Shortly after picking up iddqd, NRG was surrounded by countless rumors as to who would complete their final two roster spots. Names such as Nesh, Kruise, and Grego were thrown around, but following an entertaining NRG and Friends stream, only two names stood out: harbleu and Ajax.
Earlier today, NRG officially announced the two players as part of the team, completing their 6-man roster.
Harbleu, formerly of compLexity fame, stepped down from coL’s active roster earlier last month. He stated that he would be exploring opportunities with other organizations while focusing on streaming. Over the weeks following the NRG and Friends stream, he and several of his NRG teammates started dropping hints about the move. Nothing could officially be announced though due to the complex contract process.
Ajax, NRG's new Lucio, was a key part of Kungarna's rise; but when half the team reportedly moved to TSM, he was almost instantly removed from the roster following a controversial tweet. His LFT status was short lived, with Ajax very quickly trialled for the NRG roster as the main shotcaller & Lucio player.
NRG has been plagued with roster issues since their earlier Mixup iteration, and despite having a huge fan following, the team has been unable to claim a championship or even make deep runs in competitions. In late October last year, NRG dropped Gods and Pookz in favor of numlocked and clockwork. The change, however, was short lived as earlier this year clockwork, enigma, and milo's positions were up for contention.
All eyes will be on the revitalized NRG roster to see how they show up at their next tournament, with fans hoping for a return to the top of the competitive Overwatch scene. NRG was originally listed as one of the direct invite teams to the NA bracket of the Overwatch PIT Championship; however, numlocked recently confirmed the team would be withdrawing in order to provide additional time for the team to gel together, as well as to avoid having two of their players, iddqd and numlocked, play with international ping. Both of them are currently in the process of acquiring visas to make the move to NA.
Interview with harbleu
I had the opportunity to catch up with harbleu to better understand his transition and his thoughts on the newly reformed NRG roster:
You've had quite a journey in your esports career, establishing yourself at the top of the competitive TF2 scene, transitioning to Overwatch with several Mixup teammates such as Seagull back in beta and then joining the current compLexity roster. How has this journey shaped you into the player you are now?
Harbleu: A lot of the skills I picked up during my time in Team Fortress 2 I've used to apply to the switch to Overwatch. The main role I played in TF2 was roamer, which basically was someone who went for flanks and tried to set up plays. The transition for me personally was a bit tough at first, leading to a few ups and downs during the early part of my Overwatch career. I was actually cut from the team with enigma and seagull early on in beta for not putting in enough effort, which I can't blame them. I think that was kind of a wake up call for me that lead me to realizing this was more than just a casual game that we played competitively, and was actually a job for all of us. It was shortly after that I quit my fulltime job to focus solely on Overwatch and joined Code 7, which later became compLexity. I started grinding out hours in ranked and worked on widening my hero pool, and it showed from our results. I started mixing in flanking on my roadhog which was a bit unheard of at the time and sort of created a style for myself. I think all of that has brought me to be pretty satisfied with the level I'm at now, but I still am also working on improving every day until the team I'm on is considered the best in the world.
You've obviously been an integral part of the compLexity roster for months - why did you decide now was the right time to look for a change?
H: It had been something I was thinking about for a while. It's not that I was unhappy with the team or our performance, as we were consistently a top 5 team in NA. It was moreso that I just felt like I needed to take a bit of a break as I was getting pretty burnt out. There was also a pretty big gap between tournaments so I saw it as the best time to take a step back and focus on my stream while I explored all my options, which potentially included returning to the team. The time off from scrimming and competing has definitely helped as I feel more refreshed than ever and ready to get back into working to be the best.
Reportedly you were approached by NRG earlier in 2016, but the situation did not pan out. What happened then and why did NRG seem like the right fit now?
H: I was actually approached by NRG back when gods and pookz left to join as lucio. My main reasons for not joining then were we had just qualified for dreamhack and I didn't want to leave coL before it, and that I didn't want to make the role swap to lucio. I was confident I could be a high level support as I also played medic for multiple seasons back in TF2, but I couldn't see myself having fun and willing to put in the effort to practice on the hero. The way I see it if you don't enjoy the role you're playing then you won't be motivated to improve.
You will be playing with some other ex-TF2 players - how does it feel to be back on a team with them?
H: Its pretty cool being back on a team with people I played with and against from my time in TF2. Seagull and I have been on multiple teams together in the past, and I've always enjoyed playing against dummy and numlocked at events. I think when Overwatch first came out most people thought that TF2 players would dominate the game at first, but for the most part that hasn't been the case. Even though we've only been playing together for a couple weeks the chemistry was already there and has made the transition extremely smooth.
NRG has had several roster changes/trials in the past, several of them being other ex-TF2 players - what is different this time?
H: It’s hard to compare this version of NRG to any previous ones as the only remaining member from the start is Seagull. The roster was put together with the intentions of being an all-star lineup that can compete with the best from any region, but also making sure that personalities mesh too. It doesn't matter how good the players on a team are if they don't get along or have good chemistry. I was actually approached by seagull not long after MLG vegas but for multiple reasons it looked like it wasn't going to pan out. In the end things all came together and I'm happy to be a part of it.
In addition to former TF2 players, you'll also be on a team with new faces such as IDDQD and Ajax - any thoughts on them particularly or this blend of former and new teammates?
H: Although we’ve only had about 5 days of actual scrims together I can already tell that the chemistry is there with everyone. I’ve always viewed IDDQD as one of the best hitscan DPS in the game, and I’ve been more than impressed with Ajax’s calling as lucio. Everyone on the team is committed to putting in as much effort as required to get to where we want to be.
You mentioned earlier how getting burnt out was a big driver for taking a break from playing competitively - this is something you mentioned earlier in your time with compLexity as well where you reduced the number of days you were practicing. Are you and the rest of the team taking any active steps to help avoid this issue or is it tough to do in the current esports environment?
H: On compLexity we normally played 6 hours a day, 6 days a week. That on top of streaming and ranked lead to playing 12+ hours a day most days. I think having a couple days off a week is important, not just so people don’t get burnt out but also so everyone is bringing their best on the days that you are playing.
You played Roadhog before it was meta during your time with compLexity and quickly established yourself as one of the best Zaryas in the game. What heroes can fans expect you to pick up with this new roster?
H: I’d say people can expect a lot of the same but also more DPS picks from myself. With the meta making somewhat of a shift to triple DPS I’ll probably be swapping to tracer or soldier more when necessary. That’s not to say I won’t still be primarily running zarya and hog, but just more variation than before.
Are there any plans for a team house or offices, and if so, is there a time frame?
H: I believe numlocked and IDDQD are moving into a temporary house in vegas until the OWL is announced, at which point if we’re one of the teams in it we will be moving into some sort of house/office setup.
When can fans expect to see the new NRG roster first compete?
H: We were originally planning on competing in the March Overwatch Monthly Melee this weekend, but with players having been out of town and limiting the amount of practice we could get in we decided it was best to hold off so we could have time to get strats down on every map. We are looking forward to competing as soon as possible though.
Any goals for the team for the rest of this upcoming year?
H: The same goals I have with any team I’m on, to win every tournament we compete in. Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way, but we feel confident with this roster that we can go toe to toe with any team out there.
Can we expect more NRG and friends streams?
H: Haha, probably. I think all of us had a lot of fun last time. Although it will just be NRG next time unless we have people who aren’t here.
H: Shoutouts to my former teammates on compLexity, I wish them nothing but the best and look forward to competing against them in future events.
The current starting line-up for NRG is:
- Brandon "Seagull" Larned (DPS)
- André "iddqd" Dahlström (DPS)
- Anthony"harbleu" Ballo (Flex)
- Seb "numlocked" Barton (Tank)
- Tim "dummy" Olson (Support)
- Alex "Ajax" Jackson (Support)