Kings formed in late June of this year and have contested the throne of Chiefs right out of the gate. Though the two have yet to face on an offline stage, Kings’ wins in the Unikrn Showdown and the recent Zowie eXTREMESLAND Australia finals may have cemented their place at the top of the region.

I sat down with new in-game leader Chris “emagine” Rowlands before their matches at the event to talk about their great performances, the impact of coach dayV1D and his time in America with Winterfox.

Coming back from two seasons of ESL Pro League, how does it feel to be back on top of the domestic scene with Kings?

I mean, a lot changed when I was gone, in terms of the players that are active now, playing at the top. It’s a different landscape than when I was back. I guess it’s a new challenge. I was excited to try and get back on top. I think we’re contenders right now, so hopefully a good result here can solidify that.

What do you think has changed in the scene since you left? Are teams playing differently?

When I was gone, money started to trickle into the scene. We started to see some teams receive a small salary. It hasn’t grown exponentially, but it’s growing, and I think the finances have contributed to more professionalism.. In terms of the top teams, there’s more structure and a more work. You can tell with the top teams that they’re definitely putting in more work than they were back in the day.

The experience towards the end of Winterfox was very shaky towards the end. Can you talk me through your time playing in the ESL Pro League in America?

The team aside, the experience was great. Playing in Pro League was great, travelling to America was great. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out with that mix of players. [Swapping dexter for RaZ] wasn’t a decision I made. I think they overlooked dexter’s supportive capabilities and opted for RaZ. RaZ, as talented as he is, isn’t quite the support player. He can’t do the same sort of util[ity] and that sort of stuff as a player like dexter. We didn’t really have an identity with dexter; we were pretty bad with dexter as it was. We needed to change something, and I guess it was just a kneejerk reaction by the team to just get a fragger. It didn’t pan out the way they thought it would.

You took over in-game leading duties in this team. As someone who hasn’t lead properly on this scale before, how do you feel you’re going with it?

It’s definitely a challenge. I’ve noticed it’s affected my play, especially my T sides. It’s strenuous in terms of doing more management, more micromanagement, like watching the mini-map more. Like you said, it’s something I haven’t done before. It’s something I’m still learning. I think I’m going ok at it so far.

emagine steps into the in-game leader role for the first time in his career with Kings – Credit 

ESL AUNZ Season 4 finals was the team’s first offline event. How much preparation did you guys put into that win, considering the lower calibre of teams?

We did do a bit of homework on Avant. They played a little differently than how we expected. Overall, even though we did win that event, I’d say that was a shaky performance from us. We’re trying to get back to form and we should have put that series to bed a lot earlier.

You’ve had the upper hand against Chiefs in a few online matches lately. Did subbing in for them during the minor qualifiers teach you much about their playstyle and help you counter them?

No, no. That hasn’t played a part, I think. When I played for them, they weren’t using stuff. They were pretty much just pugging. They’re super talented players as well. I didn’t get much from subbing in for them. I didn’t take much away from that.

How do you think you have managed to best them lately, then, considering how dominant they were before Kings formed?

I think it’s pretty evenly-matched, in terms of talent. I think the pressure’s just been totally on them. Like, whenever you’re the number one team, you can sort of feel that everyone’s hounding for you. I’m sure they felt pressure playing us. I think that’ll be a bit alleviated now that they’re lost a couple of online games, but I still think they’re the team to beat right now.

dayV1D was recently announced as the team’s coach. What can you tell me about his input and impact in the team?

dayV1D was an analyst for CLG and he’s moved into the coach position for us. In terms of what he brings, he does a lot of research for us. He provides me with notes of other teams and I’ll base a game plan around that. He also provides insight into what he thinks is going to work. Just general feedback and a second opinion of what he thinks will work.

Do you think his presence will be missed in offline matches?

Yeah, I think we will miss his presence. But, in saying that, the majority of what he does for us is on the preparation side of things, rather than the in-game side of things. So, he’s done a giant amount of prep work for us here.

Team houses are starting to creep into the Oceanic esports scene. After spending two EPL seasons in a team house in the US, what are your thoughts on them?

I think they’re good. It depends how you use them and it depends on the mixture of players you have. It can get frustrating, at times, when you feel like you don’t have a private place, but I do think it’s the most effective way to practice. If you can get a proper regimen, I think a prac house is the way to go, for sure.