Turkey has historically earned the high expectations that accompany their teams into every International Wildcard event. Their notable international appearances began with Dark Passage at the 2014 International Wildcard Tournament at Gamescom, where the Turkish team swept Oceania’s Legacy eSports 3-0. This win earned Dark Passage a trip to the 2014 World Championship, where they unfortunately served as a punching bag for ahq eSports Club, Edward Gaming and eventual world champions Samsung Galaxy White.
In the 2015 International Wildcard Invitational, Turkey’s Beşiktaş e-Sports Club were a shaky 3-3 in the group stages. They fared far better in the playoffs, besting the Bangkok Titans and INTZ eSports Club in the semifinals and finals to punch their ticket to the first-ever Mid Season Invitational in Tallahassee, FL. There, they dropped all five of their group stage games, with only support Mustafa "Dumbledoge" Kemal Gökseloğlu making much of an impression for a First Blood kill onto SK Telecom T1’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok.
Turkey faltered that year in the International Wildcard Tournament when Dark Passage went 3-3 in the group stages, but returned to wildcard prominence in 2016 with SuperMassive’s win at the 2016 IWCI. Composed of familiar faces from the Beşiktaş e-Sports Club team that attended the 2015 MSI, SuperMassive beat Hard Random 3-1 in the 2016 IWCI finals, once again earning a spot at MSI. This time, Turkey made a stronger impression against their major region competitors than they had in 2015. They took a game off of second-place finisher Counter Logic Gaming, and took further strides towards validating the existence of wildcard teams at larger international competitions.
Due to their history, Turkey is now known for their teams’ occasional struggles during the best-of-one group stages of the International Wildcard events. Despite this stigma, Turkish teams always manage to pull together during the bracket stage. Yet, the outlook for Dark Passage in this particular tournament was fairly grim due to extenuating circumstances.
Unfortunately for the team, two of Dark Passage’s players from their qualifying team — jungler Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Rasmus “Caps” Winther — were both underage at the time of this year’s International Wildcard Qualifier, forcing the team to pick up substitutes for both positions. Former Team Dignitas jungler Thomas “Kirei” Yuen and former Denial eSports EU mid laner Sofyan “CozQ” Rechchad filled in for Xerxe and Caps respectively. There’s always doubt when a team has to use substitutes, especially with an increasing focus on team coordination and dynamic across all regions major and minor.
Dark Passage’s start was perceived as a slow one, and once again Turkey flew under the radar for the first two days with a win against Kaos Latin Gamers and a loss to Lyon Gaming. However, Day 3 was Dark Passage’s day as they won both of their games against Albus Nox Luna and Rampage, handing the former their first loss of the tournament and pushing the latter further out of bracket stage contention.
Despite fielding substitutes and making a myriad of errors — the Albus Nox Luna game was particularly messy — Day 3 proved once more that Turkey is not to be underestimated, regardless of who they’re fielding.
Players to Watch
Dark Passage’s (TUR) Kaan "Elwind" Atıcı
The star of Day 3 was Dark Passage top laner Elwind and his Fiora. Elwind kept Dark Passage in the game against Albus Nox Luna until an awkward 31-minute backdoor opportunity presented itself, allowing Elwind and AD carry Berkay “Zeitnot” Aşıkuzun to kill Albus Nox Luna’s nexus. Elwind ended with a scoreline of 12/4/3 and yet still managed to get his hands on Fiora against Rampage later on that day. He ended that game 9/0/1 as his team kept Rampage from taking a single turret.
Emily Rand is a staff writer for theScore esports. You can follow her on Twitter.