This is the first of a two-part interview with manOFsnow. This first part revolves around his involvement in Renegades during the Winter Premiere; in the second part manOFsnow gives his insight on choosing between becoming a professional player, being a coach, or being a full-time streamer.
Renegades stormed into the Winter Premiere last month, having qualified as Kingdom in first seed. The team boasted particular proficiency with a quad tank composition that saw them cruise through the first qualifier unbeaten, setting the trend for the North American meta that lasted a considerable amount of time.
Renegades had already changed two of their players between that qualifier run and the main tournament round robin, parting with Gods and Pookz and bringing in Jer and manOFsnow when the team signed to the org. The success continued unabated; Renegades went to a team house for a three-day bootcamp and plowed through their first four games without losing a map.
After returning from the bootcamp however, Zarya main manOFsnow was removed from the starting roster - returning to his role as a community streamer - as the team trialled kyb. At this point things went horribly downhill for Renegades; they lost the game against Immortals with kyb, brought back in manOFsnow and proceeded to lose their next two games against Liquid and Kungarna.
In the round robin of six that followed, manOFsnow remained on the roster for two more games - further losses to Immortals and Liquid - before leaving the team permanently. The team returned to playing with kyb, lost three games in a row, and were promptly eliminated in 6th place. They looked like they had completely lost the cohesion that allowed them victory early in the tournament, a theory that was given more context when manOFsnow published a Twitlonger describing his perspective on leaving.
A Brief Explanation Of The Winter Premiere Situation— manOFsnow (@manOFsnow) 20 January 2017
Renegades will be competing over the next five weeks in the Carbon Series tournament, facing many of the same opponents. They begin by rematching LG, with Winter Premiere rivals Immortals, Liquid, and compLexity also joined by Hammers.
I caught up with manOFsnow to talk about the situation with Renegades and how he views his former team’s potential moving forwards. I also took the time to grab his perspective on what’s involved in the choice between becoming a professional player, a full-time streamer, or entering the support staff for teams as a coach.
Since the interview, manOFsnow has released further details about the project he mentions within, teamOFsnow. Check out his tweet below if his talk on that topic interests you.
teamOFsnow announcement— manOFsnow (@manOFsnow) 11 February 2017
Your Twitlonger discussed some issues that arose throughout your time with Renegades, but can you tell me a little about the situation when you first joined the team?
manOFsnow: Sure. During our first four games, our team was at a bootcamp obviously and being in person allowed us to be more connected. I know that me personally, I’ve spent fourteen years playing sports growing up and I have a very good feel for how to work as a team. I made sure I did all the normal sports things with my teammates - they do a good play, I give them knucks or something and I say good job, after every game I shake people’s hands. That goes for a lot of the people.
Even when it came down to things like map review, when we were discussing how we wanted to approach certain choke points, being in a house made that so much easier. It was actually kind of unsettling because I've never been in a situation in real life discussing video games seriously with other people in a competitive mindset, so it was kind of strange but I got used to it.
What was the experience like being in a team house with those guys discussing it? What kind of situations did that bring up? Was it completely a positive experience that just allowed you to play more towards your potential?
m: I believe so yeah. Sometimes you have people, say you're trying to discuss a map online and somebody says, “I'll be right back gotta go to the bathroom” - they get caught up with something and so other people say, “hey I'm going to do something” and before you know it there's like two people left talking about the map. When everybody's in the same house you can't escape, you have to talk about the map, you have to do the work that’s at hand. So that was super super nice to have that. That was my first time actually being in person with the team so just straight up meeting people was kinda crazy.
So what was said to you when you were brought into the team? Because that was a point of contention that you went into a little bit in the Twitlonger, disputing whether or not you were starting for the whole tournament.
m: So basically, giving full insight into the situation, when we were on Kingdom our team was bought by Renegades. As part of that transition my role as well as Ajax’s role was vacated to make room for Gods and Pookz. It was at that point that I decided to move back to streaming and I was having a lot of success with that. There was viewbotting that was going on which is kind of out of my control, so basically Twitch says just roll with it so I just rolled with it. And I was getting maybe three to four hundred concurrent viewers and things were actually looking up for me pretty well.
Basically Gods decided he didn’t wanna play in the team. He wanted everybody but one person cut and the management wouldn't allow that to happen, so he peaced out and Pookz peaced out as well. That's where Jer comes in and that’s where I come in.
Finally they asked me with like five days to go until I actually had to leave if I was going to play the boot camp, then in the Winter Premiere. It was a really really tough decision for me; I really didn't get compensation that was fair. Streaming is my dream job. Pro gaming is fun and all, but super stressful - sometimes you don’t get along with your teammates, and that’s part of the job description, but overall in complete honesty the money is in streaming.
I gave up streaming and did the boot camp; I went into this knowing that a lot of my numbers would deteriorate for streaming and they definitely did - now that I come back home I'm getting maybe 150 viewers, so a little bit of a dip there but it was kind of predicted.
From then on you were kind of coming in and out of the team. It wasn't that you had been brought in once and then they decided to stick with you, or removed once, you were moving in and out. What was actually happening there from your perspective?
m: When I was originally re-recruited back into the team to come back from streaming, I was told that I was a starter for the duration of the tournament. Then when we get back home, I was told that I wasn't a starter for the whole tournament, I was just a sub.
As per that, the team felt that I was not a good solution long-term, that I wasn't able to learn characters, that I would just be a one trick forever, so they wanted to move to somebody else and that's when kyb was brought in. He scrimmed the night before the Immortals game and then he played the game the next day.
Unfortunately our team lost, Renegades lost, and I was definitely cheering for them the whole way - something like being replaced like that, I wouldn't stop cheering for my old team - that's kind of how that originally happened.
Then the second time kyb started playing for the team: the team had been somewhat of a toxic environment and a lot of blame was pointed at me, and I decided I'd held my tongue long enough. I would refuse to play in this kind of environment, and that was when they were forced to bring kyb back in for the remaining three games.
From your point of view with the benefit of hindsight now, can you see where they were coming from? Do you think there was validity in their argument that you weren’t a long-term solution or do you maintain the fact that you would have been perfectly fine at picking up heroes further down the road and they made a mistake?
m: I'm the kind of person who likes to pick up heroes one at a time and master them, as evidenced by my Zarya gameplay; I'm definitely one of the better Zaryas out there. I picked up D.Va and I don't know whether I really mastered her but I got pretty darn good with her, and that was evidenced during the Winter Premier. I had people - flame, ZP, notable analysts - saying, “yeah you did a pretty good job; we thought you were a consistent performer”.
I took that to heart, I really did agree with it. I thought that each and every game I tried to perform really well and even in our first game versus FaZe I made sure that I set the tone for our team. If you could say that I hard carried any single game in the Winter Premier that was definitely it.
So to come back to your original question, I definitely think that I can learn any character in the game, the question is: am I allowed to play the character during scrims?
Because what happens with this is: during every meta, up until Zarya got nerfed and D.Va became meta, I only played Zarya. Mainly because the team only wanted Zarya. And it's hard to develop additional characters at a professional level when you can't scrim with them. Right now I'm picking up Roadhog and I'm getting really good with him, but I don't know if I can play him at a professional level right now because I don't have the ability to scrim with him.
There appears to be a clear correlation between when Renegades removed you and when things start going badly for them in that tournament. Up until just before the Immortals game, I don't believe they’d lost the game including the qualifiers. They came into the first qualifier, they beat everybody and then came into the round robin and won their first four games. Immortals are obviously good team and ended up winning the entire tournament anyway, but then you go on to lose against Liquid and Kungarna after that as well. What do you think went wrong from your point of view? What do you think actually went wrong for Renegades at the same time as losing you?
m: I guess I should prepend this with: if we were to lose a game at all it would definitely be against Immortals. Even if I was playing, even if I was playing at my best, that’s a game I would be afraid of losing. That being said, in the actual game they played a lot of Genji which is not considered super meta. I feel like kyb was a suitable replacement for the next meta assuming that it moved to a dive comp.
At the start of the boot camp and when I came back, after kyb played versus Immortals, I noticed that my team tends to get really passive without me. That’s explained by the fact that I'm an extremely aggressive player; a lot of Zaryas do this thing where they constantly are pushing forward and constantly trying to fight people and that's something I do really, really well. I understand where to cut off my aggression...that's the difference between a good Zarya and a great Zarya. Basically the team didn't have that pushing force turning them from a passive team into an aggressive team and I believe in Overwatch aggression is king. Which is really nice.
When you did come back into the team, what was that like to be reintegrated when you've been out for a game in the middle of the tournament?
m: I've always tried to maintain professionalism, and above and beyond that when I was in high school that kind of thing would just happen, so I have the ability to shrug it off. I didn't worry about it at all - I'm here to play now, so I'm going to play the best possible game I can. I don't know how the team felt about it but if I’m there and they need me to play, I’m there to play. So that's all I can say about the situation, I didn't have any hard feelings.
In terms of the environment that they were playing in, you used the word toxic. Do you think Renegades, despite the fact that they got off to a really good start, would inevitably have run into these problems because of the atmosphere within the team? Did they have the mental fortitude to get through with any roster they were using throughout the tournament?
m: I think actually the situation would have arose regardless of if I was there or if any substitutions were to happen. There isn't a solid coach on that team and in my mind a coach is the guy who, when players are ganging up on one another or something to that effect, he’s the one that steps in and says, “hey don't do this to this player, that’s not acceptable”. And the team didn't have that. That's probably one of the biggest downfalls.
This I think actually happens to a lot of teams. They don't have a coach to keep players in line and then you have this whole NA roster shuffle stuff - constantly shifting teams - and one of the driving forces behind that is that players can't get along. It's one thing that I’m interested in; I really want to learn more about how the cohesion works on Korean teams, because from the outside it looks like they’re rather professional, rather disciplined teams. That’s something that I really, really want on North American teams. It's part of why I'm waiting to get back into a pro team, I’m kind of seeing, maybe I can find out which teams are very professional. That's the kind of team I’d be looking to get back on.
What do you think the roles or responsibilities of the management are in that sense? Certainly if you’re only playing in an amateur team that doesn't have that kind of management, the impetus is always on the players to actually make the decisions themselves. What are your thoughts on the best ways to coach these situations, and what the roles and responsibilities of the management should be?
m: So for normal support staff you have 3 people by default. You would have a manager - and the manager’s responsible for booking scrims, making sure sponsorship obligations are fulfilled, making sure players are here at this time. If you get into a team house it gets a lot more complicated and the manager should be the one grabbing food - maybe not the one cooking but definitely would be assisting with that - basically a secretary/assistant kind of person for the team.
You have the analyst, and the analyst’s job is to find the mistakes of everybody that plays the game. If it's somebody on our team, the analyst gives that information to the coach and the coach helps develop the player in that sense: coming up with a drill to help him. Then if it's someone on another team, that's again brought to the coach and they work through that and they try to find a strategy to exploit that weakness. Because at the highest level of competition, it boils down to which team can capitalise on mistakes better than the other one, or which team makes more mistakes and those get capitalised on. So that's primarily what I see the role of the analyst doing.
For a coach, the coach maintains a team environment, develops drills for the players, all the normal coach kind of things. After that, watching scrims and saying, “hey kind of do this”, a little bit of coaching on the fly. A little bit of analysis goes on on his part, but it's definitely mainly keeping the players in line, keeping everybody focused on the end game. That's kind of how the roles break down.
What kind of difference do you think that makes, having access to that kind of support staff?
m: Huge, huge difference. I actually have a project that I'll be announcing on Saturday. Basically this project is teamOFsnow. I'm going to be recruiting, taking in applications and be developing a roster of 6 amateur players. I'll be personally coaching them - A) to find out how well I can coach, B) to find out - can I take these people that otherwise could form a team and play pretty well - can I take them and turn them into a semi pro team? At which point they can get a coach that is salaried and then they can continue developing. So that's a little tie-in to your question I suppose.
What kind of difference do you think it made for Renegades and how they approached the situation - the interaction with their support staff? There’s obviously a lot of different teams working it in different ways.
m: Renegades didn't really have a coach. They didn't have the person who says, “this is what’s going to happen with the roster, we’ll test this person here”. They didn't have that. The team kind of votes on what they want to have happen, but it's really more like two people - two or three people - that say, “we want this to happen,” essentially, which I don't think is very good for a team. I think it really should boil down to the coach saying yes or no to particular roster changes.
Talking about the future of the team from here then: they’ve obviously got some talented players on the team, there’s no denying it, and they were trying kyb out for a while. He's now involved in a project with TwoEasy, so what do you see for the future of Renegades? And if you were coaching them, if Renegades were teamOFsnow, what kind of things would you be looking at to push this roster so they’re performing consistently to the level that they were at the beginning of Winter Premiere?
m: I would drill a ton of discipline into the team. Immortals, the org, has their players on a very heavily regimented schedule: you wake up here, work out here, breakfast here, stream here, snack here, practice here, break practice break practice break, then you have free time, then you go to bed. And when you go to bed, you leave your phone in the kitchen and you do not touch it; you do not bring it up to your room, you just go to your room and you sleep.
I would probably move to something like that - super regimented, almost military in a sense, but that is how I see the best direction moving forward in terms of creating a team that will have discipline. And that is required. A very small showing of discipline you can see are teams that stagger the enemy baby D.Va’s death. Immortals is really, really good about it; if a team doesn't have discipline they’ll kill the baby D.Va relatively fast. That's probably one of the bigger things that I would wanna do; next is obviously finding a sixth player. That would be really tough. I'm not really sure - I would have to be a little bit more in touch with the meta to make a good decision about which direction I would want to go in. There's definitely some talent out there that could fill that role pretty well.
Talking about your future then specifically, you’ve alluded to the fact that you're looking for a pro team - not actively in the sense that you're desperately searching for one but you're open to the idea of it - so where do you see your future being as a professional player in overwatch?
m: For the moment, I'm kind of looking for a team, kinda not looking for a team. I made the hard decision not too long ago just to focus on my content for three months. The main thing is, I'm focusing on teamOFsnow for the moment. Once that's completely finished, I go back and I join a team. Hopefully I find a decent roster for myself by that time.
The timeline for teamOFsnow is: applications will open Saturday, be open for two to three weeks, tryouts for a week - so that should amount to a month - and then for two months I’m coaching this team. If I feel like I've gotten them to a reasonable point, I make my exit and I start focusing on myself as a professional planer. If not then I continue developing them. My end game is legitimately to get them signed to a semi pro org ideally.
What's the end-game for you though? Are you aiming to be a professional player, are you aiming to be a coach, is it whatever you naturally fit into as you go down this journey?
m: It's a good question. As you pointed out there, working on teamOFsnow helps me develop my role as coach. That's something that I'm interested in - is it what I want to do when all’s said and done? Maybe. I feel like I could do the role really well. As a player I feel like I could do really well.
I don't know if I'm one of the 10 best flex players in the world; I don't know if I'm one of the 10 best in my particular role when it comes to Overwatch; could I be a top 10 coach? I don't know - I don't think I really care. I think I could be a good coach, I don't think it's for me though.
I do legitimately think that my content is very good. I think that percentage wise I'm a much better streamer than player, so with the fact that I personally thoroughly enjoyed streaming that's my end goal. Every time someone subs I say, “thank you for helping me pursue my dream job,” and it seriously is my dream job - so streaming is my end game for sure.
Tune in for the next part of this interview where we discuss the finances and lifestyle differences between being a professional player, a coach, and a streamer.