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Toronto Defiant: Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson’s Early Expectations

Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson truly offers a certain insight not many Overwatch League analysts can match. His understanding of the game and his knowledge of the competitive scene provide a creative style of content few in the biz can match.

Through his YouTube content and multiple podcast appearances, Sideshow has been very active this offseason. His recent appearances on Tactical Crouch and OverSight featured some insightful takes on many teams heading into the 2019 season.

With a team like the Toronto Defiant carrying so many unknown factors heading into 2019, Sideshow had plenty of insight to offer.

On a recent episode of Tactical Crouch, you revealed your power rankings heading into Overwatch League 2019. Have you made any alterations since then?

I haven’t made any changes to them at the moment. Mostly because I have a feeling that there might still be some information to be released before the league actually goes live within the next [few] days.

If people decide to add players to their roster or announce the fact that they’ve already added players or some teams have not announced coaches that I know they’ve picked up behind the scenes and so I can’t talk about that until the teams actually announce them officially so I haven’t made any changes to the Power Rankings.

Sideshow Overwatch
Atlanta Reign Head Coach Brad “Sephy” Rajani

There’s definitely some teams that I’m looking at moving around based on new information that’s come to light. For instance, Brad of the Atlanta Reign recently went on OverSight with Monte and Thorin and was talking about some of the ways they are mitigating the potential potholes that the team might face throughout the season.

It’s an incredibly skilled team but they have a lot of intangibles that might come back to bite them. If the coaching staff really has a good handle on how to manage that team, they’re much more likely to reach their potential.

How did you go about establishing your rankings for the eight new franchises making their debuts this season?

Part of it is based on the strength of their roster, or what I expect the strength of their roster to be. I’m quite familiar with the Korean Contenders scene and am reasonably familiar with the European, North American and to a slightly lesser extent the Chinese scene. When I was doing prep for this season of OWL, I went back and watched a ton of VODs, probably 100 hours, maybe 200 hours worth of VOD footage of some of these players… I want to make sure I’m giving them a fair assessment based on their previous performances.

Sideshow Overwatch
(Image Courtesy of the Overwatch League)

Some of it’s based on the roster strength and the star talents that I think I’ve identified. There are some really weak players in my opinion coming into the league compared to the existing talent. Whenever I say players are weak or players have performed poorly in the past I’m comparing it based on the other 180 people in the league. We’re talking about the top 1% of the 1% of the 1%. A lot of it’s based on that, but also the way that the roster’s constructed. Who the coaching staff is, what the communication issues might be like, whether or not they have a core of another team.

For an example, the Guangzhou Charge have three different languages. They have Chinese people who speak Mandarin, Korean people and then people from North America and England who speak English and their primary method of communication will be English. Originally that would seem like a big hurdle for them to overcome.

Sideshow Overwatch
(Image Courtesy of Liquipedia)

We saw the Shanghai Dragons try and do this last season and it just failed spectacularly. Crucially, the four Meta Bellum players that form their core all received English tutoring while in Korea. It makes a big difference knowing stuff like that because what would have been a big hurdle for them to overcome, has actually kind of already been solved.

Currently you have Toronto ranked 13th overall and 5th in the Atlantic division. What are some factors (apart from Neko’s suspension) that you took into consideration when establishing the ranking for this team?

They have a lot of upcoming talent that I think could be very good. However, the way that they’ve been constructed is that they’ve basically pulled pieces from a lot of different contenders teams and a lot of potential talent and put it together. So in order for them to succeed, not only does their scouting have to be good… but they also have to have a good philosophy on how to build a team. It’s no good just slinging together good players. You also have to have a good idea of how they’re going to play together, be able to teach them how to play well together and be able to coach them effectively.

There are a few challenges for that team to be able to overcome even though there roster looks actually fairly decent on paper. If you compare that to some of the other teams that have kept a core together, they’ll actually be starting at a slightly lower level I think. They’re the kind of team that won’t have that synergy straight off the bat; certainly compared to the other expansion teams that have been playing together for at least a year. They’ll have to really work hard at the beginning of the season.

Sideshow Overwatch
Toronto Defiant Main Tank: Gyeong-mu “Yakpung” Jo

I think in terms of the individual skill that they have on their roster, the coaches speak very highly of Yakpung. I’ve watched quite a bit of his footage and I think he’s a guy with quite a lot of potential. Given that the coaches seem to have a specific eye on him, we’ll see how he develops alongside envy. That could be a very effective tank line. I don’t think we’ll see any issues from it. I think it could be pretty strong. But again, there’s so much competition on tank lines and support lines in the league that I think it’s not really going to stand out, it’s just going to be pretty good.

Their backline I think is going to be okay. Aid is a pretty competent main support. I don’t think he’s as good as guys coming into the league like Jecse or iDK for example, but Aid is pretty strong. He’s paired alongside Neko who is probably the third best Zenyatta player/flex support in general. Again, there’s a lot of really strong talent that has come into the league. AimGod is now playing full time and he was as good as Neko pretty much. Viol2t has come into the league, Twilight has come into the league. There are a lot of strong players that [Neko] is going to have to compete against.

Sideshow Overwatch
Toronto Defiant DPS: Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee

Then for their DPS lineup, Ivy is basically the guy that they’re putting a lot of faith in. Ivy and Yakpung I think are their two big stars, their hidden gems that nobody else was able to find. If they’re able to get these guys to develop, they could be star players that people really take notice of.

A lot of it comes down to how the team coaching works. If you were to rate the Toronto Defiant very highly I think you’d have to have a lot of faith in their coaching staff and their coaching staff hasn’t really proven that they’re up to a challenge like this yet. I think there’s good reason to be optimistic, but there is no proven record of them being able to handle a task like this. I think you have to hedge your bets a little bit and expect them to succeed in some departments and perhaps not in others.  

The Toronto Defiant are entering the season with one of their best veteran players suspended for the first three games of stage one. (Neko) How much of an effect will this have on the team’s overall season success?

I think this is going to be a big deal for them. As far as I’m aware, having talked to their coaching staff, They have no plans of picking up another Zen to run as a backup during that time. I think they have plans to swap one of the people that would normally be playing main support; either RoKy or Aid, onto Zenyatta. It’s unlikely they’re going to be as good as Neko. That would be crazy, and I don’t know what their practice is going to be like.

Sideshow Overwatch
Toronto Defiant Flex Support: Se-hyeon “Neko” Park

If you put yourself in their shoes. Do you want to practice for the first three games? Or do you want to practice for the rest of the season? Would you rather have Neko in those games to be able to build the actual core and make sure that your guys are developing synergy for the rest of the season? Or do you really want to put stock in those first three games? I don’t know how best the coaching staff should balance that. Also, all three of those games are pretty winnable for the Toronto Defiant. If you think about where we expect the rest of those teams to stack up I would expect [the] Toronto Defiant to be on the level of Houston coming into the season. I don’t know really where Houston are going to be at, but just judging by the strength of their roster and how they should fit into this meta, I think the Defiant should have a good chance of being able to take that match even tho they’re a brand new team in the league.

Sideshow Overwatch
(Photo Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment)

With Atlanta, they might be a little outclassed in terms of pound for pound strength, but I think Defiant should be fairly even with Atlanta as well. Even though I’ve got the Valiant quite a bit higher in my power rankings, we don’t really know where they’re gonna be during the season. Some people are saying they’re overrated, Some people are saying they’re underrated. Nobody’s got a good read on the Valiant. These are three very winnable games and they don’t have one of their best players. That’s more than 10 percent of the season. There’s only 28 games in the whole season, so for 10 percent of them, they don’t have Neko.

With a coaching staff headlined by former Spitfire head coach Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee, Toronto seems adamant on establishing their own meta heading into season two. How do you anticipate this roster’s utilization heading into the current patch?

Well, It’s a difficult question because I don’t really know what is gonna be played in the current patch. I think the teams have some idea at the moment. Reportedly from scrims there’s been still quite a bit of GOATs being played, but some strange stuff as well… Some strange quad DPS kind of stuff where there’s a huge amount of DPS being played. Off tanks switching over to that. There should be some interesting things come Overwatch League.

The question is always, what are they actually going to run when it comes to match time? You can scrim with whatever you like, you can try out all sorts of strategies but that doesn’t mean you’re actually going to run them in matches.

Sideshow Overwatch
Toronto Defiant Head Coach: Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee

In terms of how the coaches are structured as well, I think Toronto have a pretty good method that should get the most out of their coaching staff. Like you said, Bishop was the head coach from London and he sets the strategy for the team. He’s kind of the interim between the two parts of their coaching staff as well because he’s the only one that speaks fluent Korean and English. He takes statistical analysis from Barroi; who used to run Winston’s Lab, and then brings it back to the other Strategic Coaches. Don, who does vod reviews with the team and Bubbly who does the one-on-one positional coaching with the players. Then they group together and discuss the statistical analysis that Barroi’s given to them and go through it.

I think they’ve got a nice system set up that should get them the most out of their coaching staff, but they have to really build from the floor; in some sense, because they will not have the same level of fundamental teamwork and coordination that other teams have because they’ve never played together before. They only started playing scrims in October/November and then they took a break over Christmas. They’re still a fairly young, new team. It normally takes new teams about two or three months to hit their stride, so I think the coaches will still be doing quite a bit of fundamental work at the moment. We might not see too many interesting niche strategies until maybe Stage 2.  

Winston’s Lab founder Dennis “Barroi” Matz is working close with the coaching staff as the lead Analyst for the Defiant, how much of an edge does this give the Defiant over other rosters without access to such in-depth analytical data? How can he impact the their strategy heading into 2019?

Sideshow Overwatch
(Image courtesy of Winston’s Lab)

Given that Barroi worked with a number of Overwatch League teams last season, and by all reports helped them in a lot of different ways, I think that he will be a valuable addition to the Toronto Defiant. I think; for starters, having him involved in the scouting process has lead to Toronto being able to pick up players that other people overlooked. I think just as a scout he’s already served a good purpose for the Toronto Defiant. I know he was very high on Yakpung for example, so if that pays off, then Toronto have already gotten their money’s worth in some sense.

In terms of the wider talk about statistics, I think if you have somebody set within your team that isn’t just wasting their time on statistics or splitting their time on statistics; that’s just their job, that’s all they’re doing, you can get a lot of value out of it.

The point of it should be to look at the numbers with a theory you have in mind. See if anything jumps out to you and then give it to the rest of your coaching staff to contextualize. If you find really interesting things in the numbers that are different from other teams, you can use that to highlight issues back with the coaching staff. For example, if you notice that one player in the league is getting a massive more percentage of Primal Rage kills than everybody else, then maybe he’s discovered some new tech that you didn’t quite realize just by looking at him.

Maybe if somebody’s out putting a ridiculous amount of damage from a position that you wouldn’t expect, It’ll clue you into looking a little bit deeper into how they set him up for success. I think there’s a range of ways you can use statistics to point you towards the correct questions to be asked. In that sense you’re using it more to inform the contextual decision making rather than just making decisions based on the statistics themselves.

Whenever people come up with this idea that statistics are unusable in Overwatch because there’s too much context, they are asking the complete wrong questions and judging it the wrong way. They are frequently trying to make decisions based on the numbers alone or asking questions that are too vague for the numbers ever to be able to help them. You really have to be specific with what you want stats to tell you in Overwatch. If you ask very vague wishy washy questions, then you’re going to get very vague unusable answers. Some specifics can be useful if properly contextualized. It requires a smart coaching staff to be able to interpret the statistics, but I think they will get use out of Barroi.

A sincere thank you to Sideshow for Sitting down to discuss the Toronto Defiant. Good luck in 2019 from all of us here at The Game Haus!

Be sure to catch the Toronto defiant in action Friday, February 15 verses the Houston Outlaws!


Featured Image Courtesy of  Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

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