In the wake of the switch from ESL Pro League to the current Ubisoft-driven format, Wildcard Gaming found themselves on a hot streak as they brought in Jonathan "Giovanni" Lanciana and Patrick "Pat" Wines to revitalise the team.
A poor Six Invitational 2020 campaign and a bumpy finish to Season 11 of the ESL Pro League was swiftly a thing of the past as Wildcard toppled Ōkami (now ORDER) and Pittsburgh Knights in Six Masters and the August 2020 Oceania Major, respectively.
The end of August would see longtime roster member Ethan "Ethan" Picard decide to part ways with the roster and eventually retire from competitive Rainbow Six. Fresh from a stint with Team Sinister, Vincere was chosen as Ethan’s replacement, and the good times would continue.
The same two teams would fall victim, as Knights lost the Oceanic Nationals (OCN) and Ōkami had their dream of winning the November Major abruptly halted.
Knights would have their revenge two months later though, and come March, strong support player and In-Game Leader Kyle "Diesel" Renton stepped back from the roster and competitive play.
Unable to sign a new player to the team, coach and former pro Vinnie "syliX" Tam was forced into the lineup after a two year absence from competitive play as a roster member.
The result was a Wildcard stripped of its confidence and swagger, and as they grappled with Diesel’s absence, results would sharply nosedive; stone dead last in APAC South Stage 1, and 7th place in OCN.
Travel Restrictions imposed by the Australian government would preclude the roster from participating in the Six Invitational held in Paris.
An open transfer window afterward would provide them with an opportunity to sign their permanent fifth, and Joseph "Milostka" Kaleske would be their man, with former Team Secret and Rogue coach Wille "r0usty" Turunen brought onboard as well.
SiegeGG talked to Vincent "Vincere" Daniele ahead of the Week 4 APAC South games to get the pulse on how Wildcard Gaming has been approaching the 2021 season.
Obviously, not being able to be in Paris stung a lot, and it seems like APAC as a whole took a step backwards at SI with international tournaments being unavailable. Is it something to be worried about, and do you think you could have improved on how they performed in Paris?
Vincere: I think the circumstances surrounding SI affected a lot of the teams, especially the APAC teams given the travel and quarantining that had to be done. Given the circumstances, all the APAC teams did a good job and should be proud of what they accomplished.
I don't think we would have done much better, we would still have to be playing with syliX and given the results of last season, it's fairly obvious how that would have played out.
Losing your main support and IGL in Diesel obviously was a huge setback -- how has it affected team chemistry and roles?
Vincere: It's taken some time to figure out the way we want to structure the team in terms of roles and I think our current iteration is the best fit for us. Diesel was an integral part of our communication given he was an IGL (In-Game Leader) who had the ability to micromanage the team and after losing him, it also took time to almost re-learn our way of playing, without that hard micro-manage.
Team chemistry has always been good and continues to be strong regardless of who we get in. Milo has also been a very positive change for us, given his experience with being an IGL and his fragging power.
Was Milostka an easy choice for the team when reviewing all your options? You’ve obviously had more experience playing alongside him than your teammates, given your time together on the Team Sinister roster.
Vincere: As soon as we learned that Milo would be available during the transfer period, he was the only person we really looked at to join the team. After playing with him on Team SiNister, I knew where his strengths lay, and they lined up with what we were looking for.
You mentioned on broadcast in your interview that r0usty’s addition to the team has brought a veteran presence and a calmness that the team sorely lacked last season: how much has it affected your attitude as a team between rounds, particularly when the scoreline isn’t within your favour?
Vincere: Yeah I think the way that Rousty coaches has really benefitted our ability to play for longer and stay calmer under pressure. After a disappointing season with plenty of negatives, it's good to have somebody who understands that the process takes time and keeps everybody in check.
The team has looked to be a little more aggressive than the more structured Wildcard we’re used to over the last couple play days; is this something that was tailored specifically to handle ORDER and Seventh Heaven or a new direction from the coaching staff?
Vincere: We found with Diesel on the team that we could handle the weaker teams in the region easily by playing extremely structured and dealing with aggression by playing slower and forcing other teams to make mistakes.
However, we struggled against teams that counter-stratted us, as the structured play style can be more easily read into. When we decided to pick up Milo, we focused heavily on changing our play style in different situations and more on adapting on the fly.
We know we have five players with good mechanical skill and playing into our strengths will only aid us.
We’re seeing a lot of good interregional competitions spring up over the world: Japan League, the Korean Open and the various European National Leagues have all been fairly successful. How do you evaluate Oceania and the Oceanic Nationals in contrast to these tournaments, and past tournaments within the ANZ region, such as Six Masters or the Oceanic Cup?
Vincere: I think the inter-regional competitions are great in terms of fostering talent within each of the regions and I think the Oceanic Nationals (OCN) does a great job of finding the next generation of players in this region.
I think the support given to other leagues in comparison with OCN is much greater and that allows them to provide bigger incentives, which in turn provides a more competitive environment. However, I think given the support we get, OCN is as competitive and the production quality is probably as high as it can be.
There have been several pro players that have dipped their toes into AEL -- Fisho, OJ, Redd and yourself have all played at various points in time. Do you see it as a competition that can provide raw talent for Challenger League/Pro League, or are there better routes to take on the path to becoming a professional?
Vincere: I think the AEL* does a good job of making a semi-competitive league worth playing, and we saw a few players in that league that otherwise wouldn't get a taste of competitive play. However, I feel like open qualifiers for OCL and even the LPL leagues are still better for providing opportunities to play competitively.
*AEL (Australian Esports League) is the tournament organiser responsible for university level of competition within the Australian Esports ecosystem, providing young tertiary students with the opportunity to compete against one another and hone their skills at a grassroots level.
Athletes are known for being a superstitious lot. Do you have any pre match rituals you have to do to get into the zone before a match?
Vincere: Nothing superstitious, but my time with Raven as a coach on Oddity taught me a lot about mindfulness and getting into the right mindset before games. Before games I have a certain few songs I listen to and try to visualise the match I'm about to play, focus on breathing, things like that.
Is there an athlete or musician or someone that inspires you/you consider your role model? What have you learned from them that has helped buoy you through your professional career?
Vincere: I don't think any single person has inspired me to become a professional, but there were a lot of Siege pros early on that I admired and continue to admire. KiX and Pengu early on; more recently, players like Alem4o, Pasha, Hyper, and Muzi are players that I really respect in their ability to be consistent and their ability to be both aggressive and structured. I think I try to model my own playstyle in a similar way.
Catch the continuation of Wildcard Gaming's Stage 2 campaign later today, when the Australians play Elevate at 5:30 PM AEST (UTC+10).