Vancouver Titans' head coach speaks on motivations and 2021 roster building.
After a hectic end to the 2020 Overwatch League season, the Vancouver Titans are in the final stages of preparations ahead of their 2021 debut. Between massive individual growth to having a proper offseason where the coaching staff can have the time it needs to build something special, everything seems optimistic coming out of the Titans locker room.
Head coach Steven "Flubby" Coronel spoke with GGRecon about the construction of the brand new Titans roster, the intangible roles of certain players play, and which teams they are excited to face come April.
This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
When it comes to the Overwatch League, the community seems incredibly divided when it comes to general roster construction. As a tenured and successful coach, what are some of the attributes that you personally seek out in players when building out your rosters?
A key attribute would just be how well they take information and apply it. I think something that we were able to do, at least for our tryouts for this roster for the Titans, we actually had time to do a tryout, have a couple of days go by, give the players the feedback and see if they would apply it. I think that’s something we never got to do in [Overwatch] Contenders. I think in Contenders, honestly, in Second Wind, our main thing that we scouted by—and something that we do still—is scouting by statistics.
But sometimes, especially in [Overwatch League], it isn’t always about the stats. It is pretty strong to go off stats, but at the same time, you need to worry about “Can a player take criticism well? And even if they don’t take criticism well, can they still apply it?”. All of these things come into the conversation when we’re picking out the players we like or the players we have available to us.
Last seasons roster was a quick roster construction, much less time, but here we have a little more time. So we thought about maybe things we could change or things we wanted to keep doing that we did on Second Wind because our staff members are all the same from Second Wind excluding [Eric "Wheats" Perez]—miss that guy.
As far as that’s concerned, statistics are a big thing in the beginning. The next thing we looked at was coachability, “Can they listen?” and “Can they apply it?”. I think raw skill, again that kind of ties into stats as well, but from there, after you get these things, you look at which guys present themselves as a leader or maybe somebody who can become one.
Could you dive into the actual construction of the roster itself? We know the roles these players have in the game, but when it comes to the structure of the team, what other hats do these players wear?
You know, it’s surprising, as we practice and when you build a roster, you get an idea of which guy is going to show up personality-wise. I think [Anthony "Fire" King] can lead and be an emotional leader at times. Even our guys from last season, specifically [Abtin "ShRedLock" Shirvani], in this pre-season, so far, he has stepped up tremendously. I think he’s become more of an in-game leader than before, and, honestly, that’s all on [ShRedLock]. He’s changing, and I think that’s for the better. He’s become a great leader when it comes to inside the game and even little reviews that we have.
I think [Nathan "frdwnr" Goebel] is honestly the emotional rock of the team. Anytime anything goes rough, he’s always trying to make sure we’ve got our head in the game. Always talking about “We can go next.” that kind of idea. Everyone has their role cut out for them on this roster. Every person on the team has their place. [Randal "Roolf" Stark] has his moments as well when it comes to leadership, [Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin] too. I think LiNkzr has been great when it comes to in-team mentorship. He is very experienced, and that is of high value to the team at the moment. I think he is great.
[Dalton "Dalton" Bennyhoff], another step up from last season, as well. I think he’s come into himself a little bit more. I think he’s more confident. Last season was very stressful, and between him and [ShRedLock], they’ve changed for the better. I can’t wait for you guys to see them both, and the rest of the team, of course, but those guys in particular. They’re really stepping up.
When it comes to community perception, the 2021 Vancouver Titans are certainly viewed as underdogs. First, is that something that you feel you can use as a weapon to motivate the team to punch above their assumed weight?
I think they do already see it that way. We mention it all the time when we’re scrimming or when we’re doing well against an opponent. We see how well we can perform, and we always look to that like, “We did really well here; we just need to make this consistent.”. That’s where we are at. It does motivate us, for sure, as staff especially. I think we’ve always been underdog-y.
Even last season, we were just trying to stay afloat, and we did sail for a little bit; we did okay. Personally, it wasn’t good, it didn’t feel good—but we did do okay. I can’t be completely negative; it just isn’t a good mentality for it. It does motivate us; it does drive us. Being an underdog, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
When it comes to the 2021 Overwatch League format, do you expect that the bi-monthly hero pools will be more taxing this year compared to the last? Is the lack of consistency concerning at all for you?
Personally, and honestly, the rest of my coaching staff, I think we actually don’t mind this little setup we have. I think we understand that bringing hero pools brings a lot of variance to watching Overwatch League, and I think that is quite important. The schedule is on and off for hero pools, and I think that’s great. Sure, it gives some variance, but at the same time, it isn’t as taxing as last season, where there was so much change in each hero pool.
Scrims would be so scrappy at the beginning of the week in terms of teams trying different stuff, or maybe they could be trying something that was relevant a couple of bans ago. I think that was more taxing on the staff in particular, for players of course [too], but I think it is at least a little bit consistent, and I think it’s manageable. I’d like to see how the format plays out for everybody and see how other teams react to it as well, but I think it is better than last season for sure.
I think I’m obligated to say that there might be a little Canadian team that we need to do well against.
- Steven "Flubby" Coronel
As a follow-up, hero pools brought with it some surprising results, some of which were excused as bad reads on the metagame for that given week. As someone who had tangible experience with the format, could you dive into what that looks like?
I think you can get a bad read on a week. I think that more so happens at the beginning of the week, if it were to happen. It is crucial because, in my experience, for us, we had a lot of catch up matches, right? So we had a couple of months where it was just consistent matches, like week after week, some weeks would be double, [and] we’d have a triple right after. For us, scrimming these bans, the beginning of the week is important because you have to judge, or maybe you want to try something different, but you couldn’t really do that.
So we had to try something different for a day or two, and then we had to look at what other teams were doing as well. So we had to go off of what other teams were settling on because it was just so fast pace for us, but for other teams, I think it was more or less the same. I think it was just quite stressful at the beginning of the practice week because then teams start to settle into what’s comfortable for them, not necessarily what’s meta instantly, and then they go off from that.
I think at the beginning of one of the hero pool monthly tournaments, or during the beginning of the non-hero pool monthly tournaments, you might see a lot of variances, but as the weeks play out, more and more teams watch each other play, and as they scrim, you’ll start to see a more defined [metagame].
Your opening set of match consists of the Toronto Defiant, Florida Mayhem, Paris Eternal, and Washington Justice. How confident do you feel making a play for the May Melee playoffs?
I think each person probably has a different opinion on how the team is feeling, but for me personally, I think we’ve been growing so much in these past months that we’ve been practising. Funnily enough, we’re just super excited to move—and that’s happening soon. This is kind of deviating from the question, at least for me and the staff and even some of the players, we’ve always been in Contenders, so it has been predominantly online and strictly through voice. If a player is having an issue, you can kind of hear it in their voice, and you get used to that, but it’s completely different from when you talk to somebody in-person. For example, if this interview was in person, you could see that I’m talking with my hands, right?
I think that goes such a long way, and at least for me and [Ali "Pew" Anwar] in particular, we’ve been waiting for the moment where we can actually see our players and kind of understand what they’re feeling, and emotion plays such a large part in coaching. So that’s something I’m looking forward to, and I think the players actually want to meet each other.
It’s insanely important because last season, of course, we did it all across the world, and it’s hard to try and keep tabs on everybody. Make sure we’re all doing our job, make sure we are all eating healthy, sleeping right, making sure we’re getting our rest in, making sure we’re not staying up to late on match days or even on review days, and keeping each other in check. Even just little social stuff, it’s all-important; they are key components. As we get closer to the matchday, our focus is on making sure we can get the most out of the next few weeks because once we enter Canada, we have to enter that quarantine period. So we’re looking to get the most out of that and, honestly, and the next thing we’re looking forward to is meeting each other and then getting in the practice before the match and performing the best we can.
In terms of confidence, we’re feeling good about how we are improving, and then once we get to that week of playoffs, we have a definitive idea of how we’re going to perform.
Is there a team out of this first pack that you feel extra excited to face? Perhaps planting your feet as the premier Canadian Overwatch League franchise with a win over the Defiant?
I think I’m obligated to say that there might be a little Canadian team that we need to do well against. We’ve always been constantly going to map five with them, and I think it would be great to start the season with a win over them.
It’s the Canadian Overwatch League, right? Just us two.
I am actually excited for that match. It’s also the first one which is great, and I think personally, I like playing against players I’ve had or players that I know. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play against [Niclas "sHockWave" Jensen], who is now on the Fusion, but we have Paris and [Samir "Tsuna" Ikram] that’ll be exciting.
I’ve always enjoyed playing against [Gladiators]. Not for any particular reason, I do have one player that I used to play with and someone who I still talk [with] to this day, and that’s [Gia Huy "MirroR" Trinh]. He’s incredibly talented, and I just love playing against him and his team. They’re always great; they’re always such a strong team. You can learn a lot from them, so I’m excited about that, but we have to win that first match, and we’ve got to beat Tsuna, right? Just excited for the matches coming up.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment