Representing the Oceanic Pro League at the 2018 Mid-Season Invitational will be the Dire Wolves, a long-time Wild Card contender and perennial regional powerhouse. However, on the international stage, the Wolves have failed to impress, as an international record of 4-8 in 2017 kept them from advancing past the Play-in stages at both MSI and the World Championship.
However, in 2018, the Dire Wolves have come back stronger with a revamped roster that took Oceania by storm this Spring, posting a 23-6 record including a reverse sweep in the OPL Finals over longtime rivals, Chiefs Esports Club. However, the team has not been without its fair share of roster swaps. After Support player Mitchell “Destiny” Shaw left the Wolves last December to play for the aforementioned Chiefs, Andy “Cupcake” van der Vyver stepped up to the plate to play support for the Dire Wolves, creating one of the strongest bottom lane duos in Oceania alongside Calvin “k1ng” Truong.
In addition to Cupcake’s major contributions for the Wolves, fresh-faced mid laner Stephen “Triple” Li transformed the organization as a whole after replacing franchise player Richard “Phantiks” Su. Although Phantiks would go on to coach the Chiefs during the Spring Split, the Wolves were able to overcome their eternal rivals and represent Oceania at their fourth international tournament over the past two years.
Throughout the course of the Spring Split, the Wolves were able to play to their strengths, as they played the meta exceptionally well and perfected many of the strongest champions in the game.
Triple had no fears on Taliyah, as he posted a 7-0 win-rate on the Stoneweaver with a whopping KDA of 6.9. Top laner Ryan “Chippys” Short had a 9-0 record on Gangplank this Split, as well as an 8-1 record on Camille, further proving that the strengths of the Dire Wolves roster is practically limitless. Along with the raw talent of their solo laners, much of the Wolves’ success was generated by their bottom lane, as well. K1ng and Cupcake combined for an average KDA of 5.5 with a KP of 68.7%.
Cupcake’s presence and pressure were major keys for Dire Wolves, as his success on tanks landed him a 79% win-rate when playing a “beefy” champion. In fact, Cupcake only played a ranged support once this year, when he played Bard against the Bombers, a game where he finished with a scoreline of 2/2/9, helping destroy the enemy Nexus in just 27 minutes. In every other contest this season, the Dire Wolves have placed their Support on full-blown tanks like Alistar or pseudo-tanks like Rakan.
With all of this in mind, it will be incredibly difficult to find counter-play against the Dire Wolves’ bottom lane, as both k1ng and Cupcake have taken 2018 to establish their massive champion pools. The Wolves’ duo has even shown success on picks across the board such as Vayne, Miss Fortune, and Leona, making it challenging for opposing teams to ban them out.
Although the Dire Wolves were ousted by Cloud9 and Team oNe at the Group Stage of last year’s World Championship Play-in Stage, this year’s iteration of the roster has a much different look, as a squad lined with Oceanic superstars has the potential to seriously shake things up at the tournament. The Wolves look like one of the most dominant teams competing in the MSI Play-in Stage; their macro skills and snowballing prowess have made them the most successful team in Oceania this season. And with a fairly new and much improved roster in tow, the Dire Wolves could be a surefire pick to run with the big dogs when the MSI Main Event begins on May 11.
Photo Credit: League of Legends Oceania, Lolesports