The very first champions of the Overwatch League have been crowned. As the very first OWL Champions, the London Spitfire achievement this season is made much more meaningful. It was a season that set the outline of the path that OWL - and those who are a part of it - will follow going forward.
The team that claimed the trophy, the London Spitfire, is a team well-suited to the title of "first champion." Even before OWL began, the team was a force to be reckoned with. The team Spitfire was built from, GC Busan, won the very first competitive tournament that they played in, Overwatch APEX. Following their success in Korea, the team continued to shine; even winning the OWL’s Stage 1 Title Match. They stood strong and appeared to be unshakable.
However, their journey to the OWL Finals was not an easy one. During the mid-to-late stages of the OWL, multiple players departed from the organization. That, combined with player injuries and other detrimental factors, brought Spitfire to dip sharply in performance. As a result, they faced teams who had better results in the postseason. They started the playoffs with a 0-3 loss.
Then, a miracle occurred; the team that placed 9th in the OWL Stage 4 defeated the 1st placed team. London Spitfire seemed to be back to their Stage 1 strength. Just like that, the London Spitfire’s performance skyrocketed, and they swept through the tournament, defeating the biggest favorites in the bracket.
At the Finals, the London Spitfire dominated the opposition, coming out on top with scores of 3-1 and 3-0. How did a team that struggled so much throughout the regular season return to the playoffs so strong? Our team happened upon an opportunity to speak with London Spitfire for an interview.
Congratulations on becoming OWL’s very first champions. Please give us a brief introduction of yourselves and share your feelings on having lifted the OWL Cup!
Bdosin: I’m a support player for the London Spitfire. I’m very happy that we won. It took a very tough journey to get here, but I was confident that we would win the championship as long as we made it to the Finals.
Gesture: I’m Spitfire’s tank player, Gesture. I’m very proud that we won OWL’s very first season.
Team Owner, Jack Etienne: I’m the founder and operator of Cloud9, and a co-owner of the London Spitfire.
While the OWL was in full swing, a balance patch hit the live servers. Was it difficult to play with the sudden changes?
Bdosin: As a professional, you have to be able to adapt and play in any given meta.
Gesture: For any team, the one with the biggest roster has the advantage. That’s because every player’s best hero is different. With a ton of practice, I was able to reach the point that I wanted right before the playoffs. I believe that as a professional player, you have to be able to adapt to the changes.
The OWL came this far without any long breaks. Do you think the breaks were sufficient?
Bdosin: I personally believe that the breaks during Season 1 were a bit short. However, I heard that the breaks will be longer in Season 2.
Gesture: The breaks were a little unsatisfying for both the players and coaches. I’d like for the breaks to become a bit longer.
(To Jack) The players of London Spitfire won the title, “OWL’s very first champions.” What kind of reward did you give them?
Jack: In celebration, we went to a luxurious restaurant and had steak. Fury and NUS both had steaks that were meant for two people. I also believe that I did a fair job during the salary negotiations with the team. On a side note, I heard that Spitfire’s manager does cosplay. (Laughs)
I heard that you guys had a difficult moment during the season. How were you guys able to overcome that obstacle?
Gesture: The difficult moments during the season -- most likely -- were the meta changes and birdring’s wrist injury. And as for myself, I was in a bad psychological state during that. Once the organization decided to focus and play around the starting roster, however, the members remaining in the team all got along. OWL is Overwatch’s greatest league. Therefore, I believe that we have to overcome all obstacles that come our way, even if it seems very hard to do so.
Bdosin: I was tired; I felt really fed up during Stage 3 and 4. But when the playoffs began, I changed my mindset from “I have to adapt,” to ”I have to win.” I think that change in mentality brought me to where I am now.
The team’s performance was extremely different compared to the performance in stage 4. How did the team manage to deliver concrete performance in the postseason?
Gesture: In the regular season, the players were having a hard time because of our losing streak; we couldn’t put our best efforts into every match. We had to focus on the long-term. On the other hand, in the playoffs, we were able to win by putting our best effort into every match.
(To Jack) How would you rate your team for this season? Do you have any other expectations for next year?
Jack: There were some players that felt tired after stage 1. They seemed to be unhappy when they were on stage, which made me sad. Still, they managed to not give up until the end and I’m proud of my players. You might think that it’s an obvious thing to do for the players, but they did pull it off despite how tough it is to perform in a foreign country.
At first, I thought that it wouldn’t be easy to combine the two teams into one. However, as the season progressed, the players became more mature as men and esports players. I felt happy when we lifted the trophy since we made it through harsh times.
We will likely bump into unexpected obstacles next year. However, this season, our coaching staff gained a lot of trust. We experienced those harsh times and I believe that this will be helpful for next year.
Robin: Since I lived with the players, I know how tough it was for them. As Jack pointed out, I also know that it’s really hard to withstand and overcome that. I was proud to see those young players hold fast and perform on such a huge stage. We’ll have to perform well, but at the same time, I know that there will be obstacles.
(To Gesture) When playing Winston, you play very aggressively. Isn’t it difficult to stay in sync with the team when playing with such a bold playstyle?
Gesture: During scrims, I experienced many failures. I received a lot of feedback from my teammates and the coaching staff regarding my playstyle. I think I was able to play as I did thanks to the many conversations that I had with them. I believed that we’d make good results as long as our team synergy was a bit more refined. That’s because I know that we have the best support players and Fury, the best tank player.
The players that have been with you since GC Busan and Kongdoo have left the organization. Was it regretful to have to let them go?
Bdosin: I was a little sad when Rascal and Fissure left. But I believe that they’re doing well in other teams, so I’m glad.
Gesture: The players of GC Busan came together, then left. However, we’re no longer “GC Busan,” we’re “London Spitfire.” We started with 12 players, but due to having some of the most talented players, I knew inevitable roster changes were going to happen. It’s a little sad, but I followed the team’s decision.
What kind of feedback went back and forth between the players and staff after you lost the 1st set [in Dorado] at the Finals?
Bdosin: I felt that I only showed 50% of what I was fully capable of. I did my best to make up for my mistakes in the next set.
Gesture: I was nervous since it was a very important match. Since we had thoroughly prepared for the Finals beforehand, I changed my mindset to “play to enjoy,” and tried my best to play with ease. I think that’s why we did well in the next set.
Which team do you think will be the toughest competitor for next season? As a team owner, do you have any team that you’d never want to lose against?
Bdosin: I think of the New York Excelsior as our rival team. We also didn’t play well against the LA Gladiators in the regular season, so I’d like to beat them next season.
Gesture: The New York Excelsior studied the meta and played perfectly in the regular season. If they manage to analyze the meta well enough, they’ll become a very strong competitor.
Jack: This can be a rather risky question. Well, personally, I’d choose the LA Gladiators since Fissure plays for them. (laughs)
During the middle of the season, Bdosin stated that he can claim the trophy. When did you start to think that the team had a high chance of becoming the champions?
Gesture: I thought that we’d win 100% after we dominated match 2, game 1. At that point, I believed that we were close to being the champions.
You now have some time to rest in Korea. What do you plan to do?
Gesture: After my New York schedule, I’m going on vacation with my friends for 2 weeks. After spending time with my family, I have to participate in the All-Star game. Nothing is fixed but I think I’ll head to London.
Bdosin: Although it’s quite short, I’m going to rest well and prepare for the next season.
(To Jack) Can you give a word of advice for the new teams that are joining the OWL?
Jack: Because of the franchise rule, I think the league itself is still developing; the league provided more than expected for the franchise teams in every aspect such as player management and content production. I strongly recommend it.
The New York Barclays Center looked pretty big and amazing on TV. What was it like when you first encountered the stadium?
Bdosin: Everything was amazing since it was my first time being on such a huge stage.
Gesture: I thought it was the best stage. If it’s possible, I’d like to play in a stadium like that.
After game 2 of the Finals, you stood up and tried to excite the fans. Was there a special meaning behind it?
Bdosin: We had a really good team atmosphere at the time; it was kind of meant for the opponent to see.
What are your goals for Season 2?
Gesture: The league schedule is very long. I had a tough time in this season quite often. I’m going to focus more on my mentality and condition next season. I can’t guarantee to win the league in the following season. I think we can claim the trophy If I manage to improve to a point where I’m fully satisfied with my plays.
Bdosin: Similar to this season, next season will be tough as well. I still think that we’ll pull it off since we gained experience. Also, I’d like to try to win the trophy once again.
Jack: I hope we can maintain our positive atmosphere. Trust between the players is never earned easily; I can’t just leave it be. Just because we made it once, it doesn’t mean that we should lower our guards. In season 2, we will try to maintain what we’ve delivered in Season 1.
Robin: I’m currently living with the players. In this season, we improved on basics such as respecting each other and how to live together. I’m going to focus more on things like healthcare for next year.
Do you think that Korea will deliver good results in the OWL World Cup?
Bdosin: The players that were selected [for the national team] are already quality players. Still, they shouldn’t lower their guards just yet since there are good performing players in foreign teams as well.
Gesture: Foreign teams have been proving their strength. I heard that the US team is very strong. In this current meta, I think it’s all about how fast the players adjust to their national teams.
Are there any plans for launching an event in London since the team won the league? Are there any plans for managing a stadium as well?
Jack: We are planning a visit to London in October with the London teams. I’m aware that there are a lot of fans in Korea, so we’re going to open an event in Korea as well. We’ve talked a lot regarding our home stadium and if the league decides to accept localization, I think there will be more progress on this matter.
Do you have anything more to say to the Korean fans?
Bdosin: I want to thank the Korean fans for their support. I hope we get a chance to open a fan meeting in Korea someday. I want to thank my haters as well.
Gesture: It’s quite obvious for the fans to root on strong teams. I want to thank the fans who still supported us although we were shaky in the middle of the season.
Jack: I heard that Korea is really hot these days. Well, thank you for all your attention. It really means a lot to know that there are fans rooting for us across the world.