Jake ‘jmw’ Walters had the fairytale ALGS story at Playoffs. The heartbreak of Pro League with Kungarna. The last-minute call up to replace one of the best players in the world. Arriving in Sweden hours before the first match began. Talking to your teammates for the first time as you kick off your first and only practice match. Playing out of your skin and winning the whole thing, changing your entire career – and life – trajectory. You know the story by now, it’s already been immortalised in ALGS legend.
As he said in TheGamer’s profile of his super sub story, the pressure was intense, but Reignite’s IGL Rhys ‘Zer0’ Perry was instrumental in keeping things calm, integrating him into the squad, and thanks to this something clicked between the makeshift trio: “it just felt right.”
To better analyse how Reignite won its historic victory, get a glimpse into Zer0’s style of IGLing, and work out just how they managed to clutch the ALGS Playoffs with a substitute, I watched through the closing moments of Reignite’s climatic win with jmw. You can watch the final minutes for yourself here to get yourself reacquainted:
I start the clip just as Reignite is about to get OOBed (Out of Boundsed: when a Valkyrie team redeploys out of bounds, before dropping down on another team from height), and the first thing jmw does is make me rewind further. I acquiesce, of course.
“This is where Zer0 calls to push right,” jmw explains. “He's like, ‘just trust me, trust me.’ And there’s a solo here, and he says, ‘kill him, kill him, kill him.’ And he peeks and I finish him off.”
Watch the clip from the 4:45 mark for this slice of action, but this rotation comes just after Zer0 Krabers Kochi ‘Lejetta’ Naoto and jmw takes down Shotaro ‘saku’ Sakata – both of Japanese organisation Team Unite. Luminosity Gaming takes down the final squad member and Unite, the only remaining Match Point Eligible team in the lobby bar Reignite, is out.
Pushing along the low waterfall wall from their position on the right of the above screen cap allows Reignite to team fire the final member of Sutoraiku, and puts them in a good position – marked X – on the edge of Round 6’s zone. The large wall against their backs protects them from Luminosity on the high ground, and the varied terrain of the rocks gives them some cover from most other positions. jmw’s Caustic barrels also help here, despite him being a somewhat off-meta choice on Storm Point when compared with his usage on World’s Edge.
“This is definitely good,” says jmw. “And then a team OOBs and Sharkey goes for an amazing bubble. I gas them and – it was lucky they were playing Ash actually because he TPs [teleports] away when I was just about to… He was on one HP. And [Cloud9] drops down. C9 did what 100 Thieves just did, so now they're on top of each other. And Zer0 is just calling for us to ‘chill, chill, chill, chill, chill’ and let them fight it out because he knows we're in a good spot now.”
There’s a slice of luck here, as both 100 Thieves and Cloud9 land slightly away from Reignite and have to push through cover rather than landing directly on them, which would have caused a bigger problem for the APAC South team. However, Reignite played its position well and reacted perfectly. Using Gibraltar’s Tactical ability and Caustic’s Ultimate fended off 100 Thieves’ push for just long enough that Cloud9 would land on them, forcing those teams to fight each other rather than push Reignite one after another. Even if RIG had survived 100 Thieves’ first wave, they would have had to pull something spectacular out of the bag to beat a second push from Cloud9 immediately after.
“All I was trying to do was play the best I could; so if we got dropped on, just trying to kill them as quickly as we can. Don't think about winning this game or don't think about what could happen, just do the best we can in that situation right now.”
It sounds obvious, but in a high pressure Match Point situation, it would be easy to take leave of your senses and forget the basics. Reignite did the opposite, and took both Valk Ults in its stride. “Sharkey did an amazing bubble – he wrapped it perfectly,” jmw elaborates. “I dunked my gas on them to be able to stop them from just pushing us, because that's obviously what Caustic is very good at… And we have the upper [height] advantage, just being up on this rock, which is a really nice position which Zer0 got us into.”
Reignite and Luminosity Gaming – who had sight of the 100T/C9 fight from its high ground but couldn’t see Reignite around the corner – mopped up the survivors. It was now, however, that jmw believes they misplayed slightly.
Instead of pushing to the next rock, Zer0 calls for his team to stay put in the spot at the bottom of the cliff that’s served them well until now. He wants to push late, and not even a Caustic Ultimate from WHO would change his mind. “This is make or break, boys,” he comms. It was meant as a rallying cry, but Reignite nearly broke.
Luminosity’s Luis ‘Neazul’ Suarez threw a perfect Nox Gas Grenade, and the Caustic Ultimate ripped through Reignite’s health. “It’s terrible,” Zer0 says. It wasn’t terrible. Sharkey tried to get out of the poisonous cloud, but was downed, unable to pop a Medkit in time. With a man down and a fairly open rotation to the next available cover – now with no Gibraltar to bubble them safely across – was it all over for RIG?
“What we should have done here is we should have ran to the rock that we played from immediately. Well we could have ran out anywhere and bubbled and waited for the Caustic Gas to go, then go back. That's what we should have done, but obviously they thought they could tank it and just heal.”
Healing through Caustic Gas can be a good strategy, but this Ult was so well placed that Sharkey couldn’t escape. He had a cliff on one side of him and the Ring behind – jmw believes the only choice would be to bubble in the open and wait it out, but hindsight is 20/20. Besides, that Dome Shield would come in handy later on.
What happens next is nigh on unbelievable. jmw sneaks across the gap, right in front of Luminosity, who would likely know that this was Reignite, the Match Point Eligible team, due to their Caustic team composition. But then, Sharkey crosses the gap too, holding up his Knockdown Shield as meagre protection. It was more hopeful than anything else; maybe he would get close enough to offer his team a shield swap from his death box. But he made it across.
“Sharkey's obviously just like obviously trying to come towards us. And then I was like, ‘Can we punch him?’ Obviously when you have a Knockdown Shield up, it doesn't work – as you see here [at the 7:20 mark], it doesn't work. But I think it was the right thing to do, holding the shield up.”
The Gibraltar Crossing would be the subject of much debate over the coming hours, but it turns out that Luminosity simply didn’t have the ammo to thirst the downed Gibraltar. On the ALGS livestream, viewers could see that Neazul had used every round of heavy ammo he had, Saul ‘GhanjaMen’ Ocampo Plascencia had 40 rounds, and Jacobo ‘NMEgo’ Rios had just 15. The decision to all run heavy weapons was a clear misplay, but Luminosity knew it’d have a fight on their hands when they dropped down for the endgame, and its players were saving every bullet they could. OpTic’s Ira ‘dooplex’ Shepherd, situated on the low ground directly below Luminosity, later said that he didn’t have line of sight to Sharkey and didn’t know he was crossing – although some shots can be seen fired at the Gibby from OpTic’s position.
Somehow, all three members of Reignite were in a good spot, and jmw wasted no time in getting Sharkey to his feet. He’d placed some Caustic Barrels for cover as Sharkey was crossing, and Zer0 called in a Mobile Respawn Beacon for more. As he was reviving Sharkey, however, an opposing Valkyrie launched her rockets at them. This could take the last slither of health off Sharkey, and his epic journey would have all been for nothing. But jmw’s revive reflexes were on point, and he stuck to his task. “Stick it,” came the call from Zer0 as missiles headed towards their position, and Sharkey was up. He immediately bubbled – his second perfectly-timed bubble in this endgame – and a fraction of a second later the missiles harmlessly bounced off the shield. Somehow, Reignite was safe, and could reset.
From here, Reignite was in the driving seat. Luminosity was forced to drop onto OpTic as the Ring closed in, and Sharkey added to the carnage with an Orbital Bombardment. Reignite fired Wingman shots into the fray, dealing important damage to keep the tide flowing in its favour. jmw used his Caustic Barrels cleverly at this point, throwing them into the no man’s land between Reignite and their opposition so his squad could use them as cover: “I’m trying to chuck out as many Caustic Barrels as I can to give us any sort of cover.”
Zer0 tells his squad to chill, jmw tells me. I ask whether that’s possible in a moment like this. “We’re all just chill,” he says. “Honestly, it didn’t feel nerve wracking at all.”
OpTic goes down. Neazul of Luminosity was the last man standing between Reignite and the Playoffs trophy, his shields and health vastly diminished from the fighting. RIG pushed with almost telepathic precision. “Last man!” jmw shouts on the comms, his voice almost cracking with excitement.
“As soon as that third team died everybody's heartbeat just went flying up, because we knew we just won.”
They descended on Neazul, who had no chance at this point. It was like sharks who had smelled blood, Reignite had the scent of the Playoff trophy and a battered Caustic wasn’t going to stop them. The final kill confirmed it.
“It was absolutely amazing,” jmw says, and I can hear the smile on his face through the Discord call. The excitement and relief on Reignite’s faces in the arena back up his statement. “I can't believe it. Honestly, it's been a tremendous experience that I don't think I'll ever forget. And hopefully it puts my name out there as a player now as well for the whole world, along with Zer0’s and Sharkey’s.”
The ALGS broadcast zooms in on the shock writ across IGL Zer0’s face as he holds his heart. “That shot right there shows a lot,” says jmw. Zer0’s expression speaks for them all.
The trust that jmw and Sharkey placed in Zer0’s calls was what won them the match. There was luck – what battle royale victory doesn’t have luck – but from the moment his IGL called “trust me, trust me,” jmw was with him every step of the way. For two players who talked for the first time just three days before, to build this level of trust so quickly is impressive. jmw stresses he had “full confidence” in Zer0’s calls, even if some in hindsight could have been played better. “I’m just listening to what he wants us to do, and me and Sharkey are obviously doing it well.”
Between Zer0’s early Kraber shots and later positioning, Sharkey’s consistent perfectly-timed Gibby bubbles, and jmw’s judicious application of Caustic gas both as cover or a defensive deterrent, Reignite won the day and cemented their place in ALGS history. Some will maintain they were lucky, but there was a lot more to their win than that.