The Los Angeles Valiant were unveiled back in early November as a turbocharged version of Immortals. After bringing in a Korean contingent in June, they have now added a European selection to finalise their roster going into Overwatch League Season 1.
The Immortals team that form the core of the LA Valiant came to the forefront of North American Overwatch during the NGE Winter Premiere. They took first place and became one of North America's most dominant teams in the absence of EnVyUs and Rogue. After a brief stint at the top, they placed a disappointing sixth in Contenders Season 1 and it became clear that reinforcements would be needed before tackling the Overwatch League. All-star flex-support uNKOE, two talented Tracers in So0n and silkthread, a dependable off-tank in SPACE and another main tank in numlocked were recruited to bolster the team's lineup.
While most expect a mid-table finish for the LA Valiant, the additions to their roster could potentially give them the ability to cause some upsets. The starting roster is unknown but there is not a world in which uNKOE is not the first pick for his position. Besides his mechanical skill, what sets the Frenchman apart from many of his rivals is uNKOE's consistency across a multitude of support heroes, namely Ana, Mercy and Zenyatta. An upgrade of this caliber cannot be underestimated, especially in a role that empowers DPS and Tank players.
Alongside uNKOE is his former teammate So0n, who cemented himself as one of the top Tracers in the world during his time on Rogue. Filling a similar role to So0n is silkthread, known for his talent despite a comparative lack of experience. Whilst the Overwatch League is full of talented Tracers, the LA Valiant will greatly benefit from their Tracer pickups as they will open up space for GrimReality and Agilities to operate in. Both often had to fill in on Tracer duty when the team needed it during their run as Immortals and while playing well, the required standard will be higher in the Overwatch League.
These additions to the LA Valiant will allow the team to deploy a deadly DPS duo no matter which hero combination they wish to use. Adaptability will be crucial during the lengthy Overwatch League season due to changing map pools and metas and thus this flexibility can only serve them well.
Perhaps the most underappreciated addition to the team is that of flex player SPACE*. Under the Immortals banner the roster employed the services of hyped, struggling to find success with the player. envy was also brought in as an alternative option but seems to be an upcoming player for the future rather than a star in the present. This is where SPACE comes in. Despite not having the most decorated history, SPACE has been a consistent performer on all his previous teams, filling the less glamorous role and enabling his teammates to be aggressive. SPACE should complement the team well if the Valiant employ a similar style to Immortals.
Last but not least is numlocked, who provides a valuable alternative to Fate’s aggressive style. The key questions that will determine the LA Valiant’s performance will be how they blend their established roster with these additions, how they use their plethora of DPS talent and how their communication structure works with the Koreans. With the latter they have a significant head start on the competition as they will have had the Korean trio for almost six months by the time the preseason starts.
There is a lot of talent and top teams to face in the Overwatch League season but the LA Valiant have all the ingredients necessary to compete with the best. If they can assemble them correctly they could find themselves in the top half of the table. I spoke to LA Valiant Coach Cuddles to further explore some of these questions as Season 1 draws nearer:
I saw So0n and uNKOE flew over recently, as did numlocked. Does this mean the entire team is now all together in LA? Could you tell me a bit about what your setup is like down there and how the team is settling in?
Cuddles: Yes the entire team is now in LA. The guys are settling down nicely in their new apartments. We’re also at a new facility created and provided by Valiant. It's a little oasis hidden away within LA, a fantastic and healthy environment. We’ve been training for over 2 months doing a mixture of scrimmages and working within our new systems to develop and create foundations with the new additions.
Have you had many chances to practice against other Overwatch League teams yet? How have you found the competition?
C: Yes we have. The scrims have been really fun for our team and we've learned a lot from them. If they're any indication of what's to come this season, the fans are in for a real treat.
A lot of pundits have you pegged as a middle of the pack team in the grand scheme of things. Do you think this is fair? What would constitute a successful season for LA Valiant?
C: The pundits are likely looking at history/results from previous tournaments and games, which is an understandable and a respectful observation with the information they have. Immortals in Season 1 of Contenders was obviously a big surprise for most, and that may impact expectations for this year. Yet, with the new additions and systems we’re creating for the Overwatch League, we expect a high finish in addition to setting the foundations for years to come. Our goal is not just to win, but to do so in an healthy ecosystem for your players and team as a whole.
There has also been a lot of theorycrafting about how teams will use their rosters and subs. What is your team's approach, do you have a set starting six with a variety of backups or is it more mixed depending on map type and opposition?
C: I can't give you all our secrets! I will say this is the most exciting part of the job for Ookz and I. Our roster gives us a lot of flexibility to strategize as we see fit.
An issue that hangs over all teams with a mix of Korean and Western players is how the comms will work. Obviously, you have had a head start on this getting Fate, KariV and Envy back in June. How has this progressed, are you still finding issues with having the mixed players in your comms structure and has the addition of So0N/uNKOE as non-native English speakers caused any additional issues?
C: Comms are working really well. We are providing all players with both Korean and English lessons to help develop our communication inside and out the game. Most of our comms are being efficiently condensed down to words/sentences that are easy to understand and process for all languages. I give credit to the players for taking on the additional lessons in their already long day of training.
Finally, as one of the two LA based teams you will get to play all your games this season in front of a home crowd. What does it mean to the team playing in front of an LA crowd and do you think it will give you an advantage in Season 1?
C: Playing in front of a home crowd in any sport is a fantastic experience. We all saw what happened to Team USA during the World Cup. The crowd boosted the players energy and shifted the momentum of the match. LA is our home and our fans will bring it every game. It will drive our players to play their hearts out every day in that arena. We all look forward to seeing a sea of green and gold.
The Los Angeles Valiant roster is:
- Brady "Agilities" Girardi (DPS)
- Christopher "GrimReality" Schaefer (DPS)
- Ted "silkthread" Wang (DPS)
- Terence "SoOn" Tarlier (DPS)
- Indy "SPACE" Halpern (Flex)
- Lee "envy" Kang-jae (이강재) (Flex)
- Koo "Fate" Pan-seung (구판승) (Tank)
- Seb "numlocked" Barton (Tank)
- Park "KariV" Young-seo (박영서) (Support)
- Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson (Support)
- Stefano "Verbo" Disalvo (Support)
*Following original publication it has been clarified that Agilities will not be available during pre-season due to age restrictions and SPACE will not be available until March 28.