2018 was a rather unsatisfying year for the New York Excelsior. They seemed exceptional after having won the OWL Season 1 Stage 2 and 3, but they could not maintain their dominance to the end of the split. Eventually, they had to simply watch the London Spitfire claim the trophy.
Although they failed to reach the top, the fact that New York Excelsior is still one of the best teams has not changed. It seems that the team plans to go a step further in Season 2 since they have the 2018 OWL and World Cup MVP ‘JJonak’, also known as “the world’s best healer”; along with ‘Fl0w3R’, who has just been called up from their academy team XL2, and ‘Nenne’.
We met up with JJonak, Fl0w3R, and Nenne to hear some of their expectations for the upcoming Season.
Can you guys introduce yourself to our readers?
JJonak: Hi, I’m New York Excelsior’s sub healer, JJonak.
Fl0w3R: Hi, I’m Fl0w3R, who was just promoted from the XL2 academy.
Nenne: I’m Nenne. I’ve been in the XL2 academy and just joined the Excelsior team.
How have you guys been after the OWL Season 1 came to an end?
JJonak: I performed for the OWL Season 1 national team. I finished my schedule in New York and came back. I’m going to get ready for the league after a few weeks of rest.
Fl0w3R: I took some rest after Contenders. I visited New York with my teammates recently and everything was nice, except the weather.
Nenne: It was really cold and the traffic was quite harsh. Everything cost a lot but it was still nice. (laughs)
How is your preparation for the OWL Season 2 going so far?
Nenne: I visited Korea for my visa while I was practicing in LA. Unfortunately, due to some circumstances, I couldn’t practice in Korea. After getting about 2 weeks of rest, I’m heading back to the States and get into some real preparation.
The New York Excelsior was thought of as one of the favorites after delivering exceptional performance at the beginning of the OWL Season 1. However, the team lost its momentum later in the season and failed to claim the trophy. What was the main reason for this?
JJonak: We had a hard time maintaining our condition. We also had some disagreements among our teammates which could have been one of the reasons.
On the other hand, your rival, London Spitfire, started to get good results in the late season. What do you think was the main reason for London Spitfire becoming the champions?
JJonak: At some point, the London Spitfire players’ individual mechanics advanced at an unbelievable rate. I think the key to [London Spitfire becoming the champions] was Fury and Birdring’s individual improvement.
Fl0w3R: I think every team has its ups and downs. For example, Lunatic-Hai was performing well in the APEX but slipped in Season 4 and GC Busan suddenly started to improve in Season 4. London Spitfire members were mentally strong and grew stronger at the end of the season which was the main reason why they won the trophy.
There have been some issues lately surrounding the balance patches on heroes such as Brigitte and Doomfist. What kind of changes are you expecting from the balance patches?
JJonak: Currently, the 3 healers Lúcio, Zenyatta, and Brigitte are used a lot. Even after the patch is updated, I think I’ll be using the 3 healers. In truth, Brigitte’s sustainability will be better since her heal amount has increased. I think Tracer and Genji will still be difficult to use.
Nenne: I think Brigette is better than before. Doomfist was nerfed so he won’t be used that much.
Fl0w3R: Now that Doomfist can be dealt with pretty easily in the pro scene, I think he won’t be used a lot. However, Brigette’s heal has been improved so I think other damage dealers will use her more often.
(To JJonak) You’ll be in your second season as an OWL player. Now that you’ve experienced your first season, I do think you’ve gained quite a bit of knowledge. What is your focus for next split?
JJonak: Knowing how to manage my condition would be the most important thing. What I learned at the middle of Season 1 is that my performance differs dramatically based on my sleep time. Although we did have players sick quite often last season, I think this health issue will be solved in Season 2 since the Excelsior front is helping out a lot, through activities such as letting us attend yoga classes.
(To JJonak) After going through the first season, you’ve been named the best sub healer in the world. What would be your own strengths that other healers don’t have?
JJonak: I think my strength is that I’m always confident and not afraid to face anyone.
(To JJonak) You were the MVP of both the OWL and World Cup this year. You might as well be the man of 2018. How would you rate your performance for this year?
JJonak: To be honest, I did not expect all this to happen. I think I was lucky this year and I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me.
(To JJonak) It was unexpected that healers would receive this much positive attention going into the first OWL Season. People say that Excelsior’s strengths became more known with JJonak as the main key of their tactics. What are your thoughts on this?
JJonak: I agree (laughs). I’ve been receiving care from everyone including MekO, Anamo, and ArK. This is why I’m getting more attention.
(To JJonak) JJonak, Carpe, and Fury are known to be best friends. What are the differences between them as players and friends?
JJonak: The two players are such nice friends. They also become very serious when they have to. As a friend, I think they’re like high school buddies. Although Carpe is a year older than Fury and I, we’re still good friends.
(To JJonak) I heard that this year’s Overwatch World Cup national team’s practice was tougher than last year’s. Is that true?
JJonak: I’m not sure about how they prepared for last year but as far as I heard, I think the players prepared harder this year. We even prepared harder than we prepared for the OWL.
(To Fl0w3R and Nenne) How was it playing the new hero, Ashe? In what ways would Ashe change the meta?
Nenne: I think she would be tough to use in the current meta. It’s still the ‘3 tanks-3 healers’ meta, so the right situation for Ashe to deal damage is not often seen. Although she has a movement skill, I still think she’s not that good. However, once the ‘3 tanks-3 healers’ meta is over and Genji-Tracer composition is used, I think compositions such as Ashe-Mercy can counter it. The two will be able to instantly kill the opponent damage dealers. Compared to Widowmaker, it’s easier to land shots with Ashe and I like the fact that she can shoot instantly without delay.
Fl0w3R: I have similar thoughts. She’ll be hard to use in the ‘3 tanks-3 healers’ meta. I personally think she’s somewhere between Widowmaker and Hanzo. I still believe that she’ll be used quite often in next year’s season.
(To Fl0w3R) To be frank, it’s quite hard to say that you’ve been constantly performing well in the Contenders team. What was frustrating about last year?
Fl0w3R: I think it was mostly about my mentality. I couldn’t sign a contract due to age restraints when everyone else signed with New York Excelsior after last year’s World Cup. I kind of felt like an outsider. I sometimes had to spend time alone in the dormitory when everyone else left for practice. I believed that I was the best after the World Cup but after being alone and not able to perform on stage, I started to think, ‘Is this right?’
(To Fl0w3R) What did you think after watching New York Excelsior’s games last season?
Fl0w3R: They were solid in the past and they are still currently a strong team. I’d like to become a player that can meet Excelsior’s standards.
(To Fl0w3R) New York Excelsior has a lot of damage dealers. Can you state the strengths of each of the team’s DPS players?
Fl0w3R: I think Saebyeolbe is for sure a Tracer specialist. He is good on other heroes but he’s exceptional on Tracer. I know about Nenne since we’ve played together in XL2. He can play sub tanks and he’s also good on Tracer and Widowmaker. Pine is also versatile. I think he’d perform better if he can bring his own aim on stage. Libero’s strength is that he knows how to play flexibly. I thought ‘I have a lot to learn’ after watching him play. I’m going to practice harder and become a player that’s good at everything.
(To Nenne) I wonder how you were called up to New York Excelsior from the XL2 Academy. Didn’t you receive a lot of offers from other teams?
Nenne: A lot of things happened. While I was performing in the XL2 Academy for 2 seasons, I actually did have a chance to be promoted to Excelsior after the first season. However, I had to perform another season because of visa issues. I thought I had a shot at the OWL because I performed well in my second Contenders season. Against my own expectations, I received offers from numerous teams.
The New York Excelsior also made an offer. However, I was hesitant since there would be too many DPS players if I joined. At first, I was concerned since there were players that are really good such as Saebyeolbe and Pine. Still, my memories from back in the LW days, when I was happy playing games with those players who I also lived with, made me decide to join New York Excelsior.
The most difficult part during my XL2 days was living with foreign players and communicating with them. That’s why I sought to play with Korean players. Also, since every player in New York Excelsior is good, I thought that ‘If I can perform well in that team, it would work out.’
(To Nenne) What kind of player do you want to be seen as in the OWL? Also, do you have any kind of hero that you want to make as one of your signature heroes?
Nenne: I want to become a player that is thought of as someone who is good at everything. I would have chosen Tracer in the past, but now I like Widowmaker and Tracer both. If I had to choose one hero as my signature though, I’d pick Tracer.
In the 2019 OWL Season, with 8 new teams joining the league, a total of 20 teams will compete. What are your expectations?
JJonak: To be honest, I’m not sure about the new teams since I don’t know anything about them. One of my desires would be to become rivals with Seoul Dynasty like in the past and defeat them once again. The two teams think of each as rivals and we both admit that the other is strong.
Fl0w3R: I think both the Pacific and Atlantic divisions will be competitive. I think that there will be 1 or 2 teams that are somewhat weaker than others in each division. Actually, last year, the Atlantic division teams were quite strong; I’d like to finish in 1st place in the Atlantic division.
Nenne: Frankly, I think that the new teams joining the league won’t do that great this year. Well, they’ll need some time to adjust and I believe the already-existing teams will do better. I think Shanghai will do much better compared to last season; maybe they’ll make it to the middle.
Like you’ve said, Seoul and New York were traditional rivals since their days in Korea. However, Seoul did not perform to their expectations in the first OWL season. What do you think was the reason?
JJonak: I think they weren’t lucky. On our first matchup against Seoul, we won 3:2. On the other hand, if they were to have won that match, I think Seoul would have gained momentum and advanced. I think it all started to snowball from that momentum difference.
Which team do you think would be a tough competitor in Season 2? Also, do you have any player that you want to win against?
JJonak: Last year, ryujehong was the only player on the list. However, this year, I’ll put Gido on that list as well. Since Ana is becoming popular these days, I’d like to beat ryujehong on Ana.
Nenne: I’m thinking of London Spitfire as a tough competitor. Personally, I think all the players in London are very good; they’ve also won the trophy. I really want to beat them in the tournament. I want to face Birdring and win.
Fl0w3R: I want to beat Philadelphia, London, and Vancouver. I just want to beat the DPS in any other team. I do receive criticism on my somewhat vague role; ‘Is he better on hitscan or projectile heroes?’ Well, if I can defeat every player I face, people will simply think that I’m the better player. I just want to face any team as soon as possible.
8 new teams have been added and there are a lot of teams that have Korean players. Which team do you think stands out among them?
Fl0w3R: I’m looking forward to what Vancouver has to offer. I want to see how much they’ve changed compared to the RunAway team. Also, I’m curious about how Washington would do since they have Janus in their roster.
(To Mano and MekO who also came to our interview) Near the end of last season, numerous fans were concerned about New York since they lacked tanks in their roster. The team has only 2 tanks in this year's roster as well. Aren’t you guys worried?
Mano: Well, I think there won’t be any problems with having just 2 tanks if they can successfully maintain their condition. When it comes to me... I was born with a sound body so I was barely ill throughout my life (laughs). I was mostly in good shape last season as well. Since the team cares for the player more in Season 2, I think we’ll pull it off.
MekO: I also take care of myself very well (laughs). The team staff gives us a lot of support so I believe there won’t be any problems if we don’t get into any accidents.
I feel that the OWL players’ professionalism is gradually improving. Did they receive any kind of education?
Nenne: A commissioner gives lessons regularly. More importantly, now the scene itself has become huge; I think the players feel individually responsible more because if someone makes a mistake, it affects so many other people around you.
Fl0w3R: The current market has grown so much compared to the past and players are now analyzing the game much better. In the past, the feedback was somewhat rough, but now, people literally risk their lives for it. Although a commissioner does give us education, the players mostly know all the stuff.
JJonak: I agree. In the past, I simply had to be responsible for my own mistakes. However, nowadays this can harm my team so I’m more cautious when dealing with it.
What are your resolutions and goals for Season 2?
JJonak: If my goal was to earn the ‘best healer in the world’ title in Season 1, this season, I want to try my best to defend that. As a matter of fact, In Season 1, I received the ‘best Zenyatta’ title. If there’s an ‘Ana meta’ in Season 2, I’d like to be named the ‘best Ana’ as well.
Nenne: People say that I feel pressure and underperform on offline tournaments. However, I do not agree. Well, I wasn’t nervous in the last XL2 Finals. Still, I do agree that my offline performance isn’t good compared to my online performance. You know, they’re right in that sense (laughs). That’s why I want to improve my offline tournament performance. Although it might be difficult, I also want to claim the MVP title. I believe that a pro should always aim to be the best.
Fl0w3R: I actually do know that my 2018 wasn’t that good; I had to go through some mental struggles. I coped with that by talking with nuGet a lot. Next season, I want to change my reputation. I do think that I’m capable of recovering the dominant performance I delivered in the 2017 Overwatch World Cup. Also, last season, New York had good results in the regular split. My goal is to again dominate the season, similar to last year.
Any last words for the fans?
Nenne: I’m going to try my best to maintain the ‘good performing team’ reputation that the New York Excelsior players have made; I want to get good results.
Fl0w3R: I’m amazed that I still have fans that support me. I hope they look forward to more from me since I’m planning to stream a lot as well.
JJonak: I want to thank all my fans from New York and Korea. This year, I’ll do my best to win the Grand Finals and spread New York Excelsior’s name all across the globe.