man Dire Wolves pack preparing to go above and beyond their strong victory over Infinity Esports.
For many, including the Riot Games casters overseeing the third and fourth games for the Dire Wolves, Shernfire looked “lost” on the Rift as he struggled to find his way into the games, with a Level 1 invade against Edward Gaming even leaving him playing catch-up on the ever-aggressive Kindred.
Pain, defeat and disappointment are all emotions Oceanic fans are used to feeling when their representatives head off to international events to fly the flag of Australia, New Zealand and the whole server, but this last twist of the knife in a long history of second-day struggles may take some time to recover from.
Despite the losses, including a landslide defeat at the hands of the now-group stage qualified Edward Gaming, UDYSOF’s debut on the world stage was a shining light in the Wolves’ campaign, as was the victories and battles of the opening day.
Keep tuned in to Snowball Esports channels for news of when the Dire Wolves will discuss their 2018 World Championship campaign, and their next steps in the OPL.