The San Francisco Shock achieved a perfect stage in the Overwatch League in which it not only won all their matches, but did so without dropping a single map.
It is a notable achievement and one that should be lauded. Even with the qualifier that the Shock had a fairly easy strength-of-schedule, to not drop a single map is impressive and speaks to the team's form, mental strength and discipline.
While it might be tempting to say that the Shock achieved this milestone just because it has "better players," to do so would be a disservice to the amount of thought that went into building this line-up and its behind-the-scenes staff.
In a league brimming with teams muddling around blindly for a solution, the San Francisco Shock should be lauded for excellent scouting and team-building, two traits either misunderstood or underrated within the Overwatch fanbase.
Scouting talent is more than just getting the next 17-year-old superstar on the Top 500 ladder or the dominant team in Contenders: scouting refers to not only spotting potential talent but also knowing how to pull together the right types of players.
This is things like personalities, playing tendencies, whether they are high-economy or low-economy, and drafting together a right balance of styles. It also involves seeing which players are malleable like glue to hold the team together and which are the weapons that must be sharpened to perfection.
A key contrast within the Shock's 2019 starting roster can be found in the trifecta of Matthew "super" DeLisi, Jay "sinatraa" Won and Dongjun "Rascal" Kim.
Super plays an aggressive style of Main Tank unafraid to go for plays but is versatile to be both the focal point of a team or a secondary star. His role and forward-facing style requires resources to maintain but from that position he can both enable teammates as well as make plays himself.
Sinatraa, meanwhile, has historically performed best as a low-economy impact player: his best performances generally come when he has a reliable team to set up a strong, attention-grabbing frontline that opens up windows of opportunity that he can abuse. His aggressive flanking tendencies means that he rarely takes resource investment himself but needs it to be redistributed elsewhere to create the pressure he needs to open up a fight.
To contrast with the other two, Rascal is a low-economy role-player. While mechanically capable of performing on multiple heroes, his true versatility comes in his adaptability to fill out the roles his team needs. He is best used to abet and enable teammates, using cooldowns and ammo not to set himself up but to set up teammates who can make better use of them in impacting the game-state. This helps him balance Sinatraa and Super by giving the latter needed resources to form the frontline around which the former can play.
This delicate balance is but a microcosm of the amount of attention that needs to be given when pulling together a roster. To properly execute this kind of draft requires a competent, sharp-eyed staff of coaches and managers who have a set vision on how to play the game and need the appropriate mix of players to execute upon it.
This is where the Shock deserves praise for its commitments to team-building after the initial scouting. The addition of Daehee "Crusty" Park gave the Shock a head coach who could not only impart upon the players strategic knowledge but also a philosophy on how to play the game and how to interact as teammates. This is key in creating a team culture outside the game to balance personalities, something as crucial as managing how they play inside the server.
As a contrasting example, Brad "Sephy" Rajani, formerly of the Shock and currently of the Atlanta Reign, has a record of excelling at spotting talent and managing personalities but has a less-polished vision in terms of the game's strategy and philosophy.
His talents are at their best when supplemented with someone who may not have the same people skills but has deeper game knowledge and can explain what types of players are needed to execute their vision.
Had a blast, no regrets. We still family. https://t.co/g5MtAa4WWW— Brad Rajani (sephy) (@Selfless_Brad) March 28, 2019
It is in these ways that building successful teams is much more complicated than mashing together the best players. As can be seen from other esports such as FaZe Clan CS:GO or even the 2018 London Spitfire, the balance needed goes beyond the players.
Oftentimes, a team's vision or lack thereof can be seen not in how it performs in the server, but in who it brought in as players and staff. For some, it might be to be popular, or to appeal to a certain demographic, or maybe just to have an Overwatch League franchise.
For the San Francisco Shock, its scouting and team-building shows its goal is to win.
Cover image courtesy of Robert Paul/Blizzard Entertainment