At the last DreamHack Melbourne, Team Bliss management sat in the middle of Margaret Court Arena, absorbing their very first exposure to the LCO during the live finals.
Despite coming into the fray as the dark horse of the competition, they, guided by coach Calvin, defied expectations throughout their debut during the regular split, building towards a first-place finish in the finals.
With this, the team qualified for PCS playoffs as the first seed, where they competed for a position at MSI–but ultimately went home winless.
The unfortunate outcome of their playoffs isn’t enough to deter the feat that the fresh org has completed. Such a successful debut is unprecedented.
After watching from the crowd only seven months ago, Bliss now graces that same stage.
Star jungler Raaz “Whynot” Alfassi Berman has been on the sideline for years and was finally given a chance to blossom under Bliss’ petals in 2023 to prove he belongs in the LCO.
“It feels good. It feels satisfying to have that first-place finish. I’m proud of it,” Whynot told Snowball Esports. “But, it doesn’t feel like I’ve climbed a mountain in that sense. It feels like the competition is lacking rather than it felt like us playing incredibly well.”
“It’s definitely not the definitive game. I feel like our efforts went into the last best-of-five. Securing that PCS first seed was very important… Now, it’s been pretty much a full month in a lull of pretty much nothing, so I’d say that impacts preparation and motivation for both [teams].”
Even though there aren’t MSI or Worlds stakes on the line, Whynot is determined for his team to put on a good show for the live audience in Margaret Court Arena tonight.
“At the end of the day, we can’t really call ourselves competitors if we aren’t gonna be able to treat DreamHack in a large stadium with a large audience as the true finals,” he admitted.
“Despite playing together in a studio during PCS, there was no audience, no bright lights, so I think it’ll be a great time for both teams to show what they’re made of. It might be where The Chiefs’ experience begins to edge out.”
“I’ve had stage experience from other tournaments. I think for the team, it’ll be a different experience for a lot of us,” he elaborated.
“From what I’ve gathered from talking to the team, I’m the person that finds it hardest to adjust to different setups. As long as we have the same peripherals, it tends to be quite okay. I have to adjust to the headsets as it’s quite different with the audience there.
“I think we’ll be pretty okay.”
The finals will mark the fifth clash–and ultimate tiebreaker–between Bliss and their opponents, but even with their rivalry, the Kiwi believes they have a lot in common.
“I’d say we have shared trauma of PCS. I don’t see a need to be anything but humbled by [our PCS experience].”Raaz “Whynot” Alfassi Berman, Team Bliss
“I think it’s important to play our best and put on a good show. The last best-of-five went for five games and was a bit of a banger. There were a lot of emotions raised, a lot of people talking about the games.”
“So, having that in person and on the big stage at DreamHack will be crucial to show that Oceania is alive, is fighting, and can have a cool scene.”
“[The outcome of this series] is very important for the players as well. Most people consider Bliss winning the playoffs to be the true victory, but in terms of the record books, if you go to someone’s Leaguepedia, the first place for the split will be decided by this game.
“The ability to boot camp together in Brisbane has added a lot to our ability to know our teammates and play with each other. The org has done a great job with facilitating these kinds of player relationships.”
- Read more: Bliss Benvi: “[Peace] were the only team that we had a close to negative scrim rate against”
Beyond his team, Whynot has experienced immense growth, and took some time to reflect on the backbone of his career: “I think this year has made me really appreciate the previous years of work I’ve put in.”
“Socials, streaming, cultivating a community that recognises me as a player, as a personality and supports both of those.”
“When I look back on VODs, I see my international friends in America cheering me on in chat. Even though they don’t know a single other player in the game, they’ll be there. All that support makes it feel like it was worth it; it definitely motivates me to keep going.
“Any particular shoutout would definitely be to Lovina–my girlfriend. Despite knowing nothing about League aside from what she’s watched, she’s gathered information from all of my games previously.
“She’s incredible and lets me focus on the game while she takes care of the admin duties like us moving countries.”
At the end of the day, Team Bliss has not only enabled his growth as a player but as a person.
“I used to shit talk a lot. I used to be a bit of an instigator. I had a combative personality and I think I almost needed to do that to draw attention. But it’s kind of past that–seeing the scene at the point it is now: blacklisting players, dragging others down just due to personality differences.”
“It’s important to help and improve this region as a whole and bring up the players that are on those seventh or eighth place teams and ensure they can be the future of Oceania.”
“Because, if we don’t, then we won’t have a future for this region and I think that would be a big shame.”
The LCO Grand Finals are live tonight. Keep an eye out for our final predictions of the split going out at 4pm AEST.