Jonathan "Reinforce" Larsson is a name any Western follower of Overwatch’s esports scene will be able to recognize. And whilst the newest fans will know him primarily for his work on the analyst desk during Contenders S1, he is also one of the most successful players in the game’s short history. Starting in the early betas, he made a name for himself with a multitude of teams to eventually become the main tank for the French-Swedish squad of Rogue. The team spent months as the best in the world and remains arguably the most successful Western lineup of six, particularly when it comes to offline performances. Following a close defeat at the hands of EnVyUs in APEX S1, him and TviQ left the team to form a new, this time all-Swedish, team under the banner of Misfits. Even though the squad was one of the best in Europe, it failed to live up to expectation of both fans and the players themselves. Eventually Reinforce and the team parted ways, which lead to him joining the Contenders S1 broadcast as an analyst.
Last week, we had the opportunity to ask him a slew of questions in regards to his career as a gamer, as well as his background and future in journalism and broadcast work.
If you missed the first part of the interview you can catch it here. In it, Reinforce talks about getting into esports, Overwatch, his time on Rogue and more.
Looking back on your time with Misfits, do you think that you got to play your signature style while you were on the team?
It’s weird, because in both Misfits and Rogue, I’ve always been the aggressive tank, but most of the time, while in the teams themselves -- I’ve argued against it -- for a more defensive and positional approach. So, looking back at Misfits, I never wanted to play the 3 DPS compositions in Contenders Season 0. Instead, I wanted to play more passive and utilize the D.Va Defense Matrix to abuse enemy mistakes. I was the guy who wanted to jump for high-ground leading into a fight to give me the option to engage more safely, but I was always encouraged to dive deeper.
Looking back, I could have obviously done better, but I don’t really feel like my Winston play has represented how I’d like to play it, and in many ways my death statistics suffered [because of that]. It was really only during APEX Season 2, with my Reinhardt, that I felt I was really on point because I got to play my game, how I wanted to. I think that was the reason Taimou mentioned my name when talking best Reinhardt players during that famous stream where he called out winz.
But even then, we went into TakeOver 2 playing some awful triple tank after a player within Misfits really pushed for us to move into playing more triple tank despite us winning pretty consistently in practice against all other European teams just playing 2/2/2 compositions, sometimes with Reinhardt and Manneten on the Zarya. At that point we were losing only to eUnited on a pretty regular basis (I kept a W/L sheet against all teams on all maps at the time)
Perhaps, a little more practice time to tone down my ingrained aggression ahead of Sydney in the World Cup, where we always played Manneten on D.Va, and I would have felt 100% confident in what we did and how I got to play Winston the way I desired to.
That was one of the reasons that during the “Ultimate Advantage” podcast I said I really didn’t feel like I had done myself justice so far in my playing career, because I knew I had a lot more in me that I didn’t get to showcase because of my previous teams opting for something I wasn’t 100% comfortable with ahead of most tournaments.
When Misfits dropped Zave, you mentioned in the statement that you needed someone with stronger leadership and communication. However, I found it a bit weird as the perception, or my perception anyway, is that you you, Zebbosai and TviQ are quite vocal already. Can you explain into a bit more detail what exactly were the problems in that iteration of the team?
You know, this is an interesting one, and since being removed from the starting roster, and kicked from the World Cup team, the “what-if” and regret that has caused me the most emotional pain and anger. When I played in Misfits, yes, Zebbosai and TviQ were notoriously those “leaders”, especially outside of the game. They never took on those roles within the game itself though and it fucked up our entire in-game communication looking back at it.
When Zebbosai was on the flex tank role early in Misfits, he was quite vocal about things, in a tank meta anyway, and I appreciated that, but as we moved him towards a flex support role, he quieted down and didn’t take the shotcalling role people know him for. Similar to TviQ, where in Rogue, TviQ was this god Genji I loved playing with, and I saw him as my brother-in-arms for a very long time, but as he moved to a Tracer role, he also quieted down. He was the one flanking, so, obviously, he wasn’t to shotcall engages or teamfights, he was just there to do work. And so we were caught in this phase where we didn’t know who should shotcall what.
When I was in Rogue, I was a very quiet player because of what I mentioned earlier about my specific playstyle, and that carried over to Misfits. Zebbosai was genuinely shocked by how little I spoke when I joined the all-Swedish Misfits. I NEVER called for anything, so he encouraged me [to do so], and told me to be more vocal about my engages, and [act on it] when I felt comfortable engaging. As a result, I started to speak up a bit more, and I remember our manager WindZ at the time praising me for playing a lot better when I got to have some say in what we did, unlike my play in Rogue where I had no say.
Moving forwards in Misfits, with new roles coming home from APEX Season 2, I had to step up my shotcalling even more, because no one else would be in a comfortable position to do so, and we had no natural leader in place. However,I couldn’t shotcall everything, and so we demanded Zave to step it up a notch in regards to i.e. ultimate shotcalling (our ultimates, their ultimates etc.), but it wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be, so we looked for something better in bring in Mineral. And Mineral was excellent, but he wasn’t as authoritative as someone like Zebbosai, which caused problems when everything got a lot more hectic and intense during official matches.
So looking back, yes, we had TviQ and Zebbosai, two naturals when it comes to shotcalling in our team, but when it came to in-game, they weren’t in positions where they could shine doing so. This is the reason why during the new Misfits re-shuffle, I specifically asked the owner of Misfits, Ben, to build around Zebbosai on Lucio. We needed that authoritative, leader, shotcalling badly. Likewise, I also convinced TviQ to go back to a projectile role and specifically Genji, because I knew that his shotcalling on that role was something out of this world. That was how it was all meant to be set up from the start, and it would have solved countless issues we suffered throughout the all-Swedish roster.
And so when I heard they were doing tryouts in Misfits, I was extremely disappointed being informed that they had decided to go for CWoosH instead of me. I knew that in the shotcalling structure and diving system, collaborating with TviQ, he’d have an advantage over me in how easy it would be for him to listen to the calls and just play, compared to when I was in Misfits and had to play with TviQ on Tracer and Zebbosai on the flex support role, where our calling structure was a mess. TviQ himself has said that “communication” was the issue in our previous line-ups many times, and it was true. That was why I fought to have those two swap back to their most successful roles, because I knew it would fundamentally pay off and I knew that when I got back home to Sweden from OWWC, it’d be a rejuvenated team with me having a lot of pressure of my back. TviQ is the best shotcalling Genji in the West, no doubt in my mind, and I looked forward to playing with him again in that role because I knew everything would be so much better.
To this day, I don’t even know for sure if they’ve realised themselves the different situations in which they compared me and CWoosH, and how much harder it was for me taking on the main tank role without that structure that TviQ and Zebbosai now provide him and the Misfits squad with. I think things could have been very different had I not attended Katowice and Santa Monica as an analyst, and actually trialled with him during those new circumstances. I think they had success in practice when I was away and just thought “Oh, things are working! We should stick with this roster!”, and the same goes for Team Sweden, which I also got kicked from without being given a chance. It will haunt me, probably for the rest of my life, that I never got to play under those circumstances with Zebbosai on the Lucio and TviQ on the Genji.
I think it would be fair to say that, even though you play all the main tank heroes, your specialty is Reinhardt. As such I want to ask you what are the different strengths and playstyles of some of the elite Reinhardts you've gotten to play in the past.
Panker: Now Panker seemed like a god at the start of the triple tank meta during APEX Season 1. When I was very explosive, volatile and simple-minded, he was very passive and structured. He read me like an open book through simply being ahead of the Reinhardt game that early. I learnt that Korean teams in tank meta had systems for calling crowd control abilities out. For example:
#1 Would be Roadhog’s hook
#2 Then, Ana’s Biotic Grenade
#3 Sleep Dart
#4 Reinhardt’s Earthshatter and so on.
At this point in the game, that was some next level stuff in terms of coordination, and I would fall for all of it. I’d get hooked instantly, anti-healed, sleep darted, pretty much every fight. Additionally Panker was able to read me like an open book and punish me with his Earthshatter whenever I went for my charges or tried to engage with my ultimate. Then, when I was already mentally abused, he’d flank with his own Earthshatter and he seemed like a god.
When we returned for APEX Season 2, I had the chance to get that break I wrote about earlier (following the departure of Rogue) and I was in a comfortable environment. I grinded and studied my Reinhardt game extremely hard, and I managed to adapt and often in scrims be on-par with Panker, if not being the one on top in practice. As mentioned earlier, he was a passive and structured tank, and when I figured out when he does what, it was easy for me to abuse it, and punish him with calculated aggression in situations where he didn’t have a say in my engagements. Panker was ahead of many, if not all Reinhardt’s for a period of time, but he didn’t play the game as optimally as I believe you could, with both passiveness and calculated aggression.
skipjack: In many ways [he’s] the European Panker, if that’s a fair assessment, but even more passive in terms of not making enough plays. When I look at the different tanks currently out there, a lot of them are considered pretty passive, and they play safe, and they minimize risks they take. I think it’s an easy style to play, if you don’t have those aggressive instincts I have, and it makes you look good because you don’t leave room for messing up, but I do not believe it’s the most effective way to play the game. skipjack was one of those main tank’s I’d like to believe, who rarely made a mistake, but I also think he didn’t set up his teams as good as he could’ve, when his DPS relied on him to make a play in order to make space for them. People obviously think that his nationality had all to do with the fact he got kicked from Rogue following the roster shuffles, but it’s often forgotten his very passive style was in opposition of the Frenchmen’s ruthless aggression.
KAISER: Ah, the instinctive Reinhardt king. He reminded me a lot about my own playstyle, the difference maker being he took less of those risky charges. But the plays he went for ... how he nailed them, god damn. He often referred himself to his very instinctual play, something I echoed for a while, but as I faltered to Panker in APEX Season 1, I realized that instinctive play wasn’t perhaps the best way to play the game, and you’d rather need to look for a combination of both aggression and passiveness. There is no question that KAISER was on top of the world for a moment in time, when everything in his play worked out for him. But given his playstyle, there was always a timer for how long it’d keep being successful, as meta and other Reinhardt’s adapted.
When I look back at TakeOver 2, I honestly believe that time had passed, and both of me and ChrisTFer gave him a good run for his money, if not bested him in the matches, and he had fallen off to an extent since the RunAway run to the finals. I think his lacking Winston play as seen in Cloud9 is a reflection of how he failed to adapt structurally with his Reinhardt. Still, he will always be remembered in the history books for that time he won over the world, with an incredible Earthshatter on Eichenwalde.
One of the teams you got to play multiple times in officials, and I assume in practice later on, is AF Blue. Obviously, you don't play DPS at the professional level, but from your experience of playing against them, what can you tell me about ArHaN as a player? Why is he so up and down and what are his strengths and weaknesses?
So it’s kinda funny. ArHaN, while being ridiculed for his questionable play at times, even by me, was almost on the next level. In a phase where everyone played pretty organized and slow (for diving standards), we in Rogue put emphasis on chaos and speed. ArHaN was very similar to that, the difference maker being him just being completely off in terms of synergy with his team. So, it’d lead to this hilarious opposite of play styles within AF Blue where 5 members would play like a team, and we would sometimes just find ArHaN a whole point behind us in our spawn. I think his mindset on how to play the game was completely viable, but he was just a player who developed in a scene where everything was very straight-forward and tactics strictly stale. He was a wild cowboy in his own chaotic fast-paced world.
As we mentioned earlier, you're someone with background in journalism and now you've done a decent amount broadcast work. Do you think one of those is something you could return to doing full time and give up on playing at the professional level? Or is the feeling of competition too good to give up at the moment?
It certainly is something I can see myself doing, but to me, the question is about for how long I can see myself taking the risk of playing professionally. Being a professional gamer is a very chaotic and you have no job security whatsoever. However, I’m 22 years of age. What do I have to lose this early in life? This is the time when I as a young adult should be taking chances, live life and emotions to the fullest and make lifelong memories. At the same time, what fool would I be to pass up an opportunity to work with the gaming company I’ve grown up with? Starting with World of Warcraft at the early age of 10, spending my days playing Wintermaul in custom Warcraft 3 games, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, watching those sick Starcraft II tournaments MLG put on, of course Diablo 2 and 3.
I’d be a fool to turn them down when given chances, because Blizzard to me is the company I grew up with. The company whose games in many ways helped me get away from the real world, when I needed to catch a break going through puberty and those emotional teenage times we all experience. Working for, and with Blizzard, would really be the ultimate conclusion and realization of those dreams I dreamt when putting in my hard-working hours at a younger age. Too bad they don’t have a job listing for a pro gamer, because I’d have to leave the greatest feeling of all behind to work for my favorite company, winning and being crowned champion on a stage in front of an audience. The question of when I should retire, if being offered a job with them, is something I think about on daily basis, and every day the answer is different. It’s a mentally draining career thought, but ultimately, when I have to make that choice for job security and life stability, I wouldn’t choose anyone above working for Blizzard. They’re the epitome of my gaming career.
The final words are yours.
Thank you to everyone who made my two chapters in Rogue and Misfits during 2016 and 2017 possible. I’m forever grateful for the opportunities I was presented with during those times. Special shout-outs to 2GD. Frank, Carson, Sean and Derek from Rogue for being fantastic to work with. I wish you best of luck acquiring a new Overwatch team! TviQ my former brother-in-arms, WindZ the manager of Misfits, and Ben Spoont the CEO. Of course the Blizzard esports team should be on this list as well for giving me the opportunities to work with them during the 2016 & 2017 World Cup, as well as Contenders. You know who you are, love you guys!
You can keep up with Jonathan’s activities on social media at twitter.com/Reinforce and twitch.tv/Reinforce.
(Photo credits: OGN, Robert Paul for Blizzard)
About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! I’ve been following different games within the esports industry ever since finding out about it in 2009. The titles that I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake, while occasionally dabbling in some other games as well. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on twitter at @RadoNonfire.