It’s safe to say there’s no team in the Overwatch League with more of a reputation than the San Francisco Shock. Famously, after conquering the league in 2019, there was some doubt around whether or not the Shock could stay on top the following year. They soon vanquished that doubt by winning a second championship and proving they could not only stay on top, but they could make it look effortless.
Not even back-to-back champions can guarantee stability, though. This off-season brought major change to the Shock roster, as key players Kim “Rascal” Dong-jun and Grant “Moth” Espe both departed, moving to the Philadelphia Fusion and the Los Angeles Gladiators, respectively. Both Rascal and Moth had been with the Shock through the two championship runs and were considered crucial parts of the team’s ecosystem.
Luckily for the Shock, winning two championships also makes it pretty easy to pick up promising talent.
Flex damage player Charlie “nero” Zwarg played for the Guangzhou Charge in 2019 and 2020. He was always mechanically gifted, but the Charge’s fluctuating performance made it difficult for him to break into the upper echelon of damage players. Now, going into 2021, the Shock may prove a more stable environment in which nero can reach his fullest potential.
There’s some pressure on him when it comes to filling Rascal’s shoes, considering Rascal’s reputation as one of the best flex players in the league. Nero, however, isn’t too bothered by it.
“I don’t really feel the pressure too much yet,” said nero. “But I think I’ll feel it more when the season starts, and I actually think I’ll thrive under it.”
Thriving under pressure
The ability to thrive under pressure is a valuable trait, especially for the San Francisco Shock’s three new players. As a replacement for Moth, the Shock added main support Brice “FDgod” Monsçavoir, who previously played for the Paris Eternal. They also acquired Lim “Glister” Gil-seong, a damage player coming from the London Spitfire.
Though the three are new additions to the well-established Shock roster, none of them said they had any major problems adjusting to the change. FDGod, especially, said not much has changed for him, thanks to the way the Shock coaching staff has always operated. Former Shock coach Kim “NineK” Beom-hoon became general manager of the Paris Eternal during the 2020 season, and he brought much of what he learned from Shock head coach Park “Crusty” Dae-hee with him.
“In Paris, we had NineK, and he came from San Francisco,” FDGod explained. “[He and Crusty] have the same coaching style, so I’m not too lost when it comes to Shock, because it’s kind of the same working environment.”
In terms of the team’s culture, joining the Shock’s tight-knit core might seem like a daunting prospect. But according to main tank Matthew “Super” DeLisi, the team has been more than welcoming.
“I think everyone’s doing great,” said Super. “Nero fits the team pretty well. Glister and FDGod were a little more reserved at the start, but, you know, you gotta crack ‘em open, and then they’ll slide right in.”
Glister does come off as a little bashful in interview settings, but his play has been anything but reserved. He was a standout player for the Spitfire last season, which was largely made up of rookie players.
With Glister leading the charge, they were able to keep up with much more experienced opponents. Glister said the most important thing he learned from his time with London was how to play as a team, instead of just playing for wins.
Unlike London, which was a new team finding their footing, the Shock will always be playing for wins. There’s a sense of finality to joining the Shock. They’re the ‘final boss’ of the league, the team that’s already gone where no other team has gone before.
Moving on to better things
To nero, though, the Shock represents new beginnings, even though it meant saying goodbye to old teammates. He said leaving the Charge was a big change, but one that he was willing to face.
“It was hard, because they were basically my family for two years,” said nero. “We spent every day together. So it was hard. But at the end of the day, you have to move on to get to better things.”
weird to think that i spent the last 2 years with a group of people and now i prob wont see some of them ever again.. i guess thats how life works tho
— nero (@ow_nero) February 9, 2021
It’s hard to believe the Shock could be even better than they were. And yet, looking at the team’s new additions, it’s entirely possible that in 2021, they surpass even the lofty expectations they’ve set for themselves. Taking raw talent and turning it into a championship caliber team is just what the Shock do, after all, and it’s not so crazy to think they could do it a third time.
“Obviously I want to win, but I feel like that’s cliché to say,” said nero. “I want to be the best, not just one of the best. And I would say that I want people to think I’m good, but I don’t. I’ve read so many hate comments that I just don’t care what people think anymore.”
Nero’s mindset is very much reminiscent of the Shock mentality that propelled the team to back-to-back championships in 2019 and 2020 – bold, confident and utterly uncaring of what people think. What does it matter, as long as you’re the best?