Overwatch has become a fiery melting pot for those who are able to create teams in the beta. Fans have been clamouring for entrance over the past few months, drawn in by fast-paced action, interesting game design, and the name behind it: Blizzard.
Along with the magnetic fun-factor this game indubitably holds, what has been enticing a lot of these players to take the game seriously is the widely-held assumption that the game will be backed by Blizzard's sizeable enthusiasm, and equally sizeable wallet. Players have flooded in from other genres, tournaments have been popping up like daisies, and (among cries of disheartenment from fans who haven't made it to the beta) the buzz of deep excitement can be clearly heard.
Blizzard's policy with high-profile invitations to the beta has seemingly been to scoop the disheartened cream from the top of other failed FPS esports, combining the elite from games such as Battlefield 4, Firefall, Shootmania, and TF2. These players and teams share a similar motivation to be the kings of a newly-discovered world, and have the same belief in Overwatch's potential to be so much more than whichever old dead game they left in the dust. This influx of talent has been fabulous for spectators, as the skill level was instantly driven far higher in initial competition. However, for those fans who haven't followed the myriad FPS titles preceding Overwatch, context is required to appreciate these top talents as more than simply random newcomers.
One such group of players, a handful of the TF2 European elite, decided to form a team for the Overwatch beta in November. Leaving behind the most dominant dynasty in EU TF2, they transferred their incredible talent laterally, creating a new arc to their storyline. Along the way, they have added some talented individual players from the CIS region, and in late November the ex-TF2 pros were signed by G2. For any new spectator to Overwatch though, this tells us almost nothing. Who were these players before Overwatch, and what can we extract from their history?
G2 OW roster:
- Mitsy (Manager)
From a historical point of view, G2 is split into two parts. The core of the team, providing the in-game leadership and synergy, is comprised of KnOxXx, numlocked, and MikeyA. These players have a three year history together on some of the greatest teams ever seen in European TF2, and were the best players in their respective roles for the majority of that time. When all three played at their peak together, the result was the most dominant dynasty TF2 had ever seen. These players were the driving force behind that superteam (Epsilon eSports), as they combined superlative fragging ability with decisive calls. KnOxXx and numlocked were the co-IGLs for the TF2 team, and have kept that interplay in G2 as well. The pair were renowned as the best callers in TF2 for many years, not only on Epsilon but in later teams as well. Their in-depth knowledge of the game and occasional clash of styles created an equilibrium, with KnOxXx dictating the tactical flow of the game while numlocked provided focus calls, direction within teamfights, and a large motivational component. Unlike some other IGLs in TF2 and other esports, this responsibility never detracted from numlocked's ability to put out insane amounts of damage, frags, and pressure during games. He was also backed up at all times by MikeyA, universally recognised as the best projectile deathmatcher the game had seen. His rocket and shotgun aim was unsurpassable, and could instantly change the tide of a fight in his favour. KnOxXx, numlocked, and MikeyA were the best IGL, demoman, and soldier respectively for over two years.
These three players dominated the global TF2 scene for two years just before and after 2013, utterly crushing any and all opposition. Playing under Epsilon eSports, they won every single BO3 match they ever played, dropping only two maps in over 15 months. Their overall record in maps was 75-2, with a streak of 27, then 30, won maps. The same team, broder/TCM, won both maps against them, both after being tied in regular time and requiring extra time to decide the outcome. These three players, at their peak together, never lost a map in regulation time. This record spanned three domestic league seasons and a world championship at i49. After the dissolution of Epsilon eSports, these players featured in a variety of other top teams, each being the stars of their respective lineups and winning further league seasons, European tournaments and finishing highly at later world championships.
In additional to the wealth of FPS experience that these three players clearly have, numlocked brings a unique MOBA-esque insight from his days playing semi-professional League of Legends. After making it to the top of the TF2 scene, numlocked decided he preferred the climb rather than the view, and looked towards the mountainous peaks of LCS for his next challenge. After reaching the heady heights of professional LoL - playing from a gaming house in Turkey, surrounded by people who didn't speak English, all from within a dead-end team - he decided to call off his League career and return to play Overwatch. With core design components that blend FPS and MOBA qualities, numlocked's LoL experience and awareness of teamfights using abilities and ultimates should pay dividends for G2.
Alongside the core of KnOxXx, numlocked, and MikeyA are the individual talents. ShaDowBurn and Forsak3n are players with excellent projectile and hitscan aim, known in TF2 for their mechanical skill and ability to carry when on form. Although Overwatch rewards this mechanically strong style of play far less than other FPS games, ShaDowBurn has shown with his recent Genji performances that it is possible to have a large impact as a single player. His stellar performances on Genji (with help from KnOxXx's Orb of Harmony) have helped G2 close out difficult maps in recent tournaments. The russian duo have played in the best CIS teams in TF2, as well as featuring in some strong multinational lineups like Season 21 runners up The Last Resort and i55 third place Reason Gaming. Communication has been highlighted as a potential weakness for these two players, but with such strong personalities in the joint IGL roles, keeping their mouths shut and following orders may result in wins. In this lineup, they appear to fill the role of talented, malleable units that KnOxXx and numlocked can shape as they see fit, all the while remaining secure in the knowledge that they will perform those tasks consistently.
Player Roles & Performances
The missing piece for G2 at the moment is a primary support role. While numlocked previously occupied this slot, he has moved to primary tank in order to make his calling easier. While the meta of Overwatch will be constantly shifting in these early months, at the moment the team appears to be rooted in some clearly defined composition ideas. KnOxXx is playing the secondary support role, often seen on Zenyatta and previously on Lucio, helping the tanks of numlocked and Forsak3n hold the front line. In the background, MikeyA plays a pure dps role on heroes such as Soldier76, Reaper and McCree, while ShaDowBurn perfects his harass/dps heroes of Genji and (to a lesser extent) Pharah.
G2 has already competed in five Overwatch tournaments, finishing 3rd in the AlphaCast European Tournament #2, reaching the semi-finals in the GosuGamers Overwatch Weekly EU #3, and overcoming REUNITED.gg to win the GosuGamers Overwatch Weekly EU #4. These are promising results for a team without a stable 6th player, but G2 should (and will) be aiming for nothing less than the top spot in Europe. This team has the pedigree.