DarkZero Esports (DZ) has completely revamped its roster since its last international appearance -- an underwhelming first round exit at the Six Invitational 2021. The team finished 4-5 in the group stage and was then dealt a crushing 0-2 loss by FURIA -- a team DZ had defeated in the group stage -- in the first round of the playoffs.
“SI was a huge wakeup call for NA teams,” said NAL Stage 2 MVP Paul “Hyper” Kontopanagiotis in an email to SiegeGG. “The LATAM meta was overwhelming to deal with at first.”
The team moved long-time captain Kyle “Mint” Lander to coach and slotted coach Brandon “BC” Carr into a player’s role. Stellar support player Alex “Skys” Magor retired and the team elected to bring on an electric rookie: Rob “Panbazou” Feliciano.
To say that Panbazou is 'new' to the competitive 'Rainbow Six Siege' scene is like saying the weather in the summertime is a tad warm, or that it’s difficult to light wet wood on fire. He had played precisely one season of Challenger League before he was invited to try out by Hyper.
The invitation turned into a couple games of ranked, a couple games of ranked turned into a couple days of scrims, and, before he knew it, Panbazou was in the North American League.
Panbazou has had an immediate impact on the 'traditional' DarkZero play style. “DZ has always kind of struggled with getting a ‘spearhead’, someone that will just kind of run in,” said Panbazou in an interview with SiegeGG. “So when I was signed, that's exactly what they were looking for.”
Before SI, DarkZero had finished sixth in Stage 1 of the NAL. The team had struggled to assert itself in the server and had struggled with being adaptable in the middle of rounds. With the roster shake-up and Panbazou at the front of the charge, it placed fourth, a marked improvement. DZ might have placed even higher if it had been able to convert a few of its overtime wins into regulation wins.
In the NAL, an overtime win counts for two points, a regulation win counts for one. DarkZero won seven games, but six of them had been pushed to overtime. If DZ had finished off a mere pair of its wins in regulation, the team would have been second in the stage. But while DarkZero struggled to win in regular time, its only loss in Stage 2 was a 0-7 thrashing at the hands of TSM.
“I think all the overtime matches did for us was prep us for the strenuous tournament setting that we will have to deal with in Mexico,” said Hyper. “I believe NA did a good job adapting that play style last stage and incorporating a lot of LATAM strats and plays.”
The expectations for DarkZero seem oddly low for a team that technically finished 7-1 in its most recent stage of regional play. Six of those victories had been in overtime, but they had been victories nonetheless.
“It's good practice,” said Panbazou when asked how DarkZero’s experience in overtime games could help them in Mexico. “...towards our last few games where we went to OT, we were down four-six or something, someone on the team would always say, ‘we've been here before, we know what to do,’ and that would help calm the nerves.”
Historically, Hyper says, DarkZero has struggled against the play styles of the majority of the teams in its group for the Mexico Major. G2 Esports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and DWG KIA all have playstyles built around aggression and taking map control quickly.
In the past, DarkZero has liked to set up and run creative plays that are more rigid in their execution than other teams. With the addition of Panbazou and some healthy reflection on past underwhelming campaigns, this DarkZero team appears eager to erase the 'stiff' play style narrative.
This group will be an excellent test of where DarkZero is truly at as a reformed team. On one hand, six overtime victories are unsustainable in the long term and the competition they were won in wasn’t international. On the other hand, wins are wins, no matter what manner they arrive in, and DarkZero passes the proverbial eye test for improvement from SI and the previous stage.
Catch DarkZero Esports next at the Six Mexico Major against G2 Esports, set to be played on the Rainbow6 Twitch channel on the 16th of August at 1 PM CDT (UTC-5).
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