Team Australia didn’t disappoint in the Bangkok stage of the Overwatch World Cup, and in many ways that was thanks to star support player Dario “Akraken” Falcao-Rassokha. I sat down with Akraken to talk about his performance in Bangkok, his emergence as a pro, and how he’s balancing his career with his schoolwork.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Korjubzot: How are you feeling after Thailand?
Akraken: (Laughing) I’ve been sick for like three weeks, honestly. It’s just been a series of bad circumstances. I went to MEO and got sick there, and then I got food poisoning in Thailand.
Korjubzot: Yeah, I heard about that. (Laughing) I was stressing, I was worried you’d all be too sick to play.
Akraken: It was just me in Thailand, especially. I missed half a day of practice to try and get better.
Korjubzot: So tell me about yourself! There’s not a lot about you online. All I can really find is that you got signed to the Drop Bears after one or two open qualifiers. You just came out of nowhere – what’s your history as a pro player?
Akraken: I don’t have much of a history per say. The only good team I joined before Sydney Drop Bears was Default, back in the day. That wasn’t even a good team, that was just a team full of known players. We had Colourhex on that team, who’s now on Toronto Esports, we had Dalsu who’s part of Avant Garde (Avant Garde is now Avant Gaming, and Dalsu left their team in August), one of the Contenders teams, so we had some well-known players, but it wasn’t necessarily a good team. We didn’t have a good grasp of strategy. A few players from that team are doing very well now, though.
Korjubzot: Was Overwatch your first pro game, or did you play CS:GO or Team Fortress 2 before this?
Akraken: I played them for a bit. I played TF2 for quite a while, about two or three years, but very, very casually. I never really tried to get into the major PUG (pick-up group) scene. I was only eleven or twelve, so I wasn’t really concerned with the logistics behind getting to know people, getting to know PUGs, getting into proper teams and stuff. I did move onto CS:GO and played that for slightly longer, but I was still a ranked player. Again, I never really tried to move onto any of the external leagues that aren’t a part of Valve’s match ranking system.
Korjubzot: You didn’t really get into the professional scene, as it were.
Akraken: Yeah, just playing mostly casually.
Drop Bears Are Real
Korjubzot: You qualified in the Oceanic Summer Series and then got signed to the Drop Bears! You must have obviously done really well in the qualifiers, and then even with the Drop Bears you were doing fantastic. You only dropped two maps the entire second season of Contenders.
Akraken: Yeah, under Drop Bears we haven’t lost a game since I joined, and I think the reason Drop Bears went from fourth place, losing to Masterminds GC 0-4, to beating them 4-0 in the same finals of the same season is not only me moving to the team, but face moving to coach. Before that, I think we were the only top four team that didn’t have a dedicated coach, so face picking up that role really helped everyone else out on the team, and that’s why we became so dominant.
Korjubzot: face is listed as a sub on Liquipedia but I’m sure he was playing before he moved into a coach role.
Akraken: Yeah, he was a main support.
Korjubzot: Did you get signed and then he moved to coaching, or the other way around?
Akraken: The Drop Bears had had an alright season then, and then they versed Masterminds GC who were considered the second or third best, easily top four. The public consider them the best, but everyone else thought they were second or third best, and they (the Drop Bears) lost really badly in that series, they got 0-4’d, and when face saw that he said, ‘We need to change something, we can’t have a repeat of this.’ That sort of kickstarted the mechanism for me to move into the team and for face to move to coach.
Australia – No Drama Allowed
Korjubzot: Apart from Custa, everyone else is from Dark Sided or Blank Esports. How are you getting along with the rest of Team Australia?
Akraken: Everyone on the team is really nice, we don’t bring any of the Contenders rivalries into the team. That’d be counterproductive (laughing), and Contenders rivalries in itself isn’t a huge thing. As Drop Bears, we did want to beat Dark Sided, they were our rivals, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t be friends with them. We’re a pretty tight knit community here in Australia, so there isn’t much drama between the top four teams.
Korjubzot: I suppose in such a small scene, the last thing you need is drama.
Akraken: Yeah. Going back to how I got picked up for Drop Bears, between Default, the team I played for in 2016/2017, and Drop Bears, I took a pretty long break before playing for a month on a really casual team called Intrepid. Intrepid were an alright team, with decent players, but we missed the cut-off for Open Division, so they couldn’t get into Contenders that season. I ended up moving from that team to Alter Ego, and then we versed Drop Bears in a match and I impressed them enough that face decided to pick me up.
Korjubzot: You’ve actually been really impressive – you know you made the front page of the Overwatch League website the other day? You’re up there with your teammate Trill, Patiphan from Thailand, Shy from China.
Akraken: Yeah, it’s just a hard work pays off type thing. I’ve been working really hard in the last six months or so, especially in the leadup to the World Cup. Not only has Gunba (Australia’s coach, also assistant coach for the LA Valiant) been pushing us really hard, we’ve also been doing a lot of self-VOD review, trying really hard in all our of practice which I think is most important, and that’s been really helping me and my playing. I’m glad I was able to show that on an international stage.
Korjubzot: I think you’ve really impressed a lot of people. Not to be rude, but Australia was a bit of a dark horse in this stage. You had China, you had Sweden and Denmark. Those three were the lead teams, and then you had Australia, who weren’t necessarily anyone’s first choice to make qualifiers.
Akraken: The Thailand group stage was super competitive despite us making Blizzcon last year, especially since Blank’s results in Pacific Contenders weren’t that impressive this season. They were playing on 200 ping, which not everyone knows, so you can see that happening. But yeah, people didn’t really have the greatest of hopes for us, going into the stage, but we managed to pull out a win, considering the calibre of teams that were there and some of the players there as well. We were really impressed.
Korjubzot: I was very worried against China, when the first two maps dropped in their favour. I was panicking! I was terrified we weren’t gonna make it to Blizzcon.
Akraken: (Laughing) We took a sort of measured approach there. We knew in order to make it to Blizzcon we only needed one map – thanks, Sweden! – and we knew Junkertown was our strongest map. The maps we were losing weren’t close, so at the half-time even though we were down, we knew in the end it’s going to Junkertown, it’s our best map, no other team really practices that, we can easily win. Nobody was super stressed after that.
Korjubzot: I did notice, most of China’s matches were really tight. They went to tiebreaker three or four times, so I wasn’t too worried, but there was always that risk. And then the tiebreaker for Australia vs. China was incredible.
Akraken: I don’t think China had the strategies every other team had, but they had the insane mechanical talent, especially their main tank Guxue. On Control maps – the most important because you play it once at the beginning and once for the tiebreaker – they just dominate everyone, which is why they pretty much didn’t drop anything. So even though they could afford to take losses on Payload, on Hybrid, on 2CP, but when it came to Control, that’s where they really showed up.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Akraken’s interview tomorrow!