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CommanderX on upcoming metagame: “I think flexing to suit the map will become much more necessary and valuable.”

Volamel 2020-01-04 03:21:46

From Australia to Finland, to Great Britain, Xavier “CommanderX” Hardy has worked with Overwatch teams the world over. After departing the Finnish team, NYYRIKKI, last March, CommanderX has gone on to work with Team UK for their run through the 2019 Overwatch World Cup and has joined the London Spitfire’s academy team, British Hurricane. CommanderX spoke to Esports Heaven about their recent victory at the inaugural Breakable Barriers, his thoughts on the upcoming metagame, and how he incorporates data into his work as a coach.
First of all, congratulations on the win at the first Breakable Barriers. Now I’ve got to ask, why didn’t British Hurricane come back for the second iteration of the tournament to defend your title?  Thank you. We had already agreed to start our Christmas break by the date of the second installment and a few of us had made plans for that weekend so it didn’t feel worth moving everyone’s plans. Especially since we had already come in and taken the W the first time around. I recently spoke your fellow British Hurricane coach, Joshua "Elbion" Tuffs, and he mentioned that you actually do quite a bit of data work. Could you talk about some of the details on what data you’re tracking?  The main issue with stats in Overwatch has always been how much context you have to put around everything to get value. So what a lot of teams do at all levels is track their win/loss rate on maps and while this can give you a general idea of your strengths and weaknesses on maps, it also misses a lot of the information, such as what part of the map we do best/worst on, which compositions do we do best against, what type of fights are we losing etc. I track a few different things but the main one is fight win percentage. Firstly, I find fight win percentage just a much better statistic than map win/loss because you get more data. As well as giving us more chances to break down the information, so rather than just saying “oh looks like we’re bad at Watchpoint”. I can also look at what part of the map, what side of the map, what comps we play versus if it’s a particular team we struggle against. Like all data this doesn’t give you any implementable information, it just gives you a better answer of where the problems might be. So rather than having to look through the last 10 times we played Watchpoint, I can look at specific parts of those last 10 times.  More generally speaking, how do you incorporate that into tangible things players can learn or take away to directly impact their game?  There are two main ways it can be related to the players, similar to the team issues you can help identify problems faster and more specifically. For example, you can identify if your players die first more often in certain compositions, compared to opponents’ average. While you still need to go in and look at the VOD and figure out exactly why this is happening, it can give you a good starting point to figure out what you need to feedback to the player. The most valuable part for the players is tracking the data over time. In Overwatch, it’s quite rare that you can get tangible feedback on your progress, but with the right data you can show their improvement over time. Even better you can identify an issue explain what you want them to work on and how they should work on it, then you can demonstrate that they have literally got 10% better at it. As for the metagame, from what I’ve seen in Breakable Barriers, things seem to be slightly changing but don’t seem too drastically different. What are some of the big meta changes people can be expecting to see come February? I think it’s safe to say Orisa will remain fairly prominent, her ability to manipulate enemy position so reliably and regularly is unmatched and makes her useful in all compositions. What I do think has been illustrated is that there’s more ability to flex the rest of the team around that depending on individual players’ strengths and the specific maps. In recent history, we’ve ended in a meta where the same comp is played in 80%+ of situations and I think those brawl type compositions will still be viable on certain maps. I think flexing to suit the map will become much more necessary and valuable.  I’ve also heard stirrings of a renascence of Dive based compositions. Would you say that’s true? Has Hurricane dabbled with anything of the sort?  Some teams have done it occasionally, normally in response to counter something specific but no one has pulled it out regularly or tried to force it in a lot of situations. More common is the Pharah/Tracer of Pharah/Sombra combo and teams pairing that will Wrecking Ball so there’s a strong element of dive within the composition.  With the new format changes to Contenders, how do you think coaching will develop or change? What problems are you bracing for? There’s always been a change in approach needed when you swap from the normal regular season, one game, one opponent per week format to the end of season playoffs, regional Showdowns and Gauntlet. Fortunately, the teams I have worked with in the past and Hurricane themselves have had experience with this format, so we feel comfortable going into it. The main change is the intensity of the schedule and the number of teams you have to prepare for. This shifts the focus more onto your own gameplay rather than trying to do specific things for specific teams each time. It also gives more weight to on-the-day performance. In the old format if you have a bad day you have 6 other weeks to not have a bad day with minimal consequence - whereas now a bad day makes the next week much harder and gives you extra preparation to do. I think a lot of that falls onto the coaches both in terms of doing this extra prep work and being ready to fix things on the fly. I think a team with the ability to adapt mid-tournament has a huge advantage in this kind of format and that’s not solely on the players, that’s an entire team effort. How is Hurricane preparing for the upcoming Overwatch Contenders seeding tournament? Is practice going well? We’ve been scrimming for a good few weeks now against what teams are available. Trying to find the stuff we feel comfortable playing on each map and also filling the Flex Support role. We’re taking a break for Christmas then looking to start relatively early in the new year to be match ready for the seeding tournament.  A lot of the teams we’re playing regularly are also going through recruitment as well, so while we’re outperforming them regularly, we’re taking that with a pinch of salt. Instead, [we’re] trying to focus more on our own game and the level we can reach as a team independently of others. With how much travel is being introduced in the 2020 season of the Overwatch League, do you think Contenders teams will start to refine metagames more quickly?  I can see an argument for that case because of the greater amount of time available to Contenders teams. With this also being the first season with so much travel involved it’s almost guaranteed that some teams are going to get it wrong, in terms of how they rest their players and how they schedule their practice around all the travel. Personally, I don’t think that’ll be the case. I think historically Overwatch League teams have shown a greater speed at adapting and innovating than most Contenders teams, and when you look at the player and staff rosters for Overwatch League this year a lot are pretty stacked, so I see no reason for this to change. That’s, of course, a generalization and I’m sure the best Contenders teams will outpace the worst Overwatch League teams, but I think that’ll be the minority. Do you expect regional metagames to really influence the league as the teams travel around the world?  I think if you look back at, say, the APEX days of Overwatch, it felt then like each region had a very overtly different style. While more recently in Contenders you see more subtle regional differences with how each team plays the meta, for example, EU GOATs vs NA GOATs vs KR GOATs. I think the latter is more likely to continue, though. Regardless of where Overwatch League is being played all teams will be looking to those games for inspiration and ideas and I think that will still set the precedent for the core meta - even though personally I believe that’ll center around 2-3 main comps rather than 1 as it has done recently. I think Overwatch League will set the meta, then you may get slightly different iterations of it region to region.
Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel. Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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