The ex-Kings core, whose results began to deteriorate towards the end of their tenure with Travis “wizard” Richardson in late 2017, have been reinvigorated after joining the newly-established ORDER organisation and signing Alistair “aliStair” Johnston from Chiefs. An incredible display of mental fortitude from the side to fight back from 0-2 down against Tainted Minds in the best of five IEM Katowice qualifier final has seen Chris “emagine” Rowlands’ men secure their spot at the Polish tournament.

In-game leader emagine took time out of his currently busy schedule to talk about the team’s recent results and the shifting of roles since the addition of aliStair.

Since we last spoke, you guys left Kings Gaming Club and joined ORDER, a brand new organisation in the region that also has a League of Legends team. Can you comment on the departure from Kings?

We represented Kings for the second half of 2017 and regrettably they couldn’t meet our needs towards the end of the year. Signing with ORDER has been great and we are very excited to work with them moving forward.

ORDER obviously has a lot of funding behind it. Do you think you guys will be afforded more opportunities to improve, such as bootcamping or attending overseas events?

Absolutely; ORDER are looking to do things the right way and management have a strong background in sports performance, so, combined with our insights, we already have some big plans in the pipeline. As for right now, they’ve put us up at a top notch bootcamp facility in Poland in the lead-up to IEM Katowice, so we have a little over a week here to get in the groove of things and gain some experience playing against EU teams.

Though it was without Sico, you guys managed to win the WESG Asia-Pacific Finals with malta and BURNRUOk as stand ins, outplacing teams like MVP PK and B.O.O.T-d[S]. How much preparation went into that event? Were either of these two ringers considered as replacements in the team for wizard?

We had no preparation except a couple of scrims to establish positions. We really just played hyper-aggressive and used a few basic strats. Some of the more established teams were probably shell shocked from this approach. WESG is a ‘fun’ tournament for us so the atmosphere in the team was good and everyone was wanting to win. We, of course, looked at every option for finding a replacement player but we had prioritised aliStair prior to WESG.

You did end up securing the services of aliStair from Chiefs. What can you tell me about his role in the team?

We have spent some time restructuring positions; that is to say he’s not just filling in to wizard’s old spots. We are using aliStair as more of a hard entry on T sides whereas for CT he is a site anchor for us. The biggest change you will see from this structurally is more flexibility in Hatz’s positions. He will be moving around much more than previously. Second AWP will be whoever of the two is playing in the position to utilise it, map by map.

aliStair is the second player to have left Chiefs in the past few months (Source: HLTV)

With aliStair, you were able to win the IEM Katowice qualifier for the Oceanic region. How would you describe the team’s performance in that? Do you think the win can be attributed at all to teams and players having a break beforehand and your own team playing without much practice with the new fifth?

Saying our win is because of players having a break is rubbish. If anything, the other teams all had more preparation time than us due to our WESG attendance. Tainted Minds, for example, withdrew their players from the WESG event specifically to practice for this qualifier. We had 3 days to bring aliStair up to speed so our strategic depth for that event was time-limited. However, similar to WESG, our unpredictable and fast-paced style played out well for us and probably did make teams fall into their shells. It’s interesting that the post-qualifier analysis has people assuming that our playstyle during the event is the same playstyle we are building for our team. Obviously, an event we won with 3 days of practice is not the end-game for our approach stylistically.

What are your expectations going into IEM Katowice?

Understandably, we are humbled by the level of competition at Katowice but we are happy to be the classic Australian dark horse. We are looking to make some waves and hope all the Aussies will follow us through the competition.

It seems a lot more Oceanic teams are willing to play their own game at international events now, rather than relying on anti-stratting and putting research into their matchups. Does this speak to the region’s improvement over the past year?

The rising tide lifts all boats and the scene is definitely improving. I would still compare OCE to a less developed NA, so I think you can make some parallels between the two. I also think a general meta shift and understanding that counter-stratting, at least in its old form, is largely inefficient has teams as a whole are moving to a more well rounded approach.

emagine is no stranger international events, competing at the likes of ESL One Cologne 2015 and DreamHack Stockholm 2015 (Source: ESL Australia)

Finally, along with yourselves, Chiefs and Tainted have also made roster changes over the break. What are your thoughts on those new lineups?

Like everyone is alluding to, the top four of Australia is, by all accounts, quite close. We see our primary competition as Tainted Minds with the addition of INS. He is a good player and, in my opinion, has filled a lot of their deficits. Sterling is also a great pickup for Chiefs; although, with their VAC banned players (tucks and Texta), our focus will be put toward Tainted and Grayhound.