From Kyle "Bugha" Giersdorf winning the Fortnite World Cup to their VALORANT team winning Masters: Berlin, Sentinels have created a championship legacy over the past couple years. Now, they’re looking to do the same in Wild Rift.
Both mid laner Michael “MichaelUdall” Udall and coach William “ThePierceJ” Ware told Nerd Street that it’s a dream come true to be able to compete for Sentinels.
“Being a part of Sentinels is ... it still feels surreal, honestly,” MichaelUdall said. “I’ve been a part of them for two months and it still feels surreal, like I still look at this Sentinels jersey that has my name on the back of it and think, ‘What? How did that happen?’”
“We really want to step up now and be the winners that everyone else in our org is, and I think we’re capable of that,” ThePierceJ said.
Ascending to the top of Wild Rift in North America
The first step toward carrying on the org’s winning legacy was reaching this weekend’s Wild Rift Summoner Series Finals. Sentinels are one of eight North American teams competing in the Summoner Series Finals, aka the NA Regional Championship. The mobile MOBA based on League of Legends released earlier this year, and this is the first regional championship for the best teams in North America.
The roster came together this summer and is composed of players with a long history of playing MOBAs, both on PC and mobile. MichaelUdall and ThePierceJ both played Activision Blizzard’s defunct Heroes of the Storm.
MichaelUdall actually didn’t have any experience playing a MOBA on a mobile device before Wild Rift, but says the growth of mobile gaming around the world is what drew him to it.
“What really made me look at it was looking at the future landscape of ‘what esport do I think is gonna have a long-term future?’ because I don’t want take-two of getting really good at a game and having the pro scene canceled,” he said. “I think your mobile device is gonna be the console of the future. You look at a lot of these emerging markets, right, like South America, Southeast Asia, and the primary device that they play games on is the mobile phone.”
Other members of the team have plenty of experience playing mobile MOBAs. Tanner “Rest” Scadden, Jacob “Beginnings” Chavez and Matt “MTS” Stover all have experience playing Arena of Valor, which prior to Wild Rift was the most notable mobile MOBA in North America. Rest and MTS were on Allegiance, which was a championship team in Arena of Valor in North America. MTS even played China’s Honor of Kings, an even more prominent and competitive mobile MOBA at the international level.
As for the fifth member, Kevin “Sheesh” Chavez, he is only 16 years old but something of a prodigy and someone whom MichaelUdall says is incredibly mature for his age. Like 100 Thieves’ VALORANT team -- this team is composed of four veterans of the genre and one rising star.
“They wanted a team that was gonna go to champs and they wanted a team that’s gonna win,” MichaelUdall said about him and his teammates getting signed by Sentinels.
MichaelUdall said it was a combination of talent, previous experience and performing well in a qualifier that led the org to sign them.
“I think they looked at our roster and knew we had potential, and once we basically proved that we were good, right, proved that we got top four in that qualifier, and then also through the interview process they just liked what we stood for,” he said.
One of the things that both MichaelUdall and ThePierceJ lauded about their team is their communication and synergy.
“The thing I’m so happy about as a coach … there’s no tilting, we’ve had like two heated discussions we’ve been in [together] and they’ve all been real reasons to have a heated discussion, where people genuinely feel different about how something should’ve gone,” ThePierceJ said.
He said all six members of the team have mutual respect for each other with a team culture in which players ask “what can I do better?” or “what do you guys think?”
Sentinels’ competition at the NA championship
That team-first attitude carried Sentinels to qualify for the NA championship via Major 3, but this weekend will be the first big test for this team.
“NME and Tribe have pretty much solidified themselves as the [top two] heading into this tournament, and then I think Immortals is probably in that third spot, and then we’re coming in as the fourth seed looking to break into that first or second tier,” MichaelUdall said.
Sentinels have yet to play NME or Tribe across the three majors that have been played this year in the North America Wild Rift circuit. In both Majors 1 and 2, Sentinels were knocked out of the upper bracket in the first round, won their first lower bracket match but then lost their next match.
Sentinels fared much better in Major 3, where they made a lower bracket run to the final, beating two of the other teams at this weekend’s championship: Grilled Cheese and Cloud9. Immortals have been Sentinels’ kryptonite, beating them all four times they’ve faced each other, including the Major 3 final.
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ThePierceJ has a lot of confidence in the team’s macro play and said his team’s ability to manipulate the map is the best of any team in North America. The one thing the team might be missing is just more time playing together to build more synergy.
“The mechanical difference between the top four teams is not that huge,” ThePierceJ said. “But the thing is Tribe has been a team since February or March, NME has been a team since I think May or June, so the fact that they’re playing together for so long is huge.”
Looking toward the Horizon Cup
If the team does manage to win the NA championship, they will qualify for the Horizon Cup, which takes place in Singapore in November and will be the first international competition in Wild Rift’s history.
MichaelUdall said it would be a dream come true if Sentinels made it to Singapore.
“In Heroes of the Storm I was able to compete on the world stage one or two times,” MichaelUdall said. “We were never really able to break in and actually prove that North America was a region to be trifled with, that we were a strong region, and that’s something that this go-around, being a professional, I want to show that I have what it takes personally and that our region has what it takes to be the best in the world.”
ThePierceJ said it would be an honor to be able to compete at the Horizon Cup. He said part of his coaching prep involves looking at what successful teams in regions like China and Southeast Asia.
“I think that’s what really differentiates, especially the Chinese region, they’re very macro heavy ... so we would really like to be able to fight some of these top teams that do that and really be able to challenge our macro,” he said.
First, Sentinels will have to win the Summoner Series Finals. The competition begins Friday.
Lead image credit: Sentinels