Swip3rR walks us through the OPL's Rift Rivals Pacific Victory
© Riot Games
Chiefs Top Laner Swip3rR talks to us about leading the Chiefs, the Oceanic Region's victory at Rift Rivals and how his team is the most dynamic squad in the OPL.
Brandon "Swip3rR" Holland is a veteran in the OPL now. He's been around for years, a constant presence in the Australian League of Legends scene. The only remaining member from the back-to-back(-to-back) Chiefs team that dominated the early years of the Oceanic Pro League, he's found himself in a leadership role as the scene enters its most competitive era ever — and things are looking pretty good too.
"I definitely knew that I was going to be given the responsibility of captain and running the team," Swip3rR explained. "I think I was very willing to do that sort of role. It's something that I haven't had a chance to do in my career because I'd always been a follower.
"I've changed a lot in the last 18 months and I wanted the opportunity to lead a team and just how far I could go with the boys. I've been proud of myself for not giving up or getting demotivated. I've really just held a strong mindset while running the team and seeing these players really melding into their own roles is the reward."
It's tough, because as we've mentioned already — Split 2 in the OPL is hyper-competitive. In our interview with Mammoth's captain Brandon "Juves" Defina, it was something that came up repeatedly — there's no longer a divide between the top and bottom teams. Tectonic showed that again in Week 4 of Split 2, when they defeated the Chiefs.
"I think the game against Tectonic was definitely a hiccup," Swip3rR said, explaining what was — to him — an unexpected loss. "But in the same way, I think we've really redeemed ourselves over our travels and just showed the level that we can achieve. I think getting an international coach [American Doruk Hacioglu] has helped us with our consistency. I feel like players on our team aren't getting complacent in this split. I can't speak on [any other team's] behalf, but I just see the consistency and the drive to win a lot more on the Chiefs than on any other team at the moment."
With that in mind, it seemed like the Chiefs felt they were under pressure to carry Oceania through the Rift Rivals Pacific tournament. That's definitely the feeling I got when I spoke to Leo "Babip" Romer a few weeks ago. For Swip3rR, there was expectation, but it didn't translate into nervousness.
"I think we had the responsibility to carry [the region]," he said thoughtfully. "Because I think, going in, we were the best team. I think Dire Wolves were sort of close. Ultimately I just wanted to go in and just learn as much we can, win or lose. I think winning was a really big achievement for the region, but for the most part, we just wanted to go in and grab all the experience we could.
"From my perspective, I really like playing in front of crowds and just playing in high-pressure situations. It something that I just strive in. I think just our entire roster is just ... No one really was nervous. We have really good mechanics in our team so, if we ever just take a team fight in a high-pressure situation, it means that we tend to normally come out on top."
Of course, the wonderful thing about Rift Rivals is that it's not all about one team. The region is represented by the three best from the previous split — in this case it was Legacy, Chiefs and Dire Wolves. In the Finals, against SEA, the Dire Wolves dropped game one against Mineski's bullying style of play — they actually played brilliantly to stay in contention after some early mistakes, but the few major mistakes Mineski made came at inopportune times for DW, and they weren't able to convert.
"I think the problem with Dire Wolves right now is that they're not really dynamic at all," Swip3rR said frankly when I asked him about game 1. "When they fall behind, they are quite good at getting games back, but if they fall too far behind, I just don't think they have the skill level across the board to pull back these games, just within mechanics.
"Whereas I think our roster is quite dynamic at the moment. It's only a new thing, but, at Rift Rivals, we were able to play through pretty much anyone on the team, which is a change, a good change. I think that's why we we're able to just beat Mineski quite easily, because, even though they won the bottom lane again [like they did against Dire Wolves], because of our dynamic play we were able to win the top and jungle and we just got quite ahead from it. Being dynamic is the key to what made it look so easy. I didn't think Dire Wolves had that."
Game one going to Mineski meant Team SEA was up early — and things were looking rough for Team OPL as a result. Legacy had to face off against Ascension next, and a loss from LGC would have Oceania on the ropes.
"Game two... Legacy was... They definitely punched above their weight," Swip3rR explained. "I think Ascension was probably the best team, honestly, in hindsight. Even though Mineski had a good run at the end, I still think Ascension was the best team. It might have all been different if Ascension won that game and so I was… We were impressed with Legacy's performance. I think they had a pretty rough time closing the game out, but some individual performances really stood out and, yeah, we're pretty grateful that they won and picked up on Dire Wolves' slack."
The individual performance that stood out to me was obviously Brandon "Claire" Nguyen's insane save near the end of the game. Ascension had somehow clawed their way back into the game, despite a dominant performance from Legacy all game. And when ASC traded 1 for 4 late in the game, the doors to LGC's base were all but open. Enter Claire.
"The atmosphere in the green room at the end of the Legacy game was probably as loud as the crowd," Swip3rR said. "I honestly hope someone got that on video, the green room was absolutely just popping. We were all supporting the guys and we all really wanted the win for the region. I've never experienced something like that and that was really fun."
For Swip3rR, game three was never in doubt, so once Legacy secured the win in game two, there were questions about who OCE would send in for game four — to, in the Chiefs' mind, close out the series.
"I actually can't remember, to be honest," Swip3rR said when I asked about how he and his team were feeling in game three. "I just get in the zone where I just shut a lot of things out and I didn't really notice anyone's reactions or anything... I just really wanted to play the next game, really. We had to decide who was going to play the fourth game and I just really wanted to play and just destroy more people, pretty much.
"It was pretty obvious, just because Ascension lost to Legacy, that we'd go in against Mineski. I think Dire Wolves really wanted revenge. I think, deep down, they probably really wanted to play, but us playing was definitely statistically the best thing to do."
And so it was that the Chiefs stepped up to play game four against Mineski — the to-then undefeated hope of SEA — in a dominant display. It was a slobberknocker of a game, an outright brawl as both teams put on a hell of a show for the packed crowd at the State Theatre in Sydney's CBD. Tommy "ry0ma" Le nailed home the win for the Chiefs on the back of an epic Baron fight, where the mid laner secured a Pentakill.
The home crowd went wild, celebrating the first international tournament win for the OPL ever. There was a palpable sense of pride in the air, and more than a few jokes about taking on Korea next. Personally I'd love to see the VCS teams in the mix -- or to measure our mettle against Turkey. Still, Rift Rivals Pacific was a fantastic event, and a great experience for teams from all three regions.
Its ending means the OPL is back in session though, and Week 5 (this Friday) is going to be a doozy. The two top-ranked teams in Split Two — the Chiefs and Dire Wolves — face off for the first time.
"Honestly, I think this weekend you're going to see the best Dire Wolves possible," Swip3rR said about his Week 5 matchup. "I think they got pretty humiliated, in the [Rift Rivals] finals. Not even ... People didn't see it that way, but they saw it that way. For them to come in and just lose straightaway and not get a chance to play another game hurt their mentalities a lot.
"Yeah, I can definitely expect them wanting to just destroy us this weekend, putting in 110% this week. I think it'll be a really fun game. If I play as good I played and, across the board, we all keep that same consistency against Dire Wolves, I don't think they have a chance versus us."
The next opportunity he'll have to compete alongside players from other teams is League of Origin, coming later this year. Last year Swip3rR represented New South Wales — surely he'll represent the Blues again this year.
"Yeah, League of Origin is just a fun experience and it's very competitive at the same time," Swip3rR said of the competition. "You have completely random teammates. And you learn so much about yourself, just playing with different people. You just pick up on things and it's always a fun time. I'm always excited for that, yeah. It was fun last year."
As a proud Queenslander, I felt I had to gauge his feeling about the Maroons' chances.
"Queensland sucks at League of Origins," he said, laughing. "I'm just going to say it."
I wish he hadn't.