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LNL Ajax: “If someone reading this really, and I mean really, has the drive to be a pro gamer know that you are going to face hardships, judgement, pain, and happiness …”

Volamel 2018-08-06 07:30:54
  Last Night’s Leftovers are your consummate darkhorse team and they’ve made the Overwatch Contenders North American playoffs over some of the Overwatch League’s academy teams and Alex "Ajax" Jackson is leading the charge has been putting his nose to the grindstone to chase his dreams within Overwatch esports. Formerly of Kingdom Esports, Kungarna, and NRG Esports, Ajax comes from a background in competitive Paladins and has been a figure in the amateur Overwatch scene since the summer of 2016. The Last Night’s Leftovers support player sat down with Esports Heaven to talk about his strong finish in the regular season, his future in Overwatch esports, and the direction of the Lucio metagame.  

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Recently the team has started working with former San Francisco Shock coaches LegitRC and Brad Rajani. How has the team been enjoying their coaching methods? How has it affected your overall game? We acquired an Overwatch League level coaching staff working their hearts out every day to help us all achieve greatness and we couldn't be happier. Having them two, plus mkL, Sword, Silence, and kate make our lives as players so easy. I show up not worrying about schedules and instead review VODs, discuss new strategies, or things we want to stop doing, and then I play with constant reminder pm’s while scrimming. This is the first time I feel I can fully focus on improvement as an individual and as a team, without needing to worry about silliness.  

"I wanted this so badly, to make it here especially third seed and show even without an academy support, without importing Koreans, I can stand here too.” -- Alex "Ajax" Jackson

  Years ago I did a small interview with you and you mentioned that you thought Koreans were “really overrated.” Now that we’ve reached the climax of the first Overwatch League season, has your opinion changed? Hahaha, yeah, my opinion kind of got lost in that paragraph and just got memed with the phrase “Koreans are overrated.” What I was trying to convey to the reader was that the rhetoric used by many Overwatch commentators was that they were gods, untouchable, [and that the] West was too far behind and couldn’t catch up. In my opinion that was false and silly. A western line up at the time won APEX Season 1 and I believe this was beginning season three and season two was won by Lunatic-Hai, so there was ‘room to catch back up, and we weren't that behind’ was really what I was trying to go for, which also implies Koreans were better and they ... well, they still are. Now you’ve made history as the first North American team to knock out an Overwatch League academy team. First, how does that feel? That has got to be a huge boost to your confidence. Yeah, it’s a huge boost. I haven't been on a team with a winning record in a major event since Kungarna! Most academies ignored me entirely from even DM’s in season one, looked at me like some kind of joke. I wanted this so badly — to make it here, especially third seed, and show even without an academy support, without importing Koreans, I can stand here too. Secondly, as a team without an organization, how much of a deficit does that put you at when you compete against multiple academy teams in the Contenders division? So, it’s something [the team and I] try not to mention, but teams know we are unsigned without team facilities, so most academies will intentionally force west coast servers so our European players have higher ping in matches. It’s not something we complain about because it’s just natural for a team to want to gain any advantage possible, but it’s a sad reality of being a multi-continent team with no sponsor. It sucks when you have three people with 160~ ping more than opposing players. Also, to make matters worse, we had a disconnect in our second match of the regular season against GG Esports Academy and lost a map for it. We had to play 5v6. The Overwatch League has just announced that they’ve expanded their stable and have added Atlanta and Guangzhou. I’ve got to ask — what has been your initial thoughts? Is there a city you really want to see added? The main city I wanted was my hometown of Houston and that was an inaugural city. The only other city I would like to see is Kiel, Germany; it’s my Dad's hometown. I think it would be pretty neat for a German team to be in the league and I would be just as excited if I was to go there to play. You mentioned on Twitter that you always dreamt of playing in an MLS stadium. If you had the opportunity to play in one stadium, which would you choose and why? Either the BBVA Compass Stadium, the Houston Dynamo or Orlando City Stadium. After grinding Overwatch for over two years, I’ve got to ask: what are some of your favorite memories? My absolute favorite memory was walking out onto the stage of my first LAN, the Winter Premier. I was playing for Ghost Gaming (original Kungarna) and Mykl had us all walk out in our black jerseys and shades to look intimidating. Also, a funny side story to that — right before we walked out, the manager of Immortals, NurseBaemax, and Mykl got in a ‘staring up close’ match before the game backstage for a few minutes trash talking each other - literally in each other’s face. It was like something out of an elementary school’s recess with two kids trash talking one another over who got on the swing next. One issue that has come up a lot has been Blizzard’s stance on patching Overwatch and this all comes to a head during the Overwatch Contenders playoffs where Wrecking Ball will be enabled. What is the overall sentiment within the LNL camp and what are your thoughts on the change? I am okay with Wrecking Ball being in playoffs, to be honest, but that’s simply because it takes so long to patch it feels. I wish we had much smaller patches and more often than we can talk about not patching for playoffs. One issue I’ve heard echoed often in the Contenders ecosystem is a difficulty in scheduling practice between teams. Is this accurate and how would you go about fixing it? Is having a dedicated team manager becoming a necessity? Firstly, our dedicated manager Kate is the best manager in Overwatch Contenders, period. The only thing I have to worry about is the large number of teams that consistently cancel on us right before the scrim is about to start. Now with having two years of Overwatch under your belt, is there any advice you could give to the next generation who might see this? What would you recommend a future professional player to do? If someone reading this really—and I mean really—has the drive to be a pro gamer, know that you are going to face hardships, judgment, pain, and happiness if you stick it out long enough to a level you have probably never experienced in your life. Once you have decided this if this is something you can do, stick with it as long as you can, as in don’t drop out of school or quit work with no money and become homeless for this, and don’t waver in believing in yourself to overcome obstacles. Last but certainly not least, I think most people know you for your Lucio play -- and you’ve been fairly public about wishing to play him a bit more. What changes would you make to Lucio or other cast members to bring him back into vogue? The ressurect on Mercy is too powerful of an ability for most compositions to pass up, so the first thing you want to drop from your comp at the drawing board is Lucio. Also, Mercy and Zenyatta enable one another very nicely, not to mention Lucio can’t enable Widowmaker, another very popular pick at the moment. If I were to buff Lucio, the first thing I would do is nerf the cooldown on resurrect or start it on cooldown at the start of the match. One other thing I would like to do is have Lucio be able to interact more with Amp It Up — maybe lower the cooldown, but also lower duration so it has more versatility. This would fix the last problem I want to bring up which is building the ultimate itself; speeding a team into their death is granting you a solid 20% ult charge per fight in a fast based comp. It’s very easy to fall behind in ultimate charge. _____ 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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