#BabyBayChallege recipient NAMI San Francisco: solid financials, poor transparency in Charity Navigator criteria assessment

The San Francisco Shock selected National Alliance on Mental Illness – San Francisco as the recipient of the funds donated as part of the #BabyBayChallenge. I put NAMI San Francisco through the Charity Navigator scoring system (with some caveats, see below) to see how they’d do. The result: They would get one star out of five in the CN system.

Their financial health is pretty good; they’re on the higher end of four stars. Their accountability and transparency score, however, is an abysmal one star, which means that their overall score is one star as well.

As bad as that sounds, NAMI San Francisco could potentially get all the way up to three starts overall in a matter of days; they need only add important documents and information about the organization to their website.

Caveats

Some caveats before I go into the numbers:

  • Charity Navigator’s system is one group’s opinion of how to judge a charity. It’s not the divine word on whether a charity is well run or not. Most importantly, it doesn’t assess the value of programs, only financial viability and transparency. Whether NAMI SF does valuable work is a decision only you can make.
  • The CN system is designed for large charities (>$1 mil per year revenue) that have been operating for a decent amount of time (5 years of full 990s). Their system isn’t built with a charity as small as NAMI SF in mind.
  • The CN system uses 3-year averaging in some metrics, which creates vastly more work than just using the most recent year’s data. In any place where the CN system uses 3-year averaging, I only use the 2016 data. That said, I don’t think it’ll change their score drastically one way or the other.
  • I am not an accountant, I do not prepare form 990s professionally, and I have no affiliation with Charity Navigator.

Financial Health

NAMI-SF gets four out of five stars, with a raw score of 86.

Their financials are solid. Rapid growth can be unstable, but they have working capital to cover a potential drop in donations. Their fundraising expenses are high and not particularly efficient, but it’s really hard to get that right, especially in smaller, more specialized charities. An 86 is not a red flag.

Where they lose points:
In this section, there are seven criteria worth 10 points each, for a maximum of 70. 30 points are then added to that total to get the final raw score.

  • 71.2% of their expenses go towards programs, which is mediocre, and is good for only 6 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 85% or above.
  • 17.5% of their expenses go towards fundraising, which is poor, and is good for only 5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 10% or below.
  • They spend $0.18 to raise $1, which is a mediocre fundraising efficiency, and is good for only 7.5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires $0.10 or below.
  • They have 0.76% years if working capital (the ability to continue to run using only available assets), which is mediocre, and is good for 7.5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 1 year or above.

Where they don’t lose points:

  • 9.9% of their expenses go towards administration, which is excellent. A perfect score requires 15% or below.
  • Their financial capacity is excellent. This is a really complicated formula measuring growth in program expenses. A perfect score requires a value of 10 or above. NAMI’s value is 36.
  • Their liabilities are 0.57% of their assets, which is excellent. A perfect score requires 5% or less.

Accountability and Transparency

NAMI-SF gets one out of five stars, with a raw score of 51.

Simply not filling out entire sections of their Form 990 – the document they file with the IRS each year – has cost them dearly in the accountability and transparency metrics. Their website also doesn’t contain any of the information that Charity Navigator looks for. The good news is that most of this is quickly fixable; the problems with the 990 might even already be fixed (this was using their 2016 990; their 2017 one is not online yet). The bad news is that, for now at least, it’s an awful look.

Where they lose points:
In this section, the score starts at 100 and works down to get the final raw score.

  • Part XII is not filled out, so there is no information about whether they produce audited financial statements prepared or reviewed by an independent accountant (-15 points)
  • No whistleblower policy (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • No document retention policy (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • No process for reviewing and updating CEO compensation (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • Does not keep board meeting minutes (they may, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section A) (-4 points)
  • Does not publish board members on the website (-4 points)
  • Does not publish senior staff on the website (-3 points)
  • Does not publish audited financials on the website (-4 points)
  • Does not publish form 990 on the website (-3 points)
  • Does not publish donor privacy policy (-4 points)

Where they don’t lose points:

  • More than 5 independent voting board members; independent voting board members hold a majority.
  • No reported material diversion of assets
  • No loans to or from officers or other interested parties (they didn’t fill out Part IV, but they didn’t include a Schedule L, which would be required if they did have such loans)
  • Form 990 distributed to the board before filong
  • Has a conflict of interest policy
  • Reports CEO compensation
  • Reports board member compensation; board members are not compensated

Fast Fixes

NAMI SF can potentially get their accountability and transparency score up in a matter of days. Here’s how:

  • Publish the board members and senior staff. Pictures are nice, but even putting a list in plain text – just name and title – would meet the requirements. Depending on how complex the back end of the website is, this would take literally minutes to do. (+7 points)
  • Add a downloads page with the Form 990 and the audited financials (assuming, of course, that they have audited financials). Slightly more complex to implement, but we’re talking hours, not months. (+7 points)
  • Indicate on the downloads page that the financials are audited by an independent account (even if it’s immediately clear just by looking at the cover page). It’s no substitute for properly filling out the 990, but it’ll get the job done. (+15 points)

If NAMI San Francisco did all of those things, it would take their accountability and transparency score to an 84, which is good for three stars. That, in turn would, take their overall score to an 85, which is again good three stars.

If they don’t have audited financials to publish, but they did everything else above, it would give them a 61 in accountability and transparency, still one star, but would take their overall score up to a 71, good for two stars.

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Analysis

Hilariously mid-2000s era Myspace throwback selfies… for charity

Last Friday, the San Francisco Shock posted a photo of Babybay, below, to announce that their star DPS player was starting an Instagram account. Two days later, Cory, the VP of Content for Shock’s parent organization, NRG, posted a photo in the same pose, with the hashtag #BabyBayChallenge.

A joke that spun out of control

When Babybay snapped the photo, he wasn’t thinking that it would become a viral fundraiser in the mold of the Ice Bucket Challenge. That wasn’t the intention when Cory posted his response either. Rather, as NRG/Shock’s Brettbox told me earlier today, it was a joke that spun out of control. (Brett is also the mind behind the “Hilariously mid-2000s era Myspace throwback selfie” description).

Once #BabyBayChallenge caught on through, Shock realized that they had an opportunity to be philanthropic, and ran with it. NRG/Shock had been looking for an opportunity to give back to the community for some time, and had asked their fans last year what causes they wanted the org to support. Adolescent mental health was the clear favorite, so when the decision was made to turn #BabyBayChallenge into a charity event, mental health became the cause.

Backing into a viral charity event meant that NRG/Shock had some catching up to do though. The organization has yet to select the charity beneficiary; they’re still vetting options and will finalize their pick today or tomorrow. They’ll also finalize in the coming days the amount of money per photo. The organization has some exciting plans to grow the #BabyBayChallenge even larger, and have already tapped their celebrity investors to get involved. Former NBA superstar Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal already answered the call.

Details

San Francisco Shock has selected National Alliance on Mental Health – San Francisco (EIN 94-2914709) as the beneficiary charity.

You can get involved by taking a photo in the style of Babybay’s original, tagging @SFShock, and using the hashtag #BabyBayChallenge.

Celebrity #BabyBayChallenge Photos

BabyBayChallenge

Industry Overwatch League

Mayhem are digging themselves a hole that may take years to get out of

The Florida Mayhem are off to an abysmal start. Their only win is against Shanghai, the team at the bottom of the table. San Francisco Shock, who at the time had a 2-5 record, just thrashed Mayhem in a convincing 4-0. While individual players show flashes of brilliance, the team looks uncoordinated, and more often than not looks to lack mental toughness – the ability to close out rounds when they’re one battle away from a solid defensive hold – which has cost them many a map.

While several organizations are doing worse than expected, Florida Mayhem is in a uniquely bad position. Unlike other struggling teams, Mayhem has put next to nothing into infrastructure. Mayhem has only one coach (every other team has at least two), has done nothing to build a local fan base in Florida, is one of the quietest orgs on social media, and are allegedly phoning it in on building their academy team. Per over.gg, they’ve outsourced the job of building a roster to the Houston Outlaws’ parent organization. I’ve been told that Mayhem were courted directly by talented free agent rosters, and I’d be very surprised if the academy team they wind up with is stronger than some of the free agent teams that they’ve turned down.

Mayhem

Unattractive Destination

Mayhem’s unwillingness to invest in infrastructure isn’t just costing them this year. It’s going to cost them for years to come.

You don’t get to the top of any esport without believing that you’re one of the best players in the world. For a sought-after free agent, joining a team that’s playing badly isn’t a deal breaker, because the free-agent thinks that they have it in them to turn the team around.
Joining a team that’s run badly, though, that could be a deal breaker. If a free agent has a choice between an organization that makes resources available to help him be as successful as possible, and another organization that has demonstrated unwillingness to properly support its players, which one do you think that he is going to go for? Obviously there are other factors in play – desire to play with specific teammates, attractiveness of the home city/fanbase, etc. – but if Mayhem doesn’t catch up on staff very soon, it’s going to have a harder time attracting talent than they otherwise would.

If Florida Mayhem does become the “you’re on your own” org, they’re probably going to miss out on talent that’s good enough to be courted by multiple OWL teams. This means that to be successful, Mayhem will either need to scout out hidden gems (which requires staff, which Mayhem don’t have), or they’ll need to offer more money than other orgs to attract those top free agents (which sounds out of character for an org that’s shown no willingness to spend much yet).

That Other League

Mayhem shares ownership with Misfits, which fields, among other things, a League of Legends team in the EU LCS. Franchising is on the horizon for Europe, and it’s a fair bet that Misfits wants to be a part of that when it happens.

The Misfits ownership group just bought into a rival franchise and invested significantly less into the effort than any of its rivals. From what I’ve heard (I don’t know firsthand, since I don’t follow LoL), Misfits has put a lot more infrastructure into their League of Legends team than they have their Overwatch team. It’s quite possible, then, that the ownership group’s lack of support for Mayhem won’t hurt their chances when Riot considers potential partners for EU LCS franchising. However, it’s just as possible that the Mayhem situation will give Riot pause. It’s a sure bet that Riot will have more strong candidates than they will spots.

What to do now (i.e. where to spend now)

First and foremost, Mayhem need to increase their coaching staff. At the very least, they need someone with a strong mind for strategy and comps. It’s been an issue for the team since before the Overwatch League started, and it’s not Mineral’s strongest skillset. Many other teams have three coaches, and if Mayhem can find a strong candidate to help with things like opposition research and talent scouting (and driving the team bus), they should seize the opportunity.

Second, Mayhem has gaps in the roster that still need filling. Zappis played hitscan and projectile for NiP, Ana and D.va for team Finland, then off-tank for Gigantti. With Manneten being one of Mayhem’s best performing players, it’s likely that Zappis will be coming in as a second off-tank in tank-heavy comps, or as an option at DPS. However more pickups are needed. A second option at main tank that’s strong on Reinhardt, a second option at main support that’s strong on Mercy, and a second option on off-support that’s strong on Moira are all going to be vital to Mayhem’s success.

Third, Mayhem needs to up their social media game. They initially had something novel going, tweeting in English and Spanish, however they’ve been pretty quiet on social media in both languages since the League started. They need a full-time, Mayhem-only social media manager, and I’d go as far as to say that they should have two official Mayhem Twitter accounts – one in English and one in Spanish. I’d also recommend that Mayhem sign a few Overwatch streamers, the way that Cloud9 did with Mendokusaii or TSM does with Calvin. It’s an inexpensive way to get eyeballs on the brand. Emongg, for example, looks like he’s not going to be on a Contenders team, has a large following, and is a safe choice as a brand representative.

Finally, Mayhem need to start doing local activities in Florida to build their local fan base.  ChanManV organized a fan meetup in Orlando opening night; Mayhem should encourage him to organize more, and provide publicity and giveaways for his events. Additionally, they should organize events in Miami (where Ben Spoont lives).

Florida Mayhem Opinions Overwatch League

For Boston Uprising, Friday’s match could be the most important of their season

Welcome back! Last week I published the Overwatch League match previews for the opening day. Now, I’m back covering one more game taking place later on in the week. It might not look like much, especially with the juicy lineup on Saturday, but it’s the only game in opening week that could be season-defining.

This stage’s map pool and the league format are covered at the start of Tuesday’s article, linked above.

Uprising

Florida Mayhem hosts Boston Uprising

Dorado · Anubis · Oasis · Eichenwalde

Storylines: 

This is Boston’s easiest game this month. Can they seize it?
Commentators were panning Boston Uprising before they even played a game, and the team came into the preseason with a chip on their shoulder. Taking a map off of New Yok Excelsior and a win off of Shanghai Dragons shows that they have potential, however their January is brutal. They play Excelsior in their opening match, and after they take on Florida Mayhem, they have Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, London Spitfire, and Dallas Fuel to round out their January. For context, Excelsior, Dynasty, Spitfire, and Fuel are expected to be the top four at the end of the season, although probably not in that order.

With Mayhem looking shaky, Shock looking stronger than anticipated, and none of Dallas or the three all-Korean teams looking any less terrifying than expected, Friday’s match against Florida is Boston’s best opportunity to show what they’re capable of. In fact, aside from San Francisco, it’s probably the only game that can be expected to be competitive. If Uprising don’t show up on Friday, they could easily start the season 0-6, a devastating blow that could be difficult to come back from emotionally, let alone in the rankings.

While the season is 40 games long, six games is roughly a fifth of the season, and the middle of the standings is expected to be fiercely contested. Getting off to a slow start means that Boston will spend the rest of the season chasing their rivals, just one more stressor on top of having to build a team with little pre-existing synergy, speaking multiple languages, with a somewhat untested coaching staff. So yeah, a loss to Mayhem might not be season ending, but it could be season defining, especially if they lose to Shock in Week 2 as well.

Who is going to step up for Mayhem?
Florida’s best player during the preseason was Manneten, their off-tank. In TviQ and Logix, Mayhem have some of Europe’s strongest DPS talent, but neither showed up in a big way. While Mayhem’s January schedule isn’t as brutal as Boston’s is, the team is going to be in for a rough first stage if at least a few of their players don’t snap out of their slump in form quickly. The spotlight is going to shine harshest on Logix (more on that below), but Mayhem will need increased contribution from multiple players if they’re going to make it to the transfer window with a respectable point total.

Realistically, that’s probably their goal for the first stage. Even if Mayhem look like a completely different team in the regular season than they did in the preseason, they’re still hampered by their small roster size and small coaching team. Whether the goal is the championship (unrealistic), a 5th/6th place playoff berth (difficult) or just a decent 7th/8th/9th  showing (achievable), they’re going to need increased investment to pull that off. Somewhat counterintuitively, the Mayhem players will likely need to perform well in order to convince ownership to bring in additional players. If Mayhem look bottom of the barrel in the first stage, there’s less to gain from spending mid-season. If they look strong, however, they can justify getting reinforcements now and making a push in Stages 2, 3, and 4.

Mayhem’s goal should be wins against Boston, Shanghai Dragons, and Los Angeles Valiant. Houston Outlaws is probably too much for them, and London and Seoul are out of reach. Their February looks less daunting thein their January, and if they come out of the opening month 3-3, they could end the stage 6-4 or 5-5, a showing that would make the “spend now” approach justifiable. And with a six player roster, there’s plenty of room for that.

Mayhem

Who to watch:

Jonathan “DreamKazper” Sanchez
DreamKazper does not have a reputation as an elite Pharah; he’s much more known on hitscan. However, TviQ’s Pharah looked strong on the first part of Dorado during the preseason, and Oasis is the most Pharah-friendly map in the game, so DreamKazper is very likely going to have to spend time on her (or at least defending against her). If DreamKazper and Uprising can’t shut down TviQ, Mayhem is going to exploit it to great effect. However, if DreamKazper is able to win this positional battle, chances are very good for Boston taking the whole series.

Andreas “Logix” Berghmans
The Belgian Tracer specialist is considered one of the best DPS players in Europe, and his online performances towards the end of last year were impressive. However Logix was shut down hard in the Contenders LAN finals, and didn’t look his dominant self in the preseason either. While there’s room for improvement across the board, Mayhem needs a strong showing out of Logix most of all. If he continues to struggle, Mayhem are going to be in for a rough five weeks, and a reputation for not performing at LAN can’t be good for him personally either.

Prediction: 3-2 to Mayhem

Mayhem couldn’t have asked for a tougher opening game, and Boston aren’t faring much better in their opening either. Both teams will look to this, their second match, as an opportunity to grab a win and close out their opening week on a strong note. Boston came out looking stronger than many pundits expected, and Florida worse, but I see Mayhem scraping out an ugly win here. Mayhem need to rediscover their form, while Uprising need to build it. With such little time to work with, I believe that the former will be easier than the latter.

Boston will likely look to dive Florida’s supports tirelessly. Both Zuppeh nor Zebbosai spent quite a lot of time in the preseason waiting to respawn, and they simply look awful running Mercy without Pharah. Mayhem, for their part, will probably look to exploit Pharah, as they’re going to be confident that they have the better one, and there are plenty of places across the map set to run her. Ultimately, it’s the advantage in this position that has me giving the match to Florida. That being said, I wouldn’t put money on either team winning, especially without seeing how each team responds to their opening match Korean onslaught.

Analysis Florida Mayhem Overwatch League

Overwatch League match preview: Opening Day

Welcome to the first Overwatch League match preview!

In this feature, I’ll go over who I think is going to take each match and why, what the storylines to watch are, and who you, as a neutral fan, should be looking out for. These are incredibly time consuming to make, so depending on the reception, I’ll probably only do them for each week’s key matches going forward.

Week1-Banner1

Before we get started, some general notes:

This stage’s map pool: Escort: Dorado & Junkertown | Assault: Anubis & Horizon | Control: Ilios & Oasis | Hybrid: Eichenwalde & Numbani | Tiebreaker: Lijiang

Playoffs: When I refer to playoffs, I’m always talking about the end-of-season playoffs, not the end-of-stage ones. Six teams make it into the end-of-season playoffs. Most analysts, including myself, see the top four slots as all but locked up by some ordering of London, Seoul, Dallas, and New York, with a bunch of decently strong teams all gunning for the last two playoff spots.

Format: Outside of the playoffs, every game is a four map set (one of each map type). A score of 3-2 indicates that the first maps went 2-2, and a tie-breaking fifth map had to be played. A score of 2-1 indicates that one of the maps tied (most likely the Assault, although it’s also possible to tie on Hybrid).

San Francisco Shock hosts Los Angles Valiant

Dorado · Anubis · Ilios · Numbani

Prediction: 3-2 to Valiant

What a way to open the League! This looks like it’s going to be a tight match between two solid teams with playoff aspirations. I don’t see either team as having a significant edge, but I’m giving it to Valiant. The team in green is coming into the League with an established core – the former Immortals – and since neither team has had ample practice time, Valiant’s pre-existing synergy is going to be important. Additionally, I think that Shock might have shown a bit too much of their hand in the preseason.

Storylines: 

Redemption for the Preseason?
Valiant beat Shock 3-2 in the preseason, however Shock came into the match having just played another game (filling in for the absent Philadelphia Fusion), and later claimed that exhaustion played a part in their loss. With both teams coming into this rematch fresh, will Shock be able to get their revenge, or was Valiant the better team all along?

Can Valiant shut down Babybay?
While Shock is by no means a one-trick team, the preseason made it clear that they are a team that is currently built around the Babybay, who put on an absolute clinic on Widowmaker during the preseason, and was known before OWL for his strong Soldier:76. If Valiant is able to focus him down and keep him from dictating fights, Shock could be in for a rough night.

Who to watch:

Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews
Aside from Babybay, the most impressive player on San Francisco Shock has been Sleepy. He came into the League as a relative unknown, but his Zenyatta was one of the strongest in the preseason. As Philadelphia Fusion’s Boombox can attest, strong Zenyatta play can quickly catapult a player from unknown to “household name” status, and if Sleepy plays in Stage 1 like he did in the preseason, he’s going to be one of the League’s first breakout stars.

Shanghai Dragons hosts Los Angeles Gladiators

Dorado · Anubis · Ilios · Eichenwalde

Prediction: 4-0 to Gladiators

I want Shanghai to do well. China is a massive market, growing esports power, and has been one of the most active regions for Overwatch since the beginning. However, what we saw from Shanghai in the preseason was less than encouraging. They had little pre-existing synergy and very little practice time, and it showed in their lack coordination. Gladiators is going to come into this much more polished, and it’s going to show. The map type most forgiving to teams that haven’t built coordination is Control, but Ilios and Oasis are both strong Pharah maps, and Gladiators has two noted Pharah experts.

Storylines:

Can Diya carry?
The biggest bright spot for Shanghai during the preseason was Diya’s Widowmaker. Right now, Widow is quite strong on quite a number of maps, including at least parts of all four maps Shanghai chose. With limited time to build strategies, it’s quite possible that Shanghai have set themselves up around empowering Diya, and if he pops off, it could be a more competitive match than I predicted.

How good is Gladiators, really?
Gladiators beat Spitfire but lost to Valiant. Yes, it was the preseason, with rusty players and awkward forced substitutions, but that’s an odd spread. Gladiators is a tough team to place, both on paper and based on their preseason performances. I personally have them as bottom third, but I also think that they’re going to look strongest earlier in the season, so if they want to place well, a strong start is vital.

Who to watch:

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Veloso de Goes Telles
If the preseason is any indication, Hydration’s role in the team might not have been what people were expecting. A projectile DPS player with a strong Pharah and Genji, he actually spent a decent amount of time on tanks – specifically Orisa and Roadhog – swapping in and out for Bischu, who played only D.va. Where Hydration gets his playtime, and who is sitting on the bench while he’s in game, will tell us a lot about how Gladiators is going to play going forward. This team might wind up running solo tank, and possibly even triple tank, more than most others.

Dallas Fuel hosts Seoul Dynasty

Junkertown · Anubis · Ilios · Numbani

Prediction: 3-1 to Seoul

The best game of the week closes out the first day. EnVyUs, who became Dallas Fuel, won OGN APEX season 1. Lunatic Hai, who became Seoul Dynasty, won seasons 2 and 3. These are storied powerhouses that dominated 2017. Between their storied history and their current form, Seoul is the team to beat in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. While they looked mortal during the preseason, Dallas looked vulnerable as well, losing more maps in less matches. In the end, Seoul is just on another level at the moment, and I expect them to come out with a win, albeit a hard-fought one.

Storylines: 

Will we see the streamers play?
Although both are skilled players, there’s still a decent contingent of people that think Dallas signed Seagull and xQc just to grab their massive fanbases. While Dallas seemed to relish the more aggressive tank play xQc brought, Seagull hasn’t clicked as well thus far. In a match against an opponent that will brutally capitalize on every misstep, will Dallas fall back on their old core, or will we see Seagull and xQc get significant play time?

What is Seoul’s ceiling?
Seoul could lose to Dallas. They could just squeak by. Or they could crush the boys in blue and put the rest of the league on notice. They’re going to pull out all the stops against Dallas, who look to be by far their most difficult opponents in the month of January. Without the constraints of the preseason (hiding strategies, forced subs), we will finally be able to see what Seoul is capable of.

Who to watch:

Je-Hong “ryujehong” Ryu
Throughout much of 2017, ryujehong was considered one of the best players in the world. His Ana was so dominant that it pushed the developers to change how ultimates work. Now, with Ana out of the meta, he might not even be the best player on his team. While he is a force to be reckoned with on any hero he plays, the fact is that everything else is a significant step step down from what he can do on Ana. His team has, in the past, tried to force Ana when she wasn’t in-meta, to varying degrees of success. It will be important to see which hero he spends most of his time on, and how Seoul plays around that.

Analysis Overwatch League

ChrisTFer – Mosaic’s new tank on the org, Contenders, and his Overwatch New Year’s Resolution

In the days leading up to Christmas, Christopher “ChrisTFer” Graham, formerly of Hammers Esports, Team Singularity, and the United Kingdom World Cup team, announced that he would be joining Arizona-based Mosaic Esports.

I caught up with ChrisTFer during the holidays to ask him about the newest stage in his Overwatch Journey.

Photo: Robert Paul

Congratulations on the new team! How does it feel to be back in the grind, playing competitively again?

It feels really good. Things can get pretty stressful when all you are doing is trailing around and waiting for information. If you are playing with a different roster every day, it feels like you are wasting time with no real reason or way to improve. It’s great to finally be able to do a vod review again.

Sounds pretty stressful. How many teams did you trial with before you got the offer from Mosaic?

Five, I think. Some of them weren’t very long; a block or two.

Mosaic is a brand new organization, and Overwatch is their first esport. Tell me a bit about them. What attracted you to their team? What was the recruiting process like?

The existing roster was the main reason I became interested. Certain roles in OW feel pretty hard to fill, and I think that the three players already at Mosaic [Luddee, Emil, and Kodak] are really good. It would’ve been hard to find better if I were to have built my own roster. Once I sat down and had a conversation with the owner about the organization and the goals for it, the decision became very easy for me to make.

The roster re-unites you with Fischer. You played with him on The Chavs/Hammers throughout the middle of the year, and then on Singularity during Contenders Season 1. What does a partnership that long bring to the table?

It brings synergy both in and out of the game. Fischer is one of my best friends, and we know we can work together. We often see the game slightly differently, and we are always comfortable calling each other out when we disagree, which makes it very easy to improve certain parts of each other’s game.

Did you and Fischer trial together for Mosaic?

Mosaic trialed different people every day, and I did a bunch of them, so sometimes it was with Fischer, yeah.

Aside from Fischer, the rest of the team is Luddee, Emil, Kodak, and Vallutaja. Who are you most excited to work with going forward?

They all bring something different to the table. Vallu is mega experienced and we know he can perform at a world class level in the biggest events. Emil is very fun to work with, as it feels like we had a great synergy almost from day one. It already feels easier to play with Emil than with any other offtank I’ve played with. And the support duo is all about their potential. Both are 17 and playing roles where there isn’t much talent left outside of OWL, so I’m confident they will become the best support duo in contenders.

What makes playing with one off-tank easier than playing with another? Is it skill? Communication? Positioning? Strategy?

All of the above, really. Comms are the main thing though. With Emil, we both seem to see the game in a similar way, which makes it easy to go for certain things, as he almost instinctively is doing the same thing I am.

Looking forward to Contenders 2018, the format is going to look a bit different this time around, with more teams, fewer games per team, academy teams, and a new prize pool structure. What are your thoughts on Contenders’ new look?

I think everyone was pretty worried about how Contenders was going to look; we all heard rumours about certain rules which made it difficult to foresee getting a livable salary whilst doing Contenders. Thankfully Blizzard knocked it out of the park with their ruleset. The buyout clause is perfect, and the way the prize pool is done per map should make it way more enjoyable to watch for a spectator.

I hadn’t thought about that. It gives teams something to play for even if they’re already down 3-0 in a game, or have lost a few matches. On the subject of watching the games, another big change with Contenders is that there are now seven regions, all of which will be playing at around the same time. With so many games to watch, what are your plans for making Mosaic’s games “must watch”?

I think all eyes will be on OWL, but I will still follow the games from NA+EU+KR, as there is still a lot of talent that will inevitably break though.

Since it’s the end of the year, I have to ask you the cheesy end-of-year questions. So here goes: What was your favorite Overwatch memory/moment from 2017?

World Cup qualifiers at Santa Monica was by far the highlight of 2017. The biggest LAN event I’d ever played, and to win all our games in such dominant fashion was great. I also got to spend a week in LA with Team UK, who I consider to be really close friends of mine, so the whole week was excellent.

Do you have an Overwatch New Year’s Resolution?

The easy answer is to say to “get into OWL” or “win Contenders”, and whilst this is true, I want to put more focus on myself as an individual. I want to make sure that by the time the next OWL trial period comes up, I feel like I am at 100% of my game on all the heroes, and make it an easy decision for the teams to trial me.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with me over the holidays; I wish you the best of luck over the coming year. Where can we find you on social Media?

I’m @ChrisTFerOW on Twitter and Mosaic Esports is @MosaicGG.

 

 

Interviews Overwatch Contenders

Three Key Takeaways from Monday’s Contenders News

Late Monday afternoon, Blizzard released the official rules for Contenders 2018, as well as a list of teams invited directly into Contenders or to the Contenders Trials. The new information paints a much clearer picture than we had before about how the Tier 2 scene will look in the coming year. Read on for the biggest takeaways.

OWContenders_S1_Playoffs_Day_Two__(1)

Blizzard has set a Contenders-wide transfer fee for players joining the Overwatch League

As Overwatch League teams worked to assemble their inaugural rosters, several players were either passed over, or nearly passed over, because of issues securing contract buyouts. Some organizations were asking for unreasonable fees, and others just weren’t responsive. London Spitfire claims that buyout issues were the primary reason they scrapped their plans of building a European roster. All in all, it was a mess that Blizzard was keen to avoid going forward.

The new Contenders rules contain a trio of provisions to address the issue.

  • If an Overwatch League team is interested in a player, their Contenders organization must allow the player negotiate terms with the Overwatch League team
  • If an Overwatch League team signs a Contenders player, their Contenders contract is automatically terminated
  • If an Overwatch League team signs a Contenders player, their Contenders organization receives a one-time fee equal to 25% of the player’s salary and signing bonus

The streamlined process protects both the Overwatch League team and the player from having the deal derailed by the Contenders org. The big question though, which only time will answer, is whether the financial incentive for the Contenders team is strong enough to entice endemic organizations back into Overwatch. Dreams don’t put food on the table; for Overwatch’s talent pipeline to thrive long-term, players will need to be able to earn livings in Contenders.

Every region has the same format, and it’s a doozy

Each Contenders region will have twelve teams, split into two groups of six. Each team will play a single round-robin with the other teams in their group, one game per week, for a total of five games during the regular season. With quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, the team that wins it all will do so having played only eight games.

While there will be several Contenders seasons over the course of a year, each season will present limited opportunities for players to showcase their skills. In a season that lasts only two months, a single meta is season-defining, and a single bad game could be season-ending. Add on to that that all seven regions’ seasons heavily overlap, and players – especially outside of NA, EU, and KR – will have to go above and beyond to have any hope of standing out.

One positive to the shorter seasons with smaller prize pools: there’s room in the schedule for other tournaments, and a bigger incentive to for teams to participate in them. A LAN with the winners of each region would be an obvious draw, and we may even see the return of community-organized tournament series from earlier in Overwatch’s history.

Nine Overwatch League teams will field teams in Contenders, but many other Contenders slots are in doubt

The twelve Overwatch League teams were given an opportunity to field teams in the Contenders region of their choosing, and nine took Blizzard up on their offer. Seven of the nine will be fielding teams in North America, Dragons will field a team in China, and Spitfire in Europe. Dynasty, Valiant, and Fuel will not be fielding academy teams.

With seven academy teams and four invited teams (assuming that all four are willing and able to assemble a roster in time), there’s potentially only one spot up for grabs in North America through the Contenders Trials. For established pros, that’s not necessarily bad thing. While some of the slots will likely go to Korean or European players (Flower and aKm are speculated to be part of the NYXL academy team), there’s plenty of roster spots to fight for, and academy teams will likely pay better, and offer better exposure, than other Contenders organizations.

Europe, China, Korea, and the Pacific all have a large number of teams that have been invited directly into Contenders as well. Some of those teams – Miraculous Youngster in China, Libalent Supreme in the Pacific, and Singularity in Europe, for example – no longer exist, and are unlikely to claim their spots. However those regions will have a decent mix of established talent and new blood fighting for Contenders glory.

Other tidbits

  • Players will be able to stream their Contenders games on a three-minute delay. It will be interesting to see how many players take up that offer, as doing so would mean exposing team comms to the public, something that teams have been reluctant to do until now.
  • Up to nine people can be on a roster, and substitutions will be allowed between maps. There’s nothing in the rules indicating a limit to the number of substitutions.
  • The prize pools for South America and Australia are incredibly small. If a team wins all eight games on their way to the championship, they walk away with $8,676 ($1,446 per player on a six-man roster). While it’s great that the regions are getting attention, with those prize pools and no region locking, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the best South American teams attempt to land spots in North America.
Analysis Overwatch Contenders