Preparation Time: less than 2 months
Servings: 3 wins, 2 draws, and a loss against Europe’s finest
- Three fresh swedes
- Vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream to make two White Russians
- One portion of sauerkraut
- Six individually strong eggs
- Self-motivated flour
- Pinch of salt
Step 1: Gather and prepare ingredients
123 are the hottest new team in Contenders. Utterly unknown before they burst onto the scene in the qualifiers, 123 has already gathered scalps from Ninjas in Pyjamas, Cyclowns, Movistar Riders, and Alfa Squad throughout the course of their first major tournament with only two days played.
They’ve never been seen on stream. Their style is a mystery to the wider community and opponents alike. Their results cannot be denied.
Mistakes is the team captain of this mixed-nationality six, both in terms of his founding of the team and his presence within it. Through his friendship with bock1, a Swedish flex support, Mistakes gathered together the core of former team böda socken to lay the foundations for the roster now known as 123. Their support duo of bock1 and Lucio shotcaller Dennia, along with Soldier: 76 prodigy snillo, formed a strong starting position that Mistakes added onto with his old teammate Tonic on tank.
123 now had two supports, comfortable with each other’s playstyle and calling, as well as two flexible hitscan DPS players in Mistakes and snillo and a solid tank in Tonic. Confident that they had picked up five extremely high-skilled players, they searched for the final piece. 123 needed a flex player to round out the roster and took some time trialling options before settling on kodaK, an offtank specialist, to complete their team.
The key for Mistakes in building the team was to gather together six players with individual skill and a dedicated mentality. 123 prioritised players with pre-eminent talent in their roles but also, crucially, the desire to exert extreme effort working and improving six or more hours per day. They built a team with a fire to win and the tools to achieve it.
Mistakes is described as an excellent Tracer, able to find picks consistently for his team on that hero and beyond; Dennia is the shotcaller from Lucio, enacting the gameplan from the support line and keeping track of the wider strategy; Tonic on tank calls when needed, setting his team up for dives with his information from the frontline, backed up by kodaK's D.Va; snillo, described by an opponent as “dafran 2.0”, can follow up with raw damage on a range of heroes, working together with bock1 and enabling the versatility of 123.
When the team formed, it practised solely with tanks for two weeks and then moved to dive when that was clearly established as the strongest composition. Their tank play was working out but after the move to dive 123 flourished and gelled even further, beating tier two teams in scrims. While the players were very reluctant to give specifics on their gameplan, wanting to remain unknown, their bread and butter is presumably the dive comps so popular in Europe.
According to Dennia, who eventually spilled a few meagre beans, the style of 123 focuses on maximising the impact of their playmakers. Big plays are the order of the day, facilitated by a looser calling style that gives players freedom to grasp hold of opportunities when they present themselves. “I just tell them ‘Go kill someone!’ and they go kill someone, and we push,” he said. “We have a structure, but a pretty loose playstyle. People are allowed to make their own plays.”
The structure he alludes to is focused heavily around positioning, with the team ensuring that they are set up at all times to engage and disengage as required. From there, it’s a matter of letting their dive run wild and backing each other up in their plays.
123 may play a looser style but they aren’t braindead dive zombies. “We win a lot with our individual skill,” admits Dennia, “I think that’s our strongest point, but also we worked really hard on how the team is supposed to play. We really understand why we are playing how we’re playing.” It’s a key point that separates 123 from a number of the tier two teams in Europe currently. Rather than each player simply knowing their role in the team, they aim to understand the underpinnings of the gameplan, how it works as a whole, and the players can then maximise their impact within the system. “We don’t just hold w and kill people,” he reiterated, “we try to really analyse and understand the game - how it’s supposed to be played.”
Step 2: Mix well until integrated and seasoned
The attitude of 123’s players also appears to separate them from a number of lower level teams in similar starting positions. This can mostly be attributed to Mistakes, the team captain, who built the team and expects every player to match his serious, driven attitude inside and outside the game.
Dennia described his influence on the team, explaining that Mistakes doesn’t just want to play, he wants to excel. “I came into the team with a TF2 mindset,” Dennia said, alluding to his past competing in strong but casual Team Fortress 2 teams, “kinda just playing and hoping for the best. He showed me the way - you need to be really serious and it doesn’t really work if you don’t treat everything 100% serious.” That boils down to an attitude shift: being on time for every session; treating scrims with deadly focus, even against weak opponents or when getting destroyed; not playing other games when you could be practising Overwatch; building a thorough understanding of the game and not simply playing in the hope of improving gamesense; watching VODs together to analyse and replicate playstyles from stronger teams.
Dennia continued: “So I’ve kinda changed my mindset, and I enforce it on players during the game. And when we do VOD reviews or teamtalks I’m mainly the leading voice, so I have to be the guy that enforces it, but Mistakes said that unless we’re 100% serious it’s not gonna work, and I took it to heart. Then we’ve just been trying to grind on every issue in the team, mesh the personalities, try to make everyone comfortable, stuff like that.” The dedication is admirable and would only work with a specific subset of personalities.
The team’s attitude reportedly extends to their VOD reviews as well; players don’t argue with each other when called out on mistakes, respecting each other’s insight and understanding the intent, and simply attempt to learn from them. Positioning is the main focus for 123 in these sessions, critiquing each little misstep in situating themselves for a fight. “We talk a lot about positioning,” remarked Dennia, “individual skill and positioning in this meta right now is what’s strongest.”
Step 3: Blind bake to avoid sogginess
No analysis can be made of this team from the outside. Though they have been solidly scrimming for hours each day, 123 have no publicly available recorded VODs for opponents - or casters and analysts - to pore over. Even böda socken and the version of TORNADO ROX with Tonic and Mistakes were not particularly notable teams in the European scene. They are the definition of a dark horse.
Coming into Contenders qualifiers, 123 had played only a single cup one week before. They took first place in the Go4Overwatch #53, beating Vivi’s Adventure 2-0 and IceBlockGG 3-1 in the final, sweeping the competition.
This worked to their advantage in Contenders, where opponents in the qualifiers and in Group D had no information about 123 before the match unless they had scrimmed the team before - and most had not. With player and stylistic strengths that were unknown, opponents had to adapt on the fly and frequently failed, or so it seems from the results on paper.
123 also felt they stepped up in those few tournament games already played. After scrimming constantly without any opportunity to showcase their talent in a large tournament, Contenders provided a release of all that pent up lust for competition. Swept up in the moment, caught in the desire to showcase that strength they worked hard to achieve, the players naturally performed at a higher level than their scrims. The motivation to prove themselves drove players to call more, to make confident plays, and they delivered 123 a spot in Contenders on the first attempt.
The ‘upset’ in that qualification run was a victory over Ninjas in Pyjamas, who eventually qualified on their second run. “When we played NiP, they weren’t really that co-ordinated,” said Dennia, “we could pick them one by one and roll them over. It felt like we knew exactly what they were gonna do because we’ve played teams like that before.” That win over an established team in the round of 16 put them into Contenders, but they faced Movistar Riders for seeding.
They lost heavily to Riders, who in the team’s own words simply outplayed them. Though the game was close on Route 66, 123 were crushed on Nepal and couldn’t handle the aggressive dive with that level of coordination. According to Dennia, his team played scared and gave Movistar too much space, an issue that was quickly noticed and remedied for the future.
It was 123's first ever time playing against a tier one team and their inexperience showed. It was the first time some of their players had faced opponents on that level as well; Tonic, snillo, and bock1 had no experience at that level, even in scrims, and they took time to get a feel for the tempo and pressure of the match.
“It was the first time we ever played a tier one dive team because we didn’t have a good name before Contenders,” said Dennia, referring to their perceived skill within Europe. “Now we can get good scrims; people are actually asking us for scrims, the good teams. Before, we kinda had to beg and scramble for good scrims. We’ve had a good week of scrims now, played a lot of the teams that qualified for Contenders and felt good.”
After Contenders qualifiers, 123 played another Go4Overwatch cup. It was a piece of cake and 123 again placed first. Their only notable opponent was Copenhagen Flames as the other teams focused on Contenders, but it boosted their win record up to 16-1 coming into Contenders groups, with a map record of 30-6.
That’s shifted to a more realistic level now after competing against some of the best teams in Europe in Group D. Their rematch against Movistar Riders saw them take and lose two maps, drawing with the titans that had previously sent them spinning, but they also drew with Alfa Squad, another lesser-known team using Contenders as an elevator. Their sole win was a dominant and highly respectable 4-0 drubbing of Cyclowns, playing a significant role in Cyclowns’ decision to fold shortly afterwards. Their win and map record now stands at 17W-2D-1L and 38-10 respectively moving into the next week of round robin games.
None of these games have been streamed in Contenders groups, though obviously their opponents remain the same and will have knowledge of what occurred. They may not even be showcased to the public in the next day of groups depending on the schedule. Contenders has been streaming one match per group so far; if the organisers choose the opposite two teams in Group D then the broadcasted match would be 123 against Alfa Squad in the fight for second place, but they could just as easily decide to feature Alfa Squad against Movistar Riders if that original game clashes with another more interesting fixture in a different group.
Step 4: Decorate your dish
Taking a break from the serious discussion, I asked Dennia about the incredible team logo 123 have. If you haven’t taken the time to appreciate it, I would strongly recommend scrolling back up to the top and witnessing the majesty of its multi-layered symbolism.
The logo beautifully represents their roster with one German, two Russians, and three Swedes. While some teams are limited in their player pool by the language of communication, 123 are completely open to any player that speaks English well enough to call - as long as you fit the flags. If 123 ever changes a player that doesn’t fit the flags, presumably the name will have to go; I know if I was Mistakes and had to decide between a new player and a new name, the new recruit would hit the chopping block quicker than you could say “один, два, три”. They are playing the flag meta to perfection.
As with some of the best things in life, it began with a happy accident that was recognised and improved upon. Dennia told the story thus: “Mistakes said ‘We need a name.’ We suggested names and he said, ‘No, no, no, they’re bad, they’re bad, they’re bad.’ Then he just told us we’re gonna be ‘123’. He just said - ‘Good esports teams have had this name before, so we will be this team name.’”
The name and its relevance to the team’s composition of players was not discovered until a logo was required. Dennia was searching for an improvement over simply using text that read “123” and realised the nature of the link, drafting up the visual interpretation that is now used. Design genius.
Step 5: Eat the fruits of your labour
123 are currently bringing home the bacon, reaping the rewards of effort invested. The players motivate each other to grind and perform, and they roast each other for slacking. Driven by the desire for improvement, not by enjoyment or friendship, 123 have a work ethic that has borne great results so far.
Half of the team is in full time work or employment. The most extreme is bock1, a 28-year-old doctor working full time in Sweden, practising medicine all day and practising support all evening. snillo and kodaK are both in education as well, which poses a challenge for the team in terms of the time they are capable of expending on Overwatch.
“Mistakes said he wanted us to put eight hours a day in,” Dennia recalled, “and I just said to him - it’s not possible. There’s no orgs in Europe that will let us to do that, we can’t do that, we can max play five to six hours a day. So we play seven days a week, five to six hours. We don’t take a break unless someone is away. It’s a really tough schedule, there’s no breaks and no rest, we go hard every day.”
“I’m not 100% sure how it works,” he continued, “but it’s said that if you get top eight in European Contenders you’re basically guaranteed an org - Blizzard wrote it - top organisations will look at this tournament, it’s said. That’s what drives us. Bock said he’s really motivated to move away from his job - I think, I might be wrong - but he said he really wanted to try and live the esports style, same with everyone else. Mistakes and Tonic have been on TORNADO.ROX before and I’ve been on PENTA, we’ve been on orgs before and had some income from esports. Sure, it’s nice, but we’re looking for the org that will be able to give us a full-time opportunity.”
123 has a very strong chance of making it through to playoffs after their performances so far. Currently sat at 1W-2D-0L, a reasonable performance against Alfa Squad would be enough to book their place in the top eight. Movistar Riders were a hard nut to crack, but 123 got the better of them on Hanamura and Route 66 the first time around. Replicating or improving on that performance would be an amazing bonus.
It will be incredibly interesting to finally see them on stream, whenever that opportunity arises. We’ll see how strong they look to the eye compared to other top teams, as well as getting some statistical food for thought from the geniuses at Winston’s Lab.
Judging from their results so far, 123 are a strong contender for an upcoming top team in Europe. Keep your eyes peeled for 123. They are the cream of the crop.