There’s no way of sugar coating it – Europe bombed out of the Gauntlet. However, that doesn’t mean that HSL Esports didn’t learn anything from it.
They were hopeful of taking a map, a series, some semblance of success away from the event. While it didn’t eventuate on an objective level – they bombed out in consecutive 3-0 losses to XL2 Academy and Talon Esports – there’s elements of experience and pride you can take away from being here in the first place.
That’s exactly what Mads “Fischer” Jehg and Danni “Ding” Rasmussen did in their short stint here in Korea. The two Danes on the HSL lineup, the European representatives held their heads high regardless of the actual result – because they undertook a massive journey to get here.
“I was playing on Open Division teams before the season started after I had quit the game previously, so I was just happy to be in Contenders in the first place,” said Ding. “I didn’t even expect to be here in Korea.
“I was bored of the meta. I went and played Apex Legends for a bit, but there wasn’t any tournaments for like five months, so I went back to Overwatch and started competing again. That break gave me a new outlook on the game, how to play as a team and how to treat a team.”
It made playing here at the Gauntlet all the more sweeter for the both of them. Fischer had his own little redemption arc too, after leaving North America this year to return home. Making it out here proved his worth as a player, and gave him more experience than he could hope for.
“I think the accomplishment of getting here is nice in itself,” said Fischer. “Even if we didn’t do well here, at least being here together and meeting all the other teams – playing with all the other teams, watching all the other teams was rewarding.”
“I don’t play games unless I can compete in them – I want to fight for something.”Danni “Ding” Rasmussen
There’s a lot that you can learn by simply being in the same place as other players. It’s like the knowledge absorbs into your skin and seeps into your brain. You hear the comms over the top of the practice computers. You scrim teams with skill ceilings 50 storeys above teams in your own region.
For Fischer and Ding, that was what made the Gauntlet one of their best experiences in competing.
“The Gauntlet was really competitive,” said Fischer. “You gather all these regions together and you realise that all of these players from other regions are really scary. Seeing all of these players perform is insane.”
“There’s also a different mentality around playing teams from these different regions too,” Ding added. “Everyone has different play styles and different mindsets – some teams play really aggressively, some teams play passively. We have a little bit in Europe, but the overall skill of teams is much lower, so you don’t notice it.”
That’s another common thing across international events. It’s a test of some regional nuances to see who has the better read on the meta. It might not be the heroes that are played that makes a meta, but the style in which they are played.
For Europe, they’ve struggled in finding their feet in 2019. They lost a spot for the Gauntlet at the Pacific Showdown after the British Hurricane disappointingly bombed out. It’s not going to get better though. The talent is fleeing overseas, and so is the cash.
“The region has been stripped apart from all of the good talent, and the new rising talent doesn’t have the same support structure as past teams from 2017 and 2018,” said Fischer, with a slight reminiscence on the early days of Overwatch where Europe was unstoppable. “The talent pool gets smaller every time OWL or an academy picks up a new player.”
“The Gauntlet is a good platform to get exposure for the Overwatch League. I hope that regardless of our results that people saw something in our play, and if they didn’t see it here, they saw it when we were in Europe.”Mads “Fischer” Jehg
The talent is still there, according to Ding, it just doesn’t have the same environments to flourish.
“Mechanically, we still have some of the best players in Europe, but we lack the team structure to bring those players together. The early iterations of Gigantti had some of that amazing talent, but it slowly got stripped apart. Losing Seita [the coach] was a huge loss, because he created some of the best European players.”
Now, with World Cup on the horizon, Fischer has something new to set his sights on. He played alongside Ding last year, falling painfully short of BlizzCon to China and Australia in Bangkok. The new system has opened up a slot for them, and he is ready to prove they are a top 10 team worthy of auto-qualification.
“Last years World Cup was very tragic, because we were so close to qualifying. This year, I think we have a good chance. I think the team can come together pretty well – we just need more time. I think we will make it out of Groups I think, as for the top 10 or playoffs, I’m not sure yet.”
For Ding though, it’s time to put his feet up. The World Cup was never on his radar this year after his break – much like how the Gauntlet wasn’t either – but the hunger is still there.
“It’s going to be a long break now with a lot of ranked play and staying on top of my game, but I’m kind of looking forward to that. It’s nice not coming from work and having to scrim for four hours every night, so I’m looking forward to a bit of a break too.
“Hopefully the meta will change – it’s been a bit demotivating to play, but with the recent PTR patch, it looks good.”
Plus, it can be a good thing to get sucked back into reality.
“I work part-time at a small convenience store, and it’s nice. It’s very flexible, so I can take a day off if I need to, which means I can come to events like these.”
As for the grand plans for 2020, both aren’t settling with Europe, and they’ll do whatever it takes to better themselves for a chance at the Overwatch League.
“I’m going to look to go back to North America now,” said Fischer. “I miss Team Envy a bit – I love all of the players, so there’s no hard feelings there.”
2019 was lessons learnt for both Ding and Fischer. The fire is still burning, keeping them chugging along. No matter how battered and bruised they might appear after a hiding at the Gauntlet, scars heal, and they’ll come out the other side stronger than ever.