Scott “Custa” Kennedy and Jordan “Gunba” Graham are Australia’s lovable Overwatch League duo from the Los Angeles Valiant.
While Custa started off the year at Dallas Fuel, a mid-season trade to Valiant has done him wonders. The Valiant turned their season around in Stages 3 and 4 with Custa as the captain, even netting a Stage 4 Playoffs title. As for Gunba, the ex-Blank Esports player has found his way into a coaching role over at the Valiant since the start of the year and has been critical to the team’s success.
Now at OWWC 2018, the two are the experienced heads leading a young, talented lineup of Australian players. Alongside old teammate Rqt, Gunba has theory crafted some of the more unique map/hero combinations of the World Cup to keep opponent’s constantly on their toes. As for Custa, he’s been actively leading the team through shotcalling and strategy while still performing on his support A-game.
Akraken salvages Oasis: City Centre for Australia with a clutch coalescence against Denmark.
I got the chance to sit down with Custa and Gunba after their Day 2 victory over Sweden to talk about their innovation, Blizzcon and the future of the Australian lineup.
So, how was the game against Sweden?
Custa: It was a good win, honestly. It was the biggest win you can get – a 4-0 – so you can’t complain.
Gunba: As expected.
All to plan?
Custa: Trust the process, that’s Gunba’s line.
Gunba: Losing to Denmark was part of the strategy. It was to lower our confidence, it was too high after that 4-0 (against Thailand).
And the thing that’s been the most outstanding from watching Australia has been how innovative your map choices have been. We’ve seen Blizzard World, Numbani, Junkertown – not really what everyone else has been picking. Obviously that’s part of the plan but how do you think your diverse map pools helps you against other teams?
Gunba: I think what helped us a lot was that every single group stage, teams seem to pick the same maps in every slot and we kinda knew that because we had two group stages before this. So we looked at the numbers and we were like okay, everyone wants to play these maps (namely King’s Row, Temple of Anubis and Rialto), so we should really practice these maps. If we are good at these and have a few of our own maps up our sleeve, then we will win.
For some reason – I don’t understand why – teams are coming in and picking the same maps again. It feels like a mistake to me because it’s so easy to practice those and get huge value with less practice compared to some other maps. So having niche maps is definitely the play for the World Cup team.
Custa: It’s the idea that the amount you are going to learn on an map is x, and if you learn the core maps to x, but also have some other maps which you are just better at everyone else on them…
Gunba: The bar isn’t high up on Blizzard World. You know, no one’s even played it. It’s hard for us to practice though because no one wants to scrim on it.
Custa: Everyone just wants to practice KOTH (Control). I hate KOTH.
Another thing I’ve been a bit astounded by is Akraken on the Ana – who is known more for his Zenyatta in Contenders Australia – and you, Custa, on the Zen instead. That’s been an interesting combo to watch, but how well do you think it’s been working?
Custa: It’s a very different combo. The problem with Ana/Zen is that your survivability as a combo is really low – you don’t have anything that can keep you alive. We played it a lot more today because both teams weren’t really playing much Winston or dive – they were playing very turtle-y comps like Denmark on Brigitte/McCree everywhere.
You have to play Ana – but the role of a main support is all over the place at the moment. You see a lot of teams playing Mercy, a lot of teams playing only Lucio. I’ve pretty done a bit of it all in World Cup though. I’ve played a bit of Ana on Anubis, but Akraken takes Brigitte though.
Now you are the only two Australians in the Overwatch League. Custa’s story is very well known but Gunba’s story isn’t, so do you have an interesting story?
Gunba: I was a software engineer, but I quit to play on Blank Esports in Pacific and I was like “man, Australian esports is going nowhere, I should probably try and make that transition.” I have a lot of analytical skills – no people skills whatsoever – but a lot of logic and analytical skill so I felt like I could do the coaching thing. So I posted a video, analysing the World Cup funnily enough, and LA Valiant saw it and I got in.
“It would be great to go to Blizzcon would be for the rest of the team. They want to go to Contenders, they want to go to Overwatch League. Beating Sweden was nice, and our World Cup goal is to build a resume for these guys.”
Scott “Custa” Kennedy
And where would you see yourselves without Overwatch?
Gunba: Probably still coding.
Custa: Civil engineer, sadly. It’s been a turn for the good.
Custa: We suck.
Someone’s gotta do the job. Anyways, you’ve just beaten Sweden, and you are in with a good shot of going to Blizzcon against China…
Gunba: It’s 50/50.
Custa: I haven’t done the math, but I think if we beat China we go through.
…yes, so how would it feel to wear a different kind of Green and Gold at Blizzcon?
Custa: Ah, we were talking about it before. We don’t really care about Blizzcon as much. Obviously it would be great to play there, but you know, realistically Australia won’t go so well at Blizzcon because there are some incredible teams.
But, the reason it would be great to go to Blizzcon would be for the rest of the team. They want to go to Contenders, they want to go to Overwatch League. Beating Sweden was nice, and our World Cup goal is to build a resume for these guys.
Gunba: I have a feeling we could beat half of the teams. Finland, Canada, UK, France.
Custa: Those are a bit of a stretch…
…well Canada had a pretty good glory run last year.
Custa: Well they beat Australia and then they scraped by another team.
Gunba: Maybe Russia or something? (NOTE: It was Sweden).
Custa: Yeah, I think they had a pretty easy run through. So, it’ll be interesting. Obviously I’d love to go to Blizzcon, but what’s more important for us is getting these guys to the next step in their careers.
Speaking of the rest of the team, Custa has spoken very highly of Punk in the past. Playing with him now here in Bangkok – do you think he has a massive future ahead of him?
Custa: Absolutely 100%. I’ve always thought that Punk and Trill have a very easy way to get into Overwatch League. They are very smart guys, very dedicated, willing to listen and very talented. But, the more interesting one is Akraken who is playing out of his mind at the moment so this has been great for him. I think all three of those guys can really go far and the other guys definitely have a spot in Contenders and I hope they can push themselves to the League.
Gunba: I expect at the very least to see Trill in the Overwatch League. Not even biased, but I think he is definitely better than the bottom five main tanks in the League. Then the two young ones – Akraken and Punk – to play on stage at that age, with almost no LAN experience whatsoever, and perform like that is incredible. I think they are really really good.
Possibly, if an Australian org appears in Season 3 could we see you there?
Custa: I’ve always said that I would love to play for an Australian team but as long as my run with Valiant keeps going then, you know, if I ever part ways with Valiant I’ll love to play for an Australian team.
Gunba: So when you’re washed up basically.
Custa: Yeah…actually no, that’s China. When you are washed up you go to China and they give you the big money once you are washed up.
That’s the Korean League pro way of doing it.
Custa: Yeah that’s what I’m aiming for.
And why don’t you wear your onesies on stage?
Custa: This is a big controversial topic of the players don’t really want to because you’d have to take the onesie off as well and it’s just a lot of hassle…
Who is the party pooper?
Custa: Mainly me.
Gunba: Yep. They are really hot, to be fair.
But it’s cold in the arena!
Custa: Yeah, but I think we’ve also done a lot of great content with the onesies and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, but I think getting on stage with the onesies will be one step too far.
Gunba: I can agree with that. We should have done it earlier. We aren’t going into the match which decides our careers in onesies. (laughing)
Custa: Can’t wait to play against China in a onesie! We said if we won both matches today, because we would have been locked in for Blizzcon, we would go up against China tomorrow in the onesies, so really it’s Denmark’s fault!
Oh well. It’s been wonderful chatting with you guys. I hope you beat China and good luck tomorrow!
You can catch Australia take on China at 6:15pm AEST tonight for a chance to qualify for Blizzcon on Twitch.