Russian Champions Part Deux: Team Empire

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With Team Empire having recently won the Russian Major League for the second time running, SiegeGG spoke to Danila “Dan” Dontsov about the Russian scene, the season so far, and their preparation for Raleigh.

Team Empire is a household name at this point. Having won the Pro League in their debut season, their rise has been a long time coming. The team has seen many forms, one of which was Room Factory at the Six Invitational 2018, but it was after their signing by Team Empire that things really began picking up.

A CCS Season 3 win was followed up by the ESL Euro Cup 2018, an undefeated Season 8 of the Challenger League, third place at DreamHack Winter 2018, and then a win in the inaugural season of the Russian Major League (RML). And late last month, Empire did it again, winning the second season of the RML.

Through the group stage, Empire had absolutely no equal, winning 98 rounds and conceding just 35 on their road to a flawless 7-0-0 in the Best-of-Two round-robin format. The story continued on in the Finals, as Empire took down Dream Eaters 7-1, 7-4 in the quarter-finals, but when up against forZe -- Danila “Dan” Dontsov’s previous team, and the current team for the Empire player Dan had replaced, Artyom "Shockwave" Simakov -- Empire were shut down 8-7, 7-4.

Despite the shock loss, Team Empire did not have to worry too much, as the Finals operated using a double-elimination bracket. Their Lower Finals opponents of projectV offered little resistance, as had actually been expected against forZe as well, and Empire cleared the hurdle 7-2, 7-3, to set up a rematch against forZe. Once again, though, forZe got off in front -- and this time with an absolute flyer, defeating Empire 7-1 on Border. However, Empire then fired back with a 7-1 of their own on Consulate, and closed out proceedings with a 7-4 win on Bank.

To know more, SiegeGG spoke to Dan about the Russian scene, the season so far, and their preparation for Raleigh:

You guys were given quite a scare by forZe in the Russian Major League -- what happened there?

ForZe had good preparation and played well, while we were relaxed and had not played against the aggressive Russian plays tyle for a long time. I guess that's why it was that hard. 

Was there any bad blood, given that you came from forZe, and Shockwave went in the opposite direction?

No, I don't there it was, because forZe changed their gameplay with roster changes and we did it as well. 

This is your second Russian Major League win. What more can we expect from the Russian scene in the future? Anyone to look out for?

I think at the moment it's just forZe. In my opinion they have a pretty good chance to get into the Challenger League this season. Hope to see more Russian teams in the future. 

What was the biggest takeaway you had from the Season 9 Finals?

I can't remember anything special. We just keep working as usual. 

So far in the Pro League, your team has had fairly close games, ending 7-5, 7-5, and 7-3, and 6-6. Is this a sign of Europe getting even tighter at the top?

The statistics from the Pro League game between Team Empire and G2 Esport

Yeah, all games were pretty close and hard. Every team is getting better and better. I guess that it's going to be a tough fight for top spots. 

How hard do you find defending your title? The pressure must surely be immense.

I don't think that we feel any special pressure. We just play and focus on every game. 

Any “strat-saving” going on in preparation for Raleigh?

We’re not hiding any strategies.

Do you have anything to say to your fans, about Season 10, the RML, and Six Major Raleigh?

I want to thank every fan. Your support means a lot for us.

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Catch Team Empire in action again next week when they take on GiFu eSports (formerly mousesports) on Friday, the 12th of July.