Despite Wild Rift being a relatively new game, it has already managed to attract the attention of esports organizations in the region, with one of them being League of Legends Pacific Champion Series contenders – Berjaya Dragons. When they first learned that the mobile version of LoL was coming, they quickly assembled a team of formidable, young talent combined with experienced veterans.
The team had a promising showing at their first major tournament, the SEA Icon Series: Preseason. After being knocked down to the lower bracket on the first day by eventual winners, Geek Fam, the team fought their way back to the grand finals and took it all the way to five games. Unfortunately, their strong 2-0 start wasn’t enough for them to bring it home.
“Bleh!” the whole team said in unison when I brought up the Preseason.
Edwardo laughed, “We could have won!”
I pressed on, “What was it like losing to Geek Fam?”
“Well, it kinda sucks since it was a 2-0 lead then we blew it up to a 2-3. There were already memes going around. We bamboozled our fans. Like the tweet from Riot Games SEA Esports Project manager: Congratulations to BJD for winning Icon Series MY Preseason. Surely Geekfam can’t come back from being 0-2 down. Two hours later, we were second place,” said Sagi.
Berjaya Dragons Wild Rift comprises of:
- Chin “TaintedOnes” Wei Song – Jungler
- Liew “Sagi” Kuan Chuen – Dragon lane
- Yap “Kagame” Li Aw – Mid lane
- Yong “Karuto” Jia Le – Mid lane (sub)
- Lim “Hoki” Tou Jye – Support*
- Ong “Emotion” Hock Ming – Baron lane*
- Shahril “Nenas” Anuar – Baron lane (sub)
- Jonathan “Chilly” Chan – Coach
- Edward “Edwardo” Mah – Manager
- *Hoki and Emotion were not present for the interview
With goals of being the best Wild Rift team in Southeast Asia, the current lineup was finalized in January this year after a trial period with a few tournaments under their belt. Edwardo, the team’s manager, who was in charge of putting the squad together described the process, “I found these players one by one. It started with one guy first, then I asked him if he knew anybody who would be suitable for the team. One by one I caught them. Gotta catch ’em all!”
For those familiar with the local esports scene, some of these names would ring a bell, but in case you are as clueless as me, here’s a quick rundown: Chilly, Kagame, Sagi, Hoki and Karuto were former LoL (PC) players. TaintedOnes was an Arena of Valor player (fun fact, he was on Team Tamago with Jason and Kayzeepi who are now part of the RSG SG Mobile Legends: Bang Bang squad) and Nenas was part of the Todak squad that finished 3rd at M1.
The LoL players saw Wild Rift as a chance to return to their favourite game especially after how the local scene for the PC game sputtered and died out in the country a few years ago. “Due to the lack of community support and infrastructure for the game. The best year for LoL was back in 2018 when we had the LCM, but after that, there weren’t even any small tournaments,” lamented Sagi. Nenas had wanted to try something new after leaving MLBB behind and Karuto, who wasn’t in time for the original LoL scene, saw this as an opportunity to make his dreams come true. Berjaya Dragons came calling with their golden ticket.
However, not everyone on the team are full-time athletes just yet. Due to the fact that most of them had prior commitments before joining the organization, they couldn’t drop everything immediately and with the pandemic in full swing, it hasn’t made things any easier. Sagi and Karuto are still tertiary education students (online classes have been kind to their training schedules) while TaintedOnes still has a job as a software developer. Eventually, they would all like to play for the Dragons full-time.
The team was jovial and friendly during our call, with Edwardo, Chilly and Sagi being the most vocal. They were also kind enough to answer the novice questions I had about the team and esports. When I brought up the topic of skill versus chemistry, here’s what they had to say. “Skill is more important than chemistry because it is the base requirement to being a good player. Not to say that chemistry is not important, but it is more important compared to chemistry,” replied Chilly.
“You can build chemistry relatively easier compared to skill. Skill is something you either have or you don’t. There’s no proper path to teach it. At least for teamwork, there are guidelines on what you can do. Going along the lines, it’ll be a normal reflex. For skills, you can’t teach people how to do certain things – you can’t control their fingers,” said Sagi.
With seven players on the team, how do they decide who gets to play? “For organizations, usually the coach will decide who gets to play, in this case – myself. The coach will choose the better player. As long as you are the better player, you will get to play in the tournament…if the skill level between two players is very similar, teams can employ strategies where they swap players around depending on the strategies they want to execute,” answered Chilly.
Substitutes also have unique effects on a team – players with substitutes will try harder to avoid being benched, and substitutes will work harder so they get to play. There are also drawbacks to having subs – they might feel demotivated if they never get the chance to play. “If we don’t put you in, you’ll know that there are things you need to improve,” added Edwardo. “And if you don’t play tournaments, you’ll have more time to practise and hone your skills.”
When questioned about what it’s like being a substitute, Karuto mentioned that while it can be demotivating at times, it does push him to work harder and he promised that he won’t be a sub forever. Nenas replied that he doesn’t mind it as he’s still learning to play Wild Rift especially since he has no prior experience with LoL. “If one player isn’t good enough to play yet, the better player should be in the lineup. If you put a worse player on the team and they don’t play well, it can impact the team’s performance as a whole.”
I asked the players if there was any added pressure when playing for a big organization like Berjaya Dragons. “Back in 2018, I used to play for a part-time team comprised of friends and colleagues. At that time, we had no sponsors, so lesser commitment. No tight scrim schedules or actual commitments. When we practised, we practised, when we chilled, we chilled together. So it was more of a friendly vibe but then it eventually turned toxic because of tournaments. Compared to BJD, there are more commitments and more discipline involved. There are things you have to do so we have to treat it like a job, and perform our duties.” replied Sagi.
Back to the Preseason – the team elaborated on why they couldn’t go home with the grand trophy. Sagi responded, “at the end of the day, it’s based on how we are as a team, and I think we still have a long way to go. Geek Fam showcased better teamplay, adaptability, countering our strategies – they did it very well. We cannot discredit them for winning the championship even though we were 2-0 ahead.”
“Congratulations to them, especially to ‘Veki. We have a coach, they don’t even have a coach!” joked Edwardo. “The main issue we are facing right now is communication and teamplay. Our players are individually skilled but are lacking in terms of communicating properly. It’s something we’re working on.”
Regarding scrims, they used to practise locally, but since the scene has expanded, the Dragons now mainly scrim against foreign teams. This allows them to study different regional playstyles, as well as hide strategies from their local competitors. On the topic of different regions, Sagi praised the Filipinos. “Philippines are the gods of Wild Rift right now. In terms of their mechanical skill, infrastructure of the scene, and how committed their players are to playing full-time, their passion for the game and the community support is very immense. They’ve got many large organizations supporting them. Before there was a scene for official Wild Rift tournaments, they were the first ones to host a community tournament to make sure their players got more exposure and tournament experience. The Philippines as a country itself, pushed Wild Rift’s potential to the max.”
Wrapping up the interview, I asked them what organizers and Riot Games can do to prevent Wild Rift from following the same footsteps of its predecessor – “Keep the big tournaments coming, like the upcoming Summer Season. Due to the pandemic, it’s been a tough year for sponsors, despite the growth of esports viewership, but we hope they’ll stay invested and new ones will come onboard.”
And what would an article be without tips from the pros? Here’s what they had to say about improving as a player and joining the professional scene:
Edwardo: Grind solo queue. Having the required rank to play tournaments is like having a certificate for a job. If you don’t have the basic requirements, how do I justify to my boss that this Platinum guy is going to carry us to a championship? Although some players might not have the rank, they have credentials (past experience in other games) that convince us to give them a shot. Observe and put into practise things that you learn from pro player streams.
Chilly: The easiest way to get noticed and be pro is by playing ranked. First, get your rank as high as possible, and form your own team to join tournaments. Make yourself relevant to the scene and organizations will start to find you.
Karuto: Climb ranks, get to the top and people will know you. Play more games, watch tournaments and learn their strategies.
Kagame: Reach the top 200 rank for Challenger or joining the competitive scene through some random teams and get some results. Even if you lose but you shine in the game, people will recognize that. Every time you lose or do something bad, watch the replay and see how you can do better in that situation so you can improve the next time you play.
TaintedOnes: If you lose a game, know why you lost it, recognize the reason – be it a trolling teammate, or you underperforming – recognize the problem so you know how to avoid it.
Nenas: Just play and get better, keep on persevering, and don’t give up.
Sagi: Be multi-role. You can’t only play one role and expect to get it every game.
And to everyone else, “Support the scene as much as you can – we need your support in order for the scene to grow. Have fun with the game, don’t stress too much on rank, you can play the game for fun as well,” said Chilly. Level-headed advice from the team’s coach. We look forward to seeing the squad play at upcoming tournaments, in the meantime, follow the players on social media (linked in the lineup under the team picture above) to catch their live streams.
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