Introduction: The Hero
involving or requiring strenuous effort; difficult and tiring.
Once known as “Shazardous,” Jonas “Shaz” Suovaara has been a well-known and experienced Overwatch veteran over the course of three years. The Finnish flex-support player has earned a Contenders championship and a starting spot on the Finland Overwatch World Cup roster for the past two years.
But while many have considered him to be “the best Western flex-support player” in the world, his efforts in the Overwatch League have yet to truly pay off in a high-stakes match – until this past Thursday night, where Shaz and the Los Angeles Gladiators defeated the Hangzhou Spark in a closely-fought, 4-3 victory.
Departure: Playoffs Quarterfinals
Prior to the match, fans and analysts alike had mixed opinions about the two teams. Both teams were neck-and-neck in the overall season standings, with the 5th-seeded Spark barely edging over the 6th-seeded Gladiators. The series could go either way – it was up to each team to show how strong they were in the new metagame.
With style, it was the Gladiators who showed precision and prowess with Sigma-centered compositions. With both Jun-Woo “Void” Kang and João Pedro “Hydration” Goes Telles wielding the new hero, the team looked comfortable throughout the series.
“I think that we’re good at learning new metas,” Shaz elaborates. “For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been improving super fast.”
The series win didn’t come easy, however. Shortly after the Gladiators secured a 3-1 series lead, the Spark rallied back in the consecutive maps to force a final map 7.
“We started super energetic. Everybody was yelling so much,” Shaz exclaims. “[but] we kinda dropped off for two maps, Eichenwalde and Lijiang.”
The Hangzhou Spark had an explosive runback off of Jun-Ki “Bazzi” Park’s dominant plays on Doomfist. His aggressive style and deadly ultimate usages would pick off the Gladiators’ players throughout each teamfight, allowing the remaining Spark players to close out the eliminations and win maps.
Shaz couldn’t help but exclaim, “Their Doomfist really popped off. [Bazzi] got all the punches. I couldn’t see him. Just I was walking around the corner, he’d hit me.”
However, Shaz and his team would come out on top with a clean, 3-1 victory on Watchpoint: Gibraltar to take the series.
“In the last map, everybody was yelling so hard. Their target calling was hurting my ears!” Shaz recalls.
This win cemented the Gladiators into the winner’s semifinals of the 2019 Overwatch League playoffs. More importantly, it was the first ever playoff series win in Gladiators’ franchise history.
Initiation: Improvement and Refinement
Over the course of multiple years and various teams, Shaz has grown and learned a lot about being a professional athlete. He’s already completed the quest of a championship victory, with Team Gigantti in the 2017 Season 1 Contenders: Europe finals. Even so, that tournament remains his last ever finals appearance; now, two years later, Shaz has a chance to return to the top – this time on the grandest stage that competitive Overwatch has to offer.
As a result of his journey, Shaz continues to develop as a player. But he’s also been better about improving himself as a teammate.
“I just try to work on myself [in terms of] giving inputs,” he explains. “In matches, I try to pick up the team a lot, like, to try to get the conversation going.”
He’s also changed a lot of his habits outside of the game.
“The biggest thing, definitely, is my sleep schedule,” Shaz confesses. “Last year, I slept really [poorly]. Sometimes for a week I would have a sleep schedule, and the next week [would be] bad. It’s helped so much, having a good sleep schedule.”
Maybe it’s his improvement as a good teammate that has contributed to his individual success. Or maybe he’s just always been that great – to the point that he’s considered the best Western flex-support player in the world. Shaz isn’t pressured by the recognition.
“I’m happy with the title. It’s kinda like, ‘oh, well now I HAVE to perform,’” he muses. “I don’t wanna lose that title, you know.”
He might be a bit concerned about his opposition, though.
“I don’t prepare for players specifically – but I might have to from now on, like, look at the enemy DPS players,” Shaz laughs, referring to Bazzi once more.
The Return of the King
Shaz and the rest of the Los Angeles Gladiators are slated to face off against League favorites and powerhouse expansion team Vancouver Titans in the winner’s semifinals this upcoming Sunday. The Gladiators have never succeeded against the Titans this year, but their third time might be the charm – and this time, Shaz is much more confident.
“I think it’s going to be as close as [the Hangzhou series], skill-wise,” Shaz boldly claims. “Our scrims have been super good. It might go to map seven.”
It’s been two years since Shaz has last been called a champion. He’s experienced that fall from grace, but he’s been on a path that’s starting to look more like that of a hero’s journey. And while he’s only a few sets away from the final stage, there’s no doubt that his journey will continue to be arduous.
But he’s one step closer now. And Shaz is relieved that he’s finally overcome the first hurdle – and he has a message to say to his fans.
“We did it dude,” he grins, pumping his fist in triumph. “We won our first ever playoff series!”
“Thank you guys so much for supporting us.”
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