Astral Authority have signed the roster of Murloc Geniuses, the organization told theScore esports Friday.
Murloc Geniuses are the undisputed North American Fall Champions, winning both regional events this season and entering the Fall Global Championship at BlizzCon as the region's first seed.
Astral CEO Dean Tavarez said in the team's press release that he was looking forward to seeing his organization's new roster in action.
"I am extremely proud and excited to finally be able to announce the signing of this team. They are a great group of guys and I cannot wait to represent NA internationally," he wrote.
The team's manager, Morgan "Artemishowl" Kirkpatrick, told theScore esports in an interview that Astral Authority approached the team shortly after they clinched the second of the two Fall regionals.
"It felt like they believed in the players," she said. "It felt like they really wanted to work with the entire team to make the organization feel like a true, genuine home."
Some of the players on the roster have earned the right to be careful in their choice of home. Both warrior Manny "Fury" Medina and ranged assassin Rori "CauthonLuck" Bryant-Raible were part of the previous incarnation of Murloc Geniuses, which suffered through an ordeal when it was signed — and then dropped — by an esports organization called Zeveron.
Cauthon said that past experiences with esports organizations meant that the team's roster would have been fine as a whole with going to BlizzCon before signing with an organization.
"My experience with orgs in HotS thus far has been disappointing, and led me to prefer being independent," he told theScore esports. "Some of the Murlocs had better experiences than others, but we all agreed that we were perfectly happy to go into PAX and then BlizzCon on our own rather than rushing into any arrangement we weren't all excited about."
Cauthon said that one thing the team absolutely needed was the ability to make decisions about the team: whether it's about the strategy in the game, or the personnel helping them outside of it.
"Astral put their trust in our determination to work towards bringing NA back into global contention through our own style," he said. "It was our ability to work together and devise non-standard player roles and strategies that brought us this far, and Astral's willingness to support our vision for the team helped lead to our decision to go with them."
With the flexibility and creativity that Cauthon, flex Harrison "Psalm" Chang and melee/flex Ben "Cattlepillar" Bunk bring to the team's drafting and in-game strategy, that independence could prove very valuable
Harrison "Psalm" Chang is likely one of the Murlocs who has had one of the "better experiences" Cauthon mentioned. The MG flex has had his former org, Panda Global, continue to support him even as he joined Murloc Geniuses.
"They first discovered me as an inexperienced player and believed in me as I strove to become a top player in the scene. Panda Global's main goal is to support their players' futures and decisions, and as I transition to Astral Authority, I know I still have their full backing," he said. "I'm very thankful for the relationships I've built with the PG organization, and I wish them success in the future as well."
Despite the team's recent play, they have sometimes been viewed as the underdogs — even after their first regional win — when compared to to some of the region's other competitors.
Fury said that it suits him just fine, because it feels even better when they win.
"I think everybody looked at us as the underdogs and [Gale Force eSports]/Naventic were the titans of the scene and clearly the favorites, so it made sense people didn't believe in us at first, but I hope as the first NA team to win a back to back we've shown we're right next to those teams and deserve to compete internationally just like any other top team that has gone."
Support Jun "Jun" Jang's place on the team has been a big story for the roster since its reformation in July. While those who follow the amateur scene or who played at a high level knew him to be a capable and dedicated player, he finally earned a spot on a top team when he joined up with the Murlocs.
Jun told theScore esports that while was happy to have found an organization that could help the Murlocs take things to the next level, he initially was skeptical, saying that "when I heard the name Astral Authority, I was not all that excited honestly."
"It is nothing personal but just the fact that there's been some drama in the past. But I learned that those happenings are not really due to the people/staff at the org," he said. "So I'm happy to represent Astral and be our best at BlizzCon."
Jun's past coaches and teammates have praised his communication and stoic commitment to improvement as part of his success. But he says that, as a team, it isn't how you handle the good parts of competition that make you successful: it's how you bounce back from the bad.
"It is very easy to be positive and work with teammates when the team is winning and doing well. I personally think the difference between a good team and great team shows when things start going bad," he said. "There are times when we gets frustrated from losing or making a bad play/mistake just like every team, but we keep those feels in the game and not let it get personal, where it will start tilting players and we'll disband like 99 percent of the teams in NA [smiles]."
The new Astral Authority will take to the stage at the Fall Global Championship at BlizzCon, set for Nov. 4-5 in Anaheim, CA.
Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a happy murloc. You can find him on Twitter.