The French football team, Les Bleus, surprisingly won the 2018 World Cup after entering ranked outside of the top five. Now, the French Overwatch team, Le Six, goes into BlizzCon as underdogs eager to bring home another international trophy to their insatiable national fanbase. After going undefeated in the Paris qualifiers, France’s 18-5 overall record in the Overwatch World Cup (OWWC) will be tested by Canada in the November 2nd quarter-finals. The French team’s roster, the current Overwatch meta, and the indescribable mojo of French nationalism all combine to give France the edge needed for a second World Cup victory in 2018. France’s guiding mantra has been “Equality, Liberty, and Fraternity” since 1791, but in 2018 their Overwatch team is founded on its roster’s ability, flexibility, and chemistry.
Roster: Ability, Flexibility, and Chemistry
France boasts the most cohesive roster in the Overwatch World Cup, as they field proven talent at critical positions, flexible hero pools, and established chemistry. Led principally by SoOn on DPS, uNKOE on flex-support, and Poko on flex-tank, the team is balanced by main tank upstart BenBest, complementary flex-DPS aKm and Nicogdh, and veteran main support Winz. Despite having adopted the GOATS composition run by Nicogdh’s Eagle Gaming squad (EU Contenders Season 2 champions), France’s DPS remain potent and adaptable: SoOn is a top-tier Widow (won bronze in the OWL All-Stars Widowmaker tournament) and Tracer, who can also run Sombra and Brigitte. Less proven, the aKm and Nicogdh DPS rotation for France is inconsistent but effective: aKm’s hitscan, Pharah, and Zarya are strong, while Nicogdh’s stronger on projectile, particularly Genji, and D.Va. As noted by Captain Planet in his “Players to Watch at BlizzCon” piece, France’s foundation is set by its formidable tank duo who lead the team in Final Blows. Poko is an OWL All-Star who ranks 3rd overall and 1st amongst D.Va mains by Winston’s Lab while BenBest’s shatter game is nasty and, per CaptainPlanet, he consistently charged “his ultimate faster than anyone else in the group stages, needing only 70 seconds on average to reach ready status on Earthshatter.” Finally, while the French supports might seem shaky, uNKOE is a gunslinging OWL flex-support with major frag potential and — although he last played for the now-defunct Rogue and seems marred by an inability to reach the main-support skillcap — Winz’s established chemistry embodies France’s strongest trait.
Six of France’s seven played in the 2017 Overwatch World Cup (when they lost to South Korea in the semi-finals) and all have played together outside of international competition as well. The penchant for French chemistry is so strong that in 2016, storied Overwatch team Rogue conducted a three-team trade to create an all-French roster (including aKm, SoOn, Winz, and uNKOE). And for Overwatch League Season 2, Team Paris has already poached three of Team France’s players (SoOn, BenBest, and Nicogdh) as well as their Head Coach Daemon. Other teams may seem more talented or experienced, but no team is quite as eager to play together as Team France. Coincidentally, no Overwatch meta has been as dependent on playing together as today’s.
Meta: Eagles and Goats
Since being introduced by Open Division team GOATS during their dominance of the BEAT Invitational in May, 2018, the GOATS comp (three supports, three tanks) and its variants (e.g. “slambulance”), have dominated competitive Overwatch. The London Spitfire showcased it when they won the Overwatch League Season 1 Finals against the Philadelphia Fusion and the French Contenders team Eagle Gaming later used it throughout Season 2 en route to a 4-1 defeat over Angry Titans in the Finals. As such, success in the current meta is defined by a team’s ability to employ the traditional GOATS comp and adapt around or against it — making Nicogdh’s experience invaluable. As explained by SoOn, “Nicogdh is the trump card of Team France. He and Eagle Gaming have mastered GOATS. We played every counter-composition against them … but they would come the next day with an adaptation.” Eagle Gaming has been France’s principal scrim partner, allowing Le Six to develop the OWWC’s strongest understanding of GOATS and leading Overwatch analyst Volamel to describe the team as a “very, very good tank team” and “very strong at GOATS.” There are concerns of reliance on GOATS, as echoed by OWL caster Bren: “any team that overly relies on the 3/3 comp when it comes to Blizzcon playoffs is going to get absolutely demolished” and that teams “need more in your back pocket.” However, as illustrated by the aforementioned SoOn quote, France has spent the summer practicing nuanced GOATS counter-compositions with a team that pioneered its usage. That experience, coupled with a flexible roster, offers the ability to take advantage of Blizzard’s post-map substitution rules come BlizzCon. Further, only one hero has been S-Tier in terms of playing time thus far in the World Cup: D.Va at 92%. As such, France is well-equipped to adjust around Poko given the ability of SoOn, aKm, and Nicogdh to swap onto flex-tanks, various DPS roles, or Brigitte. The current meta rewards well-oiled, adaptable team-play and coordination so a team with as much proven chemistry as France can overcome individual inconsistencies.
Adversity and the Indescribable Mojo of Nationalism
All championships are built in part on the foundation of luck. And given France’s international success thus far in 2018 and their unabashed, unrelenting passion for esports — some sort of luck, spirit, or mojo may accompany Le Six to BlizzCon. France has long demonstrated their vivacity for esports, from their Spartan chants during SKT v. OMG in 2014 to their thunderous crowd during the OWWC Paris Qualifiers in 2018. The obstacles to France’s World Cup hopes may seem bountiful: South Korea added Fury, Poko’s least favorite rival, to an already-terrifying roster while the U.S., Canada, and Finland all boast OWL talent. Even China and Australia have some mystic, wildcard energy to them. It doesn’t help that France is without any proven talent on Doomfist or Hammond or that Winz’s mechanics may be rustier than those of their adversaries, but it does help that they wear the colors of a country willing to lose its voices for them. Whether that mojo crosses the Atlantic or not, France’s confidence is insurmountable and phrased succinctly by Poko: “We’ll save Korea for last. I think we’ll nibble everything, like Finland and maybe the Netherlands, and then save Korea for last.”
* Words by Tepojama and featured image credit to Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment. All sources hyperlinked in text. *