The Overwatch World Cup US group stage gave unknown players a chance to shine, but Team USA and Team Canada were always the favorites to advance to the finals. Both teams had tremendous Overwatch League talent, including Outlaw stars Shane "Rawkus" Flaherty and Austin "Muma" Wilmot for the USA, and Christopher "Bani" Benell for Canada. From early trash talk to expected growth in Season Two, Rawkus and Bani opened up about their post-OWL Season One journeys.
A Heated Rivalry
As you might imagine, the weeks leading up to the US group stage were less than civil between the Outlaws boys. Rawkus and Muma plotted against Bani early on, and with national pride on the line, they taunted him whenever the opportunity presented itself.
"For the last two weeks, every time we went to dinner or talked, or did any gaming together, we’d all call Bani bad, tell him he sucks, he’s gonna lose, just giving Bani a really hard time," Rawkus said with a grin. "And he hasn’t talked back at all. Knowing Bani, he’ll probably use that as motivation. It’s a good thing because Muma has this weird tick in his head, so when he wants to do something to someone, he really makes it happen. I feel like Muma’s going to have his way."
The soft-spoken Bani shrugged it off and kept his chin up. He wasn't going to let his teammates win the mental game before the big match on Sunday, and, indeed, he found motivation in their banter.
"I think it's a projection of insecurity," said Bani. "[Rawkus] is a little worried, so he feels like he has to get into my head in order to get the advantage over us. It gives me a little more confidence, because if you think you're going to win, you don't need to talk much."
Unfortunately for Bani, things didn't end on a great note for Team Canada. They lost the big match by a score of 3-1 as they were unable to deal with Team USA's compositions and Muma's incessant harassment against Bani. However, the real competition begins at BlizzCon, where both Canada and the USA will be out to win it all.
Taking a Breather
Team USA's most recent victory over Canada was just another day at the office for Rawkus. The New York native was a veteran presence on the field, previously representing Team USA last year and remaining a solid leader for the Outlaws. This time around, Rawkus let other players develop their leadership skills while he focused on other aspects of the game.
"Sinatraa last year was kind of a quiet player," Rawkus mused about the 2017 team. "But since he’s been playing on the Shock, he’s taken on more of a leadership role when it comes to diving, and playing aggressive. For me, I’m more calling microplays instead of calling ults like I used to, because Moth does a really good job of calling all our ults, and all their ults as well."
Rawkus elaborated that playing with Moth and Bani brings two different experiences, but assured us that Bani's presence of mind and voice are well-suited for a high-energy team like the Outlaws.
Improvements for Season Two
Though Rawkus and Bani enjoyed their time at the Overwatch World Cup, they are well aware of what the Outlaws need to work on next season. Both players identified external issues that plagued the Outlaws toward the end of the season.
"There were days when we didn’t have a scrim, which should never be a thing," said Rawkus. "There were days when people were late, or showed up tired, and that just can’t happen. The best teams in the world don’t do that so we need to stop doing that."
"I think our biggest issues were outside of game," Bani agreed. "It was about managing our practice time and our mental states. We started figuring those things out by the end of the first season. As far as in-game issues, it really depends on the meta. We have full confidence in Tairong. He's going to tell us what we need to do, and we're going to give it our all to make that happen."
As far as his time with coach Aero is concerned, Rawkus couldn't be happier to bring a new outlook into Season Two with Muma.
"We’ve learned how to communicate better and how to work around the team better with Aero. I think Muma is better now as a player than he’s ever been."
For now, every Outlaws player in the World Cup has their mind on one thing: beating South Korea. Watch Rawkus, Muma, Bani, and Jiri "LiNkzr" Masalin fight for the USA, Canada, and Finland at the Overwatch World Cup finals at BlizzCon this November 2-3.