When Vinnie “syliX” Tam retired from professional Rainbow Six at the start of 2019, he didn’t see himself ever coming back as a player. He was hard at work coaching the next generation. However, he’s been forced back into the chair on Wildcard, and he’s got big shoes to fill.
When I spoke to syliX about his return to Siege as a player, filling in for Kyle “Diesel” Renton on the storied Wildcard roster, he couldn’t have summed it up better.
“It’s kind of funny. Diesel was my replacement, and now I’ve stepped back in,” he said.
It was a shock move, literally hours out from the start of APAC South and OCN Stage 1 2021. Diesel took a step back from his playing duties due to “unforeseen personal reasons,” and with roster lock passing by, Wildcard had only one option: syliX.
The coach, who hadn’t played a professional game since Pro League Season 9 in 2019, had to do more than dust off the cobwebs. He had to fill the shoes of the heart and soul of a team who had lost their biggest voice in-game, and their leader.
“Kyle was definitely a key player involved with directing how rounds played out, so losing that was a shock to the system,” he said.
“Transitioning back to a player has been a bit of a mission. Not having played a competitive match for two and a half years prior does take its toll. I’m still incredibly rusty, but I’m slowly getting back into things.”
“Everything is still experimental at this stage. We’ve been discussing role changes and once we find a permanent player for the team, roles will obviously be discussed again. For now, we’re only really certain that Pat is the main IGL.”
It wasn’t just a big shift within the team. It was a big shift for syliX, who is a university lecturer as well as Wildcard’s coach. Finding more time to fully commit back to Siege has been a struggle, but he’s worked out his schedule.
“It was either Fluxx or I to commit to the season and my schedule was a bit more flexible than his so I’m the one playing. The hardest thing is actually just finding the time to commit to improve my own game. Simple quality of life things like that helps the team.”
It’s a slow burn for a Wildcard squad, who had to take the foot off the gas after a disappointing 3-4th at the REKT Omen Gauntlet. While they were all guns blazing prepping for the two big leagues right around the corner, they had to start from square one, on day one.
It isn’t helped by the fact that, right now, Wildcard are playing officials three days a week across the two leagues. There’s only so much time syliX and the rest of the team can put into the things that really matters when adjusting a new player into the squad: VODs, strats, and more.
That, combined with syliX’s late introduction, caused Wildcard to have a slow start in both leagues. It was a fall from grace, that if you were only a casual viewer of APAC Siege, would be puzzled by. ‘How could a Six Invitational squad struggle against fellow ANZ teams?’
They lost to Order and Rhythm in the first two weeks of OCN, squads they beat handily last year. They were thumped by QConfirm and Xavier in APAC South. They were a shell of their former selves.
“With so many play days, there’s hardly any time to practice and cover all our bases with VODs and preparations. Even with the support of an organisation, this scheduling really is taxing on us so the amount of prep work we have on each team will be limited,” sylix admitted.
“We’re slowly finding our grove and how we want or need to play. We’re trying to not be slow on our attacks. A lot of that I know falls on me being a primary droner. I need to get the team clearing the maps faster. So after a couple of scrims, I’m also getting a feel for the procedures and timings of things better.”
However, there is one thing that is keeping Wildcard going throughout this little period of chaos in 2021: the Six Invitational. With the tournament being delayed, Wildcard have yet another opportunity to apply to try and get out of the country for the event, penned in May.
syliX is cautiously optimistic that the door is still open for Wildcard to make it overseas. However, if it doesn’t pan out that way, it’s not the end of the world — they’re home and safe, and that’s what matters.
“The issue is, if we need to travel out of the country, we need to apply for an exemption from the Australian Government. We will need to reapply for travel again when the time comes.
“While it is very disappointing to not go and compete, we’re very grateful we live in a country that is keeping us safe during the pandemic.”
They’ve shown glimpses of brilliance, of that Wildcard that make it to SI2020 and were set to go to Paris in February. They managed to take down the Knights — widely considered the new number-one in ANZ — 7-4 in APAC South (they lost to the Knights 7-4 in OCN).
All it took was a change of pace, a faster attack, and Wildcard found their rhythm again. They might have missed out on OCN playoffs, but come Stage 2, it’s not out of the question for them to leapfrog the competition and work their way back up.
“In our current state, we don’t see ourselves as the top team in ANZ. It’s pretty hard to call yourself the best team when you can’t really field a proper team of five at the moment. However, we definitely feel we can get back up to the top.”