Blizzard is pouring loads of resources into creating the next big thing with the Overwatch League, and despite some early hiccups everything is coming together… This is a whole new world for esports! With multi-million dollar investors intrigued, the professional scene is set to explode! To hear what it’s like inside the hype, we sat down with the head coach of NRG Esports’ new Overwatch team!
Hi there! Mind starting with a little introduction?
Hey, I’m Brad ‘sephy’ Rajani, head coach for NRG Esports and representing San Francisco in the Overwatch League! I’m also a former owner of Selfless Gaming, where I co-coached our Overwatch team until this last summer.
How did you first get into competitive gaming?
In 1996, I installed Command & Conquer on my PC. Maybe a week later, I noticed a little icon in the game folder that linked to the TEN gaming network. I connected with my 56k modem and it was like opening a door to a different world! I attended my first tournament in Seattle two years later, took 3rd at the PGL Season 1 Finals, and then went on to play semi-professionally in… 15 or so different FPS titles over the following two decades. Somewhere along the way I became teammates with Skadoodle, and through him I met Emongg, Michael3d, Chilly, and Juvenile – who some may recognize as early members of the Selfless Overwatch roster.
How did you discover Overwatch, and what made you commit to it?
Simply put, my friends got beta invites and I followed them into the game. I fell in love instantly; Overwatch struck me as one of the most beautiful riddles I’d ever encountered. Even now, my thirst to “solve” it is insane!
We recently got some big hero changes to Mercy and D.Va. How do you see their roles changing in pro play?
Most NA teams are still scrimming on the old patch because of Contenders, so my direct experience is limited so far. That said, I think the drop in Lucío’s pick rate in APEX Challengers is quite telling! The initial solution to Mercy’s new Resurrect seems to be to keep damage high, especially with both Zenyatta and Soldier in the mix. This isn’t always possible, especially on maps where these heroes are forced to fight up-close (like in King of the Hill). At the same time, you always want to snipe Mercy if she’s in a bad position, so high-mobility heroes like Winston and Tracer are quite appealing as well.
With regards to D.Va, she’s still really good, especially if the map geography is one that she can use well like King’s Row. She’s a great counter-pick to Winston, but she can also be used offensively and has great snowball potential. If you get an initial pick, she can quickly boost forward to get more followup frags alongside Tracer. She can also win a 1v1 against Soldier:76 as long as he’s within flight range now, which is new. Overall, D.Va requires more coordination to use properly. Especially with her shorter Defense Matrix, the engagement timings need to be very precise or else people just die!
The NRG Overwatch League roster has been revealed and the hype is real! What is the energy on the team like right now?
Energy is high and the vibe is lit! All of the players and staff are super excited to begin this crazy journey in the Overwatch League together.
What sort of activities do you include in a typical practice session?
At this early stage, we’re mostly starting with scrims and group discussion. Once everyone is together in Los Angeles and we’ve hired more staff, the structure and variety of what we do is going to increase, both in-game and outside it. To be honest, we’re still kicking around ideas on this front; I want to strengthen the team without overloading the players or maxing out their attention span. We need to boil down the bonding and practice to something succinct and incremental. This is how you get the best results, and this is where the support staff will shine!
What’s one thing that the average Overwatch player would benefit from learning from the pros?
The value of a voracious attitude and refusing to limit yourself. Regardless of your innate talent level, the coolest thing you can be is a tryhard. There’s nothing cool about accepting failure, and there’s a reason that people know who Roger Federer is – but not Marat Safin. For an example in the world of esports, Michael3d is about to turn 35. That’s an age that most people think is just too old to be a pro gamer, and yet the man was dominating North American Overwatch with Selfless just a few months ago! Hard work is legendary.
Tell us how you see the future of esports.
Here’s the thing: people fall in love with esports once they’ve discovered it, and they hardly ever fall out. It’s been a part of my life for over two decades now and I’ve seen it go from nothing to the big leagues, so it’s hard to imagine anything other than a bright future ahead!
There’s certain to be fierce competition when the Overwatch League officially launches in January. Anyone looking like your informal rivals yet?
It’s too early to call rivals! Teams are still forming and we’re separated by oceans… but London and Seoul are the favorites coming in, of course.
Thanks for joining us! Any final shoutouts?
This might be a little weird, but shoutout to all of the investors in the OWL. As a former org owner I really respect and appreciate people willing to take big gambles on esports and make the dream possible. And another shoutout to my former teammates: Emongg, Michael3d, Kresnik, LegitRC, Dafran, Sinatraa, and Dhak. I love you guys!