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"A bit more pressure" for DWG KIA this time despite "contender" status, says RIN

The Koreans are no longer fresh-faced, but they still have much international experience to gain.

(Banner image: Ubisoft/Kirill Bashkirov)

When DWG KIA had signed the GC Busan Spear roster, it had been clear that there was much potential in the team. But very suddenly, it replaced much of its roster before the start of the 2021 season, resetting much of the expectations.

Even when the team had a stellar run in Stage 2, making it to the Mexico Major through the APAC Playoffs, expectations for the team were low. In an interview with SiegeGG before the Mexico Major, Byeonguk “RIN” Jang himself had said that his team’s primary focus was “gaining experience”. Qualifying to the Major had not even been a dream for the players -- certainly not as soon as it became reality.

DWG KIA celebrating their second win against NiP. (Photo: Ubisoft/Kirill B.)

But DWG KIA went to Mexico, and slapped the two world champions in their group down. Ninjas in Pyjamas, fresh off their SI 2021 win, were shut down 8-7 and 8-6 in back-to-back Clubhouse games, while G2 lost 7-4 and 7-2 to the fresh-faced Koreans.

Stage 2 had truly been somewhat of a Cinderella run for the team, recalled RIN in an interview with SiegeGG, through a translator. “Even though we made it to the Major, we didn’t think we could make it to the quarter-finals. So, winning against G2 and NiP… we had never imagined it.”

But not every fairytale has a happy ending. Team Liquid finally put a stop to the DWG KIA run in Mexico with a 2-0 scoreline. Despite that, DWG KIA had more than achieved the goals they had set out for themselves before the Major, and the loss gave them much food for thought when it came to playing against the best internationally.

More than strategy, RIN said that he largely learnt about how opponents could shut his aggression down, and that lesson can help him deploy it more efficiently in Sweden.

“I thought that [Team Liquid’s] gunfights were really strong,” explained RIN. “I have a feeling that my aggressive plays (that I made at the Major) were already expected by our opponents (after our group stage run), so I couldn’t play aggressively like I usually do in the Korean Open and APAC North.”

Now, having qualified for the Sweden Major, DWG KIA is no longer fresh-faced. Nor is it a team underestimated, as the Stage 3 APAC Playoffs demonstrated.

Sweden Major Blogpost Qualified web

“Before the APAC Playoffs started, we thought we could make it to the Major also,” said RIN. “But after our first match against Dire Wolves, we lost the game (7-8) even though we had led 6-3, we fell to the Lower Bracket and thought ‘it may be hard this time’.”

DWG KIA shipped maps to every single team except the relatively inexperienced South Asians, Monkey Hunters, conceding an overtime loss each to GUTS Gaming, Dire Wolves (this time in a BO3), and Elevate.

After returning from Mexico, DWG KIA also moved to increase the effectiveness of such lessons by signing Haneul “EroSA” Kim as an assistant coach. EroSA now has increased the efficiency of collecting data on DWG KIA’s upcoming opponents, and also helps share the load when it comes to strategization.

Heading into the Sweden Major, RIN is not maddeningly underselling his team’s strength, even if he is well aware that the others are all equally as good or better. The team’s goals are now loftier, with the baseline being a repeat of the Mexico Major -- that is, playoffs qualification.

“We’re still contenders, compared to other big teams,” said RIN. “But we’re participating in our second Major in a row, so yes, we are feeling a little bit more pressure compared to last time.”

DWG KIA is also feeling hopeful and tantalized by the prospect of a good run in Sweden rewarding them with a Six Invitational 2022 berth. That, in particular, said RIN, has added pressure onto DWG KIA’s collective shoulders.

While the Sweden Major groups had not been released at the time of the interview, it had been known that there would be one team per region in each group. But RIN still wryly commented that he would still prefer to avoid “all the LATAM teams” -- this also despite the fact that DWG KIA had beaten NiP twice in Mexico.

“NiP, FURIA, Team oNe, and FaZe, they’re all really strong,” said RIN. “But I want to play against Spacestation Gaming. I had wanted to face them in Mexico, but we couldn’t. This time, I really want to play against them.”

His wish has been granted in that regard, at least; DWG KIA has been placed in what could conceivably be considered the ‘group of death’, alongside SSG, Team Empire, and FURIA.

But despite the fearsome Group D, the Cinderella storyline may well be shaping up again, because another of RIN’s wishes has been granted. Prior to the Mexico Major, RIN had lamented the drop in form of the then-Cloud9 roster.

“We are all Korean teams… we hope they recover fast and we can aim for the November Major together,” he had said. And that is exactly what has happened, as DWG KIA will be joined by SANDBOX Gaming (formerly mantisFPS and Cloud9) in Sweden.

“It is the first time that two teams from Korea are participating in the same Major, so I am very excited about this,” RIN said, recalling his old words, before adding that he also hopes that both teams perform well enough in Sweden to also make it to SI 2022 together.

Catch another potential Cinderella run from DWG KIA at the Sweden Major, starting with the Nov. 8 match against Team Empire.