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.