I met up with Tom “Morte” Kerbusch this evening in Korea. We talked about Korean solo queue, APEX match preparation, and their upcoming match against LW Blue. Morte is the captain of Reunited’s Overwatch division. He plays support for his team Reunited, usually Ana and sometimes Zenyatta. The team currently has one win and one loss in the group stages of the OGN APEX tournament.
Jonathan “Evolek” Rogers: Now that you’ve had some time between games, have you been able to explore the city a bit?
Thomas “Morte” Kerbusch: A tiny bit, I went to Seoul Tower and it was a bit far, it was maybe a bit of a mistake, but that’s beside the point it was really nice. We went out one night to Itaewon and that’s about it.
Evolek: What do you think about Korean solo queue and how does it compare to other regions?
Morte: So, they’re way more serious here in solo queue like you can feel they’re way more coordinated. Western [servers] you have people throw, people don’t really care that much or something. They have a lot of hackers in Korean solo queue in the top ranks. Everyone goes on voice chat here, everyone’s always telling each other what to do, even trying to communicate with us as Westerners. I just think in general they have more discipline here.
Evolek: Have you been able to communicate at all with them?
Morte: I know a few words but that’s about it.
Evolek: People on Reddit and elsewhere seem really surprised by the level of Korean teams, but what are your feelings on this? Were you all surprised by how competitive they are?
Morte: I mean everyone always said it’s an FPS, the Koreans wouldn’t catch up, but it’s not really that much of an FPS, I mean it is but it has so many MOBA elements that I already knew this time would come. I think they’re really good. I think they’re not quite yet on the best level with the best Western teams but I think they’ll get there.
Evolek: Before coming here there wasn’t a whole lot of information about Korean teams but I listened to an interview that occurred before the Overwatch Open. Kruise and Frederik [Reunited CEO] talked about preparing for opponents that don’t have many VODs and without much scrim time. How have you been dealing with that in Korea?
Morte: Well our first game we had no VODs to go on so we had to ask what they’re like, but that’s not really useful. So that was kind of hard. We still had a new player and we were only playing together for three days, and we just had a bad day so that was not a good start. For Kongdoo Panthera there were quite a lot of VODs on the Internet so we watched all of them and saw what they like to run like a lot of tanks and they build around that.
Evolek: So when you’re in a situation like that and you haven’t seen many VODs or scrimmed them at all, how do you react dynamically in game?
Morte: Basically, you know already before you start what comps you have to run against other comps, like you know what champion is strong against what. If you’re getting completely dominated by a Genji for example, then it’s really handy to have a Winston and maybe a Reinhardt to not let them poke that much. Stuff like that.
Evolek: What have you learned by scrimming Korean teams and playing solo queue, obviously you don’t have to talk about specific strategies, but like a principle or something that you think about competition in general.
Morte: It’s not really what we’ve learned. I mean we’ve learned that they’re way more serious here. When you start scrimming sometimes they have five spectators, one team where there’s five spectators just looking and they record everything. Of course, you pick up a few tricks like a few things you didn’t know yet like special positions, and maybe also on the maps they like to do things differently here. You can notice in solo queue for example that people like to hold way more defensively in Korea while in Europe people just go and attack even on defense. I think it’s just interesting to watch the regions clash and then you can take with you what you think is good.
Evolek: What are your thoughts on the map selection method for APEX? It seems very unique compared to other tournaments.
Morte: Yeah, well we played the first tournament, the ESL Gamescom one was not the same, but sort of the same where the first map was random and then the loser could pick the map every time, and I kind of like it but I still think the map pool right now is too big because you have to know all the maps still. Even though per match there’s only ten maps in for APEX, but then two days later you still need to have played all the maps. I think the idea is okay, but in theory if you lose the random first pick then you will lose the match if you play against an evenly matched team.
Evolek: So then what do you think about map specific strategies, like cheeky Bastion plays especially on Nepal we some awesome plays. Are they here to stay and are teams getting better with this, doing them and reacting to them?
Morte: For sure they’re going to stay, you always have to keep surprising in this game. We don’t really do that. I think for example us and Rogue and most of the teams don’t really do it but we should it more. Who was it? I think it was LW Blue that pulled out Bastion on Volskaya on the platform and they just got the point instantly. It’s the kind of stuff that takes you by surprise and then you just lose the map instantly. So it’s gonna stay around for sure and people are gonna think of crazier stuff.
Evolek: Speaking of LW Blue, they defeated Kongdoo Panthera, the team that you beat and you’re playing them next so how do you think they compare to other Korean teams, especially those in your group?
Morte: It’s kinda funny because when we arrived here we played LW Red a lot, pretty much everyday. And they’re supposed to be the better team of the two, but now people are saying that it’s not true and that LW Blue is better because they’re playing in APEX and stuff so I don’t know I mean we’ve only watched the VODs which we could find then I can’t really say yet. I know we have to win and convincingly is better so that we’re pretty much guaranteed through [the group stage].