VIVE LA LÚCIOBALL
At the FIFA World Cup earlier this summer, it was Kylian Mbappé finding the back of the net for France. At the Overwatch League All-Star Weekend, it was Gael “Poko” Gouzerch connecting on clutch shots to lead the Atlantic Division to victory in the Lúcioball Showdown.
“France won the World Cup this year, so I was expecting to win as well for my country,” Poko said with a laugh. He collected a hat trick in the first game and two goals in the third, including the overtime game-winner.
.@poko channels energy from France's World Cup Victory to score the GAME-WINNING GOAL!!— Philadelphia Fusion (@Fusion) August 25, 2018
Never played Lucioball? It DOESN'T. EVEN. MATTER.
Atlantic, unsurprisingly, takes the victory! pic.twitter.com/G1fZpTacfg
Poko, normally a flex tank for the Philadelphia Fusion, also channeled his D.Va instincts on defense, although it was more difficult than he expected. “I was completely lost when I was in goal,” he admitted. “There were balls going left and right, and I was like, what am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to go for the ball and run, or stay in the cage?”
For the Pacific Division, it was newly acquired Seoul Dynasty tank Chan-Hyung “Fissure” Baek with the standout plays; he scored six goals, including a hat trick in the final game. While most of the All-Star events are on the lighthearted side, there’s still a certain competitive fire that gets ignited once the games get going.
I am sorry. We should have won that match but we didn't show our true potential.— Moon (@moonbyungchul89) August 25, 2018
If we get to play Lucio Ball again, I will make sure to strategize LOL
“At first, it was just for fun and I was relaxed,” Fissure said. “At some point, especially at the end, we needed one last goal, so I got kind of nervous and it was exciting.”
“Throughout the whole game, I was more nervous than in Overwatch League games,” Poko added. “Usually I’m fine because I know what to expect. [In Lúcioball] I was like, what is going on? I was very nervous, and at the end my heart was beating insanely fast.”
The beauty of Mystery Heroes is in its unpredictability. The randomness of the hero assignments makes it hectic for casual Overwatch players, but how would the pros handle the merry-go-round?
Well, we got some of this…
And don’t forget this…
Some players, like Seoul’s Je-Hong “Ryujehong” Ryu, are known for their wide hero pools, and he showed off his skills on Widowmaker, Mei, and especially on Tracer.
“The reason I was performing was really well because I was taking all the kills from my team,” he said. “I don’t think my DPS skill in general is that good.”
With so many hero swaps, normal Overwatch League mainstays like strategy and team composition flew out the window. Shot-calling, for Ryujehong and the Pacific Division, was pretty basic. “When we had to dive or something, Bischu translated that, but overall the atmosphere was very good,” he said.
The Atlantic Division didn’t have the luxury of having a translator on the roster, something that impacted Houston’s Austin “Muma” Wilmot as the only non-Korean speaking member of the Atlantic Division lineup.
“Very, very newfound appreciation for bilingual or multilingual teams,” he said afterward. “It’s gotta be difficult, and being on the opposite end [of the language barrier] was definitely a very weird experience.”
So what was it like for him, sitting in the spawn room? “Before we saw what hero we were on, it was just them laughing and talking in Korean about what heroes they wanted and which way we were going to go. As soon as the gates opened, I would hear ‘left’ or ‘right.’ I was like, OK! It was fun.”
Most of the pros are skilled enough to not be totally thrown off by the myriad heroes thrown into their laps every time they respawn. And sometimes the luck of the draw works out despite the lack of communication, as Muma found out when he and Jun-Ho “Fury” Kim both found themselves on Brigitte.
“We basically stood back-to-back for so long and held up our shields and heal-packed each other,” he said, laughing. “We snowballed two entire maps with both of us on Brig.”
Stick to mercy @Custa— Austin Wilmot (@Muma) August 26, 2018
There was plenty of style on display during Saturday’s matches, whether it was in the form of Widowmaker flick shots and Lúcio boops or those slick All-Star team jerseys. Some players showed up with new glasses or shoes or accessories, and Nam-Ju “Striker” Gwon had seemingly dyed his hair to match the Atlantic Division’s teal theme.
But no one caught more attention from fans on Twitch and Twitter than Ryujehong, whose mop grew nearly to shoulder length in the same amount of time it took for him to reach number one on the Korean server. Was he too busy grinding to get a haircut, or was it more of a stylistic choice?
“The final goal is to have my hair really long,” Ryujehong confirmed. “I don’t know what [I’m going] to do with it, but that’s my plan. It’s just in the transition phase and it looks weird, but I am waiting to get to that stage with my hair.”
His Dynasty teammate, Byung-Sun “Fleta” Kim, remarked, “Honestly, Jehong kind of has extreme changes in his hair. It can go really short or really long, but I actually don’t care anymore. At first, I didn’t think about it as much, but fans started saying his hair looked like an [aunt] or grandma’s hair. Now, I kind of see that.”
Players are players, and casters are casters, but those roles were flipped for just one match—the Talent Takedown. Two teams made up of casters, analysts, and other broadcast talent were pitted against each other, while two players—LA Valiant support Scott “Custa” Kennedy and LA Gladiators tank Aaron “Bischu” Kim—hopped into the casting booth.
The Pacific Division talent, led by Chris Puckett, showed off some impressive individual plays on both King’s Row and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. On King’s Row, it was Puckett himself pulling out the Doomfist to wreak havoc, while Jonathan “Reinforce” Larsson also proved his tank skills on Wrecking Ball. Soe Gschwind-Penski may have earned MVP honors, but one caster in particular stood out even to the pros—Auguste “Semmler” Massonnat.
“Semmler literally put the team on his back on [Gibraltar] defense—he saved them in fights three or four times,” Custa said.
“Yeah, I saw his angles and I was like, this is gonna be good,” Bischu added, rubbing his hands for emphasis. “I couldn’t really tell much about his play—honestly, when you’re casting it’s a lot more hectic than you think. It was pretty good, bombs are all that matter.”
Semmler’s only comment: “I taught Poko everything he knows.”
Neither Custa nor Bischu had any previous casting experience, and Bischu said it was more difficult to get into the flow of things than he expected. “Last night, I was like, OK, I have no idea what to do, but I’m just going to remember a few quick, witty lines and use them. When I actually got up there, I was drawing blanks and forgot everything. I wish I could have said the things I wanted to, but it was still a good experience doing it.”
A few of the casters admitted that they were also nervous, stepping onto the stage as players for the first time, but once they settled into the game, they were able to enjoy the boisterous All-Star atmosphere.
“Being a part of that crowd, feeding off that energy, is one of the best things that you can experience as a caster,” Semmler said. “It just amps up your game completely, and it’s the same feeling when you actually get to play the game in front of them too. There’s no worry or stress or anything. You’re just having a ball with everybody.”
Custom modes are meant to be fun and done, but the event that commanded the most attention—and time—on Saturday was the Widowmaker 1v1 battle. Heads were clicked on a daily basis during the Overwatch League season, and this was a chance for some of the best DPS in the league to directly challenge each other while putting on a show for the fans.
Early on, the players’ smiling faces soon became unbreakable expressions of concentration as tension began to fill the air. The opening match between Philadelphia’s Jae-Hyeok “Carpe” Lee and Florida’s Jung-Woo “Sayaplayer” Ha was a nail-biter, with Carpe winning 7-6. Striker and New York’s Do-Hyeon “Pine” Kim followed up with the same scoreline after demonstrating some impressive evasion tactics.
Both Atlantic Division quarterfinals came down to the wire and set a high standard for the event, and were followed by equally riveting Pacific Division matches. Despite the intensity of the mental battles between the competitors, though, the eventual winner—the LA Gladiators’ Lane “Surefour” Roberts—says his approach to the event was fairly laid-back.
“I was pretty relaxed,” he said. “I wasn’t nervous or anything, or overconfident that I was going to win, or exactly playing to win. My body was nervous, I guess, because my heart was pumping now and then, but I’m sure that was happening to anyone that was playing.”
Aside from the mind games, the Widowmaker duels were unique among Saturday’s events, as players put their pride on the line.
“[In Widowmaker 1v1s], it comes down to who aims better or outsmarts the other [player],” Surefour said. “In actual games, you can’t have a lot of that because there’s so much other stuff happening that stops you from what doing what you want to do.”
Surefour showcased his individual skill by taking down Fleta in his opening match, which inspired confidence in the next round against Terence “SoOn” Tarlier, who had beaten San Francisco’s Min-Ho “Architect” Park to advance.
The miniature Battle for LA that followed was the hardest of the bracket for Surefour, who said he attempted to “play really aggressive to see how it would work.” The momentum from that big win carried over to the title match against Carpe, who had dispatched Striker in the Atlantic Division semifinal.
The final showdown was on the icy terrain of Ecopoint: Antarctica, where Surefour—who was considered a bit of an underdog in the tournament—rose to the occasion and proved himself against one of the league’s most feared snipers.
Feels good winning when most people probably thought I wouldn't— Yasdaskafraz (@Surefour) August 26, 2018
Tune in at 11 a.m. PDT for the All-Star Game, which will be streamed live on Twitch, OverwatchLeague.com, the Overwatch League app, MLG.com, and the MLG app. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN3 and Disney XD.