The Game Haus
Esports Overwatch

Overwatch: Contenders Coaching/Management Panel feat. Blizzard, DarkZero, Tyche, applewud and GGMentality

Contenders Interview

So much of what happens at the Overwatch League level depends on the health and sustainability of the T2/T3 (or semipro) scene in Overwatch through Contenders, Trials and Open Division. However, often times the coaches and managers on the Path to Pro never get a chance to share their voices or show just how much they contribute for their teams. Often completely unpaid, coaches and managers work behind the scenes as the vital cogs that keep their teams rolling as smoothly as possible throughout each season.

The Game Haus sat down with five assorted coaches and managers throughout NA Contenders to get a better picture of their roles within their particular teams, how the current meta (GOATS) has changed their job, and what they think of the macro direction of Contenders. But, before all of that, the coaches need to provide a proper introduction for themselves.

[Note: Each of the five interviewees was asked the following questions individually on April 3rd. Their answers were not shared with one another.]

First off, would you mind introducing yourself and explaining how you got involved with your particular team?

Blizzard: Hello, I am Brian “Blizzard” Childers, I was previously the head coach for First Generation. Coming into Season 1 of 2019, I moved over to General Manager of Montreal Rebellion.

Contenders Interview
Image Courtesy of the Montreal Rebellion

DarkZero: I’m DarkZero, Spanish Head Coach of Chicken Contendies. I was Orgless and Hungry’s former HC and, after I stepped down from that position, Luna contacted me to offer me a trial and eventually the spot. After an interview, I was able to connect with the team and have a session together. Afterward, both parts were pleased with the result and I got the position.

Tyche: I’m Nick, or Tyche. I’m a 19-year-old University student from Canada. I worked previously as an analyst for Chicken Contendies but am currently LFT. I was able to get involved with this team because of some help I gave to another coach. I made a good impression, and when he was building a new team in my region, he gave me a shot at a trial.

applewud: My name is applewud, I am the Head Coach for the NA Contenders team Square One. I was previously the Head Coach for On the Flank, a team that got 5th place in NA Open Division Season 3 of 2018. When that team disbanded, the manager I worked with their asked me if I was interested in joining the team she had moved to, at that time called Path to Poverty, now Square One.

GGMentality: Hi, I’m Gints “GGMentality” Grasis. Former head coach of Novus Ordo Seclorum, now an assistant coach for 2nd Generation. Players also call me “Soviet Iron Fist.” I come from Latvia, a small country in Eastern Europe. I arrived at esports from a classic sports background, starting out as a player in CS:GO and Overwatch and later transitioning to coaching. I have been coaching since 2018. After a solid run in EU Trials I noticed that 2G was looking for a coaching staff and I applied. My initial application was interesting enough for the team to invite me to trial and the rest is history.

Can you elaborate on what specifically you do for your team? What does your role entail, practically?

Blizzard: I am currently the General Manager. I manage our day-to-day player or organization specifications. I am the jack of all trades when it comes to players and working with Toronto.

DarkZero: Currently, I’m in control of the micro/macro strategies on the team. On top of that, I’m the direct connection between management and the roster. I also coordinate the labor of my assistant coaches and keep track of the personal and professional development of the players on the roster.

Contenders Interview
Image Courtesy of Polygon

Tyche: My job as an analyst for Chicken Contendies was to collect and look at data in order to find areas of our play that need improvement. I also worked to scout upcoming players as much as I could.

applewud: For my team, I am in charge of determining the weekly focus for our staff, as well as micro coaching for our team. I spend a lot of my time trying to drive the team’s attitudes and make sure the group is running as well as possible.

GGMentality: As an assistant coach my job is to help the head coach, which in my definition is – do whatever is needed for things to work. Jokes aside, at the moment, I am working on player development, which entails helping players reach their peak performance in-game. In the day-to-day, it translates to talking with the player you are working with, spectating them during games and providing them with minor adjustments on the fly to provide the maximum learning experience. After the games, I schedule reviews of the matches from a POV perspective, identifying mistakes and providing possible paths to solving them. After reviewing the gameplay, we set up measurable, attainable and relevant goals for upcoming blocks that are key to successful growth. Finally, I check in on players and make sure they have everything needed to achieve said goals.

How is coaching/managing in a GOATS meta different from other metas you’ve been involved with in the past?

Blizzard: Managing in a GOATS meta is about finding your style, whether it’s being passive, straight aggressive or more methodical and doing both. It can be a very team-oriented comp, which can help with building synergy, but can also be the most boring comp to watch all together.

DarkZero: When I used to coach in Dive meta, I was putting way more attention in the map development and the macro movement around it. When it comes to GOATS, the micro details are super important. A tiny mistake or non-optimal move can unleash a cascade of effects that can lose you a fight and potentially a round. Additionally, in Dive meta you used to use your ultimates as a cooldown, as the composition itself had incredible pick potential without them. In GOATS, combo setup and positioning/timing are incredibly important.

Contenders Interview
Image Courtesy of Joe iz Gaming Blog

Tyche: Coaching in GOATS needs a much higher focus on teamplay and a lot less of a focus on individual plays. It’s forced me to see the game in a completely different way in order to be effective. GOATS is also a very unique way of playing when compared to the traditional dive comps, so it was a learning experience initially. The engaging and disengaging involved in GOATS, as well as the importance of playing the tempo game, was something that I had to figure out when GOATS first became popular.

applewud: GOATS is a much more teamwork oriented meta than we have had in a long time. The amount of coordination it takes to effectively run a team in GOATS is extremely high, and the “carry” potential of individual characters is greatly diminished outside of the whole of the team of six.

GGMentality: I would say the process itself is not different. All basics of coaching should be met no matter what is meta or process you are coaching. The difference that comes in with GOATS being meta is that coaching is way more micro-focused during fights, and macro game needs to be really solid because lack of good ultimate economy can lose you games really fast. Also, extra attention needs to be redirected to main tank and main support players, since they commonly will be the main dictators of game tempo, positioning and communication. These all need to be on point for the team to flow in perfect sync. In past metas where it was more DPS centric, the majority of phases were dictated by DPS players and there was a bigger chance of pulling fights back with good players, whereas GOATS has a lower margin of mechanical skill.

Speaking of metas, how do you think Baptiste and the newest patch will affect the current meta? Is GOATS dead?

Blizzard: I don’t think GOATS is dead at all, I think still it will be played on certain maps, but overall we will see more diverse choices on other maps and more variances of goats comps. Baptiste is a strong, and what looks to be fun, hero but I don’t think that adding Baptiste will kill GOATS. Other changes will have to happen first.

DarkZero: I don’t think Baptiste is a good hero. Immortality field can be a great ability, yes, but as soon as teams get used to it, it will get destroyed instantly. I don’t think GOATS is dead, maybe it was made a bit slower, but definitely not dead.

Contenders Interview
Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Tyche: I 100% disagree with the notion that this new patch is going to kill GOATS. The changes don’t really address the weakness that comps, other than GOATS, have. GOATS definitely took hits to its overall power level in the patch, but they don’t really hurt the composition itself that much. The speed nerf is the biggest one, but the only matchup other than a GOATS mirror that the nerf effects is against bunker, which is a map specific comp. The nerf to beam damage against armor is only relevant in a GOATS mirror. Baptiste doesn’t seem strong at all to me and I believe that he will only fit into bunker-style compositions. GOATS may end up being more map specific now but there’s no chance that the comp is dead. Dive didn’t get a buff against GOATS, so even if there is a map where you can use the new strength of bunker to beat GOATs, it’ll still be optimal to swap off of the bunker and onto GOATS if you get beaten by a dive, which will end up in another GOATS mirror by the end.

applewud: GOATS will only die when the healing creep is nerfed. With Baptiste and the changes to other characters that is currently reflected on the live patch, there are definitely compositions that can hold their own against GOATS on certain maps, however, GOATS and variations of GOATS are still going to be the most adaptable compositions out there.

GGMentality: Since Contenders are running on a different patch, I haven’t had a lot of experience within the new patch. So, what I am about to say will be more of speculation. Judging Baptiste’s abilities, it’s obvious he is meant to be played in a group. Him having a ranged gun makes it obvious he could be used in some 3/3 setups where you are expecting DPS play over Zenyatta or Ana. What I think he will provide is the ability for teams to play more Orisa bunker style compositions, because of AoE healing and anti-dive prospects with Immortality Field. These comps could be prevalent in defensive situations outside of King of the Hill. What is more worrying to me is that compositions with 4 supports could emerge, which would make KoTH even more 1st fight reliant than it is right now. I think the weakest part of Baptiste’s kit is his static ultimate which means it can only really be utilized by static compositions and it can be easily avoided through proper positioning.

To close, what are your thoughts on the recent changes made to Contenders as a whole, specifically looking at NA Contenders?

Blizzard: The changes favor NA specifically since we now have more slots. The addition of LANs is key for progress in a player’s development. I think that it’s the right direction. It is definitely not going to be all corrected in one night, but it is making progress from what it was last year.

DarkZero: Coming from EU, these changes hit us pretty hard, not going to lie. But as for NA Contenders, I honestly think they are really good. More spots, more academies to come, more people fulfilling their dreams of getting picked up. Making spots more appealing for academies is great, but the T3 scene needs to be developed and fed with broadcasted tournaments. We don’t want to run the T2 scene dry and the young prodigies that are arising in the T3 need to be highlighted in those streams.

Tyche: I think these new changes to Contenders are for the best in the long term but have left things a little weird right now. In NA specifically, a bit of a talent vacuum has been created in T3 which will likely last for another season or two. I do have a very strong belief in developing talent and I have faith that the T3 scene will be able to produce enough players to fill the hole left by taking as many teams into Contenders as Blizzard did this current season. I’d expect trials to be very divided mechanically for at least this season and probably next as well.

Contenders Interview
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

applewud: I think NA Contenders, and Contenders as a whole, is a tier in flux. The lack of endemic organizations being able to pump money into the scene makes for an extremely top heavy level of Overwatch where the teams that are not representative of an OWL organization are always going to be underdogs, and, with few exceptions, make for pretty boring seasons. You know who the best teams are going to be, and very little variance has shown or will show in that group. We have been treated to the most interesting season of NA Contenders this season because of GOATS evening the playing field. Teamwork being rewarded greater than individual mechanical skill means organizations cannot just pay to pick up the best mechanically gifted players and have them slot into roles seamlessly. But, once Blizzard nerfs GOATS into the ground, we will be back to Academies dominating, and your underdogs that have shown up more recently (Second Wind, Skyfoxes, Square One) will be pushed back down.

GGMentality: Overall, I am not a fan of changes. The gutting of the European region doesn’t make sense and it feels like a personal insult to a lot of people in the European scene, though I understand the financial motivations. What I don’t understand is where the disconnect is between early statements of expanding NA Contenders for Academy teams, and recently announcing that there will be no new teams added in next OWL season, which doesn’t project one understood direction within organizers. There has been a large influx of players from Europe in NA Contenders, which has made up some interesting clashes of styles in tournaments when it comes to types of compositions and how the compositions are being run.

What makes me sad is that import rules have kept the region from becoming competitive and the result is clearly visible in match results and in drops of viewership. It used to be that NA got more viewers, but recently I have seen a major drop as the quality of performance of the teams have dropped as well. My belief is that, for the scene to be sustained healthily, there must be a clear flow of talent from each level of play, and if we start to see sub-acceptable play in such a high level, it might spell not so good news for the scene as a whole.

 

The Game Haus thanks Blizzard, DarkZero, Tyche, applewud and GGMentality for taking the time for the interview amidst a busy NA Contenders season. Be sure to tune into the Contenders Twitch Channel on Mondays and Wednesdays to catch all of the NA Contenders action.

 


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