Following their second place finish in the LCO at DreamHack Melbourne last year, Pentanet.GG opted to extensively rework their roster. To fill the jungle, PGG turned to experienced jungler Shern “Shernfire” Tai, who returned home after gaining some lengthy experience abroad.
Shern was one of the earliest cases of Oceanic talent being poached overseas. Back in the days of the OPL, he played a key factor during the Dire Wolves dynasty alongside current PGG top laner Chippys.
“I’ve been all around the world, but I feel like Australia is just the best place to live,” Shernfire said to Snowball Esports.
“I’ve been to all the major places where you think it’d be nice, but it’s Hollywood [theatrics with] Paris and LA — Australia just has all the pros.”
“If I’m being honest about being back in the Oceanic League – the reason I’m here is that I haven’t progressed in my career in that sense.”Shern “Shernfire” Tai, Pentanet.GG
Despite approaching other teams during the offseason, he eventually made his choice. “I had the option to stay in Europe but I felt like [PGG] had a lot more potential.
“This is the first team that it feels like I can be a little more uncensored in since Dire Wolves.
“Since I left Oceania, it’s a little bit harder to give feedback overseas – it’s a lot easier to give my team feedback. It makes me a lot more comfortable. Even day to day — not just in the game.”
“I can speak my mind.”
Although, he admitted there was a bit of rust after his time away. “I haven’t been studying the [LCO] since I left.”
Shernfire had some catching up to do. New players, new teams — back in his day, our LCO was called the OPL.
Now living in one of the Perth team’s two dedicated houses, he continues his traveller’s journey.
“I’m really appreciative of the org for the setup,” he said. Despite his complaints about the WA heat, there were some upsides to moving across the country.
“Living in one gaming house all cramped up together is a lot harder than living in two houses where we can separate some of those spaces.”
Despite the pros, he’s glad the world of OCE League has continued turning since he’s been gone. “There was a lot more investment back then to play in-studio.”
“I can’t imagine flying five hours back and forth for matches because we have to live in Perth for our Asian scrims. That aspect is really important to us.”
A key factor in Pentanet’s identity this season is their access to scrims against teams across the PCS with relatively low ping, something that Shern believes is ‘changing the game’ for the region.
“The rest of their map — they’re in their own little bubble. But we actually have access to the whole PCS and Vietnamese teams, and that is something that can’t be understated.”
Having seen the world stage a handful of times during his career from numerous Worlds and MSI visits, he elaborated further. “When OCE teams go international, they basically have one month to level up — you usually have a bootcamp where you level up, get s**t on in scrims, and try to improve.”
“Now we have the whole split to know where we’re at and where we stand, so we can see our progress – not from beating other OCE teams, but from beating actual contenders.”Shern “Shernfire” Tai, Pentanet.GG
“PCS traditionally, if you look at the results, have done pretty well internationally. Not amazing, but you see a lot of upsets coming from Vietnam or PCS. They’re definitely contenders on the international stage.”
The strategy has been a bit of a marathon so far, with Shern mentioning the team’s struggle against some of their scrim opponents. “Progress has been pretty bad up until [recently]. We’ve always been progressing but have been unable to see results.
“Same with competitive games. We’ve been struggling a lot. Even though we’ve been winning, I think fans can tell they haven’t been dominant wins. We’ve just been winning and we’ve also been losing where we shouldn’t.
“It’s weird because we have two roleswap players and three [more seasoned] players so in a sense, we have the level of experience where we’re not overly emotional and tilting when things go wrong. But we’re still players.”
“I only had my attention on Chiefs but at the same time, I feel like [Chiefs and PGG] are just playing worse,” he remarked in response to the week four closing standings.
Tonight, the Dire Wolves are back for a rematch with Pentanet after being knocked down from their pedestal — but despite the new faces in the league, Kim “Poltron” Nicholls sits in the same spot as Shern did 5 years ago.
“Poltron is someone that I didn’t expect to be where he’s at today. From what I remember, I actually coached him before,” said Shernfire.
“He used to be a one-trick in Grandmaster and I didn’t know his goal was to actually go pro, and he’s made the top of leader board in his second season. That’s impressive.”
“I hope [Dire Wolves] find confidence in themselves. They did get first place [in Stage 1], right?
“But I hope they come out guns ablazing because if they don’t, they’re just gonna get rolled over.”
I hope we have a high-level match. I’m confident that we’re gonna take it but at the same time, I’m okay with losing. Because if we lose, then we’re really bad.”Shern “Shernfire” Tai, Pentanet.GG
Following their dominant victory on Monday, things appear to be looking up as Shern is determined to make the most of returning to his roots.
“In terms of our progress and potential, it’s exciting,” he said. “Usually in a team there’s times where people compromise or accept when someone is bad at something.
“In our team, we always believe in each other that we can improve on certain things, which has given us a lot more potential than some other teams.”
“Coming back here and being in this environment where [the roster is newly built], there’s no expectations for our team. I mean, there’s expectations, but if you look on paper, we have two roleswap players and we have three ‘old’ players.
“I think for that case, I’m very glad I made the decision [to join PGG]. Maybe in the future, I won’t be in this league but for now I’m really happy to be in the league that I started my career off in.”
Tonight, Shernfire and the remainder of PGG are looking for a repeat of Monday’s win against Dire Wolves in a LCO Split 1 Stage 3 seeding match — kicking off at 5pm AEDT. For more, check out Snowball’s LCO coverage hub here.