winz on his career, Korea, stats, and more: 'There is always a reason [when players are cut].'
While modern-day esports fans recognize Michael "winz" Bignet as a skilled and versatile Overwatch player—who is ready to play whatever position his team needs—his career as a professional player began more than a decade ago. In the distant 2004, he was already representing ‘against All authority’, a brand veteran fans will recognize as a once staple name among the upper echelon the French esports scene.
While winz wasn’t a regular in the offline circuit at the time, he’d grow to be recognized as one of the best in the games he played. Throughout 2005, he became UT2004 world champion by winning ESWC in France, his home country. 2006 saw him earning the gold again, but this time for Quake 4 with notable wins over toxjq, now recognized as the greatest Q4 player, and Cypher, who would eventually become the best, and arguably greatest, Quake duelist to date.
After the introduction of Quake Live, winz gave up on the 1v1 mode due to a number of gameplay changes he didn’t enjoy and the continued prevalence of old maps. For several years, he wasn’t part of the highest level of offline competition, but eventually made a comeback in team modes and games, winning premier tournaments in Quake Live TDM, ShootMania, and most recently, Overwatch.
The interview takes a retrospective look at his long and successful career as a player. The first part, which you can find by clicking here, aims to answer some of the questions his long-time followers might have, while familiarizing the new generation of esports fans with his past, prior to Overwatch.
In the second part, the text below, we focused on varying topics from the last fifteen months. Some of them are Rogue's time in Korea, players who are no longer part of the team, stats, and others.
You've mentioned that if one masters Quake, they can master any FPS. Please elaborate on the statement for fans who haven’t played or watched Quake. Does that hold true for a game like Overwatch, considering it has abilities and etc.?
Quake is the hardest FPS game to master there is. It’s the game with the most advanced movement mechanics. It takes years to become good enough to challenge the best players. I would argue if you manage to reach a certain level on Quake, you can most certainly reach a top level in most other FPS as long as there is motivation and dedication. But Quake players proved me wrong for the most part in Overwatch, so I’m not sure anymore. ;)
Looking back at the French-speaking Unknown* roster, why do you think it failed to get good results, considering it was a lineup similar to Rogue’s current one? Was a French-speaking team something you went for initially, as a result of your experience through the years?
I don’t think it failed. We didn’t give it enough time to actually work. We got the opportunity to form a top lineup in Rogue and we took it pretty much at the same time when Nadir told us he wanted to focus on studying.
Having a roster speaking in a native tongue has its cons and pros. The pros are kinda obvious; calls will be faster and more precise. The cons, to me, are huge. Having to play in a non-native language is a natural filter; people don’t talk needlessly and only call the more important stuff in-game and the comms tend to be clearer because of it. I tend to think our comms were better when we had a half-Swedish half-French roster. Just less unnecessary chatter but we can’t deny our current results.
*The Unknown lineup consisted of uNKOE, Nadir, Kryw, SoOn, aKm and winz
During the next period of the team, you, aKm, and uNKOE were joined by TviQ and Reinforce. But you also played briefly with Mendo and iddqd to eventually remove both despite the good results. Why didn’t either of them fit the team?
OK... I’m not the hypocrite type that will tell you “They’re great players and friends, but they didn’t synergise well with the team”. I hate that and can’t stand these hypocrite statements. There is always a reason [when players are cut].
For Mendo, it was impossible to work with him. He was often late for practice—and I mean 2 hours late—never apologized for it, and wasn’t paying attention during the strategy talk. Blamed his mates for his own shortcomings behind their back, when talking to the coach ... and so on. We decided as a team to remove him after a week. It’s a shame his maturity got in the way, because he was a very good player and one of the rising stars back then.
iddqd was the opposite of Mendo—very easy to work with and talk to, extremely committed. and participated a lot in the strategy talks. He truly was a good teammate to have. Definitely not a bad player either, but we didn’t think he could handle the LAN pressure after TakeOver #1. His playstyle truly shifted into a too passive one and aKm had to step it up as a front line McCree for us to take down Creation. With no way of knowing when and if he could ever handle the LAN pressure, we decided to make a change.
That being said, it was over a year ago and things might be completely different for both of them now.
Newer fans won’t know, but back then the cap on the number of heroes in wasn’t mandatory in tournament play. How much was it a problem due to the game being less balanced back then?
I have mixed feelings about this. My original position was against the one hero limit as I didn’t think we had enough characters to justify it. I thought the meta would be sooo stale, and it was. I’m not sure what to think now. I still think it limits true innovation in terms of composition, but at the same time I feel it’s the only way to prevent top players from over-abusing the next broken thing.
Top teams will always be abusing what’s currently broken, so we would definitely go back to stacking if the one hero limit was to be removed.
After adding KnOxXx, during the period from Gamescom to APAC, and even going into the group stage of APEX S1—before the D.Va patch hit—Rogue was the best team in the world. What made you guys so strong during that time?
Different meta will fit teams in a different way I guess, but the Mei/Nanoblade meta was a good fit for us, because we could play our comfort picks and we had great setups on how and when to use the nanoblade.
During APAC, Rogue actually had two losses to Lunatic-Hai, before taking them out 4-1 in the finals. Why couldn’t you do it earlier in the tournament? Did you figure out something by the time the finals came around?
We lost to them in group stage because of two factors: poor map pick and undisciplined play in general. Route 66, which we lost twice to them, was a terrible pick. We couldn’t use the Mei/Reaper comp effectively in attack because of their spread out positioning on high ground and we failed to adapt to it.
The reason Miro looked so good on Zarya is because we were too undisciplined with the damage we were putting out. He had 100 energy most of the time.
In the final, we avoided Route66 and made sure we weren’t spamming them and it made the match easy for us. Miro couldn’t be effective anymore and they couldn’t abuse well thought-out positioning on other maps.
Another interesting team you played on two occasions during that period—and beat with ease both times—is AF Blue. We’ve seen them do well recently, but what were they like back then from your point of view? What do you think were the problems they had in APEX S2?
AF Blue was quite weak during APAC and APEX S1, but the roster was different than what it is now. They’re incredibly strong now with an insane coordination. We’ve played them quite a bit in practice and had the upper hand for the most part. They have the same style that we have and we know how to disrupt it.
I like those guys and I think they’re very capable of winning the tournament, so I won’t be saying how to beat them, haha.
I actually didn’t watch a lot of APEX S2, as I was very busy with the move to Vegas. AF Blue roster, again, was different in S2 from what it is now. I think their current roster is much stronger and the meta fits them better. Things have been getting progressively better for them, meta and roster-wise, and they have been performing accordingly.
Looking back at the loss to EnVyUs, how much was it about Rogue having problems adapting to the new metagame, and how much was it them having the perfect roster for it? What were the problems the team had in adapting to the new meta?
It was a bit of both.
It wasn’t an issue of being able to adapt or not, it was to be able to adapt to it fast enough. The heavy changes happened mid tournament, only four or five days prior to our match against them. We suddenly had to play a completely different metagame with non-meta heroes and believe it or not, but you don’t prepare for the next meta. [laughs] We will probably stay a little bit salty about that one for a while, because we were truly dominating during the Mei/Reaper meta and had great chances of winning in my opinion.
But yes, we ended up in a meta that didn’t favor us, I couldn’t play Dva on the level it needed to be played on such a short amount of time, TviQ couldn’t play Roadhog at the level it needed to be played, aKm was probably fine on Soldier—it’s an easy character, after all—and Reinforce is Reinforce.
On the other hand, I would have a hard time finding a meta that would have fit EnVyUs better character-wise.
Considering that it's been some time and there likely won't be any drama about it now, can you give us a bit more details about the irreconcilable differences which caused the Rogue split-up?
There isn’t all that much to say about it. It’s the usual reason as to why teams break up: personal differences. Nothing fancy there. It was fine before we had to spend 2-3 months stuck together 24/7. It amplifies everything and it eventually blew up.
Which team has stayed intact after going to APEX? It’s probably worse for foreign teams than people think it is.
APEX format forces you into a situation in which you’re living on top of a each other, in a hotel with cockroaches (yup), bad beds, food you don’t like in a setting where Korean teams are doing everything to win on their home soil. You don’t sleep well, you don’t eat well, conflicts eventually appear. It really drains the energy out of you. It’s no surprise Taimou is burning out.
Some people would consider bootcamping in Korea the best practice there is, but I would argue otherwise.
EnVyUs have mentioned they felt that during APEX S2, all their weaknesses were exposed and targeted by the Korean teams. Do you think that something similar happen to Rogue in this season?
Of course weaknesses are targeted. There is supposedly an implied agreement between the teams to not share information regarding other teams, but I don’t believe that [for] a second. I wouldn’t be surprised if VODs were shared. It always happens.
But I don’t think it mattered all that much in our result; you should assume the enemy team is prepared for you. Our minds just weren’t in the right place; we were already burning out after a month of being there and just wanted to go home. I’m not saying we threw, because we definitely didn’t, but it didn’t help to play at our best level—that’s for sure.
As someone who's played against tobi on multiple occasions and plays the same position, can you explain what makes him so good? Would you agree that he is the best Lucio player in the professional scene, or is it really hard to tell?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as “best Lucio”. Lucio’s impact is slim and anyone could play him—it wouldn’t matter. What matters are the calls you make for your team, and you can’t really judge that unless you hear the comms of the team.
You've now played a decent amount in three of the big Overwatch regions. What are the differences in terms of solo queue and team practice between EU, NA, and KR? Do different regions have something specific about their playstyles?
[laughs] It’s a mistake to think I’ve played a decent amount of solo queue. I don’t play ranked much; I don’t value it.
I’ve tried to play ranked during the first season of APEX but I quickly gave up; half of the games had cheaters and it’s common practice there to just not play the game and get a draw when it happens. Literally a waste of time. It got better after the ban waves and the PC bangs forcing you to login into your own account, though.
The only difference I’ve noticed is that Koreans are more willing to adapt to what others have picked. If the last one to pick sees there’s no Lucio, he’s going to pick Lucio more often than not and leave the ego out of it. They want to win.
A lot of pros used to complain about Lucio being a low-impact hero before the change, but players like tobi, Gambler, HarryHook and Kris were still able to outperform others, be it with playmaking or purely in terms of statistics. How much of their success as individuals comes down to their teams enabling them better, and how much is it about skills?
I think you’re only as good as your team allows you to be, but that’s true to most roles.
Stats are meaningless. They depend too much on your composition, your strategy as a team, etc. Sometimes, people are used as bait and die for the team to clean up. Also, a Lucio healing a triple tank comp will get his ult much, much faster than one in a dive composition. Doesn’t mean the Lucio having his ultimate more often is better than the other. My point is stats don’t mean anything and we should stop putting weight on them.
If you want a concrete example: recently some website tracking stats released a kills per ult used ranking on Tracer. TviQ was the one with the most kills per ult before SoOn and a few Koreans. It doesn’t take into account that Misfits play heavy tanks comps with Zarya, and Graviton probably greatly inflated his stats.
You, aKm and uNKOE have been playing together since the Unknown days, for about fifteen months. Is there any special chemistry between the three, which makes the trio, to use the cliche, more than the sum of its parts? Do you think in some way you cover each other’s weak points?
You definitely develop habits over time and it helps. We have the same mindset and opinion on most things.
Throughout your career, you have shown a preference for the FPS genre, but what are the different things you enjoy about 1v1 and team modes?
1v1 used to be my preferred mode, mostly because I would rather lose due to my own poor play rather than to someone else’s [laughs]. But it’s always more fun to play with friends and duel isn’t what it used to be, so I mostly play team games nowadays.
As evident by the interview, you've played at the highest level in different games for quite a while, so it's natural to ask how do you keep up the motivation at this point?
At the beginning, I was driven by the hunger of victory. I wanted to prove I could be the best and I did that.
After you reached your primary goal and you don’t have the same hunger anymore, your motivation drops dramatically. [laughs] I guess that’s why I turned to team modes and play a little more for fun. I’ve been doing that ever since, really. As long as it’s fun, I can play a lot. [smiles]
We established you’ve matured, but don’t you get at least a bit fired up from rivalries with other teams? Is it all about doing well yourself nowadays, or is there still a little bit of the younger Winz in there—getting extra satisfaction when you beat someone you have history with and looking to banter with opponents?
Of course. It’s definitely still there, probably just to a lesser extent though. You don’t completely change, but you become smarter and wiser and you express things with more tact I would say. I can’t be anything else but honest though, and will always express what I think and feel—as seen in this interview, hopefully. [smile]
It can be a source of motivation. I really wish I could have kept my old role and face the new Misfits, just to shut the mouth of one of my former teammate up. [laughs]
It’s a very unlikely scenario, though, as I switched to Lucio and Misfits aren’t good enough to pass group stage nowadays. [shrugs]
The final words are yours.
Thank you for the interview and thanks to Rogue for the constant support. Cheers!
If you missed the first part of the interview, you can find it by clicking here.
Photo credits: TBS, ESL, OGN
About the author:
Hello readers, I go by the ID RadoN! I’ve been following different games within the esports industry ever since finding out about it in 2009. The titles that I follow closely for the time being are Overwatch, CS:GO and Quake Live, while occasionally dabbling in SFV, Dota 2 and LoL. If you wish to reach out, follow future content, or simply know more about my thoughts on esports and gaming, you can find me on twitter at @RadoNonfire.