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Top
League of Legends

LCO’s Chiefs Esports Club Close to Flawless Split

Nikhil Kalro

It is no secret that the Oceanic League of Legends scene in Australia has had a rough time keeping up with the surging popularity of the other regions. When it was called off entirely in October 2020, Riot, the organisers, ran into trouble with the finances on the face of spiralling operational costs. As a workaround, they made a small rule change that still allowed players from the Oceanic region to compete in other regions, mainly the LCS. This ensured opportunities for several players across different teams.

lco tally

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND - OCTOBER 9: Team Peace's James "Tally" Shute competes at the League of Legends World Championship Play-Ins Stage on October 9, 2021 in Reykjavik, Iceland. (Photo by Michal Konkol/Riot Games)

When the partnership with ESL was announced, it gave the LoL aspirants in the region a new lease on life. When the league took off again, several teams assembled squads hastily, going through prolonged periods of rebuilding that affected the quality of the league. But those are all in the past. LoL’s Circuit Oceania (LCO) as it is known today is the new eight-team competition that is now the biggest Oceanic regional competition. Having begun in 2021 in its current form – it replaced the Oceanic Pro League – the level of competition and standards are on the rise.

This year’s Split 2 has seen a runaway leader in Chiefs Esports Club, who are on an unprecedented high, having borrowed T1’s flavour from the LCK. They have surged to 17 wins, and are so ahead of the pack that even a minor blip – which looks unlikely on current form – may still keep them on top of the standings with four games left. ORDER, their nearest competitors, are currently on a 10-7 win-loss record. And while they have plenty of work to do, Chiefs are sitting pretty, much like they did in Split 1, where they finished on top of the leader board with a 19-2 win-loss record.

Split 1 domination was underlined by Quin “Raes” Korebrits, the New Zealand bot laner, who led the way with 5.57 kills, 1.81 deaths and 6.29 assists, along with a KDA of 6.55 and creep score of 273.24. He was assisted by Dragon “Dragku” Guo, the support player, whose assist rate of 10.71 was among the best of the season. As far as Chiefs are concerned, not much has changed in Split 2, because Raes has continued to be their most prolific player. This time, he has elevated his game by a few notches. He currently lands 5.87 kills, 1.13 assists and 7.8 assists, along with a KDA OF 12.06 and creep score of 236.47. In Dragku’s absence, James “Tally” Shute has stepped in to ensure the void isn’t felt. He has so far landed 9.67 assists on an average. In many ways, key to their success so far has been faith and continuity.

For all that they achieved, their inability to cross the final line despite topping the pool in split one counts as a failure in their minds, because it’s simply the standards great teams set for themselves. And the Chiefs were certainly stinging from a supposed “failure.” That was the overwhelming feeling around their camp heading into Split 2. And much of that hurt seems to have been channelled in a positive way this time around.

A Highly Competitive League

But they will be naive to believe things have remained the same, because the power shift has gradually happened. ORDER had a middling run in Split 1 before revving up towards the end to take the title and showing what they’re made of. ORDER relied on MVP jungler Shane “Kevy” Allen for much of their 2021 campaign. This time around, ORDER are trying to bounce back after a poor 2022 MSI, but they will take the experience, a valuable currency, in today’s cut-throat world of competition.

ORDER seem to have bounced back despite losing their star player to Counter Logic Gaming in North America, even as the Chiefs signed Worlds representative Ryan “Aladoric” Richardson to partner Raes. This counts as a pretty significant roster move. It has certainly made Chiefs roster oozing class and confidence, with experience of the big stage making them a dominant force. Their top-side Korean duo still continue to be a dominant weapon and Tally is – as always – a solo lane rock.

Outside the big four in the 2022 LCO season, Dire Wolves and Kanga are there and thereabouts. Kanga have stuck firm from Split One, keeping faith in their key players despite patchy performances – though it did shuffle slightly mid split – while Dire Wolves went the exact opposite direction, by making major changes after losing Jeong “Goodo” Min-jae; the Wolfpack have added Kim “Poltron” Nicholls, Lo “Siuman” Pak Man, Alvin “Dante” Jing Zhe Wong, and Drekani “Bulldawg” Akuhata to the starting lineup.

These are significant in many ways, given the experience they’ve all racked up elsewhere over time. Meanwhile, Mammoth made a fresh addition in former OPL top laner Daniel “papryze” Francis as part of their Split Two reshuffle and signed newcomers Sean “Ali G” Lancaster and Michael “Mikru” Kim. Not that it has made a massive difference yet, but these are moves keeping in mind the long-term. As such, they are teams that haven’t been influenced by short-term results and aren’t known to make knee-jerk reactions.

Among all the title contenders, Pentanet have a distinct advantage in that, like a few others, they haven’t changed from Split 1. Their fixtures and luck of the draw have been of a massive help too. At a time when they needed games they had to win to arrest a slump, they were slated to face Kanga and Mammoth, two teams they would beat nine times out of 10. Starting 4-0 and becoming pace-setters before they played the big boys like Chiefs and Order played into their hands – matches they dominated, which we will get to.

Like Chiefs, Pentanet also have only one place to point at last season. One against-the-odds loss to ORDER, who they dominated for much of the contest, doomed their Split One campaign to a third-place finish, which meant they were denied any international competition. Days earlier they had pushed Chiefs in a memorable five-map epic, which many at the time believed was a dress rehearsal for the LCO Grand finale. One of the reasons for their success has been Choi “BalKhan” Hyun-jin the jungler. With Kevy gone, the Pentanet gamebreaker has taken his game to the next level. This means we could yet be in line for the match of the season, and the grand finale that many expect could yet be a possibility.

If that does happen, it could complete a nice circle of sorts. From being a league that was headed to the abyss, the LCO has emerged as a prime candidate for one of the most improved leagues in the LoL sphere. While it has some distance to cover before it can be compared to the scene in Korea or China, LCO may yet be on a path to discovering its identity to set a stone for a brighter immediate future.

Promoting the LCO

Meanwhile, it is also important to note that several LCO games will be played at DreamHack Melbourne in September. Three LCO teams will play in front of a live audience, which is a massive draw for the league. “Every DreamHack has its own flavor no matter where you go in the world, and now we have this exciting opportunity to show our Australian esports flavor,” Brad Baldwin, Project Manager at ESL Australia, told the publication Dot Esports in April this year.

“This is our chance to really honor our Australian esports. Putting Australia on the DreamHack map, that’s awesome. We’re hoping that we can enjoy a really huge first year, and really settle into hosting events long term. There’s a lot in the air, but we want to use this as a starting point. Esports in Australia is so huge, and we know there’s a huge appetite for events and festivals. This is a really good opportunity for Australia esports and the gaming community at large to really come together again. And, as well as all the core gamers, we really want it to be a place you can bring friends, family, and people who want to learn about gaming.”

Improved finances, increasing online viewership, broadcast partnerships, bigger contracts and wide digital coverage are all encouraging signs. Within a year of relaunch, that they have gotten this far is testimony to the commitment made by teams and its players. We may be in for our biggest surprise yet.