The Los Angeles Valiant are only one win away from qualifying for the play-in tournament. The hardest part about it is that they need a win against the San Francisco Shock or Los Angeles Gladiators. After the Valiant's win against Boston in Week 4, Russell "FCTFCTN" Campbell spoke with Inven Global about the 2020 season, the LA homestand, and adapting to the meta.
Thank you for joining me after the win! First question, what are your thoughts on the upcoming LA homestand?
The homestand is going to be unreal. I'm super ready for Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend because I haven't had a chance to go to any of the other homestands. I was out of the league for the Dallas homestand then the Valiant didn't go to the Atlanta homestand.
I'm excited to see what games will be like outside of the Blizzard Arena because outside of World Cup in 2017, every match I've played on LAN has been in the Blizzard Arena. Before that, we had a bunch of LANs - so we had MLG Vegas and ELEAGUE Open. It's a lot of fun to travel to other places and see the fan turnout.
I'm really excited to have the opportunity to put on a homestand so we can branch out and play in a cool venue like The Novo.
Is traveling to other cities the one thing you miss about Overwatch esports?
Yeah, I personally love traveling so going to all these events before Overwatch League was one of my favorite parts about competing. When you qualify for a LAN, you are like, "SICK!" We're going to this big tournament, we get to travel, and we get to bootcamp. But now with a match in Overwatch League, I'm like, "SICK! I have a match next week." It's like I just won a match and now I have another match in two days. Then, there are 15 more matches remaining.
Being part of the league is cool and all, but it's not quite the luster of playing in these open tournaments and having the opportunity to travel somewhere. Which is why I'm really excited about localization next year.
Travel is one of the best ways for people especially my age to expand their horizons and learn more about the world that we live in. It'll be really good for all the Overwatch League players to branch out and travel a little.
Are there any things that you're afraid of next season like burnout or keeping up with the meta?
It's definitely going to be interesting because things are still up in the air, especially in regards to scrims and practice. At the end of the day, there are only two matches on two weekends a week. The way that the schedule is set up, we get weeklong breaks. I'm cautiously optimistic that there won't be too many burnout problems.
At the same time, not everybody likes flying in planes. All of my friends hate flying in planes. For me, I don't really mind. I just read a book, watch some movies, or play some Switch games to pass the time. It's a nice break, especially as Overwatch players, we're in this mindset that we have to spend every minute grinding in the game. Being on the older end, it's not necessarily true.
It's really important to have a balance. Being on the plane forces you to not play Overwatch. It might be a good thing for some players than others.
I know next year is far away but have you started mentally preparing for the travel schedule?
I don't think I'm mentally prepared for it yet. I'm focusing mainly on the rest of this season so far. I'm excited to have the opportunity to travel but who knows what may happen when things get rolling next season. There's no way of knowing until you've been on a routine.
Going to all the homestands and seeing all the fans come out. Blizzard Arena is great but since we played so many matches here, it's less exclusive. The fans don't get as hyped as before like at the beginning of the league.
How do you think playing in the homestand next week will differ from playing in the Blizzard Arena?
Because the homestand is in LA, my expectation is that it won't be as big as Dallas and Atlanta. The local LA fans have gone to a lot of games here so they're not as excited. However, the LA fans are crazy, especially about the Battle of LA which is taking place during Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend.
I can't wait to see a sea of green versus purple. There's also a bunch of sick matches at Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend. It's going to be fantastic.
I spoke to Surefour last week and asked him about the homestand. He told me that he expects to see a lot of purple jerseys since the Gladiators are the better team. What are your thoughts about his statement?
I think it'll be an even split. Each of our team appeals to a different demographic in LA. I feel we are sort of scrappier as a team, while the Gladiators have a dynasty-like image about them. Everybody loves to root for the underdogs - like a Cinderella story. Even though it's our homestand, it's still two LA teams competing.
Next week are playoff implications for the Valiant. You guys are facing the Shock and Gladiators and need to win one of those games. Besides winning, what do you guys need to do to qualify for play-ins?
We have to focus on our fundamentals, playing our game, and keeping the Gladiators and Shock off of theirs. We need to work together as a team. I mean, we've played up against the best teams in the league before and beat them when people didn't expect us to. If we continue improving and playing to our strengths, we'll be fine.
Do you think the new meta has changed the way every team has played?
Yes and no. I think 2-2-2 really indicates which teams are best at adapting. The strong teams right now will be good next season because they're good at adapting whether they have smart players or strong coaching staff or both. Teams that rely on mastery of GOATS meta are struggling to adapt as fast to 2-2-2. It also benefits teams that have good DPS players.
Where do you think the Valiant stands in terms of adapting to the meta?
We've adapted reasonably well. A few of our matches have been too close for comfort. At the end of the day, we're in a good position to make play-ins. We've adapted well enough. I think Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend will be a good litmus test for how adaptable we really are.
In the event that we do make play-ins, our adaptation for that will really show. We have strong fundamentals, our coaching staff is fantastic, and we have a lot of smart players who are very willing to sacrifice for the good of the team.
Do you feel like the team has their own style right now?
I think we do have our own style. We sort of shy away from most of what everyone else is playing. It's basically how we played 3-3. We were good enough at that meta that we could take the mirror match if we wanted to. We're basically continuing that in 2-2-2. We're not afraid to try different strats. Like today, we pulled Symmetra on Hanamura. Only us and Justice so far are willing to do that.
What made you guys stray away from the typical Reaper, Mei, Orisa comp for that map then?
We just didn't feel we are strong with that comp in Hanamura. Reaper isn't a hero that fits into our hero pool as well for our DPS players. We can play it to a serviceable level but it's hard to be dominant on it. It's hard to be dominant on it unless you are constantly are pushing for every inch and that is not our playstyle. We're not both a hyper-aggressive and super passive team.
To succeed in a Reaper-Mei meta, you have to be hyper-aggressive. It doesn't fit into our natural playstyle.
Have you guys experimented with other comps to counter Reaper, Mei, and Orisa?
We've done quite a bit of experimenting and got a good handle of what does and doesn't work. We'll see when it comes up during Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend.
Are there things you think the team can improve moving forward?
No team plays perfectly. We had a lot of stuff that we can work on in terms of what I've said before. We have all the talent, coaching staff, and team culture to succeed.
Lastly, are there any shoutouts that you want to give?
Shoutout to Kit Kat for being our title sponsor for Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend. Make sure you come out to Kit Kat Rivalry Weekend on August 24th and 25th. It's going to be sick.