It was a surprise that shook up the Wild Rift scene. Dark horses Amihan Esports had edged out favorites Team Secret at the Wild Rift PPGL Summer to take the crown in a 3-2 series.
Formed in February earlier this year, they were barely in time to participate in the Philippines Pro Gaming League 2021 Summer: Visayas open qualifiers.
Amihan Esports' Wild Rift team were made up of players that were left out from the bigger name squads. No one had heard of them before, and they weren't even expected to make it past the Visayas qualifiers, one of the regions in the Filipino Wild Rift scene.
In fact, most scene watchers had expected Fennel Adversity, a more established squad, to have swept the qualifiers. Instead, Amihan Esports did not drop a single game to finish with a 6-0 score, while Fennel Adversity had to settle for second place.
While it may seem like a miracle, it was all part of team manager and coach Christian "Ciiyan" Villegas's strategy.
He had just rejoined the esports scene after taking a break from his previous gig as the Omega Esports head analyst. He selected the Visayas region since it only started playing in the fourth week, unlike the North/South regions, which gave him time to train up the squad of players who had no experience in playing competitive Wild Rift, the mobile version of Riot Games' hit League of Legends (LoL) PC title.
"My players were the only free agents that weren't picked up by known Wild Rift organizations in the Philippines such as Nexplay, Team Secret, Liyab, Omega Esports, RRQ PH and even DR Esports, since these organizations has already been formed as early as September last year. I formed our Wild Rift team only last February," he said.
Newbie squad and coach
Formed in April last year, Amihan Esports already had Moblie Legends: Bang Bang and Dota 2 teams. The organization picked up Ciiyan to start a new Wild Rift squad, which Ciiyan said he felt was "the next big thing for the mobile esports scene".
Despite having no Wild Rift experience himself — he told Yahoo Esports he played at most five to seven matches — he was determined to start a champion squad. He picked team captain Beaver-Ed "Orthros" Gonzales Villanueva and Richard "Demon" Castardo Lara as his first players. Demon, he said, had never even played Wild Rift before (though he was a professional LoL player along with Orthros).
"I act as the team's overall coach, I am observing all their practices, I dictate their day-to-day regimen from sleeping/wake-up time, physical and mental exercises, scrimmages, up to what to play on practices and actual tournament," said Ciiyan.
"As the team's analyst, I have the team's stats sheet from all our team's scrims which I use for them to explain their strengths and weaknesses, and our high/low win rate against specific champions and teams."
Ciiyan added that he also spends time doing one-on-one sessions with players to keep them focused and motivated.
The right place
"I believe Amihan [Esports] is the right place for me because the management is really caring and supportive. I also got to choose all of my teammates as well. I know they had what it takes to be champions," said team captain and support player Orthros.
He had chosen his team mates based on their skill and open-mindedness, as well as their hardworking attitude. He also had played with some of them during his professional days playing League of Legends.
Orthros, who previously played LoL for TNC Pro along with Demon, said he decided to switch when he saw the prize pool for Wild Rift, saying that he could help his family with it if he won.
"I believe I have what it takes to be a champion, so I went for it," he said.
From there, Amihan Esports were unstoppable at the Wild Rift PPGL Summer Playoffs, taking down first Liyab Esports 2-0, Nexplay Esports 2-0, then knocking down Team Secret 2-1, before beating them again in the grand final 3-2.
"We were never sure we were going to win that [game 4], but we just enjoyed the game, we trusted each other, and everything just worked out," said Orthros.
The Amihan Esports captain also added that his family was so proud and happy that he could show them that gaming could help them and solve problems in their lives. While his parents were not as supportive back then, he was able to prove to them that he could support them with his talent in gaming.
"I was able to help pay for medicines and the bills. Everything is a lot easier now. As a result I can be more focused on the game," said Orthros.
Amihan Esports is headed to the regional Summer Super Cup next, taking place from June 19 onwards. Catch them, and other Wild Rift teams from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines as they battle it out to see who's the Wild Rift king of SEA.
Amihan Esports Line-up:
Karl “KARLLL” Bautista
Jelson “Jelson” Ayon
Miguel “Mitsura” Gavin
Richard “Demon” Lara
Beaver-Ed “Orthros” Villanueva
Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com
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