If you haven’t been keeping up with Overwatch Contenders, you’ve been missing out. Contenders is the Overwatch League’s tournament for aspiring pro players. Contenders plays host to seven different regions where 12 teams compete for their right to calls themselves the best in the region. There is a lot of untapped talent in Contenders. One of those talented players, Elijah Hudson “Elk” Gallegher, formally of Fusion University, has recently been promoted to the Philadelphia Fusion roster.
"Elk has been an outstanding player for us. It's easy to forget how young he is given his maturity and professionalism. He plays a cerebral style and studies the game constantly. We're thrilled to have him join the Fusion!" – @BLT pic.twitter.com/PyOg5DDPKh
— Philadelphia Fusion (@Fusion) September 25, 2018
Fusion University are the two-time champions of Contenders North America. A lot of that success can be attributed to former team captain, Elk. I was lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Philly’s newest member!
First off, why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I am Elk, previously from Fusion University… just got moved up to the main Fusion Overwatch League roster. I was the team captain and in-game leader for Fusion University. We went undefeated both seasons, so pretty much the best NA Contenders team. Indisputably.”
What drew you to Overwatch as opposed to other games out there?
“Personally, I really liked the way Blizzard managed to design the roles in Overwatch. I think it’s really cool that you’re able to have a game where you need people who are really good at playing the support role, and [how] that’s a completely different skill set than people who play the tank role. I really like the variety and complexity, especially in a team environment.”
You started out playing tank… what made you switch over to healing?
“I started playing off tank on a laptop that had about 40 FPS, so I was not the best off tank. One of the first coaches I ever worked with told me that, one, because of my playstyle and two, because of my hardware limitations, I should move toward the support role.”
You’re most well known for your Ana and Lucio – what drew you to them as opposed to other healers like Mercy or Zenyatta?
“Lucio was meta for a very long time in main support, so I just had a lot of experience playing him. [I liked] that he could control the pacing of fights with his speed boost. Then for Ana, I really like high-pressure, high-stress situations. It’s one of the reasons I like competing. Everything that I want to do I want to be competitive in it. On Ana, it feels like you have to be responsible for so many things… I find that really exciting.”
How do you feel about Lucio and Ana in the current meta? Are there any changes you would like to see?
“I think Ana’s a bit too strong, especially with her ult [and] having the instant heal. Ana’s nanoboost used to be very punishing in the sense that, if you were to nano a 70 HP Genji, he couldn’t really go in with blade. Or if you let your tanks take too much damage, you couldn’t nano them cause they would just die before they got any value out of it. Whereas now with its instant heal, you can use it very reactively… So I think that her ult is a bit too strong in the current meta but I really like where Lucio is at.”
Just to go back a bit, when did you decide to go pro? Was your family supportive of you?
“I played Overwatch for about a year without pay. I was playing for fun – I was scrimming with teams for fun. I had no real intention of getting paid for it. It was just something I was doing because high school was boring. Then I joined a team called East Wind and Evil Geniuses approached us and offered to sign us. I was 17 at the time and that’s when I think it clicked in my head that, “Oh my God, I could actually make money playing video games”.
After that, I put my focus into going pro and most of my family was very supportive. My mom, at first, was skeptical, but some of her friends told her to research the industry a bit before making any judgments. She ended up being very supportive of it.”
Have you had the chance to play with your new teammates yet? Have you played with Neptuno and Boombox? Who do you see yourself synergizing better with?
“In a scrim environment, I have played with a few of them but not all. I have played more with Boombox and I really like him as a person [but] I definitely think that I could work really well with either of them. I haven’t played too much with Neptuno specifically, just because we’re both on main role most of the time.”
I know you said on Twitter, that you made the choice to stay on with the Fusion but was that always the end goal? Or was it just getting into the Overwatch League?
“Getting into the Overwatch League was definitely the end goal. Once I realized Fusion wanted me, that became more of my goal. Fusion are a great organization and they’ve done a lot to support me in Fusion University. [That’s] the main reason that I stayed, not just because I was already part of their Academy team.”
What do you think you’ll miss most about playing in Contenders?
“Probably the work versus the reward. I think that in Contenders, we definitely didn’t put in as much time as Overwatch League players. We were kinda loose about it, even going into the Grand Finals. We weren’t 100% sure what we were going to play; we were just thinking up things and doing whatever we felt like. I think that led to a really fun team environment. Like between me and Alarm, everything was jokey and we were still winning every single match. I think going into Overwatch League, it has to be more serious. It’s not necessarily something I’ll miss but I think [the contender’s environment] is something I’ll fondly remember.”
What has been your favorite experience so far?
“Winning Season One Contenders. I was the only person on Fusion University who was eligible for season one of the Overwatch League. After not making season one of the Overwatch League, I was like ‘I have to prove myself’ going into season two of Contenders. Winning season one was that validation that I was going to be good enough with more work. Winning season two was probably second best, but a bit more lackluster.”
Do you think Fusion University will be able to keep that momentum going without you?
“I definitely think so – I think we’ve shown that we’re one of the best teams in the world if not just North America.”
What are you most looking forward to coming into season two of the Overwatch League?
“I’m looking forward to a lot of things… [But] I think it’s going to be the strong coaching infrastructure. That’s something that I like very much. Like we had Aero on Fusion University before he got picked up by Dallas Fuel and then, after working with Hayes and Kirby, that’s just something that I really enjoy.”
Any advice for players who are looking to go pro?
“Going pro is something really fun to do, and really fun to pursue, but don’t give up other important life activities for it. It’s totally fine to pursue and then once you get that break to push, but it’s also important that you don’t drop out of college when you don’t have a definite form of income.”
What would you be doing now if you weren’t playing for the Overwatch League?
“Probably be in college. The subjects I’m most interested in are mostly statistics related because I really like card games. That’s kind of where I fell in love with math in general. I like large chaotic systems and trying to use data to make them make more sense. But now that I’m in the industry, I can definitely see a world where I end up staying in eSports.”
Lastly, do you have anything you want to say to your new fans?
“That’s always such a weird thing in eSports. When you’re a pro player and you’re like, in your house and playing every day, having [fans] isn’t really something you think about. And then you go to a LAN event and you’re like “holy $#!%”.
I guess just… thanks for supporting me. Even though I’m playing to be the best and to compete, I can only compete because they are interested in it. They are watching and they are supporting. So just thanks for that!”
Season two is shaping up to be an exciting one, and these roster moves are adding to it. Stay tuned for more information as the season approaches.
Featured photo from Twitter