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"He doesn't [feel] afraid": Reeps96-driven Dire Wolves look to roar at Major, but outside factors could muzzle fangs

Ed will be able to attend the Major, but he will have little to no practice.

Image: Ubisoft/Eric Anamalay

The 2022 season started in fine form for Dire Wolves, who managed a 7-0-0-0 record in APAC South in Stage 1. They also qualified for the Charlotte Major, earning some valuable international experience through their attendance, but came crashing back to Earth with a disappointing fifth-placed Stage 2.

"The meta changed a lot to really gun-heavy," said Dire Wolves coach Odin "Odin" Hempel, recalling his team's struggles. "We (also) hadn't had much time to take a break ... we had, I think, two weeks max, to like... before Stage 2 started."

Odin also pointed out that Huang "HARAM3E" Chih-hang, who had been "pretty good" in the more structured Stage 1 meta was unable to keep up with the subsequent faster-paced, gun-skill heavy meta. They knew that once they had time and a player that fit into the meta, they would be back in business.

"It was also that the roles we were playing at that moment weren't fitting for everyone," added Odin. "For example, Lin "Pikan" Yu-siang couldn't really use his gun-skill because he was really restricted in a slow, structural position."

To their credit, Dire Wolves never lost faith in their abilities and skills, owing to close games every time they lost in Stage 2. But things fell into place as they wanted it with Wu "Reeps96" Weichen. Signed from Chinese team Team Chillax, Reeps96 had moved to Thailand with just days to spare before the start of Stage 3 to be eligible to play in APAC South.

Few expected him to light up the statistic sheets in a fashion that would befit Odin labelling him the "Asian Spoit". After all, China has no formal competitive Siege league to speak of and the closest equivalents are community-organized cups.

The overall Stage 3 statistics for APAC South.

But Reeps96 delivered week after week, finishing the APAC South stage with a SiegeGG Rating of 1.27, K-D of +23, and Entry K-D of +11 -- best in the league for all three categories. As a result, Dire Wolves also did not lose a single match in all competitions from Jul. 31 to Oct. 29.

"He doesn't [feel] afraid of [anything]," said Dire Wolves captain Hou "Ed" Tsung-cheng. Odin chimed in, stating that Reeps96 certainly "outperformed ... his (own) expectations".

"For me, as a coach ... when it came to the match days, [this performance] was expected, because he was always there in the scrims," Odin continued. "Obviously, he was 'ranked star' -- that's what we thought of him -- and if there's one thing that ranked stars can do is then frag out, but I think he also helped a lot in other aspects."

The exhaustion that the team felt throughout Stage 2 seemed to wash away upon his signing, according to Odin, and the team's morale and "teamwork" improved dramatically.

A deep understanding of "all the maps" was vital to his performances, said Reeps96. He elaborated that his experience with Chillax, limited as it was, was a robust platform upon which Odin was able to build the foundations of one of the best APAC South players.

"I think it's not only me helping team, team helping me do the performance too," explained Reeps96, unwilling to take all the credit.

The Chinese player also downplayed the role of Ranked towards his performance, despite potential indications that his 10,000 MMR in Y7S1, Operation Demon Veil, would have been a big factor.

"Ranked only help me aim," he explained. "I think still it's scrims ... the team I say before in China called Chillax helped me a lot"

Odin agreed, stating that though he was well known in APAC for his incredibly high MMR that saw him be the third-highest ranked player in the world in Y7S1, scrimmages against Chillax were what put him on Dire Wolves' radar.

As good as Reeps96 is and as good as Dire Wolves have looked, however, external factors could scupper any hopes of a good result at the Jönköping Major. Ed will come into the Major with no preparation due to his National Service, which began shortly after the end of Stage 3, while Reeps96's Swedish visa is still being processed after he spent 10 days in mandatory quarantine in China.

In a group with Wolves Esports and FaZe Clan, that may just be an early death knell for the Taiwanese team's hopes of progresing to the playoffs, even before considering the threat that a better-than-expected Mirage present.

Depending on how poorly practiced Ed is, substitute player and team analyst HARAM3E might play at the Major instead, even though Ed will be able to attend, but that is a decision Odin said will be taken closer to the Major.

Nevertheless, Ed is not cowed by the odds presented by the external circumstances or the group.

"I don't feel any fear," he concluded. "Even though the teams there look strong, I don't know... our vibes just like 'Okay, they're strong, but we also can beat them'."

Catch Dire Wolves on the international stage again at the Jönköping Major, which will take place from Nov. 21 to 27. 

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