Julien "daemoN" Ducros is one of the first-generation coaches in Western Overwatch, one of Los Angeles Valiant’s two assistant coaches and, temporarily, the team’s acting head coach. Before joining Valiant, during his time with the French lineup of GamersOrigin and the European Overwatch PIT S1 champions, Movistar Riders, he experienced a moderate success in coaching and became one of the staple names, within the Western scene.
After L.A. Valiant’s fourth-place finish in Overwatch League’s first stage, we had the opportunity to get Julien’s thoughts on a number of topics, including coaching in OWL, the intensity of the schedule, envy’s growth, SoOn’s backcaps, stats and more.
Bonjour! Before we get into Overwatch-related topics, tells us how you spent the time between stages. Did the team get more time off than you do during the stages and get to enjoy more of L.A.?
Bonjour! I think a lot of teams tried to take a week or more off, but we weren’t really interested in that. There was a meta switch, and we wanted to work on that so we could know what we needed to do. We ended up with 3-4 days off, and got to work as soon as possible. Maybe if the meta doesn’t change end of stage 2, we will get more time off. To be honest though, at least on my side, I just feel so bad [during time off] because I want to work. A day off feels really long and the worst part was that I couldn’t work at all since the meta was different, and we didn’t scrim on new patch, before the days off. So in the end, I contacted some friends in Europe and watched their scrims to get a grasp on how things were working. It didn’t really helped me in the end though, since Europe is (was) stuck in the tank meta.
If I have the chance and opportunity to get free time, I use it to "connect myself" with the community by streaming some gameplay or VOD reviews of Overwatch. So, in the end, I tend to spend my free time with Overwatch anyway. But when I will feel like there’s no work to do, or I can get the right to truly rest, I may [go sightseeing] and enjoy L.A., because it seems to be one of the best cities in the world.
Your position's official title is "assistant coach", but, since different coaches have varying approaches to the process, please explain to us what are your responsibilities on the Valiant. How has your approach to coaching changed over time, since you first became known on GamersOrigin to now?
I think I learned from the last year and half of experience that, if I wanted to be the best, I needed to be as versatile as possible. I always adapted to the needs of the team I was on and it gave me the opportunity to learn and experience pretty much every coaching-related position.
In LA Valiant, I’ve got a lot of responsibilities since we’re making some changes in our coaching staff, but also due to how complex the structure of an OWL team is. For example, to assist Head Coach Moon (MBC) until he gets in LA, I have kind of [taken over] the head coach position [temporarily]. This experience isn’t new, since I needed to go through a similar drastic change in Movistar Riders. But, eventually. the tasks a coach has to do are always different depending on the team’s needs, character, and etc. So I always adapt, I can be diplomatic as well as pragmatic, take on a more supportive role, or be the leader, depending on what’s best for the "ecosystem" of the concerned team.
Right now, I just make sure that the coaching styles (mine, Gunba’s and coach MBC’s) fit, and is applied well so when [coach MBC] gets here, he doesn’t need to do anything except give the last hammer blow, as well of keeping the roster on track by giving the team direction, a proper work schedule etc. Our manager, Mike, as well is one hell of a competent manager, so things are really easy when it comes to scheduling and structure. As a result, I don’t need to do much on the administrative end of things. So, in the end, I work a lot with [coach MBC] concerning the team, and directly with the players.
The beginning of stage 2 signals patch change for the league. What are your overall thoughts on the new patch and do you think any of stage 1's top7 will be put at a disadvantage as a result of the change in the metagame?
I’m the type of coach to focus on my team first and see what’s going to be good and bad for us, so I don’t really know how the other teams will be affected. But from what I know about some players and teams, Seoul may experience a great boost as they have one of the best Lucios in the world.
On the other hand, NYXL may take a bit of a hit since ArK may be more comfortable with Mercy than he is Lucio. Additionally, their favorite exotic composition that made them so untouchable is not as good anymore. Still, it’s hard to tell, even more if you aren’t directly involved with the team.
Everyone realizes the overarching metagame can have a huge impact on which team is doing well based on their personnel, but how much can a team's success be influenced by the map pool? Does the stage system provide enough time for teams to adapt to the changes in the pool?
A team’s performance can obviously be affected by the map pool. I’ll use Houston as an example, I respect them for being one of, if not the, best Junkertown teams in the OWL. They are also one of the best teams at running Junkrat-oriented compositions. For them, a bad map pool would mean one that doesn’t allow this type of composition. Still, Houston is, to a degree, a bad example as they can adapt relatively well with many cool different strategies. But if they could pick Junkertown, I’m pretty sure they would do so over any map.
Truth be told, the stage schedule is REALLY challenging, in many ways, but it’s what makes the OWL the place to be, in terms of competition. In terms of strategy, you need to adapt well quickly, but also be able to predict what could happen next match, depending on your opponents. In the end, this system pushes teams to the edge, in many ways, but I think this why we see the high-level strategy and competition.
We talk a lot about the dive meta and how some picks, for ex. Tracer and Winston, are just permanently picked. In the end though, if you take a look at stage 1, you can see many different strategies and composition were used. That’s because teams and more importantly individual players realize how much of an impact theorycrafting can have to figure out the best composition DEPENDING on the maps and even specific points.
As a coach, how difficult is it to prepare properly, first, yourself and then the players for matches in two consecutive days? To what degree does it impact the ability to prepare for specific opponents and how much focus did you guys put on the potential title matches before the game with Fuel was over?
It’s insanely hard, but at the same time it’s also providing me with a lot of valuable experience and helping me grow. As I said earlier, the schedule is a "I love you" as much as it is "I hate you". It’s really challenging and sometimes puts us in really hard situations, especially when we need to play two matches against the two best teams in OWL in the same week. Still, I just adapted my work so I could figure out the enemy team’s profile.
For example, what they did recently, how did they do it, what’re my thoughts on it. And then, how, as a team, we can use their strong and weak points when we go against them, by adapting our strategy and compositions depending on [what I learned]. The whole process is compressed in a short period of time and there’s also the possibility of scrims getting canceled, technical problems etc. This makes the overall process really stressful, especially for the coaching staff, but also for the players at some point.
How good of a fit do you think the stage 2's map pool is for Valiant, compared to stage 1's?
It’s hard to answer right now since, going by the experience from stage 1, a lot of unique map and point-dependant composition may start appearing in the middle of the stage. Additionally, we’re not quite sure as well what’s the best first, for our team -- which players to sub in, sub out, what composition to play etc. -- but as well for the map pool.
Despite the unknown factor though, there’s a lot of stuff that could be picked up from the past meta, that was somewhat similar to this one. And, on my side, it may be a bit awkward to say this, but I can be really good in this meta and map pool. To explain a bit, I think I’ve come up with a lot of good strategies and theories, as well as a unique approach that I developed back in the day, which I could use with Valiant as well.
One of the surprises over the course of stage 1, at least to me, was envy's strong performance. How much of that can be attributed to him improving individually and to what degree is it a result of uNKOE and SoOn joining, and the team system fitting him better than it did in the past?
I can agree with that. As soon as I joined the team, I could see that envy was simply a monstrous talent and could give a hard time to any offtank in the OWL. Not only that, Envy forms a frenetic synergy duo together with Fate, who is also one monster of a talent. Basically, I came to a team with two raw, yet-to-be-developed gems that were ready to be polished into the best players in the league, if managed well. On the other hand, they were joined by the two Rogue veterans who were just the perfect additions needed to turn the team into a top-tier squad that’s capable of matching the best rosters in OWL.
Also, we don’t mention it that much, and I’m sure he’s going to show everyone soon enough how important he is, but no one should sleep on KariV. He is one of our key players and is important to the team because of both his skill and behavior. I think he is for us what Mickie is to Dallas.
Overall, coaching so many formidable players gives me one of the hardest challenges of my life, but, at the same time, I know they’re not perfect. They need to improve and look up to me to provide to them what they need to become the best players.
One of the most entertaining aspects of Valiant's play so far has been SoOn's backcaps. How do comms work during one of those? Is it something he attempts on his own when he sees the opportunity or are those more of a product of the team actively working toward drawing out opponents so he can do it?
What’s most impressive is that he’s basically doing it all on his own. SoOn is the type of players that won’t add much "macromanagement" (communication, gameplan, leadership) to the team, but his micro is just truly impressive sometimes. His aggressive playstyle has worked for a few months now and allows him to find the best windows to abuse of an opponent mistake.
SoOn is the "do or die" type. He’s not afraid of anyone, but neither does he fear of making a mistake, which allows him to make such bold decisions and pull off miracle plays like this. The enemy teams need to be vigilant all the time so they don’t get caught in SoOn’s fangs when they expect it the less. Thanks to this, we can get a lot of space.
Something I like asking all the analysts about is the publicly-available stats we have right now. How useful are they for analyzing the game, researching opponents, devising strategies and counter-strategies for specific teams?
Barroi knows how much I like him for bringing content of such importance to the scene and for everyone in needs to understand the game through numbers. I use Winston lab pretty much everyday, and always bother Barroi in everything that I could possibly seek as a coach to understand a team’s profile better. One example is with how they apply a composition against a specific composition, what’s the state speak about this, how they feel about it, and think through that. Additionally, [with regular usage], I can build enough knowledge and lucidity to give context to most of the stats, so I don’t end up in a pool of numbers that I can’t truly understand.
Because yes, stats can be one of the worst indicators of what happened if they aren’t interpreted well. If you can’t give context to those, you will fail to understand the game, or do so in a completely wrong manner, which could be very dangerous to both your team and yourself. This makes up for me having a "special relationship" with stats -- I know when I need them, and on which subject.
With a number of the teams recruiting well-known and established talent, and SPACE ineligible to compete in stage 2, some Valiant fans have been worried that the team hasn't made changes. Can you offer some words to alleviate their concerns?
L.A. Valiant obviously looks to make the most out of their players potential, make everyone on the team happy, and help everyone stay "in shape" by any means. Overwatch League is a true field warfare, where players do their best to stand at the top and compete at the highest level, on stage, and show everyone how good they are. The competition is intense, and we’re still at the first season of the league, which doesn’t allow everyone to compete and get a chance, and I’m one to know how much talent out there would be glad to grab a spot, even if it means to not play on stage, but just help their team and learn from it.
L.A. Valiant will be able to provide what the players want, so everyone can be happy in the process and grow from it, so just stay tuned!
The final words are yours.
I would like to thank everyone for the support. Since I’ve joined the L.A. Valiant, a lot of people came to me asking for interviews, help, or just sharing a piece of love. I would like to thank all those people. As much as I have the time and the energy I answer them all. You’re giving me the strength to go through all the challenges ahead of me and help my players reach their goal. It means a lot to me, merci infiniment!
To keep up with Valiant and Julien’s activities, make sure to follow him on Twitter at @daemoNOW and Twitch at baemon.
About the author:
Hello, readers! I go by the ID RadoN and I’ve been watching different esports since I found out about the industry in 2009. The titles 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.