ll through high school, my friend group was hyping up Overwatch. We all played CS:GO and Dirty Bomb, so we were obviously excited about this new FPS with cool looking graphics and interesting characters. As we came to graduation in 2016, Overwatch was released and it was the only thing everyone was playing. I quite enjoyed watching it, although my school laptop couldn’t run it, so no point in me playing.
Fast forward 18 months, and it’s Season 1 of Contenders Australia. I’m watching Overwatch on that same laptop, still wanting to play. I’d watch the same guys I ate lunch with at high school, like Pzza and Forbles, making a name for themselves. Another one was Tongue.
Giorgio “Tongue” Lahdo is the flex support for Blank Esports, Australia’s most notable Overwatch team. While he wasn’t a part of the roster that Gunba, Rqt and co dominated Australia with, he was still making his impact felt in Taiwan with his Zenyatta play. He played for Avant back in 2016, and was a part of the very successful 4Legs/Kings team, which came 2nd in the ESL Championship in 2017. I sat down with Tongue to talk about what it’s like playing for Blank, the current meta and his future.
First of all, congratulations on the win against Nova. How did you think you went?
It wasn’t the cleanest. On the two maps we lost (King’s Row and Temple of Anubis) I had a pretty underwhelming performance, but it was good to just get the win in the end. It’s proving to be a bit more difficult to gel when you aren’t in each other’s faces every day.
How does it feel to represent Blank Esports, arguably the most well known name in Australian Overwatch?
It’s kind of funny, because Blank isn’t just some big organisation. It literally started off because a bunch of guys were VPNing to Korea, scrimming over there, and then they decided to enter all the tournaments in Asia as well. They then entered OPC (Overwatch Pacific Championship) and were considered the front runners of the tournament. When you think Australian Overwatch you think of Blank, so it feels good to play on a team that is considered the pinnacle of the region.
Tongue playing his signature Zenyatta against Oneshine Esports. Source: Blank Esports Facebook
Season 1 of Contenders Pacific was on LAN in Taiwan. How was the experience for you and the team, getting all together in one place for a couple of months and grinding it out?
Overall, it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve had in Overwatch, if not the best. For the game itself, being at LAN together for 2 months made it the perfect environment for us to improve.
We were pretty bad when we arrived, but over the course of the 50 days we were there, the amount we improved was insane. We went from getting stomped by Korean Contenders teams in scrims to competing against them. The VOD review that we could do was next level too. It’s easier to run through map strategy there in person, because people get distracted when it’s online. It doesn’t feel as professional when you are doing it from home.
Did you ever get homesick?
Nah, I was having too much fun [laughs]. It helps when you know everything at home is fine and there’s no reason to be worried. I was just there to enjoy the experience.
How supportive have your family been?
They have been supportive from the start. They didn’t know exactly what was going on, they didn’t know how serious it was, how large it was – they only saw me playing. They didn’t really mind me spending all my time playing though. They understand that this wasn’t an opportunity I could pass on, because I’d never get the time back. It’s like a kid pursuing an AFL dream.
My dad helped me fly out for CyberGamer and ESL LANs last year while I was on 4Legs, so they get involved a bit as well. They also helped me get a new computer, instead of clamshelling my 5 year old laptop and playing off a monitor. It was a pretty scuffed setup.
I can relate to that last point. Do you believe in the stigma that a better computer improves performance?
Definitely, especially for FPSes. Input lag is such a big deal, that on a low frame rate computer, you can feel and see the input lag on the screen. It doesn’t happen when you run the game at 120 or 200 frames.
This season’s Contenders Pacific isn’t on LAN, so you and the team are back home. Do you still think you have a chance of making it through playoffs, or is the ping difference too big?
We are hoping to bootcamp before playoffs if we make it, so if we can all get together for at least a week and practice we will definitely be in with a chance. However, online, with the ping advantage alone it would be pretty impossible for us to get really deep into playoffs. The game is so much harder to pay at high ping: you have to negotiate packet loss, ultimates not going off, moving weirdly, lagging out in fights and then all of a sudden you are dead. I can see us making playoffs, we just need to take a map off Hong Kong Attitude. Regardless of what environment we are in, we will try our hardest to make it far.
You talk a lot about this bootcamping you’ve done with Blank, and you guys have shown that if you can get everyone into one place everyone improves. Is that team interaction the kind of this Australian Overwatch needs to go to the next level?
It’s not the fix. If people do temporary bootcamps for a short time, they’ll fall back into bad habits pretty quick. It does help professionalise the team, and if people make the most of the bootcamps they can improve a lot, but it’s only a temporary fix.
Honestly, all the scene needs is more tournaments. We want more competitions, we want more higher tier players, but the question is how do you bring them in? Everything is down to having tournaments and having money flowing through. We need more coaches, we need more players – most coaches are doing it for the love of it, not making a cent. A tournament outside of Contenders would be perfect, but we will see where Blizzard goes in future seasons of Contenders in expanding it.
If someone hasn’t watched you play before, how would you describe your playstyle?
I’m always looking to outplay whoever I’m playing against, whether it be in a duel with a Winston or Tracer, or in a team fight. I like trying to bait them, and trying to not give them the predictable fight. If I can play in a way which allows my team to punish mistakes without making any myself, then I’m doing my job. I could be a bit more aggressive, but I don’t really care, especially when I go too aggressive sometimes, taking long range duels against a Widow or Hanzo in this double sniper meta. That’s why we see so much more Roadhog, Orisa, and even Tracer right now.
I mean you talk about Tracer and triple tank, we’ve even seen triple DPS recently with Hotba popularising it during Philadelphia’s playoffs run. What do you think of this current meta?
I love it, because it’s all about counterplay. It’s a massive game of paper-scissors-rock. It used to just be “counter dive with more dive,” but now you see a lot more hero swaps. You pull out the Brigitte, then someone pulls out a Pharah, then someone goes “hey let’s go triple tank.” It’s way more dynamic, and a lot more fun to play. That’s not to say I hate dive, even after it being so meta for so long.
I guess it means you aren’t stuck on Zenyatta every game.
I honestly don’t mind that. I mean, there was a time where Overwatch was just Zenyatta, and it was all I played because I didn’t have a reason to flex onto anything else. It was still fun for me, but it’s nice to play a bit more Roadhog and bring a bit more Tracer into my life. I have missed playing hitscan though, McCree is very strong in ranked at the moment.
Have you touched any Hammond (Wrecking Ball) yet? He will be enabled for playoffs.
We have touched him a little bit in scrims on this patch, and he seems pretty interesting. He brings a lot of fun to the game, but I don’t think he will be game changing. He seems to be good in scenarios where you would run triple tank, rather than replacing a D.va or Winston, but it’s way too early to tell the meta for him. People usually wait for the Korean teams to suss out the new meta and then replicate their strats.
Hammond isn’t the one a lot of teams are looking at, anyways. You look at the new Symmetra, and all the possibilities with Symmetra and Bastion. I think everyone will wait until playoffs is closer, and the playoffs meta might be very different to what we are seeing now. These new heroes and balance changes have the potential to be obnoxious, and teams are going to have to adapt or they’ll struggle.
I want to touch a bit on the Overwatch World Cup and your future. You just missed out on the final 7, after making the top 12. Would you like to represent Australia in the future?
Yeah, of course, I’d love to represent my country. It would be a great experience to play against all these international players. It’s great for your own personal development as well as getting some exposure.
“I love it, because it’s all about counterplay. It’s a massive game of paper-scissors-rock.”
Tongue, on the current competitive meta.
In the same vein, do you see yourself one day playing in the Overwatch League? Is that the end goal for you?
Given enough mindful and effective practice, and if I put myself in an environment where I can excel, then yes I could definitely see myself playing Overwatch League. If the Blank boys were currently in a team house, I could see us all improving together as a team a lot faster, and we’d all be slowly reaching to that level.
The most important thing is grinding and watching all your VODs. Highlighting all your mistakes and being critical of all your decisions. You might have made a decision which worked out in the end, but you can always make a better one. It’s all about minimising those mistakes, because in the Overwatch League, every mistake you make will be capitalised on. You have to be flawless.
If Overwatch was to die today, what would you do with yourself?
I’ve never actually thought of this before. I think I’d try pursue another game. I’d grind out Fortnite, or CS:GO, while studying on the side. I’ve always been pretty good at FPSes, so it would make sense for me to try again. I would go into Economics or Finance at uni, and pick up CS:GO because I enjoy that. However, the money is also in Fortnite, with the $100m prize pool for 2019, so that’s pretty hard to pass up on. I haven’t given a life past Overwatch much thought though.
One last question. We’ve known each other for a few years, and you’ve always been one of the chillest, nicest people I’ve ever met. How do you stay so calm and positive?
As easy as it might seem, just don’t get angry. It doesn’t help anybody. Being angry just makes you perform worse. It doesn’t affect the person you are getting angry at, only yourself. Staying positive is the best thing you can do in a team environment. A lot of the time in the match, you’ve done all the practice, you’ve done all the preparation, you just have to play and stay motivated. Be un-tiltable.
Thank you so much for taking time out on your day off, and good luck for the rest of the season!
Blank Esports are kicking along in Contenders Pacific this season, with a 2-2 record heading into the final week of play. Catch their final game against Hong Kong Attitude this Friday, August 3, at 9pm AEST on Twitch. You can also follow Tongue and Blank Esports on Twitter.