Introduction: The Calm
With Overwatch, there seems to be an archetype for every different type of player in the game. There’s the reckless, exciting, and aggressive personalities from the DPS. With tank players, one might think of a confident and reliable leader. And the healers are almost always reserved, yet caring and insightful – this is what most people would see in Grant “Moth” Espe, the main support player for the San Francisco Shock.
However, last Friday’s dramatic C9 loss against the Atlanta Reign left Moth in an uncharacteristic whirl of emotions; for what felt like the first time, fans were stunned by his reaction of surprise, fear, and utter heartbreak. To Moth’s dismay, the Shock had been knocked down into the loser’s bracket.
This wouldn’t be the end of his 2019 Overwatch League playoffs run, though. Less than 24 hours later, Moth and the San Francisco Shock were back in the Blizzard Arena, and swept the London Spitfire to keep their championship dreams alive.
The postseason picture for the San Francisco Shock remains an enigma. But it’s still a work in process, and Moth is adamant in continuing his journey.
Would this loss define them?
The San Francisco Shock were headed into the 2019 Overwatch League Playoffs as the 3rd seed overall, but also as one of the favorites to win the Grand Finals. As one of the most dominant teams in the league, the Shock boasted playoffs appearances in all three stage finals, including a perfect, 28-0 ‘golden stage,’ which eventually led to their Stage 2 championship title.
However, some questions remained regarding their first-round matchup against the Atlanta Reign, who looked like a phoenix rising from the ashes of their previous struggles. No one could predict the outcome – and no one was prepared for the aftermath. The C9 on Rialto became an unforgettable image framed in Overwatch League history. But the San Francisco Shock couldn’t dwell on the mistake – they had less than a day to prepare for their potential elimination match, this time against the reigning champions, the London Spitfire.
“We weren’t in a very good place,” Moth admits, “and scrims before the [London Spitfire] match didn’t go very well.”
The way that Moth describes his team mentality on that morning can be compared to that of a lost wanderer, simply accepting his fate.
“We did a little bit of preparation with Bastion comps before the match, because that was something that we felt was really strong that we didn’t have a lot of prep with,” he explains. “It wasn’t a ton of preparation, obviously, because we didn’t have a lot of time. We just said, ‘have fun, play whatever you want, just try your best.’”
Despite the lack of preparation, the San Francisco Shock were successful in winning the fateful elimination match later that day. In a dominant, 4-0 victory, the San Francisco Shock were able to pick up exactly where they left off.
“[The London game] was more like, just trying our best without a lot of preparation,” Moth shrugs. “[It] was just a ton of aggression, having fun, and playing our best- whatever we wanted. So now going forward, we’re going to have to totally look over the meta again, reassess our strategies, and figure it out.”
While a team is constantly winning, it’s easy to have high spirits and the drive to perform. But the Shock had been quietly struggling to adapt to the new playoffs meta, where flexibility and quick improvements matter most of all.
When asked about how the team had been faring in the new metagame, Moth only had a few words to say: “Uh… I think we will adjust,” he nervously laughed.
However, Moth isn’t completely lost in the new changes. He’s always had insightful knowledge of the game and has a lot to say about the role he is to play with the San Francisco Shock during their remaining matches.
“Compared to stage 4, I’m doing a lot more calling, because last stage was a lot of Hanzo-Mei, double-sniper stuff, which is a lot more about taking angles and getting picks – less macro strategy,” he elaborates. “So this patch, with a lot of Mei-Reaper, it’s a lot more macro strategy again, similar to GOATs, with positioning, controlling tempo, and stuff like that.”
Even when in unfamiliar situations, Moth has been able to handle himself with equanimity. And to much surprise, he actually enjoys the current meta’s similarities to GOATs.
“I’ve been calling a lot more,” he continues. “I’m also back on Lucio, which is fun, and you get to play pretty aggressive this patch – it’s great. It’s more similar to GOATs than Stage 4, but with a little bit more Baptiste, too, which is nice.”
Such an in-depth, solid response would justify the assumption that Moth is confident in this metagame. But as the record shows, upsets have been too frequent in the playoffs for anyone to be comfortable – and he’s not going to make the mistake of being too confident.
“It’s hard to tell right now,” Moth concludes. “No team fully understands the meta still, so each matchup is going to be different. We’re just gonna work even harder than before. We have time to prep now, so we’re not going to take any breaks and go at it really hard, find out what the meta is, and … I dunno, we’ll just work harder.”
From Start to Finish
Moth has always been one of the hardest workers in his team, regardless of what roster he’s been on. As he’s nearing his third year of competing as a professional Overwatch player, Moth has rarely sat on the bench throughout his career. And this season, he’s played an Overwatch League record-breaking 171 maps in the regular season – only ever missing out on one map by his team in favor of exhibiting Dong-Jun “Rascal” Kim’s stellar Baptiste play.
“Like, before Overwatch League, I was never subbed out,” Moth explains. “[I] was always [the] only main support on every team I was on. I was always starting, every scrim, every map, every tournament. It wasn’t really something I had to adapt to. And I really enjoy the game, so it’s not like I feel like I’m going to burn out anytime soon. I’m just used to it.”
That last part might be a hidden key to the San Francisco Shock’s success. Moth has been able to thrive in any meta that he’s been thrown into, and has been able to perform every single day without fail. And despite early tribulations in the current patch, he’s confident that he and his team will make it back to the top. After all, that’s what’s demanded of him as a main support – to be intelligent, calculated, and composed.
After careful thinking, Moth only has one short statement to say to his next opponents, the Los Angeles Gladiators, and anyone else that the San Francisco Shock may face afterwards:
“We always come back stronger after losses.
This will be peak Shock.”
Feature image courtesy of Ben Pursell for the Overwatch League.
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