An inside look into the baffling decisions made during the Mayhem’s second season and what lies beyond.
After their 3-0 victory and first win of the season over the Houston Outlaws, Florida Mayhem’s General Manager Albert “yeHHH” Yeh sat down with me to discuss the Mayhem’s new direction for the 2020 season. For the both of us, it was no secret Florida has had an abysmal time in the Overwatch League. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say, that we've had the most miserable two seasons of any of the franchises” he put bluntly. There’s no way to paint around that Florida was the worst team in the previous season, and Albert graciously granted some insight on what it was like to be a part of the worst team in the Overwatch League.
Firstly, let’s talk about your role on the Mayhem, what do you do as General Manager?
It's a little unique in that, there's an all Korean staff under me. It’s a little bit more difficult to communicate, everything’s a little more formal. Luckily Kuki is bilingual so that helps out a lot, I can just have a one on one conversation with him, no issue. But, my job is to make sure they [the players] don’t have to worry about anything besides playing Overwatch.
If they have no other worries on their minds, I’ve done my job. That involves telling our team mangers of where we need to be, handling all the logistics, like team housing. I searched all offseason to find the team housing, where they’re going to live, getting the facilities set up, it’s a big area.
What’s the dynamic between you and Kuki?
Ultimately, he's the head coach, I give him that power. He decides who's starting, who's sitting, who gets playtime and who doesn't, that’s his wheelhouse.
My job is to understand the pulse of the team, it’s his job to control it and the performance of the team is up to him.
What’s been the process of putting this roster together?
We looked at the  roster, decided who to keep and who to cut.
Our team was last place last year, so everyone was up for discussion. I decided that ultimately, I kept the best parts of our roster. The vision was to cut the people we thought who weren’t performing and who weren’t going to help us get to the next level and keep the pieces that we thought have potential.
After that it was strategizing, taking a look at all the talent available, looking at who we could realistically get, who are our ‘reaches’. Once I saw Runaway was going to be the best option, I figured out the coaching staff first, and it was nice that he [Kuki] could bring two Runaway players with him…
We were going to be a full Korean roster, it didn’t make sense to go back on that direction, like ‘hey now were going to be a mixed team again.’ So, I thought that was a purposeful choice to remain full Korean.
Being on the Mayhem since 2018, what were the mistakes made that you saw and are making sure you don’t repeat for 2020.
I think I learned a lot about what not to do and what doesn’t work. Before I got on Mayhem, I know it’s cliché, but you don’t really know what it feels like to lose until you lose a lot. Now it’s like I’m more nervous when were about to win. I think ‘How do we find a way to lose this? What are the ways we can lose this?’ That’s how I think now. Maybe its PTSD from two years on the Mayhem, but this whole time it’s been that. This is the first year where I feel like we're up 2-0 and we can finish the map. I have confidence in the team, confidence in where we are. The past years have been a long journey of growth. You can see growth in the results, and my personal growth too.
Since this season is basically a fresh start for the Mayhem, what are some misconceptions you’re seeing that you went to dispel?
We’ve always had these sick graphic designers; these guys have been grinding for years. It's a whole effort to work on the content, they’re doing so much. It’s funny that people are like ‘the graphics got stepped up, therefore management is better too.’ I’ve been here since the beginning, it’s a different season, a different year. I think it’s funny to see our fans latch on to that, ‘Okay this is the turnaround, they have sick graphics now so they’re a sick team.’ But I’ll take what I can get.
It’s a new era, it feels new. It’s nice to see all the Mayhem flairs on r/competitiveoverwatch, we have fan art. It feels like there are people actually trying to root for the team... It’s been a rough two years, I’m glad we're seeing things start to turn around.
Before we finish, can we talk about those decisions made last season? The team brought in western players only to release them a short time after, and then signed Korean Contenders talent, only to barely play them or to not have them arrive until the end of the season. What’s the story behind that?
To me, there’s been a ton of mistakes. I’ve been friends with McGravy for a while, we've been pretty close, love that guy to death. It was probably the toughest thing in my career, cause I had to be the one to break the news to him, and I lived with him, we were in the same team apartment.
Basically, there were two plans that were pitched I wanted to go western mixed. Cause I was like 'Hey we have this academy team that we don’t use, and all the Koreans would need visas.’ So last year I didn’t think it made sense. If we wanted to save last year, we went winless stage 1, if we wanted a chance at saving our season, it couldn’t be with an all-Korean squad, because it took them two stages to get here and it was already too late to salvage anything. Stage 4 we finally did well but that was our second easiest stage. These are all things I calculated and knew beforehand.
To help us win the two stages, I wanted to move up our academy guys, get in a mix of Team Envy and Mayhem Academy. But that didn’t work out, we decided to go all Korean instead. Long-term we got where we are due to a rough second season. Whether that’s a mistake or not remains to be seen. It wasn’t my plan, but it was my job to execute it as Assistant GM at the time. So, I did what I had to do. When I knew we were going full Korean, I set up the 3-1 player trade for Fate. Unfortunately, the WGS guys that we got and the coaches we got didn’t work out. Except for Insight, he’s a great guy. Had it been my call I wouldn’t have chosen those coaches…
It’s a long laundry list of decisions and consequences, but it’s up to me to make the best of what I have. I think I leveraged it to make the best roster I could. I can’t change anything in the past, but I think it worked out in the end. Mayhem Academy, they made it to the league, it wasn’t with us, unfortunately, but I couldn't be happier for them.
Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment and the Florida Mayhem