PHL Boombox: "We know when we play at our best, we can beat anyone."

What’s one thing fans do not know about Isaac "Boombox" Charles? He was a semi-pro StarCraft II player.

Boombox was a Protoss player in the middle of the Heart of the Swarm expansion. Inspirations were drawn from the likes of Chris "HuK" Loranger, Greg "IdrA" Fields, and Jang "MC" Min Chul to name a few. Before the season, Boombox gave back to the SC2 community by donating to a small StarCraft tournament he participated in.

After the Fusion’s victory against the LA Valiant in Week 4, Boombox spoke with Inven Global about his time playing SC2, what he compares the GOATS meta to a meta in SC2, and how crucial his contributions are to the Fusion this season.

▲ photo by Robert Paul

First of all, let's not talk about Overwatch right now, let's talk StarCraft. StarCraft was basically the first esport that I got into. Was it the same for you?

I guess it was the first esport that I thought, "Oh! It's actually big!" I played Call of Duty as a kid, for example, and there were good people. But, I didn't know then that esports was a thing. Then I started playing StarCraft, watching tournaments, and immediately thought esports is pretty big.

What players did you watch?

When I first watched, it was the MLG tournaments, so I watched players like HuK, IdrA, MC, and that era of players. I didn't have a favorite back then. I just watched it and thought this was way cooler than my bronze games.

There were so many players who continued to do well. In the time when I tried hard StarCraft and got really high rank on the ladder, I looked up to players like Stephano and ThorZaIN, then Life in the Korean region, but his name is tarnished now. As for DeMusliM, I never got to see him in tournaments. I knew he was the best UK player, so he was someone I strived to beat.

I noticed you were a Protoss player like me. Were there any specific Protoss players that you based your playstyle around?

To be honest, I only watched tournaments. I had no idea what was going on. Actually, when I started playing StarCraft, I used to watch Apollo's streams. He created a lot of guides. It really helped me improve a lot. Same with Day9. Then, I slowly climbed out of bronze to platinum, then climbed further into masters, then top GM.

▲ photo via Gosu Gamers

Do you still keep up with the scene today?

I kind of, but kind of not. I know that Serral won BlizzCon. I was so happy to see a Western player finally won a major international tournament. I also watch players like Neeb and saw that he won a tournament in Korea, which is really cool. The time I played StarCraft, it was dominated by Koreans. Then, there are Western players like Neeb who can fight and compete with the Koreans. I think it is cool that Western players are now catching up to the same skill as Koreans.

Do you think your skills from StarCraft transferred over to Overwatch?

I guess in a way, but it is a completely different game. There are some aspects, especially in this GOATS meta, where it is more dependent on teamwork. You can relate it to RTS (real-time strategy) — things like abilities, positioning, and how you engage or set up concaves, flanks, and stuff. But it doesn't directly translate since StarCraft has different mechanics.

Although, a way in which StarCraft helps my Overwatch game is cognitive thinking -- you can process more things at once like picturing a minimap, know what they're doing, controlling several groups, and being aware. I bet if I played StarCraft again, I would be really bad. I don't think I'm good enough to get Masters 1 in the America region.

Overall, having skills in StarCraft only helps a little, but it's not that translatable.

Going back to managing micro. How do you manage micro in Overwatch like shot calling if you were to picture it like a StarCraft game?

It's obviously a lot harder since there are six people in a team. So it relies on people being coherent and on the same page. Whereas in StarCraft, you're alone so it's way easier to be aware of what you're doing. It relies on you working around your teammates more and making sure everyone knows what to do in certain situations.

How would you compare this GOATS meta to any meta in StarCraft II?

I have to think about this one. I guess it's a lot like the deathball meta of Protoss and stuff -- go back and forth depending on what abilities are used. Like if you're playing against Zerg, if there are Brood Lords/Infestors or something, you have to play differently.

You need to adapt to the match depending on what comp your opponent has, what abilities they are going to use, and go on certain timing attacks. If your opponent goes too far forward, you engage. It's like GOATS like if they go forward and uses Zarya's Explosive Charge or Graviton Charge, then you have an opportunity to engage. I don't think it relates that much, but it's like more RTS than ever compared to previous Overwatch metas.

 photo by Robert Paul

Going back to Overwatch, how would assess the differences between the competition last year and this year?

I think last year there was a bigger skill gap between a lot of teams. There would be really dominant teams like London and New York. Then, like every other team was kind of not on their level, but the gap kind of closed. Now going into this season, teams improved their roster and picked up new players that improved team synergy. So general competition is actually pretty close between the top teams this year.

Why do you think the skill gap has closed?

A lot of people coming from America, Europe, or South Korea experienced the best meta. Also, synergy. Everyone experienced the best Overwatch competition here in the Overwatch League, so you have something to work towards instead of playing exclusively in separate regions.

Also, a lot of teams last year didn't have synergy like Fusion, for example. We all came from different teams -- several people came from FaZe back then, where we didn't have synergy and it showed in our early play. We've been building up our synergy over the past year and we feel it is improved.

Describe that team synergy over the past year. How strongly do you think the Fusion's synergy has become?

We've become a lot closer as teammates and friends, so we trust each other's decisions more. Whereas, last year, we didn't know if we could rely on each other. It's like when you're a brand new team and you don't know people, you don't know what you expect from them. But now, we all know how to respect each other and our responsibilities in the team. We work towards improving that every single day.

Knowing that you all were building your synergy last season. Did you think the Fusion's team synergy was a drawback in the grand finals last year?

The grand finals is a touchy subject. Our synergy in that meta was surprisingly good. We were beating every team in scrims, including London. But then, we kind of I guess didn't perform as well in the Finals. London exceeded what we expected from them and really threw us off guard. We had a difficult time coming back after the first set.

 photo by Robert Paul

A lot of players this season told me that they have nerves performing on stage, including veterans. Do you have nerves when playing on stage this season?

I think in any esports or sports, people always have nerves. It's how you learn to deal with that and make you play better because of that, which is hard. No one will ever not be nervous. Everyone wants to win, so you have some kind of pressure. As a player, you have to learn how to zone it out and play your best. You have to realize, it doesn't matter if you lose or win, it's just a game. You just want to play your best.

For us, we talk as a team, relax, and keep a positive environment. Everyone knows no one is going to hold anything against anyone if they mess up. There's no pressure in the team -- we're all starting and playing well.

Teams usually have pregame rituals they go through to calm nerves and pump players up. Does the Fusion have a pregame ritual?

We had a lot of things actually. At some point, we were doing a Korean chant thing but stopped doing that this year. We just generally talk about the gameplan and everyone's thinking about the game.

Was there a time where someone was not at ease or nervous out there?

I feel like our team is composed most of the time. We always like to perform well in clutch situations like today, for example. We were not playing well on the 3rd and 4th map. Then all of a sudden, we come back and win the 5th map.

I think you just show positive vibes and have fun with the game. When all of us are having fun, you don't think about the game. Like we laugh and have jokes. Obviously, winning is important. But, we try to lighten the mood. In the end, everyone knows we're here to win.

Since you mentioned this match against the Valiant, we saw it go all the way. What did you discuss before the overtime map?

We've been in a map 5 situation a lot of times last year, so we knew what we were heading into. We know the pressure and we know what we can achieve if we play our best. We had to refocus and took a second to relax. Then, we focused on our game and went forward.

photo by Stewart Volland

So far this season every time you played on stage, the Fusion has won each game. How vital are your contributions to the team’s success this season?

I've won every time, but the week I was ill, we had Elk sub in. Of course, if you had a new player who's not playing their role, the team is not confident as much, even though Elk played well. He wasn't the reason we lost.

Elk and I have a different communication style. I'm way more used to playing Zenyatta so I know what I need to communicate or where to position more. Everyone already knew how to play around me. When you throw in a new player with two days of scrims before a match, you lose a bit of confidence and unsure how to play. Those doubts can affect the team.

Was there any tips that you gave to Elk for the next game he plays?

I mean, he knew it wasn't his fault. I didn't really give any tips on time since I was ill to watch scrims. I just wished him his best and just be nice and helpful to everyone as possible.

Since you and Neptuno are one of the best support duos in the league, do you think that your synergy with him is a huge contributor to the Fusion's wins?

It's not about the synergy between me and Neptuno. Rather, it is between us and the rest of the team. It's important to be in the right place doing the right plays at the right time. It's one of the most crucial roles in GOATS meta. If your Lucio is going to boop in clutch times, then you get free fights. If your Zen is ready to follow up on stuff, or in a flank position, or has Transcendence, it forces a lot of ults. It relies on supports -- that's why New York is doing well too.

The Fusion is on the cusp for qualifying for stage playoffs. How do you prepare for it moving forward?

I feel like we've always been a playoff team. We always push ourselves for playoffs and once you get in playoffs, we realize this is our time to shine. This is where we need to pop off. Basically, it's that mentality.

photo by Ben Pursell

Is there any sense of intimidation if and when you have to go against Vancouver or New York?

We're not afraid of any team. We know when we play at our best, we can beat anyone.

Thanks for the lengthy interview. Is there anything you want to say to all the Fusion fans?

Thanks for supporting us through all our ups and downs. The support from Philly fans is incredible. It's like a fan group I never knew from Europe before because I knew a little bit about Philadelphia. I never really saw how passionate our fans are. It's nice to have those kinds of fans.

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