At the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains, somewhere between West Hollywood and Bel Air, is Beverly Hills, California. Home to movie stars, artists, and the corporate elite, 90210 is one of the most affluent and famous zip codes on the planet. It also happens to be where the Toronto Defiant call home, in a tremendous residence just off Mulholland Drive.
“We settled on this house mainly because of the wow factor,” said Jaesun Won, Defiant General Manager. “We wanted them to arrive at the house and feel like the Defiant were taking care of them. We wanted them to feel like they could focus on the game, and after they focused on the game they wouldn't have anything to worry about.”
On the day the team moved in, there was a simple bottlecap-flicking contest to determine who claimed what room in the humble eight-bedroom mansion. Jae-Yoon "Aid" Ko and Joo-Sung "Roky" Park are the only two players sharing a room (they volunteered)—although it’s more like two rooms, as their “closet” is about the size of a two-car garage. Opposite the closet is an exit to their personal balcony, overlooking the pool, hot tub, and basketball half-court in their backyard.
Yes, the all-Korean Defiant roster is truly living the American dream.
The day’s activities started a little before 9 a.m., with players shuffling down to their PCs in the living room. After some warmup games and a round of iced coffee, it was time for a team meeting, VOD review, and lunch before scrims.
Dennis “Barroi” Matz, the Defiant’s analyst, is the only non-Korean member of the team meetings and one of the many support staff buzzing around the house at any given moment. During the meetings, he sits and listens to Yoon Kim, the team’s house manager and translator, and speaks through him in turn.
“I’m looking at data and gameplay,” Barroi said. “We have Bishop [Beoum-Jun Lee] who is the head coach—he's trying to facilitate discussions between the players. Don [Dong-Wook Kim] is mainly looking at strategy, so he's trying to focus on how the team executes certain compositions and how they interact with opposing compositions. Bubbly [Yoon-Ho Cho] is looking at individual performance. He's trying to manage the mental aspect of the players and how they interact with each other. Yoon is trying to make the players’ lives as easy as possible.”
Hear more from Toronto’s GM, and check out what analysts are saying about Toronto’s roster.
The Toronto Defiant have a skilled support staff around them, but there are Overwatch League veterans on the roster itself. Namely, support Se-Hyun "Neko" Park, formerly of the Boston Uprising; DPS Jun-Sung "Asher" Choi, who played for the Los Angeles Gladiators; and off-tank Kang-Jae "Envy" Lee, who left the Los Angeles Valiant halfway through the 2018 season.
The move signals a new beginning for Envy in particular, who has taken on the role of team captain for his new club. “It wasn't that I couldn't communicate at all when I was with the Valiant,” he said. “But I did have a lot of trouble communicating. Here it’s different, everyone is Korean and it's just been very comfortable for me so far.”
Envy keeps up with former French teammates, Terence "Soon" Tarlier and Benjamin "Unkoe" Chevasson, as well as his former tank partner on the Valiant, Pan-Seung "Fate" Koo. “The Los Angeles Valiant are a very strong team,” Envy said. “Their new D.Va player, Space [Indy Halpern], is one of the best Western D.Va players there is. We're going to try. We're going to try and win. We're going to put the work in.”
Here, with the Defiant, Envy has become something of a big brother to both main tank Kyeong-Mu “Yakpung” Cho and DPS Do-Hyung “Stellar” Lee.
“Everyone comes from different walks of life,” Won explained. “Yakpung has no brothers or sisters; he was raised by a single mother. Envy basically took him and they created that main tank, off-tank thing. Same thing with him and Stellar. Envy became the big brother to his little brothers. They became a family unit. Living in a house together, they all treat each other as family.”
Envy, Yakpung, Stellar, Asher, Neko, Aid, Roky, and Seung-Hyun "Ivy" Lee make up that family, one that will be looking to establish themselves as a serious threat in the cutthroat Atlantic Division.
“Toronto is a new team,” Envy said. “This is a fresh start. Just like our name implies, we're going to be Defiant. Starting at the bottom, we will climb.”
Photos and gifs by Margaret Lee.
The Defiant will open their season on Friday, Feb. 15, at 4 p.m. PST, against a divisional opponent in the Houston Outlaws. Catch all the action live and on demand on overwatchleague.com, the Overwatch League app, our Twitch channel, MLG.com, and the MLG app.