Two years ago, a fourth-placed Sin Gaming made history in their gauntlet run. The underdogs knocked over Avant Gaming 3-2, before sending the Chiefs Esports Club packing in another five game series.
The fifteen-game, three-series miracle run came to an end at the hands of second seed Legacy Esports, but the incredible run from the organisation that would eventually fall into the hands of Mammoth echoed through the annals of history. No one in the Oceania has forgotten the excitement of that run in April, 2017.
Now, Order have shattered that miracle run’s place in history, going one further than the Sin outfit, and in much more dominant fashion.
Opening with a 3-1 victory over fourth seed Mammoth, who boasted defending OPL champions like Stephen “Triple” Li and Calvin “k1ng” Truong, Order moved on to face surprise of the season Avant Gaming. For the Melbourne organisation, the match-up was a massive roadblock. Avant held the regular season record against them, 3-0 across their three meetings.
There was nothing that was going to stop the Order hype-train barrelling straight into a high-class clash with the Chiefs Esports Club in the preliminary final however, and the Melbourne representatives claimed revenge for the sins of the regular season. A 3-0 win over Avant made a statement – we’re not here to play. Everything has changed.
Then came the final hurdle – the Chiefs, and a host of memories and old friends for many on the Order roster. In years previous jungler Samuel “Spookz” Broadley and Simon “Swiffer” Papamarkos had pulled on the blue and grey of the Chiefs jersey, and stood alongside Brandon “Swip3rR” Holland and Quin “Raes” Korebrits.
This time, they were on the other side of Summoner’s Rift, and they weren’t to be denied.
It was a whole team tale that delivered Order their final 3-0 victory of the run, as James “Tally” Shute rampaged across the map in Game 1 as Urgot, clocking up an 8/0/3 scoreline, and dishing out 21k damage to champions.
Then it was Swiffer’s turn to take control alongside his solo laner, as the Order mid laner dominated the map on Zoe. In the end, Papamarkos recorded a 9/2/6 outing on the Aspect of Twilight. He was joined in the high-scaling damage charts by Tally, who hit a near-game high record of champion damage at 21.3k.
Then it all came down to a battle of the marksman, as Chiefs bot laner Raes threatened to take control of the game with a 7/4/7 performance on Varus. It wasn’t enough however, as young AD carry Ronan “Dream” Swingler combined with Jayke “Jayke” Paulsen on the Xayah-Rakan combo to swing the late-game in the Melbourne organisation’s favour.
After opening their gauntlet account with a 1-1 record against Mammoth on Thursday evening, Order had clocked up an eight game winning streak to clinch their grand final berth.
It’s a moment of Oceanic history that will never be forgotten, but for mid laner Swiffer, it just meant he had a “perfect” 25th birthday the day after the Chiefs series.
“My expectations for a result were pretty low heading into the weekend, because Mammoth were first up and we had an awful scrim record against them – I don’t think we even won a game against them in practice,” Swiffer said.
“I thought maybe there was a small chance, but I didn’t expect anything.”
“What I was expecting was another miserable birthday, like last year where we’d just been eliminated by Legacy in a reverse sweep. This was much, much better, and my birthday was pretty incredible as a result.”
Swiffer revealed after the team grabbed their opening 34 minute win over their fellow Melbourne representatives, a sense of belief began to creep into Order’s minds.
“Winning that first game against [Mammoth] and realising we could actually beat them was insane, it felt pretty incredible,” he said.
“I think it was pretty integral to our success over the weekend as a whole, that was the worst matchup we had going in and to beat them so decisively over the whole series did wonders for our confidence ahead of the Avant and Chiefs challenges.
“Our faith from there has just grown and grown. It feels like there’s a distinct possibility that we could beat Bombers, but all that said I don’t want people to think about it. If you start to do that, you play to not lose, and everything in-game becomes impaired.
“We want to keep that underdog mentality heading into the last series, there’s no pressure on us because of where we’ve come from, and no expectation for us to win. We just have to keep playing our own game, trusting each other, and we’ll see what happens on the day.”
While the five-man Order outfit turned up over the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday sprint through the gauntlet, another key part of the club spent the weekend fighting his own battles on stage – coach Aaron “ChuChuz” Bland.
Facing off against three fellow coaches across the gauntlet – Richard “Phantiks” Su, Kai “Kai” Stewart, and Tim “Volt” Clay – former Legacy mid laner ChuChuz drew plaudits for his pre-game control and tactics throughout the ten games played.
It’s not praise he’s used to getting, and revealed he was “surprised” and “kind of overwhelmed” when texts, comments and direct messages started rolling in at the close of the gauntlet.
“Some many people reached out to me after every match and gave me lovely words about drafting and what I was doing behind the scenes,” the Order coach said.
“There were even people that don’t really watch League of Legends that were tuning in to our run because they’d heard through friends or social media, and then were messaging me congratulations.”
“It was really awesome, I’ve never had that as a coach before. I had that as a player sometimes, but this is the first time behind the scenes, and it’s given me so much confidence in myself and what we’re doing heading into the grand final.”
Now ChuChuz knows he’s faces another massive trial in the form of Bombers coach Scott “Westonway” Farmer, and the entire roster that finished the regular split with a 19-2 record.
For the Order drafting boss, it’s a mental battle that he and his players are going to have to fight their way through when the big dance finally rolls around on Saturday.
“I think a lot of the feelings around the Bombers is a mind-battle that we can overcome, they’re just any other team that has weaknesses and strengths,” he said. “If we identify the keys to success and play our own game it’s all to play for.”
Bland echoed Swiffer’s feeling about an ever-building confidence, but said he felt his roster of players hadn’t done anything special leading up to their historic run.
“The week leading up to our first gauntlet match was the same as the rest of the split, it wasn’t like we had drastically improved out of nowhere that week, but more that we just had the focus of a single set ahead of us,” ChuChuz explained.
“We came in and everyone just stepped up on the Rift, maybe it’s the best of fives, or the fact that you have more chances after the game you’re in, but these formats really resonate with our players and they really took to them.
“I know that Ronan [Dream] really hates that it’s a ‘one-and-done’ situation in regular split, and really enjoys the adaptation that comes with the five-game series. When we took on Mammoth and got the first win we got a lot of confidence, and then losing that second game meant we knew what we had to change. Everyone just stepped up across the weekend.”
Order, who qualified into the 2019 Split 1 gauntlet with a 9-12 record across their 21 regular season games, slipped into the fifth-seed in the postseason off the back of a tiebreaker against new OPL team Gravitas.
ChuChuz believes the “second lease on life” has given Order a renewed purpose, and allowed the roster to kick on into the gauntlet.
“We barely won in Super Week against Gravitas, and when we saw Chiefs won we were all kind of laughing that we had a second chance, and we knew that ‘the journey wasn’t over here’,” ChuChuz said.
“There was a lot of opportunities where we shouldn’t have made gauntlet throughout the split, but the stars aligned for us. When we realised we had another lease of the life of the season, we took it slow and just got back into the grind.
“It did feel like we came into the postseason wanting to prove something though, everyone was speaking about the power of each team and we got that fire in us to prove that we aren’t just ‘the boys from Melbourne’, but instead we’re a really competitive team.”
The monkey on Order’s back in 2019 has been simple – two failed runs in the gauntlet across 2018, both in defeats at the hands of lower seed Legacy, saw the Melbourne organisation fail to meet their preseason expectations.
Now, in their third postseason as a League of Legends team, the entire Order roster used the double Legacy defeats (3-1 and 3-2 last year) to push on and break the gauntlet curse that had shot down the club’s finals hopes last season.
“I think that experience [last year] for Simon, Sam, James and myself played a really big role in how we approached this gauntlet this split,” Bland said. “I remember being 2-0 up against Legacy, and then having it all crumble away, and it felt horrible.”
“When we were in the same position against Avant and Chiefs this weekend my message was simply just ‘we cannot let this slip’, and no one wanted to feel that Legacy situation again. Without those disappointments last year we wouldn’t have had the experience or mindset to close these series out 3-0.”
Now it’s just days before the final, pivotal series of the Oceanic Pro League’s first split of 2019, and ChuChuz believes it’s going to be a tight contest on Saturday evening.
“I will be very surprised if it’s three games, I don’t think we’ll get crushed 3-0,” he said. “I’ve seen some people saying they think Bombers are on that next level, but from watching them across the split teams have always come close in those first 15 minutes of those games.”
“Even just looking at a game the Dire Wolves had against them in one of the later games of the split, their bot lane came up against FBI and Rogue and I was thinking ‘these guys aren’t actually insane’.
“I don’t think there’s a chance we get rolled, of course there’s the fact they’re a squad of all-stars, but I think we have the chance. I think it’s going to be a really good series, and I’m really looking forward to it all.”
Order now face the Oceanic super-team Bombers on Saturday afternoon, with the first game of the best of five series slated for a 4pm AEDT start on April 6.
With two Melbourne organisations in the big dance, it will be the first time a southern team lifts the trophy – will it be the unstoppable force of the Bombers closing out their amazing split, or the final step of the miracle path from fifth-to-champions for Order?