Interview with Jish, Head Coach of the OPL's Dire Wolves
This is an interview I conducted with Josh “Jish” Carr-Hummerston, head coach of Dire Wolves, after the first week of the Oceanic Pro League in which the Wolves went 2-0. This interview covers the team’s performance this week, some of the team’s recent backstory, and the bigger picture of the OCE region, asked from the perspective of an almost complete outsider to the scene. My goal was to learn a bit about the scene myself, and share it with whoever would read. I should disclose that I have talked/worked with Josh briefly in the past and am probably slightly biased toward the Wolves, since they are the only team I’ve known/followed in the scene. Moving forward, I’ll look to interview and explore other OPL teams as well.
Pictured are the Dire Wolves before a match at the first stage of last year's Oceanic Regionals.
Q: Let’s start off with the present. How did you feel about the games today? Evaluate your team’s performance and where to go from here.
A: We’ve finished our opening night in the OPL having gone 2-0 over Avant Garde and Team Immunity. We played our matches satisfactorily, in my opinion. Avant Garde beat us (2-1) at PAX Australia in our semi final match for the 2014 Regional, so there was extra drive to come back and take a win.
Transferring our scrim performance to a tournament setting was a bit disappointing. We certainly felt the pressure and nerves creeping into the matches, but that’s something we will eliminate over time.
Overall, I believe we played to the standard that the night demanded, but there is certainly room for improvement. From here, we just head back to the grind and scrim as much as we can. We’re still a very new team with this roster, so there’s a variety of entry-level areas we can develop as well as hone some of the finer aspects of our play. In all, I’m elated with a 2-0 but would like to see fewer mistakes and shorter games.
The game versus Avant saw DW attempt to abuse potent midgame champions, especially Corki and Irelia. Was this pre-planned? Would you say you were trying to pick more to react to your opponent or to pick a flexible all-around comp? A combination of both?
Coming into the game we had a few planned out multiple avenues we could pursue in our draft phase. A huge advantage we felt we had over Avant was flexibility in champion select. Our bans and early picks were tailored to giving us the best opportunity to counter anything they could throw at us. On top of that, we felt as though we had deeper pools and overlapping champion pools which allowed us to have ambiguity and flexibility over our opposition.
One of the draft plans we prepared was to play a midgame dominant composition which, between Perfection snagging early kills and k1ng’s superb CSing, we could transition into smoothly. There was definitely a combination of both reacting to their composition and picking things that would work in a variety of situations, we knew that AV could pull out a few surprising things and didn’t want to take them lightly.
Watching DW last year, I saw Chuffer as a reliable contributor for the team at ADC. What was the reasoning for moving such a seemingly mechanically strong player into the support role?
ChuffeR by all standards was a skilled ADC and pivotal in much of our success in 2014. Prior to that, he was a very competent mid laner. Following roster changes just before PAX, the entire team came to the conclusion that we weren’t satisfied with the available, teamless Supports, so we entertained the idea of swapping ChuffeR and bringing in k1ng.
This was further pushed when ChuffeR himself felt he could be a driving force in our comms and help dictate the pace of the play -- something he wasn’t comfortable with as an ADC. ChuffeR’s mechanical strength is a valuable aspect of his play regardless of position.
Lastly, k1ng was actually in the team’s original iteration, but was unable to play for us due to age restrictions. We knew that because there was a lengthy off-season, we could choose an option that would grow over time instead of an immediate fix.
"ChuffeR’s mechanical strength is a valuable aspect of his play regardless of position."
Did you say anything to the team or think anything after seeing Immunity picked the exact same comp Avant had picked in the previous game?
I actually had not noticed it was the same composition until it was pointed out to me, but it was a little amusing to see an identical five champions be played again. We were more focused on discussing our composition, which obviously changed between games.
After laughing, we quickly went over the areas that their composition fell short of and how we could improve our play against that composition. Both games we felt as though we’d outdrafted our opponents, but it’s hard to tell by how much. I personally believe we have a stronger grasp over the current meta picks, but it’d also be accurate to denote it to many common power picks just being suited to our playstyle. However, there were more comments addressing our own play and preparing our level 1 and early game maneuvers than dissecting their composition for a second time.
There have been significant changes to the team’s roster since last year. Describe the process of constructing the rest of the new roster since PAX.
Touching on the previous question, we were troubled late into the year with some unexpected swaps. We are incredibly lucky that Perfection, previously a substitute, was able to join the team as a starting top laner. Bringing in Perfection and k1ng meant we felt we’d rounded out our roster and felt pretty confident heading into 2015.
In January, however, we felt it necessary for the health of the team and Dire Wolves as an organisation to bring in a new Jungler. Rippii, founder of the Dire Wolves, had piling pressure as an organisation owner and as the team’s coach I felt it negatively impact the team. The last roster swap was a proactive movement, but it was something we thought was beneficial to give the team and the org the greatest chance to grow.
Compare the old DW to the new DW playwise and personality/communication wise.
There’s certainly a significantly different atmosphere within the team now, which is a very positive result of the changes. The “old DW” had personality conflicts and often times it felt much more along the lines of turning up for scrims, playing and leaving. On top of this, our previous support, Charlie101, was incredibly strong minded about the game and how he believed was the best way to play -- which often conflicted with mine or other members of the team. The team feels far more cohesive and constructive; we’re very open and communicative with one another and discussions are fair more effective and pleasant.
Our playstyle has improved out of sight, in my opinion. We always struggled between passive and aggressive players on our team, with particular players not meshing with one another. Since the changes, everyone is much more attuned to our playstyle as a unit, which is obviously very important. I feel like our newer players have more room for development and growth, which is an exciting prospect as a coach. The combination of a higher skill ceiling and more malleable players means I believe my influence on the “new DW” will be far more impactful than before.
How would you describe the OCE meta to new viewers of the OPL?
Although maybe a little self-deprecating, my description is inappropriately aggressive. While it may be exciting for some viewers because there is generally constant action, it’s excessively and unnecessarily aggressive in a majority of games. Teams often favour lane dominant champs, CC and team fight potential -- which makes for exciting games, but often very bloody-thirsty and messy.
For newer viewers, I think it’s important to understand that OCE and the OPL is essentially in its infancy, it’s exciting and explosive, but it isn’t Korea nor should it be held to such high standards. Our players are individually brilliant and our teams are developing, help support them!
With OCE players Keane now in NA LCS, and Veritas now in the Challenger Series, how do you feel about the movement of players out of OCE? Are those two players exceptionally skilled compared to the OPL playerbase now, or are there more possible talents that could see success in other leagues? Any players to specifically watch out for?
It’s honestly a very interesting predicament. While it is crushing to see some of our finest players leave for greener pastures, it’s incredible to know that players who’ve played in OCE are capable of stepping it to another level. In both cases of Keane and Veritas, while they’re of Korean descent, they came to international prominence competing in Oceania.
They were certainly amongst the strongest whilst they were here in Oceania, however they weren’t outright better than their counterparts, which is exciting in itself. The region is comprised of amazing talent in terms of individuals, Raydere and ChuChuZ are commonly cited for this, but there are a plethora of more strong individuals. I think that there are a handful of players who could be scouted internationally, but I hope they stay. If people were more willing to invest time, resources or energy into cultivating this talent, we’d see a lot more transfers. Between Keane qualifying for LCS and Veritas holding rank 1 in NA, it’d seem evident our players can hold their own.
There’s ostensibly a large pool of talent, still. Notable candidates include the members of Chiefs, Legacy and, of course, the Dire Wolves!
What is your outlook on the strength of the league in the near future, and how the standings will settle? Which teams will be the biggest challenge for DW?
The OPL will hopefully be a competitive sphere for teams to compete in, but adjusting to the pressure and format will likely take some time. It wouldn’t surprise me for some teams to have slower starts considering the long hiatus OCE has had, having had no competitive matches since November.
I foresee there being a division between the top and bottom halves of the OPL, but this is an environment that will allow any team to rapidly improve, which makes it hard to predict standings. I think we’re likely to see Chiefs, Dire Wolves and Legacy contest for the top three spots, whichmakes them two of the most formidable opponents we’ll face.
"I think it’s important to understand that OCE and the OPL is essentially in its infancy, it’s exciting and explosive"
As a team, do you have any particular goals this split? In what aspects are DW trying to improve in the longterm as the season progresses.
Our podium aims are top 2, with only first and second being invited to LAN this season. As a team, it’s most important to us that we’re able to grow together and iron out the kinks in our play. Because we’re not very established or well-known, it’s also a goal of ours to boost our popularity and become a more respected force in the region.
A key goal for us will be to play with greater consistency and refine our playstyle; most pertinently to play around our skillsets and advantages and abuse some very blatant errors common throughout Oceanic teams.
Any final words or shoutous?
Thank you immensely for taking the time to interview me and for shining some light on Oceania. A big thank you to my team for putting up with me and a final massive thank you to anyone who watches and supports Oceania and the OPL.
You can keep up to date with all of my musings on Twitter: @JishLoL
Thanks to Josh for taking the time to do this interview. The Dire Wolves will be back in action next Monday night (or Monday morning in much of the western hemisphere) on twitch.tv/riotgamesoceania, where they will take on Raydere and the Chiefs as well as the hilariously named Rich Gang. For more information on the OPL, check out oce.lolesports.com.