The International 2018: OpTic Gaming

PPD’s comeback from retirement wasn’t the glorious return one would expect. The team seemed to have a composition that has worked well over the last few seasons. You pick up a team with a core of experienced players and sprinkle some up-and-comers on top. For OpTic, that X-factor was CC&C. CC&C is a player that made his way to the pro-scene through pubs and was seen as a gifted midlaner. His transition to pro-play wasn’t as smooth as PPD and fans of the team would’ve wanted, though. Instead, we saw Pajkatt step up and become the real X-factor for the team. Pajkatt has been on the scene since the first TI but has never been on a top team and has often been criticised for his play. That has changed under the iron hand of PPD. Pajkatt’s deep hero pool has benefitted Optic more than once and he is a vital part if they wish to make a deep run at TI8. If the last month of OpTic’s season was a crescendo, everything before that was a dull, monotone droning. Qualifier after qualifier, they struggled to qualify and when they did get to a LAN, the story was the same every time: they beat about half the field but was never close to grabbing any DPC points. Then, at the beginning of April, they finally caught a break with the StarLadder iLeague Invitational. They won the tournament and were suddenly reborn.

After the win in Kiev, OpTic managed to make a big splash in Birmingham where they lost to in the finals and at the Supermajor in China, where they finished 5-6th. This might not seem impressive but all the top teams were there and all of them more or less showed up. Getting that far in the last event of the season showed strength. Even without the DPC points, they finished ninth, just 140 points away from VGJ.Thunder in eighth. Sometimes a team, without knowing it, is within an arm's reach of their true potential. There’s just one key piece missing for them to complete the puzzle. For OpTic, that missing piece was confidence. StarLadder iLeague Invitational wasn’t the most stacked tournament of the season. In fact, only one of the teams that directly qualified for TI8 showed up: VGJ.Thunder. Thanks to that Optic grabbed a win and their critics was quick to point out that they didn’t really beat anyone of importance. But for Optic that wasn’t the main takeaway. Instead, they proved to themselves that they are worthy of a championship, that Pajkatt has what it takes, and that CC&C can compete with the top mids in the world. OpTic then rode that wave through Birmingham and, to some extent, the Supermajor. If they make a deep run in Vancouver, they’ll be able to look back to that week in Kiev as the moment where they turned it all around. If Optic wants to make it at TI8 they key will be PPD and Zai. As Pajkatt, 33, and CC&C have all improved a lot over the season it’s easy to focus on them but the support duo of the team are the real stars. When they have a good midgame, Optic has a good game. Their rotations have proven to be vital to their success and the few matches they lost in the NA qualifier was usually due to their movements being read. If Optic can get their more accomplished players going they can threaten anyone.

How likely is it though? Not very. Take the finals of ESL One Birmingham as an example. Virtus.Pro read Optic like an open book and managed to counter their playstyle with ease. And when Optic tries something new they often lose. They have mastered one playstyle but it’s hard to see that playstyle carrying them all the way. Their bootcamp better have been productive or we’ll see another early exit from them.

(1) Per Anders "Pajkatt" Olsson
(2) Quinn "CC&C" Callahan
(3) Neta "33" Shapira
(4) Ludwig "zai" Wåhlberg
(5) Peter "ppd" Dager 
The International 2018: OpTic Gaming The International 2018: OpTic Gaming Reviewed by Jesi Max on 09:17 Rating: 5

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