Remember when Team Envy was on top of the world?
Mathew “TazMo” Taylor has been with Team Envy’s venture into Overwatch almost since the very beginning. Starting out as an esports fan and competitor showing up to as many events as possible during the Call of Duty (CoD) MLG days, he eventually became the manager of the European powerhouse team formerly known as IDDQD that Envy had signed under their banner when INTERNETHULK asked during a team dinner if TazMo could also take over the managerial duties for the Overwatch team, on top of looking after the CoD squad.
The aftermath is quite literally esports history. From going on a straight win streak of 57 matches in North America and winning OGN’s APEX Season 1 as the first Western team to ever win a major esports competition in South Korea, TazMo has been there with the team to experience it all.
However, when the Overwatch League started with well-deserved high expectations for the organisation, the Fuel fell from grace, finishing outside the playoff seats in the inaugural season.
In this interview with GGRecon, TazMo reflects on the experiences as we discuss the events and happenings during the early stages of Overwatch esports, talking about topics like taking in the highest highs, INTERNETHULK’s impact on the team and esports at large, the expectations coming into the first season of OWL, the vanishing of Chipshajen, working with xQc, Envy’s values as an organisation, and hastr0’s involvement in the Overwatch team.
TazMo - From Esports fan to General Manager
- TazMo’s job as GM for the Fuel is to help out the team and the staff to be as comfortable as possible, connecting the marketing and business aspect with the team, and working together with Mike "Hastr0" Rufail and the Overwatch League, with the goal to grow the organisation through the Overwatch team
- TazMo started out as a console gamer, playing Call of Duty and playing at a decent level, competing at MLG and other tournaments. MLG Dallas was his first event
- After attending a lot of offline events on his own dime, hastr0 gave TazMo the opportunity to lend a helping hand at events which TazMo described jokingly as a task of “a glorified waterboy”. This eventually led to hastr0 asking TazMo to move out to North Carolina to the nV base for a small salary
- TazMo worked his way up from that position to become a team manager for the Call of Duty team. One of the highlights of that time period was their world championship title in 2016
- When Overwatch came out, TazMo worked with both CoD and the Overwatch team and Team Envy, choosing Overwatch once responsibilities because too much to do both at the same time. He says he’s very happy with his decision
- TazMo recalls the moment which decided that he also got to manage the Envy team around Timo "Taimou" Kettunen and Dennis “INTERNETHULK” Hawelka. When the roster was staying at the Envy team house, during a dinner, INTERNETHULK asked hastr0 if TazMo could be their manager as well and they both agreed
- TazMo is a “GM who almost made GM” in Overwatch ranked, with 3989 being his peak SR playing Tank but overall liking to play all the roles
- TazMo got Jonathan "HarryHook" Tejedor Rua English lessons during season 1 though TazMo jokingly says that it didn’t help much
- TazMo picked up some Korean over the seasons working with Korean players and has recently started taking lessons with Sophie Ahn (the same Korean teacher you might know from lessons with Benjamin "BigG00se" Isohanni and Jacob "JAKE" Lyon)
- All the players of the season 4 roster are being offered English lessons. Last year Dong-ha "Doha" Kim and Yong-jin "Yong" Kim took them, this year Jung-keun "Rapel" Kim and Seung-soo "Jecse" Lee are taking them. Overall, TazMo says all of them don’t have bad English
Team Envy’s entrance into Overwatch
- TazMo says that they were early believers in Overwatch, taking a plunge getting into the game very early. Hastr0 himself plays the game quite often and ranking between Platinum and Diamond
- Envy’s goal coming into Overwatch was always to be among the best teams, signing team Hubris during the beta
- Later on, they upgraded to the aforementioned IDDQD lineup with Taimou and INTERNETHULK, relocating a mostly European line-up to the US very early in Overwatch
The APEX era and winning season 1
- TazMo says Taimou’s aim was so outstanding at the time that they had to make sure he wasn’t cheating but realised quickly once Taimou was at the facility that he was legit and the real deal
- TazMo recalls a moment in which Taimou “dumpstered” Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee in a match when the Korean DPS player was still on BK Stars
- When Envy came to Korea, every team wanted to scrim against them
- TazMo thinks that the meta helped them. He also shared that he thought Kongdoo Uncia was the stronger team of the two Kongdoo squads, with Ji-hyeok "birdring" Kim being an outstanding Roadhog player
- The “TazMom” label originated in South Korea because TazMo used to buy the team groceries and did the basic necessities for them to focus on their game
- INTERNETHULK suggested Pongphop "Mickie" Rattanasangchod and Envy trusted his judgement. Mickie needed some time to warm up to the guys, being initially shy but quickly becoming his well-known quirky self
- TazMo says their hardest opponents in scrims were LW Blue, the core that later become NYXL
Overwatch League season 1
- Despite Taimou just returning from Korea last minute due to a visa issue while also being sick and having not slept the night before, Envy didn’t drop a map that day against top NA competition
- TazMo recalls a match against FaZe in which their opponent didn’t manage to cap a single point
- Envy also demolished Contenders season 0 in North America
- Because of Envy’s history, their incredible feats coming into OWL season 1, and their new additions expectations were high, and they were confident coming into the inaugural season
- TazMo shares that he thinks that momentum worked against them in that season, with losing a lot and having to play 40 matches ground them down
This team had come in and done so much for us. We can’t back down on these guys. We gotta believe in them and work with them. I think that’s something hastr0 has always been strong about. I’ve always been someone that really wants to give the players the chance to turn it around. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. That time it just didn’t.
- TazMo says he also hasn’t talked to Sebastian "chipshajen" Widlund in a while and respects his privacy but hopes we see him pop up in a game soon. During season 1, the team wanted to play more aggressively, which is why Benjamin "uNKOE" Chevasson was a better fit. TazMo thinks chipshajen was quite underrated in his skill set during the APEX seasons
- TazMo says that Felix "xQc" Lengyel was brought on primarily due to his play, fitting in well with their plans to make their team more dive-resilient
I just feel like [xQc] could’ve been a lot more for us. I think he could’ve played a lot more games for us and I think he could’ve shown… I think he did have some pop-off moments where he kind of dominated [Chan-hyung "Fissure" Baek ] against the Gladiators when we came back and won that series I believe. You definitely saw the talent that he could’ve had in the Overwatch League.
- TazMo says that the way they performed in stage 4 in season 1, gave the team new hope in the core of the roster, thinking that the new direction under new head coach Aaron "Aero" Atkins was on a good trajectory, also trying to make some moves to improve the team further with off-season transfers
- TazMo says that roster decisions are made between the head coach, hastr0, and himself in a group effort. However, he shares that in the end, the coach should have that decision with hastr0 and TazMo trying to make the financials and logistics work
Everybodys says we have like an unlimited supply of money. That is not the case. There are some rumours out there that are a bit far-fetched and out there. I will say, there is a limit to our spending. We don’t drop the bag on every single person. Look, we treat our players well, I’m not going to deny that. I think we can take pride in that. We are trying to change player lives for the better. It’s important to note that we are very money conscious as well at the same time, going into [season 4] especially.
This ends the first part of our interview with TazMo. In the second and final part releasing soon, we inch closer to the present and talk about topics like GOATs and season 2, working around COVID and the third season, Team Envy’s academy roster, the values of giving second chances, how Dallas Fuel landed on signing RUSH and his entourage of Element Mystic players, marketing a Korean roster, and expectations coming into the fourth season.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment