All it took was one roster change from Pentanet to go from playoffs contenders to title contenders. It wasn’t the shuffle most were expecting, with Jackson “Pabu” Pavone role swapping to jungle for the WA-based organization, but it’s paying dividends.
The hair-colour-changing, (almost) All-Stars-winning, fan-favorite top laner turned heads in the community when he announced his swap to jungle for OPL Split 2. He took time off pro play at the start of the year, but returned with vengeance — and Worlds in his sights.
He helped steady a Pentanet roster that, at times during Split 1, looked lost and misguided.
While he doesn’t bring all the conventional skills a jungler normally would, his extensive experience in the league as a top laner and his lauded solo queue efforts as a jungler proved to be the spark Pentanet needed.
It wasn’t always going to happen. Pabu needed to find the right team to join. If he didn’t find anything for Split 2, he would have taken another season off. Pentanet was his leg to try and climb to the top.
“I’m not sure what my expectations were coming into [this split] exactly. I definitely had goals to do well, and it’s gone pretty well, but it’s not anything exceptional,” he told Snowball ahead of the OPL playoffs this weekend.
“I wasn’t going to play [this season] unless I could do well. I knew I could do well with Pentanet, so to an extent our expectations have been met, but I’m also pretty happy with how it’s gone.”
With Pabu, Pentanet almost completely reversed their 7–14 record in Split 1 with a 13–8 finish in Split 2. He and the rest of the team have gone from strength to strength throughout the split, and as Pabu spends more time in the role, he is slowly catching up to the region’s best.
“I’m very comfortable with the role of a jungler inside of a team and making those decisions on a minute-to-minute basis,” he admitted.
“However there’s a lot of specifics to the role that everyday that I’m learning new things and getting punished with things junglers learned four years ago.
“I still get cheesed every second game, but I’m capable of doing everything else really well. It’s been pretty fun, and it’s taught me a lot about the game, but I definitely still have a long way to go — I’m far from perfect.
The secret to Pentanet’s success isn’t so much their mechanical skill, or their teamfighting prowess. Instead, Pabu says it’s all due to what’s going on in the engine room, and how they approach the game compared to other teams.
“I just think my teammates have bigger brains than most of the people in the OPL.
“They’re very capable of viewing the game in a holistic sense, and their understanding of the game just seems to be at a much higher level. Other teams might have more teamfighting prowess or better mechanics, but we can use our brains and stop them from using that.”
“We’re able to take a lot of the decisions we think are good, and then execute on them. It’s just very easy to take concepts and apply them in game, and everyone is on board and committed to the play.”
The third-place finish means more for Pabu than it does for the likes of BioPanther or Rogue, who have lifted trophies and gone to international events before.
It’s the first time he’s finished above fifth. Is the role swap success just a coincidence, a honeymoon period? It might be, but for once, Pabu is confident he can make it to an international event that isn’t All-Star.
“It’s the first season I’ve felt I can actually win the OPL. Every other season it felt like a huge uphill battle, but this time it feels attainable, and that’s really cool,” he said.
“I’ve had a rough go of things before. It’s just the first time I feel like I can do something. I’ve got the tools and the teammates to win. If I can put it all together, it’s very doable.”
The first hurdle on the road to Shanghai is Order. Order went on a tear from Week 5 onwards, picking up 10 wins and only two losses on their road to playoffs. For two orgs who are yet to taste domestic success, facing off in the first round could set the tune for the whole playoffs bracket.
Order have been here before. Pentanet hasn’t. Order have taken down Pentanet at every possible opportunity in the regular season. However, playoffs is a clean slate.
“Two of the games we’ve had against Order we’ve really griefed the game at four minutes,” Pabu said, “so we’ve really only had one real game against Order, and even then we make some uncharacteristic mistakes.”
“I’m not too bothered that we lost to Order [in the regular split] because two and a half of the games we lost ourselves. Order are definitely very good at a few specific things, but if we respect that and play around it appropriately, Order is very beatable.”
If they manage that, then Legacy awaits, but beyond that is anyone’s guess, especially due to the fact the top five of the OPL has been so tight.
But because of that, and Pabu’s faith in Pentanet to actually take home a title for the first time, this might just be his best chance to go to Worlds — if only to prove everyone wrong.
“I’ve kind of insisted that it’s not that hard, you can actually just win the OPL, and if I can role swap and win the OPL in one split, it shows that everyone else was doing it wrong, and the approach we’ve taken as a team was good,” he said.
“Everyone has always told me ‘no Jackson you can’t become a jungler’ or ‘no Jackson you’re not actually smart.’ If I win the OPL, I’ll prove everyone wrong, no one will see it coming, and it’ll be the greatest meme.”