EXCLUSIVE: Slasher talks NYXL Homecoming, the League and more

Right before the Grand Finals started on Friday, July 27th, the New York Excelsior hosted a Homecoming Party for fans at the Sony Music Hall in Manhattan, New York. The event held over 800 guests and hosted two panels, a free for all tournament, and an after-party with Questlove.

After the panels, we got the opportunity to speak with Rod “Slasher” Breslau, esports’ number one consultant and insider (or “leakboy” as you may call him) to talk about the event, and what the NYXL bring to the city of New York.

This interview was conducted at the New York Excelsior Homecoming Party at the Sony Musical Hall in Manhattan on Thursday, July 26th, 2018. The featured image for this post was provided by Willie T.

Kats: How did you get involved with the event? Did the NYXL approach you?

Rod “Slasher” Breslau: I’ve known NYXL management since they were starting the team, and since Rohit and Farzam went over to Korea along with Scott Tester. I’ve known them for a while and had a pretty good relationship with them. It has helped that their team has been winning all the time, and they’re the New York team.

It’s very easy for me to ride the wave of how great they are at representing New York. And for a long time I thought they were the very best New York sports team in all sports. We had a pretty good relationship, because they’ve been doing well, and I haven’t been trashing them like several other organizations.

Because of that, when they were doing this event – I know Ben pretty well from his days in Starcraft II, and because I was focused on Starcraft II for a number of years as my main – we know each other very well and this has been his first real, major event. So of course I wanted to try to be involved.

Is that something you want to continue in the future, either locally or with a specific team?

No, no no. It just happens to be here. The Finals happens to be here. The event idea in itself is cool because the whole industry gets to come out and actually do some stuff. Ben did a really good job with the event, and that’s not just ’cause they’re paying me. Which they are.

But I do think they’ve actually brought out a lot of people from New York. A lot of people showed up. Like, too many people actually showed up at the venue, or the venue is too small. One of the two. I thought they succeeded  with what they wanted to do, and it’s good timing because Overwatch League Finals are here. So why not do the event here?

I never wanted to work for a team or do team stuff for the most part. It is really cool since I’m a New York sports fan myself. Because I don’t work in sports, I try to be pretty impartial in esports. I don’t root for any team in particular. It’s fun to fanboy NYXL because they’re from New York, and you can piggyback off of that, and that really only exists with NYXL because they’re the only New York based esports team.

So you do that with American teams in certain esports games. It’s always been a big thing for Americans to ride the wave whenever America does anything worthwhile. Which is not very often. And you get caught up in that.

So when NYXL is doing well, it’s good. But since none of that actually answered your question… No, it’s just because it’s here and I don’t have to go anywhere. The venue is like ten minutes from me.

Tatjana: So looking at the season as a whole. If the commissioner was now you, Rod, what would you change about Season Two from Season One?

Oh, we ran into each other tonight. Oh we had a good talk, me and the commissioner. Good chat, gotta love Nate Nanzer.

Seriously, most of my complaints are not Overwatch League related. The majority of the biggest of my concerns are game development related. Which is Blizzard and the game development team, and they are issues which I don’t necessarily think that the Overwatch League is being negative with in any way.

I don’t think the players are making as much money as they should, but that’s not on the Overwatch League to handle any of that. That’s between the teams, the players, the agents, the owners, and all that nonsense. I don’t even know if I would do anything differently. I criticize the Overwatch League good, but now, but you know what, if there’s one thing I would say, it’s that for some reason, it was the games.

Between the games was too long of a time to end the regular season and to start the playoffs. If they shorten that and make it tighter, that would be much better. A lot of people didn’t know the playoffs were happening. They had lower viewership than they should have. They had 100-110k for semi-finals. We only got to 150k here in the second NYXL – Philly game.

Maybe going into the season that would have been okay, but considering how the season went, that was low. The playoffs were supposed to have more viewers. They should have done more for promoting the playoffs and shortened the season. So if I really had to pick anything, it would be to shorten the season and they’re going to have to figure out these stages and what they want to do. I don’t actually know if it’s the best format.

What about the transparency within the League? With rule books, trades, and salaries?

I’m always for more openness in the leagues. Even now in most major esports, we don’t have the salaries. I mean, the League is never publishing the salaries. It’s always an independent journalist getting the salary from source, then publishing it publicly. I don’t know if it’s on Blizzard and the Overwatch League to do that.

Things like the rule book, yeah, it would have helped if they published the rule book publicly. They would have been able to get much less scrutiny. If Blizzard/the League would just talk more or do certain things, they would get less hate from the competitive community.

NYXL related. Just pure analysis from watching the team and being a fan–

They choked.

Yeah, what do you feel contributed to that though?

They, this is without too much insider knowledge of what was happening there, they just totally choked. They had more time than any other team to win the championship, to practice PTR, to play the new meta, to get the lineup together. They had basically all of Stage Four. They didn’t have to care about it. They didn’t have to win any games, and they still looked like a total mess during the matches versus Philadelphia.

You had certain players playing heroes they didn’t think they would. You had them playing a different meta then you think they would. They just could never get it together. Do you want to hear a longer explanation for this?

As deep as you can get.

Obviously they wanted to play Pine. They wanted him to start the game, but they won most of the regular season with Libero and SBB. Putting Pine into the lineup obviously messed with the entire chemistry of the team. I know they wanted him for Widow because it was a Widow meta, but taking out SBB on half the maps and maybe your best DPS player, your most consistent DPS player on the team, and the leader of the team, was not helping them win games.

So then they had SBB playing Hanzo sometimes. You had Libero playing Tracer sometimes. You had Pine playing Hanzo. You had things that shouldn’t be happening. That was the whole point of trying to fix the roster. But they did try to put Pine in. They tried to make him the mainstay of the team because Widow was so dominant, and although it has some advantages, when he gets pressured, when they have to switch lineups, it makes it more difficult for them to focus. Even SBB during the interview at the end talked about Widow.

He hesitated with his answer, and that’s because Widow was the meta. And maybe even, I’m just seeing his body language and how he talked about it, he’s a bit disappointed in himself that he didn’t practice Widow as much  going into the season. Because he plays Widow, and he’s a pretty good Widow, but he wasn’t given the opportunity to be the Widow and to win them the games.

If he’s the Widow, then Libero stays in the whole time, and they don’t have all these damn problems. They can run Hanzo/Widow. They know they can keep the same lineup but they didn’t do that. They tried messing around and all this happened, and they collapsed.

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