Dire Wolves are a team who are not bashful about how they play. There are no hidden agendas in their pick/ban, no entendre in their out of game personas, and certainly no lack of mechanical skill.
They are a team who wear their weaknesses on their sleeves and will try to beat you regardless. And therein lies the pain and ecstasy of Dire Wolves, the dark horse of OPL Split 1.
If a game of League of Legends automatically ended after 15 minutes and whoever was ahead won, Dire Wolves would almost certainly be the best team in the OPL. In terms of just the laning phase, Dire Wolves will at worse come out even with their opposition, or have one member with a gold advantage over their direct opposition. The strength of their laning phase can largely be credited to the power of DW’s bottom lane.
K1ng and Destiny might very well be the strongest duo in the OPL. While Raes would give k1ng a run for his money as the best ADC, and Rosey could do the same to Destiny, as a duo, they are unmatched. Destiny being the shot caller of DW means that when the pair decides to make a play, the play happens quickly, decisively and generally successfully.
This is greatly assisted by the current champion meta in the bot lane as well. ADCs like Varus, Jhin, and Ashe, combined with supports like Malzahar, Thresh, and Zarya mean that mechanically superior lanes can punish positional mistakes easily with myriads of CC. Their success is facilitated by the pick-heavy meta seen in bot-lane champions.
Due to the relative self-sustaining nature of bot lane, this allows DW’s jungler – either Shernfire or Sybol – to dedicate their time to shutting down the enemy jungler or ganking mid. Neither player has played Ivern at the time of writing, rather focussing on junglers with more kill pressure across the map like Rek`Sai, Kha`Zix and Elise.
This does have its clear downsides however, as if the opposition does pick Ivern and prevent too much of a snowball early, the champs’ utility and peel power makes DW’s junglers much more redundant as the game moves on. In fact, DW have lost 3/3 games when Ivern was played on the enemy team for this reason.
Their solo laners – Phantiks in mid, and Chippys top – are the insurance policies if k1ng only goes even in lane. Phantiks is the clear secondary carry of the team, regularly being able to make big plays with Ryze even in very unfavourable match-ups.
He generally leans to champions with clearly defined power spikes to roam around the map with. This has seen him highly susceptible to team compositions with high pick power (namely Jayce and Jhin comps) but has also been a pivotal factor in shutting down the opposition jungler with Sybol.
Chippys is a carry player trapped in a tank’s body. With his jungler and support often leaning towards the more high damage, carry champs, Chippys is regularly forced to play Poppy and Maokai into a blind match-up early in the draft. This is unfortunate, especially when considering that he is one of the biggest carries on the team, as shown in the handful of times he was allowed to play Kennen, Fiora or Camille.
The interesting narrative for Dire Wolves has always been how do they convert the many early game advantages they receive into a win, and how do they fight back when behind. They regularly throw away leads with poor rotations between their favoured 1-3-1 approach to the mid-game, poor ward control around neutral objectives, and general over aggression which leads to picks.
It is without a doubt they are possibly the most mechanically gifted side in the OPL, but this doesn’t mean anything against the upper echelons of competition like Legacy and Chiefs if they can’t get their macro play down.
In saying that though, macro play is something that can be hammered into a team over time by a strong shot caller – which they have – and a cerebral coach – which they also have. It’s therefore reasonable to assume (and pray) that as the split progresses so will the development of their more scoped out macro play.
But this, of course, doesn’t take into account the bittersweet meta shifts that are bound to come in the coming weeks as well. So the notion of how DW will adapt, potentially away from a favourable pick-heavy bottom meta, will play an important role in how well they succeed as the split progresses.
In saying that though, mechanical skill is one of the most idolised traits in wild card regions for a reason. The opportunities to impose your individual present themselves with much higher frequency meaning that the better players tend to rise to the top faster.
So with that in mind, even in spite of looming champion changes and a lack of deep macro play, Dire Wolves are the dark horses to potentially win the split – and they should not be overlooked.