At the end of the first season of the Overwatch League, players are getting released left and right. One of those players is former LA Valiant and LA Gladiator Ted “Silkthread” Wang. The Gladiators released him at the end of the inaugural season, but the story isn’t over for him yet. Unlike other players who opted to retire from the rigorous OWL schedule, Silkthread is still practicing hard to earn a spot on a new team for season two.
The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Jeff Yabumoto: You’ve been on both sides of the LA rivalry between the LA Valiant and the LA Gladiators, what are your thoughts on it?Silkthread: Being the first player to play for both LA teams is a big honor. As for Valiant, I felt it was a really good—it was the first time I had played professionally with a team in Overwatch. I learned the ropes with them and it was a very good introduction to competitive Overwatch and the environment and the mindset you need to compete.
Moving onto the Gladiators, it was more of a family/home. I definitely connected with a lot of people on that team and saw them as really good friends. It was really fun playing with both teams. I think with Gladiators is was more me learning how to perfect myself as a player—getting the mindset to improve. Whereas with Valiant it was more getting introduced into the competitive scene.
JY: You said that Gladiators felt more like a family, was there something specific about them that made you feel that way?ST: At the time, I needed a mental reset coming off the Valiant and the Gladiators provided that. Everybody was really welcoming and I made friends with everyone on the team. A part of that was probably due to the fact that the Gladiators are in a team house instead of apartments. We had more time to interact with each other after scrims.
JY: What did you think of the overall performance of the Gladiators?ST: I think it was honestly pretty impressive. Obviously, stage one they seemed to struggle, but with each Stage they consistently improved. When I joined and I saw how structured everything was and how much the coaches did it was really nice to see, and it just continued on as the stages progressed.
You can’t really be disappointed in the performance; obviously, we didn’t get as far as we would have liked to in playoffs, but if you look at where the Gladiators were at the beginning versus where they ended up, it’s an impressive performance.
JY: What would you say the Gladiators’ biggest struggle was throughout the season: meta shifts, new champions, or adapting to other things?ST: It wasn’t so much the meta shifts. The Gladiators had a pretty strong hold off the new metas, especially with how versatile the entire team was. There were no hero pool issues or anything like that.
When scrimming for playoffs, the team worked harder than they ever did before. For me, at least, the team ran a very aggressive D.Va/Winston tank style composition, and that was something I was personally not used to. When I played against it in scrims they were a lot less aggressive than the London tanks were. A lot of teams also ran a lot more Rein/Zarya/Orisa, where London solely seemed to run D.Va/Winston. That was personally the hardest thing.
JY: Speaking of some matches, who came up with the King’s Row backdoor strategy?ST: It was the assistant coach Tim. One day he said he had a strategy that he wanted to use. He prefaced it by saying it might be really dumb, but we listened to it and it sounded like it could work. So we discussed why it would be good, how to execute it, and then we tried it in scrims a few times and it didn’t really fail, at all. After that we wanted to pull it off in a match.
JY: That was a great moment to watch. Now I want to move onto the Overwatch League as a whole. What do you want to see the Overwatch League do better or introduce next year?ST: Honestly, the schedule for the players. It was really tough having two matches a week and having the breaks between the stages as short as they were also made it very difficult.
I would like to see fewer meta shifts. Meta shifts really define the game. Fewer meta shifts would allow teams to perfect a meta to a much higher level rather than just sixty percent. Our work usually gets negated whenever a new one is introduced.
It would raise the level of competition and this wouldn’t be as punishing to teams and their players because they wouldn’t have to spend as much time studying and practicing the new metas. The viewers could then see Overwatch in its highest level of meta-competition.
JY: Wouldn’t that mean by that? Are you in favor of fewer patches overall or delaying them for release into the Overwatch League similar to what Blizzard has already been trying?ST: Yeah, just have fewer changes in the game, in general, would be a benefit. As you see now, Blizzard seems to buff heroes and they become completely meta, and the entire meta shifts around one or two heroes, whereas for OWL they’ll go, “we’re not going to play this patch.”
I know how difficult it is for viewers when the OWL patch is different than the live patch. It’s confusing and people don’t always understand the reasoning behind it. More optimization patches would be great, too.
JY: Were there any other criticisms you had?ST: The criticisms I’ve expressed in the past are somewhat being addressed right now. One of them was the stage being extremely cold. Personally, coming from Texas, it was pretty difficult for me because you have some jitters on stage and then it’s so frigid that your hands can’t help but shake and the hand warmers aren’t doing enough. I was used to a much warmer indoor environment when playing.
JY: We’re now getting another eight teams joining the Overwatch League, do you think this is going to be good or bad? What are your general thoughts on this?ST: I think it will be good for the league. More teams mean more talent can be showcased, which means a higher level of competition as well.
It will be difficult for the new teams to catch up synergy wise to the existing teams, but as the season progresses, you’ll see a lot higher level of competition. I also think it’s great that more places around the world are being represented.
I can’t speak for how big the skill gap is going to be, but some teams will definitely be coming in with an advantage over the others. In the end, it comes down to the players’ ability to learn and how good the coaches are. It will come down to the coaching staff and how coachable the players are, in terms of how they will improve in the future.
JY: Any predictions for the World Cup?ST: I’m going to be cheering for China. The USA as well. I’m a big fan of Xu "guxue" Qiulin from the Chinese World Cup team. My parents are both Chinese and I think it will cool rooting for my heritage and I really enjoy watching them play. Then USA, obviously because I’m American and I’d like to see them beat South Korea.
JY: I think a lot of people want to look at South Korea fall this year at the World Cup. Now let's talk a bit about season two and where you think you're going to end up. What can you tell me?ST: At the moment, I can’t disclose anything. I am working hard and adapting to the new meta. The last time I scrimmed was when I was preparing for the playoffs in the Mercy/Zen/Hanzo meta, which is drastically different from the current meta which is a lot of Ana/Doomfist/Sombra.
It’s not easy to adjust—they’re entirely different metas in terms of speed. I can say that I'm excited about the future.
JY: Do you have any final comments?ST: I want to thank both the LA Valiant and the LA Gladiators for giving me a season one that I can be thankful for. I could have performed a lot better, but I’m always going to have the future to showcase my true potential as a player that I don’t think has been shown yet.
Thank you to all the fans who support me and both teams I’ve been on, it’s been fantastic and gives me a lot of motivation. It’s pretty different being a college kid into this spotlight where I say something and people acknowledge it; it’s really unique and I’m blessed to be in this position. I hope to make people proud in the future.
Photo Credit: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
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