Team Empire surprised fans and analysts on the first day of the Six Invitational. The infamous all-Russian squad went 3-0, defeating title favorites Team Liquid and BDS in the process.
Danila “dan” Dontsov said the colossal ping difference was a big “key” to their early success.
“The most important key is the ping difference. At home we play with 60-90 ping, it’s hard to play against 9 ping players,” said dan.
Dan also praised the play of Danil “JoyStiCK” Gabov. JoySTiCK scored the highest SiegeGG Rating out of all the Group A players on the first playday, and led the group in Entry +/- with +6.
“JoySTiCK has a good form right now, so we are ready to continue like that,” said dan.
Team Empire has always been a confident team, but JoySTiCK said that in all-online play, they lost a bit of confidence despite being an “experienced team.” Historically, Empire has been a brute force team: They run their strategies and play their game, exactly the same way each round, and dare you to stop it.
Team Empire appears to have wound back the clock in some ways. While they had portions of 2020 where they excelled, particularly in the November EU Mini-Major they won, they haven’t been as dominant as they were during 2019. That year, they soared to a Raleigh Major title and was runner-up at SI 2019. JoySTiCK’s individual play was a large part of those deep tournament runs and titles.
Both dan and JoySTiCK called the more aggressive meta as another reason for their early success.
“Right now it’s a more aggressive meta, so you can push the site earlier, or breach something earlier, do everything faster. I think it’s all about the meta,” said JoySTiCK.
While neither want to make hard predictions about their expectations for the tournament, it’s easy to see that Team Empire as a force to be reckoned with. The level playing field of LAN compared to a turbulent online environment and putting the “20 second meta” in their rearview mirror have turned the hands of time backwards for the Russian squad.