After a harrowing 3-1 victory against the Philadelphia Fusion, Chris “Bani” Bennell and I sat down to talk about the game, what it means for the Outlaws’ playoff chances, and Houston’s future in the Overwatch League.
So what changed for you guys between your last match against the Fusion and this one? How did you prep for this match to make it go the way it went?
I think we stopped focusing on the enemy team (and how to prepare against them specifically) and just worked on ourselves. We’ve really built ourselves from Stage 3, and we’re just trying to play fundamentally good Overwatch, rather than trying to out-counter them or things like that. I think that made a huge difference because Philly relies a lot on their star power. If you just play good Overwatch, then it’s hard to lose to them, I think. You have the advantage in every fight unless one of their players pops off. If you can correctly shut them down, there’s nothing they can do.
So they basically use their star power to brute force their enemies into making mistakes? And if you’re not making mistakes…?
Yeah! Yeah, and it’s a lot easier to win against that because they’re making mistakes themselves that you can abuse, so long as you don’t lose to their raw skill, you’re pretty well off.
Discussing a focus (or lack thereof) on specific enemy players kind of answers this next one- did Sado and Hotba starting today affect your game plan at all? Or did you plan for that possibility?
I think the only player that we were very specifically worried about was Carpe. We studied the sight lines he likes to take, that’s really the only major preparation we made for them. Sado did do a lot of work on Blizzard World in the first round, and did a lot of work to shut down LiNkzr. I think once we realized that, we adjusted, and started taking things slower. We were waiting for Sado to try and pressure LiNkzr, forced him away, and then did whatever we wanted to do. That was the only adaptation we really had to make for them.
Speaking of adaptations, your hold on Horizon was ridiculous. Was that a product of all the time you’ve spent on Horizon? Do you just have a solid general plan, or did you play the way you did specifically to counter Philly?
I think we’re just pretty comfortable on Horizon. We get to play the heroes we want to play- Widow/Junkrat with dive tanks. We’ve played it enough, and it hasn’t changed, really. We’ve played it in past stages and it’s pretty much the same thing. We just kinda do what we’ve always done, and I think we’ve gotten better at being aggressive at the right times, and that helps even more. We don’t let them in when we don’t need to, and we don’t give them anything for free. It’s just natural to us.
So when you say you haven’t had to change much on that map, I’m assuming you mean the effect Brigitte has had while she’s been in play? Which maps’ strategies have you had to change up the most- either because you want to incorporate Brigitte, or because you know other teams will want to?
I’d say Hanamura is one of those maps we don’t have perfectly figured out. Luckily we don’t play it anymore this stage, which is nice. I think Brigitte is really strong on that map, so it might just come down to running a Widow/Brigitte mirror every time. That’s a big one.
I’d say Blizzard World changed a lot too. We were pretty good when it first came out in Stage 3, and then Brigitte made a lot changes happen there. We kinda thought, “Well if the enemy team is running Brig, we can just run double sniper or Junkrat/Widow,” but it’s not as simple as that. You still need to execute properly to make it work, otherwise your tanks just get rolled over, since they have to try and stop the cart while also not dying. It took awhile for us to figure out Blizzard World, and I think we were gonna win there today if we didn’t have that massive C9…
And you missed the cart by a pixel! It was terrible. Speaking of even more adaptations, what was the deal with Spree on Pharah? That was amazing!
We decided that Lijiang was a good map to run, like- you know the GOATS comp? 3-3? We started fooling around with that, and we realized that it’s pretty easily countered so long as your enemy plays against it properly and has at least a Pharah, and maybe a Junkrat. Instead, we started moving towards doing Dallas’s comp instead- running a Brig and a D.Va, no Zarya, stuff like that. We kinda realized it was just a generally flexible thing that we could do. It allows us to run Zarya/D.Va, too, on Control Center. We get pretty complicated, but having Spree in on Lijiang is great because he just understands the map so well.
Well, this isn’t a Spree interview though, right? Let’s talk Mercy! You made some great plays tonight. What have you been focusing on to improve your support game?
I think the most important thing is that I need to stay aware of where dangers are for me. Mid fight I’m usually holding tab and just… watching. “Are they gonna come in with a primal right now? What are they gonna do?”
Doing that, it’s very easy to just accidentally back into a Widow sight line and get shot in the head. So the biggest thing is that any time I’m going in for a rez, any time I’m changing positions or anything like that, I’m always trying to think, “Is there a Widow peeking this sight line I’m about to go through, and am I going to die if I go for this?” Usually I’ll try and work with the tanks, have Muma bubble me or coolmatt Matrix me.
Ok, you can include yourself here- who are the top three Mercies in the league, and why? [Question comes courtesy of @greyhound227]
I’d say Anamo is the #1. When we scrim them, I try and have someone record him specifically so I can just watch him do his thing. I think his team is generally very good at playing the style that Mercy requires, and I think- I think, I don’t know- I think he does a lot of leading. I think he micros people [micro as in micromanagement; the concept of controlling minute aspects of other players’ positioning and attack patterns] in such a way that it honestly looks like he’s doing nothing, because it’s so easy. He just heals people and he’s always in cover because he never has to make any dangerous moves. I think it’s because he knows how to lead his team in such a way that he specifically doesn’t have to take any risks. That’s a big thing, it helps you understand what you need to do. Sometimes you might think you need to take risks as Mercy, but if you actually just play properly you don’t at all.
#2 Mercy is probably (if I don’t count Ark, since they’re on the same team,) I’d say it’s probably Custa. He’s the same way [as Anamo,] he’s naturally very good at leading the team, and that’s something I’ve been improving on through the season, how to lead properly. He knows how to be aggressive at the right time, too.
Oh, yeah, #3… not including me, right?
No, no! If you want to say you’re #3, you can!
Hmm, let’s see… I think BigGoose and me are pretty close. I think BigGoose is a really good Mercy, I just don’t think he’s a leader. That’s the only thing, so… I don’t mean to be toxic at all or anything, but I think Fissure does a lot of work in terms of streamlining that team, so it makes everyone else’s job very easy. So I think I’ll put myself over BigGoose for #3.
You talked a lot there about Mercy and leadership. Without giving too much away, what is your role (and your team’s structure) in terms of leadership and making calls in game?
I think for just about every team, the Mercy does the ult tracking- we’re no different there. We still involve each other there- if I don’t know for sure, I’ll ask “Did they primal that fight, did they trans that fight?” and someone will respond, but I’m the one who leads that conversation. From there, it’s up to the team. Personally, I try to focus on the macro sense of the game. If I see that the enemy is at an ult advantage, for instance, I’ll say “Ok, let’s take this fight slow”- not like a “You go here and do this, ” more like a “We’re gonna go in and bait out their ults, and when we see a chance…”
Some teams I think are more micro-based in that regard, but I leave it to the rest of the team to make more specific calls based on what they feel is right.
Moving on past this game, what’s your plan for NYXL?
I think it’s mostly about playing our own game again. We’re gonna watch their game against Boston tonight and figure out anything we can abuse. I think NYXL is a very solid team, so it’s just gonna come down to playing better. There’s not gonna be a whole lot to prepare for besides Spider-Pine or something like that. It’s really about fixing the mistakes we made in the Philly match before that.
It’s been a generally crazy season for everyone, the Outlaws included- what would you say is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in Season 1?
There’s a lot of lessons. The biggest one? That’s pretty tough. I think the biggest one is understanding the best way to practice. We went through a lot of different stages of “Ok, we need to focus on fixing our comps, doing this and this and this…” I think we got lost during Stage 2 and 3 on the perfect practice routine. We get tunnel-visioned on specific problems instead of thinking about the game as a whole, so the biggest lesson for me would be to understand the game on a larger scale, more objective model. There’s so many small things that happen during an Overwatch game, that really don’t matter compared to just executing properly and knowing how to execute properly.
After playoffs, any big off-season plans?
Right now we have a lot of possibilities, you know? We want to take a whole bunch of trips, maybe a country wide thing, some show matches. They’re all up in the air, and it’s up to the management to decide what to do. Personally, I’m gonna try and make it to Team Canada, to work with them and represent them in the World Cup. Everything else just hasn’t been planned yet, we’re still just so focused on the now.
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Featured Photo Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment