The Dallas Fuel rebuilt almost completely. Is this their breakout season?
Throughout the history of Team Envy’s and Dallas Fuel’s journey in Overwatch esports, Mathew “TazMo” Taylor has been the one constant in the ups and downs of the storied organisation, being there with the team to experience the majorly successful first period during the pre-Overwatch League era, the first mediocre seasons as a franchise, and finally, the rebuild of the Fuel almost from scratch for season 4.
In the second part of our interview with the General Manager, we discussed a wide range of topics like the second season and GOATs, roster stability, COVID contingency plans, and the OGE for Decay trade. Moreover, we got into the value of giving second chances, reading social media comments, underrated players, the Envy academy roster, the roster-building strategy and how the Fuel came to sign RUSH and his Element Mystic entourage, marketing the new team, and expectations for season 4.
Overwatch League season 2 and GOATs
- TazMo recalls a stat that stated that Dallas Fuel would usually beat the lower ranking teams but never punched up towards the top teams, having never beaten one of the top dogs despite getting close
- TazMo says that improvements were made between the seasons, at times having respectable GOATs performances and making stage playoffs but never really being able to break out
- TazMo feels bad for Zachary "ZachaREEE" Lombardo for having to play Brigitte throughout the season
- Dallas initially did well in the first two stages, but TazMo thinks the later strength of schedule was harder, also because they met teams during their peak performances throughout the season. However, he agrees that this is not an excuse and that they should’ve been better, with a lot of moving parts not coming together as hoped
- The Fuel have made a lot of roster and coaching moves during their time, and TazMo thinks that they might be the roster with the most player and coaching changes
- TazMo would like to have more roster stability and thinks they have a good foundation now in season 4. However, he does mention San Francisco Shock, who have also had a lot of movement throughout the years both on the player and coaching side as an example of team changes not necessarily having a negative impact on performance
- TazMo thinks it’s good to stay active in the transfer market and take occasional gambles on players, taking the example of Richard "rCk" Kanerva and taking a chance until Lucas "NotE" Meissner came around after which they pivoted
Preparing for season 3, COVID’s impact, and the third season
- TazMo says his spirits were high for season 3, having a very strong DPS line in Gui-un "Decay" Jang and Dong-ha "Doha" Kim, having the feeling of going to places with global tournaments even though they had to travel a lot
- TazMo says that the team always tries to find new destinations for players, so they feel comfortable at their new team. In OGE’s case, they respected his decision to want to change the team. They knew Decay was an incredibly talented DPS player and jumped on the opportunity for a trade
- Travel plans for Dallas were adjusted to their schedule. One idea was to give European players time off after the Paris homestand that the Fuel would have had to participate in. For their trip to China, they had plans with the Charge lined up who would’ve provided the Fuel with a practice facility in their offices and vice versa when the Charge would’ve come over to the US.
- TazMo thinks that if the season had started three weeks earlier, there would’ve been a real chance that a lot of Western teams would’ve been stuck in China during their trip because of COVID-19
- Because of their CS:GO team, who had to travel globally, Envy had an understanding of what to expect from international travel. During the time the managed both CoD and Overwatch for Envy, he experienced first hand how stressful travelling every weekend was
- TazMo thinks the season under COVID was even more straining for players than it would have been with travel
- TazMo feels that the changes imposed by COVID in terms of having to practice from their own apartments felt like a step back to 2016 Overwatch, where infrastructure was yet to be in place
- Doha is a cheeky and jokey personality, exchanging light-hearted jabs between him and his coaches. He’s a caring person, taking care of Decay, and always worked hard, selflessly flexing around his teammates. TazMo and Doha would sometimes chill his apartment.
- TazMo promised Doha to build a really good roster and create something he can be proud of
Wishing our team all the safe travels to Dallas! ð¥
Values, philosophies, and lessons learned
- When asked about the downsides of giving second chances to players, giving them long-duration contracts, and causing roster inertia in season 3, TazMo said the following:
At the time, the reason for these contracts to be extended were because we did believe in and trusted in our players [...] In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t the best decision. We’re not trying to defend that, but at the end of the day, we do honour our contracts.
- TazMo says that they still tried to make those pieces work within their system, also bringing new players in to complement their team
- TazMo thinks there aren’t too many disagreements on how the Fuel treats players as a whole. Discord instead is likely to come from differences of opinion about coaching decisions or how the game is played.
- TazMo reads social media comments and is sympathetic towards those that ask for changes which he at times even agrees with, though often behind the scenes limitations don’t allow those changes to be made
- In TazMo’s mind, Nolan "Paintbrush" Edwards, and especially Stefan "Onigod" Fiskerstrand were underrated, with the latter playing on high ping and performing well, though standing in the shadow of Decay. Paintbrush came in when things were heating up at the Fuel but managed the situation gracefully, making an effort to connect
- TazMo says that Paintbrush was really vocal, which is something that they needed, though he doesn’t want to speak for the coaches’ decision to field him over Closer. TazMo did share that he thinks Won-sik "Closer" Jung is highly underrated coming into the season with Justice though
Team Envy (Dallas Fuel’s academy team)
- TazMo praises their former academy roster both in the players they had on, the ones that they promoted, and also the coaching staff that remained competitive with Fusion University throughout its history. He also says he’s really happy with the amount of talent the team was able to promote
Every year [Team Envy] were one of our better opponents to scrim
- TazMo says the utility of a great academy team is high because you can ask them to scrim for a specific scenario like practising King’s Row for two hours. While TazMo can’t say for sure, he recalls the academy team having a positive win record against many Overwatch League teams
Adding the Elements to season 4
- The decision to go full Korean was aided by the Eternal signalling that they want to sell off their talent. The team talked to Yong, who had been on Element Mystic before, and what they could expect of Hee-won "RUSH" Yun
- The Fuel were looking for a top-down structure, which is why RUSH coming attached with players was a really attractive foundation for the organisation. TazMo was aware that a lot of teams were interested in what RUSH and his entourage of players had to offer, which is why TazMo tried to get in early
- TazMo himself worked out a list of available players himself before the idea of getting RUSH on crystalised. When TazMo showed RUSH the list, they realised they had similar ideas about roster-building
- RUSH has the final say in signings, with the budget, of course, being one of the limiting factors.
RUSH had full control of the roster
- The Fuel set up a boot camp for the team in Korea, wanting to keep them out of the US for safety reason a bit longer
- The Fuel didn’t purposely just sign Element Mystic players. The team had open tryouts with some limitations, such as fluency in Korean, and the EM players just performed the best, according to TazMo
- Initially, Shanghai told the Fuel that Eui-Seok "Fearless" Lee wasn’t available, but when he asked the Dragons two weeks later, the option was suddenly available
Marketing a Korean roster
- TazMo thinks that Yeong-han "SP9RK1E" Kim and Ki-hyo "Xzi" Jung aren’t short of personality, and Jecse loves Texas and its BBQ culture, so while the team is aware of the challenge of bringing the team closer to their local fanbase, TazMo doesn’t think it will be a problem
- TazMo says that he also thinks the connection to their fanbase is also important for the players, as especially Korean players feel a strong connection to their fans
Fans want a team that can win and a team that they can relate and can talk to, and that’s something that I want to come true.
- TazMo shares that he’s mildly concerned about the volume of their scrims because their office is a big oval with open space that the business side in hearing range of sp9rk1e and Doha screaming during scrims, asking for a wall to separate
- TazMo says that he stayed up for the scrims even though it was 3 or 4 am for him locally, listening to comms
- The video content format “On the watch” will be back, but with a different feeling to it.
What’s success in season 4?
I want to make it out to Hawaii, that would be a good one
- TazMo wants to make playoffs runs in tournaments and challenge the top dogs. The teams he mentions as top teams are the Shock, Justice, Glads, and the Fuel
- TazMo is satisfied with the way the team reacted after the first week of Nexus Cup, figuring the meta out quickly and coming back strong, which signals an upwards trajectory to him. The same ability to improve quickly has also been noticeable in their scrims
Similar to the inaugural season, the Fuel appear to have once again done their homework but will it be enough this time? Can RUSH and his team bring trophies back to Dallas? Or will the organisation be looking at another season of disappointingly average results? At least some answers await in the opener of the Overwatch League’s fourth season with the Battle of Texas between the Dallas Fuel and the Houston Outlaws, starting on April 16th.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment