The San Francisco Shock enter the off season with their heads held high after winning their second consecutive championship in the Overwatch League. From the middle of the season up until before grand finals, the Shock have continuously strived to upgrade their roster and seek out untapped potential talent in Contenders. Their most recent player signing was Sean “ta1yo” Henderson from top North American Contenders team, Third Impact.
The Shock have looked untroubled by the numerous changes to the meta, and have seemed to anchor down a championship starting roster. Then how does Ta1yo fit in the picture? Ta1yo tells us the story about how he joined the Shock, what he’s learned so far, and what he will do to elevate this team even higher.
Hotspawn: Tell us the story about how this opportunity with the Shock came to be, and what was your reaction to the offer?
Ta1yo: It all started when my Contenders team — at the time Third Impact — would have scrims with Overwatch League teams, and the Shock was one of those teams. We actually frequently scrimmed them. We always warmed them up for the May Melee and Summer Showdown, stuff like that. I think Crusty ( Head Coach Dae-hee “Crusty” Park) saw potential in my play. Third Impact was very revolved around my playstyle, so I think he saw the potential of me bringing this new style, this new way of playing, to the Shock. So I think that’s one of the main reasons why Crusty scouted me.
Our team wasn't quite stacked enough… 😉
(Pending League Approval) pic.twitter.com/7ng1NrYpMW
— San Francisco Shock (@SFShock) July 21, 2020
Honestly when I got offered — there were first tryouts — but I kind of knew Crusty had an eye on me. So I wasn’t too surprised that I got a trial spot. After realizing “Wait I’m on the San Francisco Shock”, it’s kind of breathtaking. It took a long time to process. Once I got to the apartments in LA, I was like “Wait, I’m actually on this team”.
Hotspawn: How has your time competing in Contenders prepared you for the Overwatch League? What were the biggest differences you noticed when transitioning?
Ta1yo: My old Contenders team, Third Impact, had a very strict structure. We had practice and VOD review so I wasn’t too surprised with how strict the Shock were with time management. In general, seeing your teammates every day and practicing with them IRLis a very big difference. [On Third Impact] it was just me, Icy (John “iCy” Kazura), Lr1s (Seung-hyun “Lr1s” Kim), and Zholik (Blake “Zholik” Solberg) at the Contenders team house most of the time. You can’t see your teammates all the time, most of the time it was just me and Lr1s. So I think that was the biggest change — seeing your teammates and actually being able to talk to them face-to-face about what you’re feeling about the game and strategy. I think that helps a lot, it increases productivity of VOD review so much. In Contenders, you never know who you’re going to play, so you work on yourself most of the time.
Hotspawn: How are the Shock trying to grow you as a player, what have you been learning?
Ta1yo: Honestly, that’s to come. When I got signed, it was right before the Countdown Cup and playoffs. They’re not gonna use their time on me when they have a championship to win [Laughs]. Crusty told me “Just keep on playing the game, keep on grinding. I’m sorry I can’t put my attention towards you, but eventually that will come. Keep trying to improve yourself”. I feel like this off-season is when I’ll get a lot of one-on-one coaching. I’m just a mental support player at that point. I’m just talking to the players and making them feel better. I’m really close to everyone on the team. I know how stressful it is going into finals and competing in general. That’s something coaches understand, but don’t understand from a player’s perspective. So I think I kinda helped mentally ease some of the players. That’s what I felt like what I was doing in the past, like in playoffs.
I think I need to get out of this bubble of this team style of Third Impact. It was very much revolved around pocketing one person one fight, and brute force our way through. That’s still my style, I feel like I need to be more flexible with it. I need to understand when to bring it out and when not to. Sometimes I play in scrims, I’m just feeding half the time expecting my old teammates — they would just throw bodies at me, for me to push a point or something. Viol2t (Minki “Viol2t” Park) always told me: “Just don’t die, that’s all I’m asking. Just don’t die.” [Laughs] So I think I’m learning. It’s really meta dependent. This past meta with Hog Sigma, you don’t want to be turbo flanking like I was. You just want to hold the space and control, like stare at each other across the map style of meta, get a pick or your Hog pushes one angle. My style was more, push from one angle really hard and sweep one side of the map. I just need to realize when I can bring out that style.
Super (Matthew “super” DeLisi) and I have similar ways of thinking, but he has a lot more experience than me. Honestly, I have one good season of Contenders, and that’s all my experience of recent play. I feel like I have a lot to learn from him as well.
Hotspawn: Besides in-game mechanics and knowledge, have they been teaching you life skills or helping you learn a certain player mentality?
Ta1yo: Our manager, when we play a game at half time, he’s always like “What’s the score?” and we always say “0-0”. So you’re not in an advantage, you have to keep pushing style of mentality, which I think helps a lot. One funny thing is [Laughs] in the finals, I think it was 3-2 (series count) and we had a 5-minute break in the finals. We huddle up and our GM (General Manager Chris Chung) is like “What’s the score guys?” and everyone is just like “Ah… Here it goes again — 0-0”, he’s like “No! It’s 3-2, you guys better finish it right here” [Laughs]. It was funny, and we pulled through.
Hotspawn: What role do you expect to fill in the future?
Ta1yo: I used to be a hitscan player, but as you know, I can’t play Widowmaker. I don’t know why, but I just can’t aim with that hero. My aim on other heroes is really good, but I feel like — I know that I’m not gonna be a hitscan player. Maybe I can bring out hitscan if I need to, but I feel like I’m mainly transitioning towards a flex role. Whatever the coaches want me to play, to be able to pick it up and play it. I kinda just got lazy in Contenders and my McCree was just better than everyone else. So I just played McCree wherever, and that came back to bite me. At least I have an offseason [to learn other heroes].
“I felt really inferior to all of the players, which is honestly bound to happen.”
Hotspawn: How have you kept yourself motivated while on the bench?
Ta1yo: It was hard — definitely. No player wants to just sit on the bench. It feels like in the regular season, there was a match against a really lowly rated team, I would wanna play, and be like “Can I play this week?”. But it was playoffs, it was grand finals [Laughs] I don’t want to be bugging my coaches. Even though sometimes I feel like I could be superior to my teammates — like sometimes — I just know that their experience outweighs all my stupid plays and stuff. I just want to win collectively as a team.
The Contenders players that went to OWL recently, like Kevster (Kevin “kevster” Persson) and Onigod (Stefan “Onigod” Fiskerstrand), they’re very mechanically based players — they have really good mechanics. But I’m one of the only players that was picked up for my communication. I feel like that’s the main strength that I think I have. It’s understandable that I can’t be — well this is what I tell myself [Laughs] — you can’t just plug and play me. My teammates need to understand the style that I play.
Hotspawn: Tell us about what the personalities are like on the Shock, and how you have been getting along with the team.
Ta1yo: Everyone is nice, but there’s always like this wall. I felt really inferior to all of the players, which is honestly bound to happen. But as time went on, I’m really close to pretty much everyone. Honestly, everyone — on stream or off stream — is kind of similar. I don’t feel like people hide their personalities on stream, it’s really difficult to do. Personality-wise, I would just say everyone is just an extension of their streaming. Maybe they’re more ‘lax and trash talk a little bit more when you’re with them, but everyone is just really nice.
Hotspawn: It’s cool that they’ve welcomed you and not made you feel like an outsider.
Ta1yo: Even though right now, I haven’t been able to show my true potential to my teammates. I’ve scrimmed them on my Third Impact team, we’ve put up some pretty good results against the Shock. They know my potential, so I don’t think they’re underestimating me too much. I mean they might be, but who knows. But I think they understand and respect me in that way.
Hotspawn: Well they say if you can’t beat them, then join them.
Ta1yo: Honestly, I was really upset about getting second place in Contenders. So I was like “I’m just going to join the best team” and what do you know, I’m on the Shock.
Hotspawn: Congratulations on the team being Overwatch League champions. In your opinion, what makes Shock such a strong team in this meta?
Ta1yo: In this meta, we have the best Widowmaker in the world — that’s for sure. We opted not to play the Ana comp, and honestly even in our team there’s talks that maybe Ana is better. But we just know Viol2t’s Zen is just a third sniper at this point. Every KOTH (King of the Hill/Control) map he would have gold damage and it’s kind of absurd, even over Striker’s (Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon) Tracer. Viol2t always hard carries. I feel like it’s a really good meta for us — any meta, I think we still would have pulled through — but it was a really good meta for us. We didn’t drop a single scrim since coming into Korea. We probably had a 90% win rate as well. I feel these were our best heroes. Maybe not Striker’s Hanzo, but on KOTH he was on Tracer — so like 90% of our best heroes.
Hotspawn: You guys looked the best on Control, and even the casters said if you can win Control maps you can dominate a series.
Ta1yo: Yeah I don’t know what happened. We were winning every Volskaya, every Anubis in scrims. [Laughs] Shock is kind of superstitious with stuff, and it was getting in their heads like “Oh we’re going to lose the next 2 maps, GGs”. In the finals we were up 2-0, I was like “These boys are probably going to think they’re gonna lose the next 2 maps”. It was a superstition thing I think. We wanted a 4-0.
Hotspawn: It made for an entertaining final. What’s your take on why the Philadelphia Fusion didn’t do as well as expected?
Ta1yo: I honestly have no clue why they were so bad. First it was scrims, they were really bad. I thought maybe quarantine is getting to them. So we’ll just see after quarantine how good they get, but they never really improved too much. But their players are so good and their coaches are so good, so I’m really baffled. Maybe they were just unlucky, maybe somebody mental boomed. If one player booms, your team falls apart sometimes. So that’s one possibility. But I do think if they were at their ‘A’ game, they could have been in the finals with us.
“If anybody’s gonna do quarantine, it’s us gamers. “
Hotspawn: Did you notice if teams were really affected by the quarantine? Did it really affect you guys at all?
Ta1yo: Honestly scrimming is really helpful because 5-6 hours [are taken] out of your day just playing and talking. For the western players, you’re locked in a hotel room, you can’t go outside, there’s no windows to open. It was a weird experience. Some people can take it and some people can’t. If anybody’s gonna do quarantine — this is a quote our manager said — it’s us gamers.
Hotspawn: Glad you guys got through it okay. The other team I want to talk about is the Seoul Dynasty. They really made you work for it in both series that you guys played. Was there a specific player or thing they did that you guys found challenging that you had to adapt to?
Ta1yo: Our gameplan from day 1 didn’t change. We just knew our strategy was better. Their Ana and Hog are gonna stick together and flank, and we can’t fight that with our Hog because we’ll get anti’d (Biotic Grenade). If their Hog is alone, then Super will go hook them — that’s pretty much our whole strategy. It’s very situation-based. If you can punish the Hog you, you want to. But it’s very easy for him to punish you as well. You just have to keep an eye out for him. As soon as he makes a stupid move you have to punish him, that’s the main way of playing. They gave us some struggle, definitely. We understood their playstyle enough to know what we should be doing.
Hotspawn: What will you be up to during the off-season, what’s next for you?
Ta1yo: I have no clue. I don’t even know if I’m going to be re-signed. I would doubt that a team would pick up a player when they didn’t need a player, and just kick them in the off season. So I hope that I stay. I know that I can grow into a better player, so I just need the time and the resources. So that’s what I’m gonna be working on in the off season — If I stay on the Shock — just grinding the game, preparing myself for the next season. We’re not gonna be scrimming in a long time, probably. I don’t know what’s going to happen, the off season is full of surprises [Laughs].