Esports Week 3: Modern kids don’t capitalize the ‘s’

Prompt: Based on your favorite game/team, identify the coaching and technical strategies used. List why the work and do not work and how they can be improved. If you were to  have control of the roster, pick three players that you would replace and identify who their replacements would be and why. Identify and research an issue in the assigned reading and in your independent reading. Feel free to consult and explore a wide variety of resources! , (200-750 words). Post this summary in SMWW e-Arena in the Week Three Discussion Board by Friday. Have some fun with the discussion of this week’s theme.

I tried to start this assignment three times last week, and each time I gave up due to being unable to mentally glean any insight into the coaching strategies of any esport replays I watched, so like Kevin I fully accept a 0 for this one. Part of the problem was that none of my favorite esport teams (Hangzhou Spark, Houston Outlaws, SF Shock) had any articles, videos, or peripheral media to research and discover insight into their coaching styles. My shoutcasting background gives me plenty of experience analyzing players on the field, but I don’t really know how to draw from that to extrapolate about how the coaches set their teams up for success.

Right now the Overwatch League meta is something called “GOATS”. In a nutshell, both teams play 3 tanks and 3 healers for a very hard-to-kill deathball that builds ults rapidly until both teams smash against each other looking for a single frag to tip the balance in their favor. There are a few heroes that can swap places for specific situations (Wrecking Ball and Winston switch places depending on how vertical the objective area is, Ana sometimes replaces Zenyatta when the sightlines are out of his typical orb range) but in general there is very little variation in the GOATS meta, and every team is using it in every single map, offense and defense.

I admit I also couldn’t really find a way to link several chapters to this week’s topic. Chapter 2 largely discusses what separates professionals from simply very good players, and chapter 5 analyzed the psychological aspects of motivation in an esport setting. Chapter 12 discussed the qualities of a good leader, and while that is relevant, the chapter was a mere 4.5 pages long and didn’t progress beyond surface-level description of leaderly qualities, all of which I’m sure the head coaches of OWL teams possess. Chapter 3 seemed the most relevant to comparing and contrasting coaching, by discussing various focuses teams can prioritize when designing their playbooks. Here, each of my three favorite teams tend to prioritize different strategies:

The Houston Outlaws (Jake’s Junkrat notwithstanding) usually play on meta and attempt to defeat their opponent through lack of mistakes. Their interviews usually focus on this with support player Bani saying “We’re just trying to play good Overwatch” and Head Coach TaiRong spending his interview discussing how he prioritizes analyzing the opponent when preparing strats, considering I’m pretty sure every team does that.

The Hangzhou Spark are far more willing to try crazy comps and surprise the enemy with daring hero choices. (The nanoboosted Reaper with Death Blossom during their very first match with Shanghai being a famous establishing moment). This even ties in with their unusual blue-and-pink marketing, which the General Manager mentions in this interview was designed to showcase how Spark doesn’t plan to play like any other team in the league. Playing maverick comps forces other teams to specifically prepare for Hangzhou, which lets Hangzhou set the tempo for fights. This largely sync with the “Dragon Under the Ice” mental strategy.

Finally, the San Francisco Shock seem to be most willing to directly attack their enemies’ weaknesses and change up their comp specifically to deal with holes in their opponents’ playstyles. In the recent Playoff Grand Finals against Vancouver, main tank Super played far more aggressively than he normally does, which made life very difficult for the Titans’ Reinhardt Bumper who was used to fighting defensive Reinhardts. Moth, the team’s Lucio, knows that the Titan supports tended to focus on healing Bumper so he played very aggressively to boop them out of position and give his team chances to punish Bumper. These choices freed up so much space for the Shock and helped them come closer than any other team to beating the Titans.

Of the three teams, Shock is far and away the most successful; Houston and Hangzhou are mid-low teams at best. Personally, I think Houston’s main problem is their inflexibility; when the other team clearly has their number, they have no Plan B or Plan C to fall back upon. Hangzhou’s weaknesses are mostly meta-based; in the GOATS meta, it’s rather easy for the other team to defeat them through sheer mechanical ability if a single crack appears in the Spark’s defenses. I suspect that Hangzhou will become much better if GOATS ever falls out of favor. Shock, in contrast, was a middling team in Season 1 that found new wings when they lured Boston Uprising’s head coach Crusty over to their side. Crusty had just led Boston to great heights (leading the team during the only lossless stage of any team in Season 1) and I suspect his very data-oriented philosophy is what helps any team he leads to success.

For the final question (teammates to replace), I’ll focus just on Houston, since they’re the weakest of the three teams. Honestly, it breaks my heart but my two favorite players (Jake and Linkzr) are far and away the weakest links. The problem is that they main DPS in a meta that doesn’t use DPS players, and there are other DPS players that are better at GOATS heroes. It would shatter the PR to remove Jake, the face of the team, but perhaps that might allow the Outlaws to stop digging their heels in the ground and refusing to properly adapt to the current meta. And #3 would be Arhan since he’s (a) also a DPS flex, and (b) has never seemed any better than Jake to me. I’d replace them with Contenders players who have proven to be better at flexing, specifically Mangachu (for his diverse hero pool), Signed (for consistently offclassing Zarya successfully), and Onigod for the insane positional mindgames he can consistently pull off.

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