Rogue's Reinforce: 'I think that North America is a bit overrated in most people’s eyes'

by Josh Bury Aug 17 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of theScore esports / Rogue / Blizzard Entertainment

There have been plenty of the usual suspects jumping into the nascent Overwatch scene, as Team EnVyUs, Cloud9, Fnatic and more have already carved out their own spot in Overwatch's competitive landscape.

But there have also been new organizations — like REUNITED and Misfits — seizing the opportunity for growth.

Rogue is one of the latter. After investing in Enemy eSports, Rogue CEO Frank Villareal has decided to build an organization of his own. To that end, he recruited the roster formerly known as MyDong as his organization's first Overwatch roster.

That investment has paid off, as Rogue has shown that it is among Europe's strongest rosters. At the main EU qualifier for the $100,000 ESL Atlantic Showdown, they narrowly lost to Misfits 3-2 before rolling through Ninjas in Pyjamas in the lower bracket to earn their spot at Gamescom.

Now, with that showdown in Cologne just days away, Rogue looks to make good on the support they've received from their new home.

Rogue tank Jonathan "Reinforce" Larsson took some time from the team's busy pre-event practice schedule to discuss the intricate dance of a head-to-head tank duel, the team's LAN experience, and whether or not NA has been overrated by observers.

How has your past esports experience affected your play in Overwatch, if at all?

I’d say it largely makes us confident in our ability to succeed in FPS titles. There’s not a lot of crossover between Quake or Shootmania and Overwatch, or even Team Fortress 2 and Overwatch given how it is a lot more ability and ultimate-centric than Team Fortress 2, which leads to an entirely different approach and playstyle.

So with that, I’d say what mostly carries over is experience in competing and playing FPS games.

How would you describe the team’s atmosphere?

I’d say we have a very loose team atmosphere with [DPS Dylan "aKm" Bignet] and [support Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson] as the kickstarters behind anything fun or crazy, with four of the members being born in the year of 1994 or 1995, but we’re all sharing a very serious ambition to be the best, doing our best to acknowledge and fix every little mistake.

The best part about our current roster is that most of us have experience winning in other titles, and we know what it takes to win and how to win. I think our team atmosphere during official matches is really what every professional gamer is looking for.

What do you think of the competition at gamescom? Specifically, what do you think of the threat posed by North America?

I think that North America is a bit overrated in most people’s eyes. When EnVyUs moved to the U.S, the North American region obviously got the higher peak in terms of skill, but apart from that I think that teams such as Cloud9 and Fnatic are on par with the Top 4 teams in Europe.

This weekend I’m pretty sure that the European region will come out ahead in terms of results across the board, but EnVyUs are probably still favorites to win the entire thing given there’s no history of them struggling over in NA. However, I can see EnVyUs having a hard time this tournament, and maybe drop a series. Nothing is set in stone.

What kind of LAN experience do you guys have? Are you at all worried about playing on the big stage?

It varies from player to player in the team. [Flex Michaël "winz" Bignet] is definitely the most experienced player in our team when it comes to LANs, and besides him, everyone except me has a lot of previous experience in competing in games such as Quake, Shootmania and Team Fortress 2.

Playing on LAN definitely isn’t something this team is unaccustomed to, and we’re going in confident with our ability to perform without any sort of nerves.

How have you prepared for this event?

For two weeks now we’ve been in Katowice, Poland, at the Katowice Gaming House, actively practicing intensively. I wouldn’t say there’s anything special in our preparations though, we read up on our opponents, we brainstorm up a lot more strategies than our usual online play, and we practice for at least 10 hours per day with Quick Play and Ranked filling up the rest of the day.

Going into the tournament a lot of teams do their best to save up on strategies and hides them in scrims, so what it comes down to is just really grinding the fundamentals of Overwatch and making sure you get in good form ahead of the Atlantic Showdown.

What are your thoughts on the current competitive map pool?

Personally I’m a fan of the map pool system that ESL has experienced with, in that they pre-determine anywhere from 6-8 maps and announce them prior to the tournament which allows the pros to practice those maps exclusively.

In Overwatch there’s without a doubt too many maps to fit into a single rotation (13 maps, counting the addition of “Eichenwalde” which was announced [Tuesday] at Gamescom), with the problem being that it’s simply impossible for a team to perform to their highest ability on all of the maps presented.

EnVyUs are currently considered the best team in Overwatch, but on a few maps I bet you they won’t be nearly as dominant as on others, and some lesser teams might be able to beat them consistently on one or two maps, but at that point you’re not really proving yourself to be better than EnVyUs, you’re just cheesing your way to victory because you know EnVyUs can’t perform on all of the 13 maps in the map pool.

With less maps in the map pool, and a proper map draft system put in place, you allow the top teams to bring their A-game for every map, and you’re not risking breaking that “competitive integrity”, which would allow upsets to happen way more frequently.

While a lot of bigger orgs have moved into the Overwatch space, your team joined Rogue, which is a newer organization. How has that experience been so far? What kind of support have you received?

There were a lot of organizations following the development of competitive Overwatch this spring and as such there were quite a few offers coming our way before we decided to go for Rogue. We took our time and waited quite a while, considering our options, to make sure the organization that we eventually joined were serious about wanting us to represent them.

Rogue was one of those organizations, and after having long discussions with Frank (the CEO of Rogue) as well looking up his previous business relationships, we were quite sure that Rogue was the right pick.

After joining Rogue we’ve been patient, knowing it takes time to build up an organization from scratch, but every time we’ve been asking for advice or help, Frank has treated us with massive amount of respect and made sure to help us out in every way he can. Obviously it’s hard to predict an organization’s future, but I think Rogue has made great strides thus far and it’s looking bright from here.

The tank role seems often neglected in terms of observer focus during competitive matches. What are some things that you do as a tank player that new or inexperienced viewers might not notice?

Primarily I’d say it’s the blocked Earthshatters that go unnoticed in competitive Overwatch. The main reason why I personally love playing Reinhardt is because of the Reinhardt vs. Reinhardt duel. It involves a lot of mindgames and getting into the opposing Reinhardt’s head.

If you for example know that the opposing Reinhardt has his ultimate up, there are many fun ways you can try to bait him to use it prematurely thus rendering it completely wasted, and it’s a very satisfying feeling from the main tank’s standpoint. These often go unnoticed because there’s simply no result of an Earthshatter hitting a shield, but when that Earthshatter does not yield anything, you can guarantee that there’s a lot of emotions going on in that Reinhardt vs. Reinhardt duel.

If you ever happen to get into a Reinhardt’s head, it’s one of the most thrilling experiences in Overwatch, and if you’re on the bad side of it, you’ll feel an insane amount of pressure to perform.

Anything else to add?

Big thank you to Rogue for the opportunities they’ve presented us with, Katowice Gaming House where we’ve bootcamped now for two weeks in a good environment, and ZOWIE for the gear they recently sent us during our preparations for the bootcamp.

On behalf of the entire Rogue roster, we hope we can make our fans proud this weekend as we head into the biggest Overwatch tournament to date.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury drops the hammer, because it's way too heavy. You can find him on Twitter.