Farewell Fragi: A reflection on an Overwatch season well smashed

Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Farewell Fragi: A reflection on an Overwatch season well smashed

As any sports fan will tell you, favorite players come and go. Such is the nature of all sports, including the digital ones. Thankfully up until now fans of the Philadelphia Fusion have been insulated from such hardship, having one of the most consistent rosters in Overwatch. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and it's finally time to bid farewell to Overwatch’s favorite Viking, Joona “Fragi” Laine.

Fragi first smashed his way into our collective hearts back in January of 2018 coming from the superstar Finnish roster of Team Giganti. With Fusion having missed the preseason due to last-minute visa issues, Fragi made his OWL debut in week 1. No one really knew what to expect, but Fragi and his team did not disappoint. In their first game, Fragi was able to best his former teammate Linkzr and the rest of the Houston Outlaws. What followed would be a rollercoaster ride of peaks and valleys as Fragi and the Fusion fought their way from relative obscurity to the Grand Finals.  

Having been on the bench for the entirety of season 2, fans have been clamoring to see Fragi take the stage once more. Unfortunately, for our wish to be granted, Fragi would have to put on different colors. As of July 17th, Fragi was traded to the Guangzhou Charge in exchange for DPS player Finley “Kyb” Adisi. While Kyb will surely be a wonderful addition to the Fusion, it will pain many fans to see Fragi go. 

In a recent interview, I spoke with Fragi about his time with the Fusion, as well as what lies ahead for him.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Credit: Blizzard Entertainment

Adam: What was the process of being traded like for you? Were you surprised when it happened?

Fragi: A little bit. In Philly we kind of had the door open, so to speak, for me to be traded. On the Fusion it was clear I wasn’t really going to be used, so we always kept the option open. When the trade window was closing in July, Guangzhou finally showed interest in me. Around that time Nero started playing, and it happened that both he and Kyb had similar hero pools. So when the idea of trading Kyb and me, it kind of worked out for both teams and both players.

Adam: What was it like integrating with a new team after playing with the Fusion for so long?

Fragi: It was kind of weird for me to be honest. First of all, I hadn’t really scrimmed or played on stage in OWL for over a year. The last game I played with Philly was in stage four against Boston I think, so having not played for that long, it was kind of tough getting me back into the mix. However, the Charge always has two teams scrimming and that’s really helped me get back into it.

Adam: How does the team environment of the Guangzhou compare to that of Philadelphia, and what are the biggest differences?

Fragi: The biggest difference would have to be that the charge coaches are super close with their players. On Philly we kind of like to keep it a bit separate, more of a purely professional relationship. I think in Guangzhou it’s more like a big family, the coaches live with us in the same house, so we can all chill out late into the night. 

I enjoy this style for sure, I think both approaches have their merits, but I think it’s easier to make the family-style work for you when building trust between players and coaches. When you’re very familiar with someone and always joking around it’s easy to build that trust. There are benefits to keeping things professional with the coaches, especially when it comes to establishing authority within the team, it really just comes down to what style works for you.

Adam: What are some of your fondest memories with the Fusion?

Fragi: For me, it was probably the stage two semis and finals when I was playing with Snillo, which was really nice. I mean even in season 2 I have good memories though. As a professional player, it doesn’t feel good to sit on the bench all the time, but I always had a really good time with all the guys, even when I wasn’t playing on stage with them. 

Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment 

Adam: Do you have an achievement with the Fusion you are especially proud of?

Fragi: Just our entire stage 2 run honestly. I feel like we could have even done better in stage 3 as well. We were doing really well at the start of the stage and in scrims, but then we got reverse swept by New York and everything kind of went downhill from there. So had it not been for that NYXL game, I think stage 3 could have gone really well for us. Having said that, the entire run from stage 2 into early-stage 3 we were feeling really good as a team and everything was going quite well for us.

Adam: Is there anything or anyone, in particular, you are going to miss from your time with the Fusion?

Fragi: Pretty much all of them. I mean, while I was friends with all the Korean players, the language barrier kept us from becoming super close, but all the western players, Neptuno, Boombox, Poko, Eqo, even Roston the manager, we were all super tight.  

Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Adam: How do you feel about the prospect of living and playing in China, considering you’d spent all this time under the assumption you were staying in the US?

Fragi: It’s going to be a lot different for sure. For me, China has always been this big mystery, so I think this will be a really good experience. Not a lot of people from Finland, or the US for that matter, really get the opportunity to live in China for any period of time, so it’s going to be really nice to experience the culture and the Chinese fanbase.    

Adam: Now that you have all these new opportunities ahead of you, what are your personal goals moving forward with the Charge? 

Fragi: Since I’m coming into the team kind of late, it’s all about getting back into the mix. Practicing my individual skills is a priority, as well as helping out the new players in any way I can to make the team stronger and hopefully get into playoffs. 
Adam: As a favorite of the Philly fans do you have any parting words to those who wanted to see Fragi freed?

Fragi: I really appreciate all the fans, of course, the cheering and support always feel really good. I feel kind of bad for Sado though, some people online could be really mean to him. He was always a really nice guy and it obviously wasn’t his fault I was benched. My message to the fans is, Don’t be too tough on him, he’s a really good player and a nice guy, and I really appreciate all the nice words, all the cheers I got over the course of two seasons.

Thank you to Fragi from all of us, and we wish you the best of luck in your continuing journey as a professional Overwatch player.

Experiencing the Overwatch League for the first time and why you should too

Experiencing the Overwatch League for the first time and why you should too

The Philadelphia Fusion finally played in front of a home crowd for the first time Saturday at the Met. It’s been a long time coming but with a near sold out venue, it was clear that the city was ready for the league to make it’s way there during their regular season. 

And after the 2019 Overwatch League sold out Wells Fargo Center in September, I finally realized it may be time to pay attention to something that was taking over the nation … I just wasn’t sure how. 

Fast forward to this weekend of events. Still knowing nothing about the league, Overwatch in general or really what to expect at something like this … I decided to go. I wanted to see what it was like, essentially as an outsider, to see how things go. Here’s what I took away from the day:

First impressions

I arrived about a half hour before the initial start time and it was packed. Between the lobby, merchandise tables and gaming stations, the atmosphere was electric. It almost seemed like a mini ComicCon, or in this case BlizzCon — with fans in jerseys representing their favorite players, cos-plays of characters in the game and even a fake Gritty (the real Gritty was there too, but we’ll get to that later).

How does it differ?

One of the biggest questions I had heading into things was how different would this be from a regular sporting event? Turns out — it’s not. Two teams of six compete on three separate maps, with three games within them. It’s highly competitive and very intense. 

The crowd was also as Philly as it gets. The entire event went on for nearly four hours and the energy never died down. The first match of the Mayhem and the Outlaws had an interesting dynamic, where fans cheered for both teams. Everyone was just there appreciating the game and the atmosphere, but boy did it take a shift as soon as the Fusion and Justice took the stage. 

It was loud. I mean loud. From booing the Justice from the moment they stepped on the stage, to cheering on the home team for the very first time. It was the same energy you’d see from Flyers, Sixers, Phillies and Eagles fans. 

Not to mention, there was even an E-A-G-L-E-S chant that broke out, so it’s safe to say the Fusion were officially initiated into the Philly sports world. 

What I took away

I’m familiar with Blizzard Entertainment, having played World of Warcraft since my middle school days, but before this weekend I had held off to being open-minded to any other games they put out. If I had a better understanding to Overwatch overall, the way I do with WoW, chances are I’d probably become pretty invested into this. To be a player and to be able to watch some of the best in the game is a pretty cool concept. 

Not to mention, an appearance from Gritty is an automatic win in my book. 

Is it worth attending?

 If you’re open to trying new things, I’d suggest giving it a shot. Since this was the first time I was there and was still pretty much unaware of everything going on for the first few hours, two matches seemed lengthy. Luckily, if you wanted, you could’ve gone for just the Fusion that was set to start two hours into the event. 

The gaming community continues to evolve. If you’re a fan of Twitch — an online streaming site for players, this may be something to look into. It’s basically the live version of it but with the addition of a live sporting event atmosphere. 

I rather enjoyed my time there and look forward to the next time the Fusion are home (May 23-24). Now that I know what I’m going into, it’ll be exciting to be back with a new perspective. 

Meet your new Philadelphia Fusion roster for OWL 2020

The Philadelphia Fusion

Meet your new Philadelphia Fusion roster for OWL 2020

The Philadelphia Fusion has officially announced its main roster heading into the 2020 season of the Overwatch League. Overall, the team has five returning players and four newly signed players along with a new coaching staff.

Players Leaving

Image credit courtesy of The Philadelphia Fusion

Leaving the Fusion roster are DPS player Finley "Kyb" Adisi and support players Elijah Hudson "Elk" Gallagher and Alberto "neptuNo" González.

Kyb leaves the roster after not seeing any play with the Fusion roster since being traded to the team from the Guangzhou charge just before the start of Stage 4. Meanwhile, Elk leaves the team after struggling on the Fusion Academy roster after rejoining the contender roster when they moved to Korea.

Finally, neptuNo leaves the roster after playing a huge role as one of the key supports for the Fusion. During his time on the Fusion, neptuNo was one of the starting supports through both seasons, acting as the main Lucio and Mercy player. He was considered one of the core members of the roster and played the most maps out of all players in season one of the Overwatch League.

There haven’t been any rumors about the landing spots for any of these players at the moment. However, it has been rumored that the Toronto Defiant decided not to trial neptuNo due to feeling that he may be too toxic.

Returning Players

After a mediocre 2019 season, the starting DPS and tank duo for the Fusion in DPS players Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee and Josue/Josh "Eqo" Corona along with tank players Gael "Poko" Gouzerch and Su-min "SADO" Kim. Finishing off the group of returning players is support player Isaac "Boombox" Charles.

While Poko, SADO, and Boombox were brought back fairly quickly, the DPS duo was a different story. For Eqo, it was originally announced that he would be leaving the team after two long seasons with the team. The announcement was a shocking one at the time and left fans wondering what the future would hold for both the Fusion and Eqo. Meanwhile, after weeks of rumors since the start of the beginning of the offseason, star DPS player Carpe signed a 3-year contract to rejoin the team as the face of the franchise.

Overall, the return of these five players allows the Fusion to head into the 2020 season with a solid core that has great synergy together as a team. Along with that, the return of the DPS duo in Carpe and Eqo ensures the Fusion will have the ability to default to a tested duo that is capable of carrying the team to victory.

New Players

The biggest pickup for the Fusion during the offseason is the former tank player of the London Spitfire Jun-ho "Fury" Kim who is widely considered one of the best offensive tank players in the league. During the offseason, Fury was sought after by other teams as reported by Halo of Thoughts in the New York Excelsior. While the NYXL had initial talks with the Spitfire, the asking price was too high for the team.  Along with Fury, the Fusion picked up two more Korean players in Seung-hyun "Ivy" Lee, the former DPS player for the Toronto Defiant and support player Kyungbo "Alarm" Kim, who has been brought up from the Fusion’s contender team in the Fusion University. Finishing off the new players joining the roster is a former support player for the Atlanta Reign, Daniel "FunnyAstro" Hathaway.

Image credit courtesy of The Philadelphia Fusion

Along with the new players, the Fusion also announced new members of the support staff. Taking over the coaching duties after both Se-hwi "NamedHwi" Go and Elliot "Hayes" Hayes left the organization is Dong-gun "KDG" Kim, the former coach for the Seoul Dynasty, along with him the returning assistant coach Christopher "ChrisTFer" Graham will continue to contribute to the team. Along with that, the Fusion also announced Roston “Roston” Yoo as the new assistant general manager.

With these changes the Fusion roster heading into the 2020 season will be:

Support: Alarm, FunnyAstro, Boombox
Tank: Poko, SADO, Fury
DPS: Ivy, Carpe, Eqo
Coach: KDG (head), ChrisTFer (assistant)

With the new players, the Fusion could potentially field a nearly full Korean roster depending on the meta with a single non-Korean support which would likely be Boombox. One big concern that still exists in the roster is the lack of a substitute for the main tank role as SADO could continue to struggle once the 2020 season begins. Overall, the roster has made some solid upgrades and should look much better heading into the new season. The question now will be if these changes are good enough to push the Fusion into title contention once again.

The Fusion’s 2020 season begins on February 15th in Philadelphia.