Taipei Snipers Set Sights For Bigger Prey

Taipei Snipers Set Sights For Bigger Prey

A cold late night in Taiwan, and nobody on the Taipei Snipers are resting easy. They're up two games over reigning Garena Premier League champions AHQ eSports Club, but each game's gotten harder than the last. Game 2 was a nightmarish flashback to their loss in the local Nova League just last week: despite pulling ahead on turrets and dragons almost effortlessly, the whole thing got tossed back in their face after an ill-timed attempt on Baron Nashor cost all of their lives and continued AHQ's win streak.

They managed to turn the fight after a second desperate Baron, and then won the next game to secure placement in the GPL Grand Finals. Yet for all the glory that an all-Azubu grand final offered the Snipers, standing on top of the defeated wreckages of South-East Asian teams, even the GPL crown seemed one size too small for the Snipers. Their captain Chen "MiSTakE" Hui-Chung, formerly of Season 2 World Champions Taipei Assassins, is fighting for a return to a much larger stage.

HISTORY

The Taipei Snipers are under a year old. What was the original incentive to split members off from the Taipei Assassins to form the team?

We hoped to develop another team with strong competitiveness by implementing experiences from MiSTakE. It'll push the esports scene more ahead in Taiwan. Jason Pan, Garena Taiwan.

When the Assassins won the Season 2 World Championship, it was to great fanfare back home. They were featured on the front page of every major newspaper on the island of Taiwan, prompted government recognition, and triggered the growth of local esports development and coverage, including the expansion of the televised Taiwan eSports League to include League of Legends among its competitive titles. The Snipers were spun off in preparation for the local circuit, and found peers among other local talents who were drafted into brand-new teams as a means to quick-start the Taiwanese League of Legends pro scene.

The Snipers promptly demonstrated the depths of their experience, locking up the TeSL in both its draft stage and Pro Challenges season over the course of the summer. But they didn't sit alone at the top. Their rivalry with AHQ e-Sports Club started from this period: not only were the remaining members of the Taipei Assassins now having an identity crisis, dropping GPL games while AHQ was leaping ahead in the standings, but AHQ was bedeviling the Snipers as well on the TeSL circuit, holding a close second place.

Their greater experience might have been enough to reign back home, but the Snipers clearly had much room for improvement. Their international showings at the Asian Indoor Martial Arts Games and GIGABYTE Stars War League Season 2, concretely demonstrated the gap between China, Korea, and the rest of the Asian sphere of play, and the Snipers were on the wrong side of that difference. Meanwhile, their loss to the Gamania Bears at the tail-end of Season 3 was a "mission accomplished" of sorts -- Garena's intended goal to push forward Taiwanese esports had produced a highly competitive region, and the Snipers could no longer rest easy at home.

The Snipers joined the Garena Premier League proper during the 2014 preseason, alongside the Assassins, AHQ and Hong Kong Attitude. The four representatives of the Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau region quickly took control of the South-East Asian stage, with an eye towards the final stage at South Korea.

THE PLAYERS

What esports experience did you have before League of Legends?

"I played DOTA-like games and won 2nd at the G1, a national tournament. Also joined some Starcraft tournaments, but didn't have any success." Wang "GodJJ" Yong-Jie, AD Carry.

"I won some DOTA-like tournaments before I joined LoL; it was exciting to win 3000 TWD (approx. $100 USD)" Chou "OhReal" Chun-An (Mid/Jungle).

"I joined some DOTA-like tournaments while helping my family's cloth manufacturing business and won several national tournaments." Chang "Awei" Jia-Wei (Support).

"I played some 3v3 sports game tournaments when I was 14. I was confident we would gain some success, but we didn't perform well. But I believe it was a very good experience." Lyu "Zonda" Jhong-Da (Top).

"I joined some DOTA-like tournaments as a student, having good skills but not the best. The experience had good influence on my career as a LoL player." Chiu "NeXAbc" Chun-An (Mid).

"I didn't join any esports events before LoL." Chen "Winds" Peng-Nien.

"I was a common student before I joined esports events. I played World of Warcraft and won tickets to Blizzcon 2010." Chen "MiSTakE" Hui-Chung.

MiSTakE and NeXAbc were founding members of Team For The Win, the Taiwanese representatives to the 2011 World Cyber Games, and later acquired by Garena as Taipei Assassins for the newly developed Garena Premier League back in Season 2. As was mentioned, MiSTakE would lead the team to a world title, though NeXAbc reverted to substitute as Toyz was picked up as the team's starting mid laner.

Winds also has world championship experience: he is a former Gamania Bears player, and was instrumental in the Snipers' defeat during the Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau regionals. The Gamania esports organization dissolved soon after, and Winds opted to walk a different path from his former allies.

Your former teammates on Gamania Bears were picked up by YoeFlash Wolves, while you're now on TPS. Would you be willing to explain why and when the split happened?

We knew that our team would be disbanded after the S3 World Finals. YoeFlash asked us to join them as a whole team, but meanwhile Azubu TPS were offering nice benefits. I preferred TPS then, but even as we joined different teams, I believe all of us would have good performance. Winds, Jungler.

FINE-TUNING

What is the practice and training regimen like for the Snipers? Who do they scrim against?

We have more emphasis on team training and most of our picks are team-oriented. We play against Chinese and SEA teams quite often, or play team ranked if none of the teams we usually play are available. Alex "Lilballz" Sung, Analyst.

The Snipers appear to have two dedicated analysts: Fluidwind and Lilballz. What are their specific duties, and how do they interact with the team?

They investigate the upcoming match opponents' ban-pick list so that our team can arrange a better selection from the champions our players are good at. They'll also indicate the weak points of the players, like personal skills, communicative ability, teamwork, understanding, and ask them to follow specific training items to improve. Quaker, Manager.

Analyst Alex "Lilballz" Sung is intimately familiar with the Snipers' ways, and that of the competitive circuit in general. Not only was he on the world championship team with MiSTakE, but he started out on one of the most venerable teams in the world, joining Counter Logic Gaming with high school friend Bigfatjiji during the organization's nascent years. He was recently suspended from professional play for a year, due to an account-sharing issue, but was picked up soon afterward by the Snipers to assist in their strategizing.

The Snipers seem to regularly rotate between their starter and substitute junglers and supports. How does the team determine who plays in what match?

The current state of a player will be the main concern. If the player is not in form, we'll have the sub play the match. Once a player's not on the starting lineup, he'll have more time to improve himself, even try out champions in other lanes.

What are the notable differences between OhReal and Winds, or MiSTakE and Awei?

Winds is more a teamwork player, including buff and dragon control. OhReal focuses more on invading the enemy's jungle, and doesn't have as much accurate buff control. Awei puts more emphasis on taking lane advantage, while MiSTakE has more buff and vision control. Alex "Lilballz" Sung, Analyst

OhReal's latest match was in mid lane, versus AHQ's Westdoor and MrAlbis. His performance on LeBlanc, even with the risk imposed by Mejai's Soulstealer, led the Snipers to triumph and a GPL Grand Finals placement.

LOOKING AHEAD

Neither Azubu teams made it to the Season 3 World Championship, and Gama Bears fared poorly. What do you feel has been the greatest challenges for Taiwanese teams in the current world environment?

Strictly speaking, it was the first international tournament for the Gama Bears. So the inheritance of experience would be the greatest challenge for all Taiwanese teams. Since Riot's policy does not encourages teams to join a foreign league, it'll always be the first international event for Taiwanese representatives during the LoL season finals. Mistake, Captain.

The Snipers had a lot of success in the local Taiwanese circuit, but fared poorly on the international stage. What do you believe to be the biggest obstacle for the team on the larger stage?

Lack of experience playing on a big stage or joining a tournament abroad. Lilballz, Analyst.

Other than the Saigon Jokers' recent victory over the Hong Kong Attitudes, there seems to be a sharp split between the "northern" Taiwanese GPL teams and the South-East Asian scene. What are the advantages enjoyed by the Taiwanese teams? What are the shortcomings?

We have more competitive teams in Taiwan, and LoL is much more popular than in the SEA countries. More players have interest in LoL esports events here in Taiwan, the larger market attracts companies to invest in esports, and so the pro teams in Taiwan have more resources.

But the smaller Taiwan population compared with other countries limits the total resources invested into esports teams. The small number of pro teams will become barriers on improving the competitiveness of the pro leagues. Since consumers have a lot of options for their interests, if the esports events don't continually attract interest, or are even unable to reach the same achievements as before, esports will lose focus instantly. The government has a passive attitude towards esports too; meanwhile, other countries have prospective plans for it. Quaker Liu, Manager.

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