After being in the Grand Finals in the inaugural season against the London Spitfire, and not winning the championship, the Philadelphia Fusion is back again. They've been the best adversary against the Shock all season long, and are looking to give their best against the Shanghai Dragons in this season's Grand Finals.
Philadelphia Fusion's Daniel "FunnyAstro" Hathaway, Gael "Poko" Gouzerch, and Coach Christopher "ChrisTFer" Graham joins the press in an online press conference via Zoom to talk about the upcoming grand finals.
Bradley Long (Hotspawn Esports): After an entire season of constantly changing hero pools, what has it been like now to have a month to like sink your teeth into a meta again? What kind of changes does that require from your side of things?
ChrisTFer: On the face of it, it sounds really nice. But, the meta shifted again since we've been in America to where we are now in Korea. So we have had to go through various steps of learning new comps and new ideas again.
It was like certainly inevitable that went to like regions meet then there are two choices of constant styles come together and meet somewhere in the middle. It definitely hasn't necessarily been four to five weeks of the same comps. I think you’ll see different looks than what you saw when we played our last games.
Theo Salaun (Bleacher Report/Dexerto): In your last couple matches, you guys kind of played around with your role a little bit. Heesu played a bunch more than Carpe. The other game Carpe played more than Heesu.
I'm wondering if those rotations are dependent on map or role or if it's something that each player brings to the game from like a mentality or technical standpoint?
ChrisTFer: It's definitely not really mentality. In the games prior, it was basically over two factors: One, the map was good for either just pure Reaper/Sombra, but we felt that it was going to be situations where we wanted a Widow or Ashe because the map was good for Widow or Ashe or the enemy team are playing comps that we didn’t want to use Reaper/Sombra.
Theo Salaun (Bleacher Report/Dexerto): Can either Poko or FunnyAstro give their opinion on playing with their DPS that’s different from one another?
FunnyAstro: On match day, both are pretty similar with the mentality and style of calling. Subbing in one for the other doesn’t really change comms or the team’s mental.
Teddy Amenabar (Washington Post): Since you all are a bit out of your element for the Grand Finals, what are you doing to bring some normalcy to scrimming from hotel rooms? Is it keeping a normal schedule? Did you guys literally bring things during quarantine?
Poko: We’ve been quarantined for two weeks and now we're like practicing. We just keep a sleep schedule and like try to call each other. That's what we are doing at least in quarantine, were like trying to stay in contact. So we just everyday call each other to see how it goes. But yeah, we don’t do anything special. We’re used to staying inside and playing a lot. It doesn’t really matter.
ChrisTFer: There was a period of time in Philadelphia when the virus was at its worst so we had to practice from our apartments. We weren't really allowed to go out at all. So we have at least had experienced from scrimming remotely from each other during the season.
Teddy Amenabar (Washington Post): How is scrimming been going in South Korea? Have you guys been able to find scrim partners?
ChrisTFer: It’s not perfect because the main teams you want to scrim against are obviously inevitably going to be playing against so we have to balance scrimming against them and then also finding ways to hide strategies. I think most things we’re able to find a few Korean Contenders teams. Fortunately, they’re really good. It’s not bad practice.
And one of the good things about Korea is that their Academy and Contenders teams are so strong that practices look pretty good.
Ashley Parrish (Kotaku): Hi guys, so welcome back to the Grand finals. How does it feel and what does it mean for you guys?
Poko: Yeah, it feels pretty good. That was the goal for everybody. Last year, we were at the final at Philly. I was personally really sad to watch it and not play it. So yeah, this goal for this season, at least for me was to make it to the final. We got time to go as far as possible.
Liz Richardson (Dot Esports): How did quarantine affect your mentality or mental health going into Grand Finals?
FunnyAstro: Don't think it really did. Like Poko said, it was pretty easy to keep a strict eating and sleeping schedule when you're playing a lot and eating three meals a day. Mental health was not really affected and it was only two weeks, so it wasn’t bad. We were still able to scrim, we managed to work out most days from the hotel room. It didn't change much when we were living in Philly.
ChrisTFer: A group of people who were more equipped to spend two weeks in a hotel room doing nothing but playing games. We’re pretty much made for it. Like I can imagine almost anyone else on the planet would struggle with the process a little bit more than we did.
Jess Wells (The Loadout): Mine was a similar question actually to find out how you guys have found the quarantine experience, but it sounds like you've enjoyed it rather than loathed it.
FunnyAstro: The first few days were a little rough before we got the food package from Blizzard, which was a real lifesaver.
Michael Gwilliam (Dexerto): So what are your thoughts on the format with the final four being its own mini double-elimination tournament? And is this format something you would like to see return in the future, perhaps next year?
ChrisTFer: I think it’s perfect. I don't know if it has to be something that we want to come back next year because you don't want to have two regions split next year. I don't know if it's possible to avoid it, but if we can and we prefer a normal bracket where we just kind of come in with double-elimination.
Given the circumstances, it definitely sucks to be a team to travel all the way to Korea, loses one game, and just go home again. I think the fact that everybody gets a second chance and then we get to really see NA versus Asia. I think is probably the most exciting thing about the whole event and I really think the format can be better.
FunnyAstro: It obviously started out with the two region things, but then two teams having to go from each side. I think it’s pretty nice to get the loser’s bracket chance. I think it would be unlucky if there was no sort of reset.
Theo Salaun (Bleacher Report/Dexerto): Looking at the matchup with Shanghai, curious to know if there’s something in particular that stands out for the team?
ChrisTFer: Probably not. I think that one it seems it benefits from having a stacked roster without weak positions rather than strong players carrying the weak players. I think that’s what they’ve shown all season. No matter the meta, they’ve been extremely consistent.
You can only have that level of consistency when you have six good players in every meta. I think they have threats from every position and that makes it more difficult to plan in some ways, but also easier because you don’t have to overthink how to mark their positions and who to put on who.
Chris Cuevo (Inven Global): What kind of different challenges do you face this season heading into Grand Finals as opposed to the first season?
Poko: Quarantine is the biggest one I say. We are not where we used to practice the whole year. Just like a very different place, we have to adapt. Like I said, it doesn't really change much.
ChrisTFer: From what it would appear to me, if I'm heading into a week where two or three weeks for only one opponent, I imagine that scrims becomes a little difficult because you lose the opportunity in-person to scrim against. Then there's also at the time there was no Contenders team to scrim against.
From what I heard from both London and Philly, Season 1 it was actually quite difficult to find scrims. Whereas this year, we’ve had scrims against Seoul and Shock. We’ve avoided Shanghai since they’re our first opponent. At least, it means our practices are somewhat meaningful.
FunnyAstro: We've never played Shanghai this entire season. Zero scrims, zero matches. You don’t know what to expect.
Teddy Amenabar (Washington Post): What to you is exciting about the game? What is keeping you guys competitively interested whether it's winning or something else?
FunnyAstro: Right now, after winning All-Stars, it felt really good. After the two-week quarantine, I had to kind of dip where I was playing a little less rank. After winning All-Stars, it was just a fun experience, sort of got my drive back, and I've been playing a lot of rank. I think in general, Korean rank is pretty fun as well.
Poko: Yeah, I mean we are competitors. We like to play with people, and we like to win even more. Just the fact of winning is what makes us love the game so much. We give it our all.
Andres Aquino (GinxTV): I wanted to ask Chris, from a coaching POV, how are you approaching coming to Korea and settling into a new style of playing Overwatch?
ChrisTFer: I pulled out a process that is almost always going to be the same. We kind of have the way we do each day and the way we approach each meta and each opponent inevitably is the same.
There is a challenge once you understand the comps that you'll see, you'll understand that the way to make a difference against other teams. Maybe the Lucio/Moira that we played before we came is different. Maybe we have to approach it in a different way. That’s definitely being challenging.
I say the vast majority of the metas that we saw in NA were standard. There’s elements of adapting to a new style of comp.
Jennifer Pichette (Hotspawn Esports): ChrisTFer, you brought up some really good points about scrim partners. I was just curious, you were on Philly when you guys had Fusion University under your belt, of course, and I was just wondering do you miss having a B team to practice secret strats?
ChrisTFer: I’ve actually not been on the Fusion when we had the Academy team in America, but we do have one in Korea. We scrimmed against them for two or three weeks. It’s been super useful.
Ashley Parrish (Kotaku): So with last year, there was role lock. And this year, it's hero pools complete with all the past changes implemented right before major tournaments. Are these changes keeping the game fresh for you guys, or is it a source of a lot of frustration?
If you could play the game like you want it, what would you do? Would you just go back to just plain up and down like free-for-all or would you keep some rules in place or hero pools or would you not change anything?
ChrisTFer: I think once they got into the format of a two-week hero pool followed by a tournament, that was perfect for us. It was enough to keep us coming back. It gives a new tank at the start of every week.
I think it is definitely difficult in those first -- I don't know -- however, it was like, five or six or seven weeks where it was every week was a new hero pool, then you get three days practice. You hoped you locked on to the right comp.
That was extremely challenging but I think once they adjusted the format to two weeks on two weeks off with a tournament, I think everyone found it pretty dry. But, it was good to start a new month with a new fresh goal of winning.
Ashley Parrish (Kotaku): Is this something you would keep going into next season?
ChrisTFer: I think it was if it was up to me I would do away with hero pools and then attempt some sort of strong balancing between tournaments. The problem in the past is that on paper, changes look big, and then Brig is still in play. Then we'll change her again and Brig is still played. Hero pools alleviate that problem but if this format is in next season, then I couldn’t complain, to be honest.
FunnyAstro: It would be the same without hero pools at all. If we get a major patch update, the meta would probably evolve over the month, moving up to the tournament. You would still see different team comps being played and every team having their own style as well. At the end of the tournament, you would hit a solid meta.
Bradley Long (Hotspawn Esports): You guys have had several kind of new faces on the Fusion this year. Obviously, everyone knows about Alarm being Rookie of the Year, his incredible performance. But, I'd like you to talk a little bit about Heesu and just kind of what he brings to the team both like strategically and then kind of as a teammate.
ChrisTFer: I think one of the reasons we've had success this year is bringing in young talent. I think Astro along and with Heesu, they show real enthusiasm. They’re really happy to be in the league, they’re really happy to be on the team, they’re really happy to play Overwatch, and I think that becomes incredibly infectious around the team.
One thing I love about Heesu just as a person is that even when the pressure is on, he's always like happy and smiling. There are a few players I have met who I look at, and when he's in big games, I think he's actually really enjoying this. It's a pretty stressful experience. A lot of the time, players love to compete, they're not wearing a smile during every second of it.
FunnyAstro: He's just so enthusiastic, so much energy all the time. As Chris said, it's infectious. This guy's just like giving 100% constantly and kind of motivated people around him.
Poko: He’s like really young so he brings a lot of energy. He really wants to win. He’s like to be humble, guys. Don't be too cocky and like focus on winning. He's like a really good teammate and everybody enjoys playing with him.
Theo Salaun (Bleacher Report/Dexerto): So if you win the championship you get a skin in the next season. Last year, the Shock got the Doomfist skin, so you can’t get the ChipSa Doomfist skin, which is disappointing. If you guys could choose one skin to get a skin for, who would it be and any ideas on what the design would be like?
ChrisTFer: Lucio would be a good one. Like when he drops his ult, it would be like a nuclear explosion or something.
Liz Richardson (Dot Esports): Has the meta shifted during the past few weeks of scrims as you’ve been able to refine team comps?
FunnyAstro: APAC in general has a different meta before we came here. That’s what we had to adapt to. I think a lot of the teams in America just mirrored whatever the best teams picked at the start of the weekend.
Teddy Amenabar (Washington Post): FunnyAstro, I saw your tweet earlier in September with all of the quarantine food. Is there anything specific that you enjoyed with the food that Blizzard sent you?
FunnyAstro: Some of the Korean candy is really good. ABC is SO GOOD. It was gone in a day. Oh, and lots of ramen.
Bryan Rockwood (The Game Haus): What are your hopes for Overwatch 2 when it eventually comes out?
Poko: I don’t think we’ve ever thought about Overwatch 2 for now since it’s like so far ahead. We have no idea what to expect.
ChrisTFer: There needs to be a way to remove heroes *laughs*. I wish for all comps to be viable, like a rock-paper-scissors way. That’s where Overwatch can be unique about.
FunnyAstro: A way to nuke certain maps, like Horizon and Paris. I want to do the same with heroes.
Chris Cuevo (Inven Global): Did you guys have a hard time adapting from going to homestands to the online format this year? Do you miss the crowds?
FunnyAstro: It was pretty rough. I think for me, especially, my first proper year in the league. One thing that I was really really looking forward to is always playing on LAN and in the atmosphere, I don't think any player ever say that playing on LAN is more fun.
Just having the crowd there, the whole experience of traveling, just the change of scenery is really nice. It keeps things fresh with a long season.
I think that’s one of the struggles of online play. It stagnated playing at home, at the same place, every week. It gets kind of boring.
Poko: We also had to adapt from going to practice at the facility everyday and we couldn’t anymore. We had to bring our setup to where we were living. Fusion helped us a lot with that.
Bradley Long (Hotspawn Esports): The Fusion this year have kind of been knocking on the door all year long with the finals of the Summer Showdown, Countdown Cup, and then obviously the playoffs against the Shock. Do you feel like coming so close adds to the motivation going into the Grand Finals? Or does it maybe just ramp up the pressure and potentially make things a little bit harder?
ChrisTFer: We cannot allow ourselves into a mindset that we believe the idea of this second-place case is real. We understand that the process we do we work our hardest. Sometimes, we get really close. There isn't a problem that is going to stop us from winning forever. And I think the only way for a case to be real is that these guys are in their heads that we can never win.
The other thing is to be honest, if you’re playing in Grand Finals, and you need an extra reason to be motivated, then this isn’t the best job for you anyway. There’s so many reasons that everyone has to be to be working 24/7 and doing everything they can, but there's no element of like, oh, well, we can prove the doubters wrong or we can break the curse like none of that even comes into it.
Like what's the point of working for nine months really hard to just throw it away and not working your hardest at the end?
Writer @InvenGlobal | Freelanced at @overwatchscore @vpesports @GinxTV @Upcomer | Former CLICKON Media and Echo Fox.