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The Atlanta Reign’s roster has changed a lot since they joined the Overwatch League in 2019. Atlanta have hosted a mix of American, European and Korean talent, and their collective efforts have finally resulted in the team’s direct qualification for the 2021 playoffs. But amid all the changes and hard work required to reach that point, Petja “Masaa” Kantanen has been the longest reigning member — and it’s his job to do whatever it takes to reach the championship.
“I play what my team needs, plain and simple,” said Masaa, the Reign’s main support. “In this season, though, the meta has forced main supports to be more flexible, which makes sense.”
This helped the Reign fight top teams closely all year long, as they made two of the four the regular-season tournaments in Hawaii. But beyond Masaa and Rookie of the Year frontrunner Oh “Pelican” Se-hyun, many players on the Reign stepped up their play this year. Masaa was quick to mention how two of his 2020 season teammates, Kim “Ir1s” Seung-hyun and Xander “Hawk” Domecq, have improved exponentially in 2021.
“I’d say Ir1s and Hawk are crucial,” Masaa said. “Since Ir1s joined last year, he was playing with ping and didn’t perform great. Now, he’s top tier. Hawk also played into a top-tier off-tank and has been eating so many game-winning ultimates throughout this season.”
Along with Ir1s, Hawk and Pelican, the entire Reign roster seems to be finding their form. But in a mixed roster like theirs, the European players stand out since the region is less represented at the highest level of competition. Out of the five remaining European postseason players, the Atlanta Reign have two of them in Masaa and Kai “Kai” Collins.
“When the league started, the regions that players came from were balanced,” Masaa said. “But due to the lack of tournaments in EU, now talent is harder to find.”
That talent that Masaa and Kai have provided coming in from European Contenders teams like Team Gigantii and Samsung Morning Stars has been crucial in their 2021 season. But, no matter the backstory, the path to the top remains the same. In this 2021 postseason, that path shares a similar enemy standing in their way, one that chose to face them first.
“Chengdu picked us for a reason,” Masaa said. “Their hyper-aggressive dives are scary. But, if we beat them, we’ll be in a great spot, especially if we face a team from NA afterwards because we practiced against them the most.”
While the Chengdu Hunters only had three teams to choose from for their first match in the playoffs, they still get to play against the team they eliminated from the Countdown Cup. And if Atlanta can overcome Chengdu, they face the winner of Washington Justice versus Dallas Fuel. Most expect Dallas to win, but Masaa isn’t so sure.
“I think people are sleeping on Washington. They clearly were working the hardest and improving the most to even get this far,” Masaa said. “At the same time, we don’t know how the break will affect the Dragons or Fuel. It could mentally boost them or boom them. It’s always hypothetical at this point.”
While breaks make this postseason tough to judge, even the meta hasn’t been clear across both divisions. Masaa may not be certain which style of Overwatch will win out in the end, but the Reign can only put everything into each game.
“It’s hard to say how confident I am going into this,” Masaa said “The Eastern Division favors dive and the Western Division favors rush. It’s 50/50 to how we’re going to do, and with scrims, it’s always hard to tell. We just gotta do our best.”
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.