I recently got an opportunity to speak with Zebbosai and SoOn after they returned from a victory at the Overwatch Open. After coming through the European side of the tournament, Misfits took out EnVyUs to win the biggest tournament in the West. They had defied expectations by knocking out NiP, Rogue, and nV with two new players that had been added a mere fortnight before the tournament.
I sat down with the Lucio and Reaper from that winning roster to pick their brains on the experience of winning an Overwatch major. This interview was conducted verbally and the following is a transcript of excerpts from that discussion:
First of all guys, I've gotta say congratulations. You won the Overwatch Open despite the roster issues and it was a ridiculous run. What I instantly want to ask you though is - do you consider yourselves the best team in the world now, or is there more in your eyes to that title? Do you feel like the best team would have to win multiple titles or over a long period of time, or beat other regions?
Zebbosai: Yeah, I don’t think we can consider ourselves the best team in the world. We've gotta win more titles, and over some time. It can’t just be a one time thing, we've gotta play more tournaments.
SoOn: For me, there are three top teams in Europe and they are playing pretty close. We are strong on KOTH, Rogue on payload and CP maps too, and NiP have a strong comp.
Zebbosai: ...and REUNITED is good too.
Do you think any of those three teams could have won the tournament? Where would you have put them coming into the Overwatch Open and what did you do better?
Z: Before the tournament I’d say NiP, REUNITED, Rogue, and us had a good chance, and then FaZe played good at the event so obviously they had a chance too, but I don’t know. We just turned up on day two and played really well.
And I think we learned a lot from our losses; we lost to NiP in the Lenovo Cup a week prior to that, and we changed comp and it was much better. Then we lost to Rogue at the event itself and fixed issues - people stopped being mad. I think mostly our losses made us able to win because we fixed so many issues from them.
S: And for NA, obviously EnVyUs. I guess in NA they are not so good teams - they are good players but they haven’t reach a step. Like NRG: they are bad but they are good players.
Z: We have a big advantage in Europe being able to practice against top teams all the time.
After the tournament, a number of people were asking, "have nV shot themselves in the foot by moving to NA?" Was their lack of practice part of the reason why you were able to beat them, and even in a more definite fashion than against Rogue? That European final was much closer than the Grand Final against EnVyUs.
Z: Yeah I think the EU side is a bit ahead right now, but nV couldn't know that when they moved. It might as well have been the NA side being better because Cloud9 was really good back then. They were winning everything and we didn't really know if Europe or NA was better, so they couldn't have known that.
I dont know, at the moment I think the EU scene is stronger because we’ve always had three or four top teams the whole time - it used to be Dignitas but now NiP is there. There's always so many teams to practice, compared to nV who only have one. But I think if they were in Europe they would just be one of those top teams. They would trade tournaments just like we have done in Europe. They wouldn't win everything.
S: But nV are still strong. When I played versus them on Kings Row, when I got Ana boost I'm instantly countered by Reinhardt or Sleep or something, they have good teamplay.
Z: Yeah their teamplay is really good. I think if nV were in Europe they would be like us and Rogue etc. We would trade tournaments, trade games - they wouldn't be dominating. But I think they'd definitely be up at the top for sure, they're a great team and they have such good teamwork compared to any other team I think.
Misfits at Gamescom. Photo Credit: ESL
You guys got knocked out in the groups of the Atlantic showdown by the two NA teams and pretty much blown away, what lessons did you take away from that tournament?
Z: At that event we had like... Zaprey was a great player and is a great player, but it was his first event and he was very nervous. He couldn't perform as he did online so that hurt us a bit obviously. Then we lost, but the games were very close versus Fnatic.
Now we have more experience and we had played at a LAN together. We deal with losses so much better now, we improve from them but back then... Before that event we were doing so well online. We didn't really lose! So when we started losing we were kinda getting mad, but we learned how to deal with that much better now.
S: Before the event we won many cups, we are pretty favourite. But since gamescom, many people underestimate us. They forgot the results online and they didn't know Zaprey tilted. After the gamescom with Zaprey, we lose versus ANOX during some qualifier and its very hard for us. When Zaprey leave... wow that was so, so bottom.
Z: Thing is, now we have Nevix who can flex a lot on dps. SoOn is great on Tracer/McCree etc. and Zaprey could kinda play the same heroes (Tracer, McCree, Reaper), but now Nevix and SoOn can play a dps role each and fill that role very well.
So when you lost Zaprey you say it was a bad point for the team?
Z: When we lost Zaprey we had experimented a bit with having him on flex support and Nevix dps. So that was partly the reason he decided to quit because we weren't removing him, we were trying to fix the issue. But when he left, we started to ask people but I don't know... it was so close to the LAN.
We trialled a few people and we kinda liked them, asked them, "Do you have a passport?" and they all just said, "No". So we couldn't take them because they couldn't get a passport in time - it was like a week before we were leaving.
So then we trialled with Hidan. He didn't have a passport either but luckily his parents are from Portugal so he could fly there and get a passport much faster than he could in say, France. That’s sort of why we went with Hidan; he was good and he was the only one able to get a passport.
Ahaha that's so ridiculous! What a strange situation. So then the other question is why ryb? Is that because of your long history with him [in TF2]? He was playing flex for OWKings right, I think he played tank originally but he's not known as world class tank talent is he?
Z: As soon as skip said he couldn't play, I just said I'm gonna call ryb. It wasn't even a discussion, I just went with ryb right away. I know him very well, he's clutch at LAN, and both me and Nevix played with him in Impulse 11 and he had a tank role in that team, so we knew he could play tank. I didn't expect him to do as well as he did, but there was no-one else in my thoughts whatsoever when it came to getting a tank replacement.
Well that worked out for you guys as well. Tell me about Nevix moving from support to dps, what’s his role within the team, which heroes do you like to put him on? He seems so competent on everything.
Z: At gamescom everyone played Genji a lot, so we thought we'd need a Genji player and Nevix pretty much only played Genji on ranked. That's why we swapped to begin with and then Hanzo was also gonna get a buff. We expected Hanzo to be played a lot more and we didn't have a Hanzo player, so Nevix could play that too.
At the moment his role is kinda odd because Kryw is the flex player but he really only plays Zarya and Pharah. So Nevix plays pretty much everything but mostly Mei, Genji - Reaper when SoOn or Kryw doesn't play it - he plays Zarya on KOTH because then we want Kryw on Reaper. We just put him on any role pretty much and he performs on it.
He had an interview at ELEAGUE where the interviewer said, “Who is the best at your favourite hero?" and Nevix said - it was brilliant, he said, "Can I say myself?”
Z: Ahahah we talked about this, and he was asking that genuinely - if he could mention himself before he did the answer. So he did another answer after that, but they decided to take this one in the interview. But he excels mostly at Genji and Mei I guess, he also has a great Hanzo but we never run Hanzo. He can pick up any role.
S: The strength of Nevix: he can play everything and he is good with everything. And that’s so good for us 'cause when we decide to change meta, to play Mei Reaper etc. he is so good with Mei. So we are better than many teams that we won versus, NiP, Rogue, nV, 'cause he plays so well with Mei.
How important was Mei in the Overwatch Open tournament meta? Obviously the icewall was being used well to pick out targets and block off spam etc., but how many engagements rely on the Mei?
S: For me, Mei is the most difficult hero to master because of right clicks, and left click you need to predict. The wall - you can win a free fight because of wall and where you put it. Put it pretty good, in front of supports, and you can win the fight easily like we did vs NiP and nV and Rogue. For me, if Nevix is good on the match, we won, obviously.
Z: Especially in the initial fight, where there is no ultimates whatsoever to think of, we just go with the wall. I ask Nevix, "Can you wall, do you have a wall you can put, a good one?". And then he just does it, and we go with it 'cause then we can separate and get a pick right away.
We set up the fights differently when we have ultimates obviously but hitting that wall, especially in the initial fights when there is no ultis, if you can separate a few and kill them it’s super super important.
He’s also great with the aim, the right click. He doesn't get a lot of camera-time (or he didn't at the event because they were on SoOn all the time) but Nevix hits a lot of the right clicks too and if you hit those that's a lot of damage.
Right, right. OK I wanna ask - what was your approach to getting Hidan and ryb into the system of Misfits in two weeks?
Z: With ryb we didn't really tell him. We told him some stuff on monkey: what we wanted him to do, similar stuff to skipjack does. But when it came to Reinhardt we didn't really tell him what to do at all. We adapted a bit to his playstyle, and he is kinda similar to skip as well I guess.
With Hidan, we gave him a few pointers. But mostly during the bootcamp, when we played online, we were playing with Zenyatta; so when we picked up Ana it was kinda up to him to decide how to play it and we didn't really tell him too much. They just adapted into our style.
Did the team click immediately with the new recruits?
S: During practice some days ago, after some scrims, we saw we beat many top teams and I said, "Woh, we are so good with 2 subs! What happened?" But it is like gamescom: I said we are good online, every time, but we need to be good offline. That's what I expected when we were playing versus Rogue in the groups stage. We lose, we see the same mistakes like we do at gamescom and we fix that really fast... We didn't expect to go so far.
Z: Online it clicked right away. I think like a day or two after we took in both ryb and Hidan we beat REUNITED in a cup online. So online it just clicked right away. We were mostly worried about LAN like SoOn is saying, because after we lost to Rogue it felt just like gamescom. Communication went bad, people were getting mad, kinda raging.
This time we were able to sort it out; I think the bootcamp helped with that because we got closer. We were able to communicate on another level, we weren't strangers, we were all friends and we had been hanging out for a week.
What did you think of the meta coming into the tournament, the NiP strat and Ana vs Zenyatta?
Z: Going into the tournament, we were playing cancer comp [Zenyatta/Lucio/Winston/Zarya/Genji/Tracer] and we were beating everyone so easily. Everyone that ran Ana we just ran them over, but then at the bootcamp we lost to NiP. They used to play 3x3, then that game they played 4x2 with a monkey instead and our comp wasn't as effective.
We tried a few comps and we landed on this one [Ana/Lucio/Reinhardt/Zarya/Mei/Reaper]. That’s mostly why - if we hadn't lost to NiP online there's no way we’d win the LAN, 'cause we thought we could beat everyone with our comp, because we were doing that online in Europe.
What are your thoughts on Ana versus Zenyatta? I noticed that coming into the tournament Hidan seemed to be playing way more Zen, and then as the tournament went on he went more towards Ana, apart from on Control where you still ran the Zen.
S: For me, Ana... I don't get the same vision like Zebbosai. For me, Ana - since the beginning, since we play cancer comp - I said, "No guys, Ana is so strong! We need to play Ana instead of Zen!" And Zebbo said, "No, let's play Zen, it's good, we can discord, etc."
But I play Tracer and I see it’s easier to kill a Zen than a Ana, 'cause Ana got a strange hitbox. It’s hard to aim, she can heal with grenade, there are many things like that. Zenyatta is so easy, the hitbox is big and he can’t heal himself so for me I always say Ana is better, but...
Z: Initially we played this cancer comp with monkey Genji Tracer, so we just dive. Our Ana would just be all alone, but once we changed our comp so we had Reinhardt and Mei, we move slower as a team and our Ana for sure is a lot more effective.
But I still, on KOTH for example, I still think Zenyatta is a lot better. And I think we proved that at the event because before the event at the bootcamp we also talked a lot with Method and I told them, "Play Zen, play zen." Then they beat both Fnatic and Cloud9 on KOTH, so I think the Zenyatta is a lot stronger on KOTH.
Coming into it, a lot of analysts were thinking that either NiP would win or whoever beat NiP would win. I know you said you had the Mei composition, but did you have a special strat against them, was it different compared to the other teams?
Z: Yeah the comp we used, we used it pretty much versus every team but we made it to beat NiP. That's why we did the Mei Reaper thing. On that aspect, we were a bit confident since we had made this comp and we believed in that comp and thought it was good. But then versus NiP we focused Hymzi a lot - compared to when we play other teams, we don't pick a certain hero or target as much as when we played NiP.
Speaking of that, how do you play against Hymzi? It seems like whenever he lands a hook that's almost it, they get a pick and it can ruin your plan.
S: Thing is, Roadhog is a good pick because if you hook someone you start 6v5. And if you want to play slowly, you can’t 'cause Roadhog gets good spam onto shields. So the only way against it is the cancer comp, so that's why we play cancer, we need to be aggressive.
But the thing is, the Ana is protected so well, so we found the alternative is Mei. If you put a good Mei wall, Ana can’t heal the guy who is walled and it’s a free kill. It’s like the hook for Roadhog, we divide the team in two and we kill them, so we win the fight.
You had one situation against NiP in overtime that was insane. You were on Gibraltar, I think it was the first map of the series, and both teams completed the map. Then in the overtime they defend first and held you at the top of the slope, and you had like a minute to hold but you couldn't let them get up the slope at all. It was like the opposite of how you'd normally hold the point, you normally let it get up the slope, or at least to the bottom, so what was going through your heads going into that?
Z: What we kinda fear with that comp is a Pharah, because we can't really shoot a Pharah. They picked a Pharah and as soon as we saw that, we called, "OK let's fight aggressively underneath so the Pharah can't shoot us from distance."
Once we took a fight like that we were always gonna be the favourites because the Pharah has to get really close to us and he isn't really effective in that way. Plus Nevix walled like two off, right off the bat, and we got two easy picks. They had to regroup and zappis swapped off the Pharah right away and went Mei, but at that point we had already gained ulti advantage. Then Nevix just kept walling and few by few we killed those and eventually we got it.
From the outside that seemed like a sick clutch of a map, did you feed off it? Are you a momentum based team in that kinda way?
Z: I think we at least used to be a very momentum based team, now we’re better with dealing with losing. If we lose we can still regroup but... that moment doesn't stick out to me. On Gibraltar what stuck out to me was when we capped the 2nd point: we’d just lost the fight and there was maybe 20 seconds or so remaining and we all spawned. We reached the payload with like 2 seconds remaining and then we actually capped it, I think that gave us a lot of momentum boost in general.
I think that was the key to the game. And then sure the overtime was good and all, but after the initial fight it was kinda lost, 'cause they picked the Pharah and when we fight underneath he isn't effective. Then we had the ulti advantage and Nevix got Mei ulti so fast. If he puts it underneath there, they cant move whatsoever so, I don't know, I just felt like the first fight on the 2nd hangar was more the one that boosted our momentum.
Overwatch is a game with a ton of teamfights, so is that something that you try to specialise in as a caller? What do you focus on when setting up a fight, are you always looking for a pick or setting up your players' positioning...?
S: After the loss versus Rogue, I said, "OK now Nevix - call the wall. If Nevix walls, we engage the fight." We stay close to ryb and when we see a wall, when Nevix calls the wall, Zebbosai gives speed and we engage the fight. After that, everybody on the team can focus someone - if someone calls focus, everybody focus. It can be me, Zebbo, anybody.
Z: It’s very different though. When we play NiP, everything is about the Mei ult kinda, like we have to isolate someone and then we go for that target. But when we play a team like Rogue it’s a lot more about going in aggressive and having a big deathmatch. It isn’t very tactical, just mechanical skills mostly. We just call, "Let's speed in!", and we fight. Whereas versus Nip we have to think more about fights and isolate certain targets so we can kill them fast.
What was it like going into the EU Finals vs Rogue? You've played against them many times before, you must know the styles of each other, what was the gameplan?
S: Except gamescom, we always beat Rogue 3-2. We're always lucky versus them and it's always close versus them. We know we beat NiP, and I said, "Yeah guys, we know we can beat Rogue. We beat NiP, it’s impossible to lose. We are so strong with Nevix Mei, we got the new comp, we are so strong." And that's it, we get the motivation.
Z: Yeah, like SoOn said, online in officials we had beaten Rogue several times. We knew we could do it. And when we watched the VOD from the first group day, we saw on gibraltar it was super super close. We lost terribly on overtime because they pushed it far, but that wasn't really cause we played bad, it’s just they got momentum rolling. Then Hollywood we kinda tried to forget cause we knew our atmosphere was shit then, because we had problems after losing on gibraltar.
The tournament format was pretty weird, it was like two in one, did you feel like you’d already gone through the tournament after beating Rogue, or were you focused on the Grand Final immediately?
Z: No, no, we were obviously very very happy but everyone just said all the time, "It’s not over, it’s not over, we gotta play tomorrow." I went back to the hotel, me and Nevix watched through some nV VODs and we prepared for that game right away.
What did you think of nV coming into that grand final? We discussed it a bit before and you didn't consider them some kind of dominant superteam like some analysts made them out to be, but how did you approach them? You've not played them very much before.
S: When Zebbo and Nevix watched the VODs, I was talking with uNKOE at the hotel and I saw nV watching all our VODs. They took one, two, maybe three hours on the PC watching VODs and I said to my teammates, "OK guys, they watched every VOD, they know what we do." Because we play only one comp. We play Mei comp.
So we know they play Pharah, 'cause in the NA scene they love to play Pharah/Mercy, and they did this during the tournament for some maps. So we know what they’re doing: they will play Pharah Mercy sometimes in the map, so we said, "OK, when they play Pharah/Mercy, Nevix switch off to McCree."
Z: We knew they were gonna try to counter our comp with Pharah Mercy. So on King's Row defence for example on the first point, I told Nevix to play McCree, not Mei, because we kinda knew they were gonna do that. We were very prepared on what they were gonna do to try to counter us and we could just deal with it with a single McCree.
Same happened on gibraltar, they tried the Pharah Mercy but Nevix shuts it down with his McCree and they go back to normal. And we can also go back to Mei again which we are more comfortable with.
Obviously I think the map veto was great for us, getting two KOTHs in there. Even though we lost on KOTH, I think that was mostly down to us and also Taimou having a great game on Roadhog, but we were too indecisive with the comp because when we started losing, people go like, "Aahhh we need to swap comp, blah, blah, blah."
But then for the last KOTH I just said no, we’re gonna play cancer and only cancer. Even if we lose, we’re only playing that. I remember SoOn, he wanted to play Ana but then I said, “No, no, we’re playing Zenyatta.”, and he said, “I trust you.”
Beautiful. A big storyline for the event was that you managed all this with two new players. Do you think you were disadvantaged by the fact you had two new players in?
Z: I don’t think it affected us at all. With Hidan it was definitely like an upgrade I think, not only 'cause of Hidan, but Nevix can play dps role as well and he’s very good at it. In general I didn't feel... I didn't think that we had two subs, that was nothing I thought of. It worked so good at the bootcamp and yeah. I don't know, I didn't think of it whatsoever.
Well I will just congratulate you again on your win at the Overwatch Open, and ask if you have any shoutouts?
S: Thanks to Misfits, who trusted in us since the beginning. We played bad on gamescom and I’m so happy to have won this tournament for them. Thanks for the people who support Misfits and thanks for you, Sideshow.