Dark Sided was faced with the task of retooling their Overwatch roster following the conclusion of the Australian Open Division. The organisation saw talented players ckm and Kura depart to Blank Esports and longtime DPS Nesty withdraw from the scene. These changes were further accentuated by the later release of the their other DPS player, Modified. Despite securing a Contenders Australia spot with a respectable third place Open Division finish, Dark Sided was sent back to the drawing board, tasked with once again building a roster that could compete with the Oceanic scene’s best.

A large part of this rebuilding effort was sourced from the team that bested them twice in the Open Division playoffs, Skyrlla. As a free agent roster without any commitments to an organisation, Skyrlla’s talent were ripe for the picking. Dark Sided pounced on this opportunity, bringing in usmc and Swilko as DPS and support players respectively.

Swilko and usmc weren’t the only pieces Dark Sided acquired from Skyrlla, as the team’s coach Project also made his way onto the rebuilding roster. All three of these additions once played together on Scylla Esports and are well respected in the competitive community. When asked about his role as a coach, Project had this to say, “They’re at the level where I can leave the shooting to them. What I think they and many others in the region lack is teamwork, positioning and strategy.”

The rebuild had not fully run its course after these pickups, as they still lacked a second DPS player to pair with usmc. Former 4Legs and World Cup player Termo explained how he found his way to Dark Sided just hours before the Contenders roster lock:

“After a disappointing finish in the Open Division with 4Legs I considered leaving to join Dark Sided but ultimately decided to stick it out. However, I was left teamless after a falling out with the team less than 24 hours before the roster lock. I said some things that I immediately regretted but the damage was done. All the Drop Bears guys are great, talented people and I wish them the best. It was lucky that Dark Sided still needed a player, I honestly didn’t think I would be playing in Contenders”  

Due to the extent of their rebuild, it’s difficult to say where Dark Sided currently stand in relation to Australia’s other top teams. Promising signs were seen when they claimed first place in a one-day cup just a week before Contenders. Notably, they took down Blank Esports Pacific Contenders’ roster, considered to be the best Australian team, in the grand final of the cup. While the small event will largely prove to be inconsequential in the long run, the victory was a confidence booster for the newly formed squad in the lead up to Contenders.

With Contenders Australia now underway, Dark Sided are currently tied with Blank Blue for the top spot in Group A. Impressively, they have only dropped a single map across their first two matches. This dropped map, which came against SereNity, can largely be attributed to the absence of offtank player punk during the match.

Despite this, Termo wasn’t willing to get ahead of himself. “I don’t think I’d consider us to be the top team currently competing in Australia, the top spot is still pretty heavily contested. We’re definitely one of the top three teams and have plenty of room to improve as the season progresses. We’re still a newly constructed roster, so there’s plenty of kinks to work out.”

This newly constructed roster’s first real challenge will come against Blank Blue on 10 April. Champions of the Open Division earlier this year, Blank Blue are currently one of the hot favourites to take home the inaugural Contenders Australia title. Their combination of a young talented core backed by reliable support players is easily one of the most intimidating lineups in the competition. While they may have defeated Blank’s main roster already, a victory over Blank Blue in more impactful circumstances will go a long way to affirming Dark Sided’s signings during their rebuild.

After turning in multiple second and third place finishes in 2017, it feels like Dark Sided are closer than ever to crowning themselves as the best in the region. Two of their remaining three matches in the regular season come against currently winless squads. Victories over these two teams will guarantee Dark Sided a spot in the online quarterfinals, no matter the result of their fixture against Blank Blue. From there, a triumph in their quarterfinal match will see them advance to the LAN stage of the playoffs. While it’s still hard to predict if they’ll overcome fellow contenders Blank Blue, Masterminds GC and the Sydney Drop Bears, it’s likely Dark Sided will be competing at LAN for the first time come April.

For now Dark Sided will be focusing on their fixture against the winless Kanga Esports, which will be broadcast on 26 March at twitch.tv/overwatchcontenders.