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Gaimin Gladiators seek to emulate "idols" DWG KIA in international debut at Berlin Major

DWG KIA, too, qualified for a Six Major in their second-ever stage in the top flight.

Image: Ubisoft/Kirill Bashkirov

In Jan. 2022, Invictus Gaming’s Jeremy “HysteRiX” Tan privately described The Last Dance as “scary” and pegged them to secure promotion to APAC South in the coming days. But few shared his sentiment, especially with hotshot Oceanic squad Team Bliss on their side of the APAC South Promotion/Relegation bracket.

Against expectations, except those of HysteRiX, The Last Dance made it to APAC South. After being signed and dropped by Renatus, they came into Stage 2 toting a new organization and a new player -- former Invictus man Jose “Jo” Iman.

“After Stage 1 we had a roster change,” explained Gaimin Gladiators coach Ilham “Sunan” Surya. “We need the roster change, obviously, because we see that this team is already capable to challenge the top-three or top-four for APAC South, but yeah we need some small tweak.”

The tweak in question was the addition of a second-IGL in the form of Jo, who fit the profile and had significant tier-one experience. Jo had been part of the Invictus Gaming roster even during its time under Aerowolf in Nov. 2019, though he was not listed as an official substitute until SI 2020 under Giants Gaming.

During his team on that roster, Jo observed that while his team was dominant with its structure in APAC, that structure fell flat internationally.

“It would work out (in APAC), because we would (only need to) make small changes,” he elaborated. “I think the first thing I realised was you can’t really do the same things in international… literally the next round they could already adapt.”

That lesson, say both Jo and Sunan, will be valuable to help Gaimin Gladiators adjust from their APAC South mindset to a Berlin-ready mindset.

Funnily enough, Jo himself did not share HysteRiX’s opinion of his current teammates before trialling with them. But when he logged on with the team in-game, their potential, drive, and communication clarity stood out, convincing Jo.

“Just the overall environment was very nice,” said Jo. “That’s my only goal, ‘let’s get these boys to the Major!’”

While it is certainly too early to draw any proper parallels, GG have -- so far -- emulated DWG KIA’s path in 2021. A fearsome tier-two run, promotion to the top-flight, a bottom-three placement in Stage 1, and a roaring climb to second place in Stage 2 that sees the team head to the August Major is applicable to both DWG and GG.

“One time we scrimmed [DWG KIA],” Jo recalled. “It was like night-and-day [compared to] like a normal scrim and we were like, ‘Wow! So this is the true strength of DWG KIA.’ … Yeah, they’re like, our like, you could say ‘APAC idols’.”

Just like their idols, GG are not going to the Berlin Major without self-confidence. Despite their inexperience, DWG KIA took down reigning world champions NiP and G2 Esports twice, each, and progressed to the Mexico Major playoffs. And, according to Sunan, the Indonesians are aiming to reach the same stage in Berlin.

The self-confidence also comes from a significant change in mindset; in Stage 1, the GG players had struggled with mentality-related issues and often failed to perform on match-day. But shedding those fears in Stage 2, as described by Jo and his teammates in post-match interviews, rocketed them up to second place and has given them a measured sense of self-belief for the Berlin Major.

Despite that, they recognise the difficulty in overcoming the gulf of experience they will face against the other teams in their group.

“This is our first experience in terms of LAN,” explained Sunan. “Coming down to the Berlin, we are not blind but we are ready and hopefully with every preparation we have, we are coming down really hot to the Berlin. We are studying everything, we are studying like every other region.”

In addition, Sunan revealed that GG are attempting to fly into Berlin a week before the date provided by Ubisoft in order to immerse themselves into the European style of play and get a fresh perspective on the game.

Catch Gaimin Gladiators on the international stage again at the Berlin Major, which will run from Aug. 15 to 21, and read up on everything you need to know about the event.