DarkZero Esports, since the roster’s signing over a year ago, has been a team firmly aimed at the top of the North American scene. An immediate appearance at the Season 9 Finals then followed, and while DarkZero lost 0-2, it was to eventual champions Team Empire. Qualified to the Six Major, the team opened its account with a 2-0 win over Fnatic, but DarkZero was unable to maintain the winning formula and lost 0-2 to forZe and FaZe Clan.
Much soul-searching was to be had, and DarkZero came out swinging and finished at the top of the NA Pro League for the first time in its history after a quarter-finals finish at DreamHack Montreal. At the Season 10 Finals was when DarkZero really came into its own, performing at its maximum potential. FaZe Clan was defeated in a swift 2-0 fashion, though the Brazilians had a stand-in, before Aerowolf (now Giants Gaming) was dispatched 2-0 as well. Natus Vincere, however, was too much to handle and DarkZero lost 0-2 in the grand final.
Two roster changes then immediately followed, with Zachary “Nyx” Thomas traded with Team Reciprocity’s Alexander “Skys” Magor, and Brandon “BC” Carr moved back to a secondary coaching position to make room for Tyler “Ecl9pse” McMullin. Playing at the US Nationals Finals 2019, a quarter-finals loss to Spacestation Gaming gave critics of the team much ammunition against the team, but a strong first half of Season 11 of the Pro League was quick to prove them wrong. Now, as Dark Zero heads into the Six Invitational for the first time, the team is just three points behind Team SoloMid, but five ahead of Spacestation Gaming.
To know more, SiegeGG spoke to DarkZero captain Kyle “Mint” Lander about his team’s preparation for the Invitational:
Your team made some significant changes after the Season 10 Finals, with yourself remarking you had to be the “most NA team ever” to have done so. How have your new teammates settled in and how does your team feel about the event?
Bringing in two new players into our system was a bit rougher than what we initially expected. They have their way of playing the game and we have ours, so it took some time trying to find a balance and what works for us on this new team. Overall, though, they are a lot more settled in and comfortable playing with us and we are looking forward to our first real event together.
For the event, we'll never not go into one expecting to win, but we also know that this roster was assembled for the long haul and that's where our focus will always be.
Despite being finalists at the Pro League Finals, your team has been put into one of the arguably harder groups. Does your team have any gripes with the seeding process?
The only gripes we have with the seeding process would be that arguably the invited team (G2) should be in the first seed’s group (Empire), and that having three of one region’s teams in the same group is kind of rough, but I guess random is random.
We aren't worried about what groups seem harder than others though -- to us if we want to be the best we have to beat the best, so we will prepare for whichever team is in front of us.
How do you think that the double-elimination playoffs will change the dynamic of the event, and what is your opinion of the one-map advantage in the grand final?
Double-elimination is huge for the game overall and will only raise the competitiveness of the event. Teams have off days or off series and it gives them another chance to come back which we see in other esports and it's only going to create great storylines as well.
As far as the one-map advantage, i'm not sure if I completely agree with it, but the winner’s bracket does need some sort of advantage, so I think it is fine for now.
What difference is there between preparing for the Six Invitational and the USN/PL Finals?
Honestly, the only difference for us is that there are more teams to prep for. Everything that we are doing already with our preparation being focused on the long haul is only going to further help us.
Compared to your group stage opponents, your team has a lot of support staff. Do you see this as a major advantage?
Maybe not a major advantage, but definitely a major part of our success for sure. They are able to completely prepare for every team at an event and have us all prepped and ready to go before each match so that the only thing that us players have to worry about is getting better and our jobs in the game.
FaZe Clan and Fnatic were also in your group at the Raleigh Major, while you played Empire at the S9 Finals. Is the familiarity going to help?
Not really, anything we have studied about those teams in the past has to get thrown out and started again from scratch. Teams have new players, new map pools, new strategies so there's never really enough time to get familiar with an international opponent.
What is the goal for your team at this event?
Our goal this event and every event we attend like I said before is always to win it all. I feel like you have to have that mentality no matter what but we are in this for the long haul.
Do you have anything else to say to your fans?
I'd like to give a big thanks to all of our DarkZero supporters for sticking with us and our inconsistencies as we figure things out with this new squad. You guys cheering and rooting us on truly does make a world of difference. For Invitational we are going to give it everything we got and we hope you make you guys proud!
DarkZero plays FaZe Clan in a rematch of the Season 10 Finals in Group A first, with matches against either Fnatic or Team Empire scheduled afterwards. Check back here at SiegeGG for more Invitational Insights and full coverage of the event as it comes.