It’s that time of year again. Five teams enter the Oceanic Pro League gauntlet, but only one can emerge victorious to reign supreme over all.
First up in the ring is Order and the Dire Wolves. The two teams both have a rich history in the OPL over the past few seasons. Now, they begin their quest for the Oceanic crown and a place at the League of Legends World Championship at the postseason’s bottom rung.
Order come into the gauntlet with a 9-12 record across Split 2. A shaky 0-3 record against finals opponents the Dire Wolves doesn’t prop up their advantage either. On the other side of the Rift, the Wolves have had tremendous improvement since last split. A mid-year roster shakeup saw four new players join the Wolfpack in May, which earned them a fourth place finish.
Order may face a daunting challenge in the playoffs, but that’s nothing new for the Melbourne squad. They again have a seemingly impossible task in running the gauntlet for a chance at the Melbourne Esports Open. If there was a team to do it, however, it would be this Order roster.
Last split saw the team charge through a near-effortless campaign in the Split 1 gauntlet, carrying them from fifth seed to an agonising 0-3 defeat at the hands of eventual champions the Bombers. This time around, Order will be hungry to go one step further. It won’t be easy though. The whole league knows their capabilities now, and will be wary of the finals’ bottom seed.
The Dire Wolves are the first squad to be wary. They were once the alpha team of the Pro League, winning four straight championships and representing Oceania on the world stage in both China and Korea.
With a roster shakeup from the “Baby Wolfpack” the league saw in Split 1, the team has risen back to the playoffs fight. Korean import star Oh “Raise” Ji-hwan has led the way in the jungle, Robert “Katsurii” Gouv and former LCK support Eun “Totoro” Jong-seop have held firm in the bot lane. Lo “Siuman” Pak Man has also been a revelation since his promotion from the OCS.
Looking back over their head-to-head record against Order, this match sits favourably with the Dire Wolves. Their 3-0 result against the Melbourne team give them all the momentum on Thursday evening, and a 3-0 record in Super Week leaves them in red-hot form.
Order had a fantastic Super Week as well though. A major upset over the ladder-leaders the Chiefs locked Order into a 2-1 final round, and has potentially given them the emotional boost they need to run the gauntlet again.
This first-round gauntlet match is sure to be explosive. Both teams have the opportunity to change their script from a mid-table team to a high-placed finisher in the best-of-five series. I think the meta will be quite versatile in the series too. With flex-picks a high flavour across the world, both teams will look to bring spicy choices into their solo lanes.
The jungle matchup will be crucial. Raise is a key factor for the Dire Wolves in their victories, while Samuel “Spookz” Broadley has proven his quality in the Pro League alongside mid laner Simon “Swiffer” Papamarkos time and time again.
"There is no pressure on us to win this game fast – this is not your game, this is Sam's game." – @ChuChuZs— ORDER (@ORDER_army) August 20, 2019
Watch @Spawnlol and @Tallywhacka reminisce about our weekend qualification to the @OPL Gauntlet, and how #ORDERLOL prioritised @SpookzOCE to overcome the Chiefs & AVANT! pic.twitter.com/fSJmVrqUm0
This series will simply come down to experience. The Order roster has a host of veteran players. Combining the six-man roster with the addition of Paris “Souli” Sitzoukis gives the Melbourne squad a total of 27 years of experience in League of Legends’ competitive scene, and the starting roster is the same that marched to the grand final in Split 1.
The Dire Wolves may lose out in the experience-war, but commanding head coach Curtis “Curtis” Morgan has seen his fair share of finals campaigns, and grand final victories, with the Wolfpack. His old-hat strategies may be key to matching up against Order’s veteran lineup on the Rift, if he can find the right pieces to set the Wolves up for success.
I believe the overall winner of this series will be the Dire Wolves. With their previous matchups against Order, I think the knowledge of how to defeat Order’s plans will fall in their favour. It will be a series that shows which team has the spirit, drive, and passion to take their opponent all the way. The momentum from this game will play a huge role in the gauntlet’s overall makeup, and should be an interesting series in the lead-in to Melbourne.
Tune in at 4pm AEST to watch Order take on the Dire Wolves at twitch.tv/riotgamesoce.