Early in January this year, DWG KIA, a storied organization in mainstream esport League of Legends, took a risk signing the GC Busan Spear roster. At the time, the side had no pedigree, save for two second place finishes in the Korean Open. It could have well buckled under the pressure such a name brings.
After all, the far more experienced mantisFPS roster, when signed by Cloud9, had gone on a year-long downward spiral under the pressure of living up to the legend of its new organisation.
The pressure would have also mounted when the APAC North-qualified roster had gone to take on Cloud9 in the Korean Open in its first outing as DWG KIA. And then it would have also ballooned further when it lost that Grand Final 1-3.
“Yes, since it is the early stage of our professional career, there has been a bit of pressure,” says Byeonguk “RIN” Jang. “But, it’s not that much, because our focus is more on gaining experience than on the pressure we have.”
The pressure unquestionably threatened the future of the organization when it had to drop two players and two coaches and replace them with four fresh-faced players and a new player-turned-coach just two weeks before the start of the 2021 season. That pressure was made stronger when the team only finished seventh in Stage 1 in APAC North.
“Our roster was only fixed one or two weeks before Stage 1 started, so we did not have enough time to prepare for the matches,” said RIN of the tumultuous start to the season. “We could not prepare enough strategies and could not work on our teamwork.”
The players knew that they just needed time to scrounge up every last drop of one of the most precious commodities in competitive Siege: experience. So, despite a seventh place finish, DWG KIA made no changes to its roster heading into Stage 2.
“After Stage 1 finished, we had plenty of time to prepare for Stage 2,” explained RIN. And the preparation paid off, especially domestically, as DWG KIA took the Korean Open 2021 Summer title in a confident but close 3-2 over Talon Esports.
“At this point, we think we are the best team in Korea,” began RIN. “But it depends on how Cloud9 recovers its form.”
But, at the start of Stage 2, not even RIN and his teammates would have believed that they would be preparing to get on the plane to Mexico at the end of it.
“We thought we could make it to the playoffs, but we actually had not dreamed of the Major,” he stated.
So now, DWG KIA’s staff and players must gear up to soak up all the experience they can from the international stage in Mexico City. The experience will be even more vital, given that APAC teams struggle to improve as a whole due to geographic issues, inconsistent international appearances, and a two-year handicap.
“APAC players’ mechanics are similar to those in other regions, who do have some extraordinary players,” said RIN regarding his perception of the differences between APAC teams and the rest. “But APAC teams are not as good with aggression as Brazilian teams and not that structured like European and North American teams.”
DWG KIA and Knights had qualified as two of the changes from the APAC attendance at the Six Invitational 2021, replacing Cloud9 and Wildcard Gaming, respectively. However, like the Invitational for Wildcard, the Mexico Major will have to be a miss for Knights.
But in Korea, RIN and his team cannot help but feel sympathetic at “main rival” Cloud9’s downturn in form, even though it was a key contributor to DWG KIA making it to Mexico.
“We are happy to take wins against Cloud9 in APAC North and the Korean Open,” explained RIN. “But we are all Korean teams. It is a little bit sad that one of our best teams had a really tough season. We hope they recover fast and we can aim for the November Major together.”
RIN states that DWG KIA’s goals for the Major are rather modest and loop back to their unchanged focus throughout 2021.
“Our goal is to make it to the playoffs,” begins RIN. “But the main reason we want to make it there is so that we can experience the maximum number of international matchups and learn from those other teams.”
That modesty is no sign of fear or weakness, though, as DWG KIA is raring to take on the big hitters. After all, to become the best you have to try and beat the best.
“In our group, we really want to play Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP),” says RIN. “And if we get to the playoffs, we want to challenge Spacestation Gaming.”
In preparation for that, DWG KIA is not changing much. Its focus is primarily on the other Group C teams, NiP, DarkZero Esports, and G2 Esports. And come what may, the Koreans will take every potential setback on the chin and go back home learning and formulating plans to continue their rise towards the top of APAC.
One thing is for certain, though, DWG KIA will enjoy its time in Mexico, with RIN potentially even getting involved in some friendly competition with North American caster Michael “KiXSTAr” Stockley. “Maybe KiX’s hair is longer, but my hair is better,” remarks RIN, with a hint of a smile in his voice.
Catch DWG KIA at the Six Mexico Major first against G2 Esports, set to be played on the main Rainbow6 Twitch channel on the 16th of August at 7 PM CDT (UTC-5).