Fusion Coach Hayes on the journey thus far and skill gap between top teams

Philadelphia Fusion

Fusion Coach Hayes on the journey thus far and skill gap between top teams

In the Overwatch League, adaptability is key. Over the course of a season, Overwatch fans get to see pros compete at the highest level in up to 4 different meta’s (not including the postseason). While excellence in a certain meta may be enough to bring in the stage playoff victories, the Grand Finals are reserved for those teams able to adapt to an ever-shifting landscape of heroes and maps.

In Season 1 we saw this play out as league favorites NYXL fell short of the Grand Finals stage thanks to the introduction of Brigitte and the dramatic shift in playstyle she brought with her. This year the comp to beat has been GOATS (Triple tank, triple support, for the uninitiated), a comp that is loved by some and hated by most. In this meta, a handful of dominant teams have risen to the top of the pack, but as the second season approaches its final stage, middle teams look for the impending meta shift that may allow them to slip into playoffs.

For our boys at the Fusion, it’s been a frustrating year of coming just short of being on top. Whether it be because of unforeseen illness, stacked stages, or shifting metas, Fusion has struggled to keep themselves in position for playoffs. While there’s plenty of the season left to play, it will take some hard work to get Fusion to their home city for Grand Finals.

Recently, I met with Coach Hayes at the Fusion house in order to get the team’s perspective on the season so far as well as their projections for the future.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity

Adam: How would you say the team has developed over the course of the season?

Hayes: Since the start of the year, our GOATS comp hasn't been too amazing. I think we've definitely improved a lot on our GOATS play. The important part of the GOATS meta is how you position, and how you play around each other as a team. That was something I think we were lacking last year, a real aspect of camaraderie and team play. This year we have improved on that, and there's an understanding between everyone that we are a team and every ability and skill we have, we contribute to the team. In terms of how we structure and strategize between ourselves, we as coaches have also come a long way from the start of the year. we've learned a lot about what works best with our team, and we've adapted to that. So I'm really impressed with how far we've come.

Adam: How has the meta shifting away from nothing but GOATS affected the Fusion?

Hayes: We've gone through a few phases of wondering whether we just want to stick with GOATS or play some DPS. Honestly, our players really enjoy playing DPS so if we can make that work we're going to try those strats. There were some opportunities where we thought we could do it, but it didn’t work out too well, so I think it all just comes back around to GOATS being the strongest comp right now. Outside of that, it hasn’t really affected us too much, because we figured out a good way to play against DPS. So now when teams play their DPS we have a good answer for it, but along the way, there were certainly a few hiccups where we weren't sure if GOATS would work against the DPS comps, but we figured it out somewhere along the way.

Adam: In my last interview with Eqo, he stressed the importance of the long game over short term victories. Are you guys developing at the pace you need to in order to hit your long term goals?

Hayes:  I think stage 1 we performed well in terms of the long game. As for Stage 2, we did finish negatively at 3-4, but we are still in a good position overall to reach the season playoffs. Our ultimate goal is to get to Philadelphia for the finals, so we are definitely more focused on the long game, and at this point, I think we are on pace.

Adam: Considering how stacked stage 2 was for your team, did you learn what you needed to from facing off against so many top teams?

Hayes: The things that we learned from stage 2 was that we were having some issues translating what we were doing in skrims to how we played on stage. That’s something we've been trying to address in stage 3, making sure that we can transition fluidly from skrims to stage. If that means combating nerves, combating worries or anxiety, then that’s what we are going to do.

Adam: The general consensus among analysts has been that there's a top 3 teams and a bottom 3 teams and everyone else just falls into the same middle ground. As the team arguably leading that middle pack, how do you feel about that assessment?

Hayes: I agree that we as a team are lagging behind the top 3 or 4 in the league but in order to fix that we have to ensure that we continue to improve at a faster rate than our competition. I think we have the players to be a top team, on an individual level I think we stack up against any team in the league. The key lies in improving as fast as we can and putting the time, effort, and resources. We have to learn what we can from the top teams. It's always good to learn and understand how the top teams do what they do, and emulate what we can from that. That’s how you see improvements, and how you grow as a team.

Adam: Do you think the skill gap in the league is as dramatic as people make it out to be, or is it much closer?

Hayes: I definitely think it's a curve from the top down, not a cliff. I think the top teams are definitely on a higher level, everything they do, they do better or on a slightly higher level than the teams below them. Although that in effect creates a big difference in results. For example, let’s say Shock's D.va ChoiHyoBin takes 10%-20% less damage, this means that his team has more resources going into their main tank Super. Those small things have a domino effect on how teams function in GOATS. It's something you don't notice until you look for it, but those are the things that separate the top teams from the middle of the pack teams.

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.