Boston’s Mineral On The Uprising’s Growth, Midseason Meta Movements, And More
From player to coach to assistant general manager of the Boston Uprising, there are few people in Overwatch today that can hold a candle to Vytis "Mineral" Lasaitis' experience in the space. With a promising start to the season and bouncing back from internal disputes, the Uprising look poised to showcase their mettle as they approach stage two of the Overwatch League's 2022 season.
Mineral spoke with GGRecon about Boston Uprising's developments over the Kickoff Clash, how much the roster has grown over the season, and what will change for the team coming into Midseason Madness.
One big narrative coming into the season was Boston's tank depth, could you clarify or add any insight as to why the Uprising decided to start the season with three separate tanks?
"I think for us, and all of the teams, the tank position was the biggest question mark coming into the season. I think there are different approaches, there are certain teams that got an off-tank and a main tank, and others just essentially kept one tank, like [Myeong-hwan "smurf" Yoo] with Seoul Dynasty or [Min-jun "PIGGY" Shin] with Houston Outlaws to cover all the bases and get all the reps."
"But obviously, with nine tank heroes available that might be tough, especially with most tank players having specialised in two or three heroes for the entirety of their careers. Heading into the season we wanted to be more competitive, make the playoffs and ensure we covered all our bases. We didn't want to end up in a situation where an unfavourable meta pushed us out of that contention, especially if that meta would end up sticking for half a season or longer, which historically has been pretty common."
"We felt that even though [Leyton "Punk" Gilchrist] and [Min-seo "Marve1" Hwang] covered most of those bases, we might still be lacking a little in certain dive metas. Naturally, [Chang-hee "ITSAL" Kim] had a ton of reps on dive tanks on our academy team and was very successful there, and we thought he could help us hit a higher ceiling in the right metas."
"We still had two players in [Ji-sung "Simple" Kim] and ITSAL who were under our academy team, but they were not really practising due to the long Contenders offseason and us moving up four of our Academy players to the Overwatch League. We felt like ITSAL had a lot of momentum from his performances in Contenders, and we wanted to give him a chance to capitalise on that. Obviously having that academy team as well, we figured that we always have the option to give our players reps in [Contenders] if needed and/or requested."
"Naturally the drawback is that each player doesn't get as much scrim time, and you perhaps fall into more of a specialist role that can be difficult to break out of or that limits your versatility as a team down the road, but we felt that the positives outweigh the negatives at the time."
Speaking of the tanks, Punk has been phenomenal. Closing out 2021 with a strong showing and with this first stage looking like an echo of that impressive showcase, we'd love to give you the space to shine a light on him. How pleased are you with Punk at the moment?
"We really liked how Punk performed last season as well. Obviously, we brought in [Young-sun "GaeBullSsi" Yun] last year to bolster our frontline, but ultimately ended up in a situation where Punk played great for a big chunk of the season, solidified himself as our starter and was a great teammate along the way."
"We felt very confident that we had what we needed in him in terms of covering all bases on off tanks, being able to learn, being a grinder, and still being very passionate about the game, despite being a veteran - playing the game for around five years at this point - still being very young as well."
"We're very happy with how he's performed."
"I think there are certain challenges that every off-tank and main tank player faces in OW2 where you have to pick up the opposite role on certain maps and have to perform. That's probably the biggest challenge for tanks this year, but Punk is very talented, and passionate, and he does want to work on those heroes as well in order to be an all-around player that can fill all the gaps and that isn't going to hold back the team in any meta."
"We're very happy with how he's performed, he's really come into his own, and [he's] working on his leadership skills as well. Obviously, certain things are a work in progress like it is for all players but we're very happy with where Punk is and we think he's shown essentially the same form that he had throughout most of last year when he was very solid. I just think now that there is only one tank and that one tank doesn't share the spotlight, you get a little more shine, a little more exposure and people notice you a little bit more."
Zarya seemed to be quite a forte for the Uprising throughout the Kickoff Clash, was this something you guys held onto from pre-season scrims or something you found on the fly?
"I think if you look at how certain teams have tweeted about this stuff, the meta just sort of shifted almost week to week as we came into the season. Certain teams thought a certain thing was meta and you come out and you lose, and you have to reconsider. For example, Houston coming out week one and having so much success with Doomfist against Dallas made a lot of teams reconsider 'do we just play Doomfist?'. Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Doomfist was falling out of favour a little, and you see Houston going back and forth with different styles."
"I think if you look across the league, most teams have sort of had to shift gears throughout the first couple of weeks in a similar fashion, with perhaps a couple of exceptions. I think Shock kind of just ran the Winston stuff most of the qualifier matches but a lot of the other teams have been forced to adapt and pivot a lot more. For us, I think it's kind of the same. We experimented a lot, and when you start the year with three tanks as well, you're really not limited to a particular composition as the tank kind of dictates the pace and style you play."
"I think we found Zarya relatively early, at least by Western standards. We found that Winston compositions were not working that well. You know, you scrim against certain teams, they give you that Zarya look, you try it out yourself and it works a little bit better and I think a lot of teams just copy off of each other as well based on what is working for them."
"You see what works in an Overwatch League match, you try to break it down and emulate that style yourself in the next week of scrims and depending on the success rate you decide whether or not you're rolling out with it in the official. I think the Zarya composition was something we had a lot of success with in practice but there are certain maps where you can't really get away with it as easily. And obviously, on those maps, you have to pivot, so you can't really put all of your eggs in one basket, but we relied heavily on that composition. The pace and style just fit us a lot better."
You came out publicly and commended [Gi-hun "Victoria" Oh]'s "hard work and relentlessness" coming into week four. Could you share a bit of the backstory behind that and Victoria's evolution into his starting position?
"I'd say for Victoria, in regards to my tweet, he was sort of thrown into the fire, so to speak. We obviously had some internal issues and he was a starter on certain maps, but only one here or there, and he caught a little bit of heat from the community due to our slow start. For Victoria to come in and fill that gap on certain long-range hitscan maps there is a ton of pressure not only from the community but from himself, he puts [pressure] on himself as a rookie player, as someone who hasn't had a lot of experience in competitive Overwatch."
"When you think about it, last year was his first year in competitive Overwatch."
"[Victoria] was a ladder player who came into our academy team. We scouted him and we felt like had enormous raw potential, and he came into Contenders and really popped off there. But for him, he's very much ahead of schedule considering how little competitive experience he has and how many scrims he has under his belt compared to the average pro."
"Heading into our matches against Toronto and Washington, obviously, through our internal issues, he was sprung into a position where instead of playing one or two maps out of the ten that were planned, all of a sudden he is a starter in all of them. For any player, for you to feel confident during a match, you have to have reps on your maps, and you have to know your flanking routes, your positioning, and your timings. And for him to go in there, on one full practice day, and perform is kind of an impossible ask, right? When you consider all of the factors, in terms of all of the experience, in terms of the pressure and the gravity of the situation and just the lack of repetitions. You almost have to go out there and play off of instinct."
"We felt like the first match against Toronto was very winnable. After winning the first map, we had a collective feeling of 'we're winning this match'. Internally, when we were watching the game, we felt like we were stronger than them and even when we lost the match, we felt like we sort of let it slip through. I think a lot of it was very disappointing because that week was one of our best scrim weeks in totality, we were finally clicking on all cylinders. We felt like we were really hitting our stride that week and that we had a fantastic opportunity to sweep the week and win both matches and really improve our chances to make the Dallas tournament. To lose [then] was very disappointing."
"If you compile all of that, Victoria as a player coming in, struggling a little bit maybe in that match, us losing a match that felt winnable, and having to regroup and play another match the following day against a surging Washington is very tough. They looked very strong. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to come out and play a really good match under those circumstances and I think that when [Victoria] came out against Washington he had a really fantastic match. I remember when we were on King's Row, we were on his POV as we were watching the game, and he had a lot of clutches, he played phenomenally."
"I think throughout the entirety of King's Row, I think he had zero deaths. He went 28-0 or something like that."
"So for me, watching all of that unfold with the context in mind, that was the biggest takeaway. It was great to see us shake the disappointment of the Toronto loss, flip a switch and perform that well.
"To me, that was the biggest revelation for our team and the environment that we have. That was really fantastic to watch because we know what Victoria's capable of, we know the raw skill he possesses, but bringing that out in matches on limited reps is very, very difficult and the fact that he managed to do that I think was very encouraging for us and for him."
"Obviously, it was a fantastic team performance, you know [William "Crimzo" Hernandez] played well, Punk played well, [Byeong-ju "Valentine" Kim], everyone executed our strategy extremely well and we were very well prepared against the style that Washington was running. But to still win that convincingly against a team that was surging at that time, I think that we really had to make sure our rookies performed and had confidence. For [Victoria] to come out and perform like that, we were very positively impressed and we felt like he did a great job."
Ending 2022's first stage with a two and four record isn't exactly poor, but it still positioned Boston outside of the top eight. What is the coaching staff planning on changing coming into Midseason Madness?
"First of all, it's a little hard to say because we really don't know what the meta is going to be or how the patch is going to play out but in terms of big overhauling changes, I don't really think it is going to be much. I think our processes have been pretty good, especially as we finished out the stage."
"I've been a part of a lot of teams in Overwatch and I'd say, despite being 2-4, this is one of the best—if not the best—team environments I've ever been a part of and worked within."
"The players get along super well, the coaching staff has great synergy with the team and I think the group has really come together through the ups and downs of the first stage. I think everyone really enjoys playing with one another. Everyone is super hungry and super motivated, and everyone is giving their all in review and in every practice session."
"So on that front, as management, we can't really ask for much more."
"You obviously always monitor and see if you can fine-tune things, and make things a little bit better, but ultimately we're in a pretty good groove. It is a little disappointing to go 2-4, certainly in the London match and in the Toronto match, we really let those matches slip through our fingers. In the London match, we had a really strong map one, we all but won map two but we really let that one slip away. It should have been a really easy map two as well, and you get the 2-0 lead. Obviously, there have been some reverse sweeps here and there, but we felt very confident that we could have closed that out and all of a sudden our stage outlook is completely different."
"So we're really not looking at this to overhaul or make big changes to change the results."
"We really felt like we weren't that far off. I think there were some stage nerves coming in and playing those early matches. There were certain circumstances and some internal things that we've resolved already and I think you can see that. Us being down 1-3 and coming back and beating Washington, I think that was a big statement about where the team was mentally and how strong the mental resolve is in this group. Naturally, Dallas is an extremely tough team to play against, being one of the pioneers of the Zarya meta in the West, for us that was always going to be a very tough match up to finish the stage on. But we felt like looking at our results in practice even heading into the match against Dallas, even a week before going into the Toronto and Washington matches, our practice results were saying we're a much better team than our final standing showed."
"And ultimately, we felt that we could have made this tournament and done pretty well. So we're really not looking at a big overhaul or anything. Just practising hard and trying to get ahead of the curve, obviously, everyone is very hungry. And we have this week off so, we look to start as soon as we possibly can on the new patch to try and learn the new meta and work really hard to try and ensure we make the Midseason Madness."
How is the team operating during the break with Kickoff Clash playoffs currently going on? Boston has been known for their rigorous scrim culture, is [Seung-hyun "Lori" Kim] keeping the team busy or have you guys been partaking in the festivities as well?
"No, with this break we're really just relaxing. We don't really have access to the new patch."
"The way it is set up is that teams do actually get a bit of a break so that teams that do attend the tournament don't fall behind too much. So this week is completely off for us. Obviously, the guys still play the game, still practice a little bit but there is no real schedule. Even dating back to last year, something we always do as a management [team], we organize as many team activities as possible. We ensure that our guys get their rest, but we also go out and do things as a team."
"It was something that was really helpful last year so that the guys don't just sit inside and sulk watching the tournament. We actually make sure we go out and build team cohesion outside the practice environment, schedule some activities and ensure that everyone is stimulated outside of just being in front of their computer."
Last but not least, June 17th begins the Uprising's Midseason race, pairing you off against the Atlanta Reign and following that you have the San Francisco Shock on the 19th. Are the Uprising preparing any differently with such a difficult opening week?
"I think it's very difficult to say with the patch, I think in terms of Atlanta and Shock our schedule in this stage is a little bit front-loaded with, at least, on paper strength. But you never know, right?"
"On-paper strength can shift heavily going into different metas."
"For example, Zenyatta and Brigitte are really, really buffed. Going into the next patch, if the meta turns to be a Brigitte and Zenyatta meta, then all of a sudden Winston kind of falls out of favour because you can't really play those compositions without an Ana. Then, all of a sudden, that kind of could shift where Shock is in the pecking order, who knows. Or maybe that is beneficial to Atlanta because they've historically preferred non-Winston compositions."
"So we really don't know. It is hard to project the power levels of various teams because those shift throughout the year. So we're not looking at the opponents and going 'oh, this is an insurmountable match' or 'this is too difficult.'"
"So long as we do well in practice, I think we're confident we can go out there and beat any opponent. I think it is a fresh reset and the onus is on us to go out there and practice as hard as we can and make sure we have the right reads on the meta and go into the first week of matches and get either two wins or at least one win. So there is less pressure on us throughout the rest of the stage."
"We don't want to end up in a situation like we did at the end of Kickoff Clash, where all of a sudden you have to sweep Dallas in order to make the tournament. Ideally, you don't want to put yourself in that situation. You want to start the stage on a good note."
"We're not preparing anything special for those teams. We're focused on ourselves and making sure we do the best possible job as a group and get a good read on the meta."
"And who knows, looking at the changes it feels like maybe the meta is going to shift away from where it has been. When you look at the backline changes, Lucio and Ana are very meta, almost everywhere now, both are getting nerfs. Zenyatta and Brigitte? Not so much. Both of them are getting buffs. So is that going to be enough to shift the power balance to the point where you might be playing Zenyatta and Brigitte with whatever [tank] it may be, Sigma or something like that?"
"Perhaps it'll be too hard to play the Winston, with all of these extra boops and Zenyatta's kick and Zenyatta being 225 HP and being super tanky? Maybe it is difficult to play a Tracer into that because of how strong Zenyatta will be? Who the [heck] knows, but just looking at the on-paper changes, things might shift."
"We feel well equipped with our roster. We feel we have enough depth to adapt to any meta. Especially our backline with [Hong-gyu "Faith" Kim] both statistically and eye-test wise being one of the best main supports, on both Brigitte and Lucio. So we're confident in whichever way the main support meta swings. We have two flex supports in case it is a double-flex support meta. Between Crimzo and [Jeong-ho "MCD" Lee] we cover all the flex supports at a pretty high level and obviously we still have two tanks whether it is a Reinhardt meta or if off tanks dominate."
"We're confident we're not going to be patched out of being a good team for an entire stage."