The essence of heroes: Reinhardt - Be the shield they need with Jonathan "Reinforce" Larsson
Behind the curtain of every hero is a story. Behind every story is a spirit. The essence of heroes is an ambitious interview series that aims to uncover the nature of each hero by asking its most skilled specialists to reveal their thought processes. In doing so, we also learn a lot about the hero behind the keyboard. This time we ask: What is essential to “Reinhardt- Be the shield they need"?
You made the most unlikely transition from a journalist to a pro player. Usually, our kind trots along as the ability to compete dwindles and we try to create meaning in the scene. While we plebeians adhere to the sunk cost fallacy and try to get jobs in the industry, you went full Benjamin Button. If I asked you two years ago what your career would look like, would you have imagined that you’d be on one of the best teams in the world, competing in an esport that might soon explode into the top 5 and is already highly competitive? Were you a top player in games before Overwatch?
When I started playing Overwatch competitively and met TviQ via “2GD”, one of the very first memes associated with me was that anyone could be a pro player in Overwatch given my “35% accuracy”, and while I still have a second account I only play DPS characters on around ~4200 SR, there’s still some underlying truth in that joke. Given the uncommon nature of the main tank characters in Overwatch, they open up opportunities for players who would have never been able to play competitively in any other esport game, like me, to go pro.
Some people look down on the role, say it’s skill-less and that anyone could play a main tank, and I don’t bother arguing with them, but in one way it feels good being able to apply myself and showcase my dedication to something, without the need of being born or raised from young age to having excellent mechanics today.
I always wanted to play video games professionally, I set up practice hours for myself playing deathmatch 1-2 hours a day a few years back, but it would have never yielded fruit, and when Heroes of the Storm came around I was a highly rated tank player on the ladder, but didn’t know how to get in touch with people to transition from pubstar to someone who focused more on organized play. When Overwatch came around, the network provided from living in the same house as 2GD, the spare time given cancelled esports management plans following 2GD being fired by Gaben at the Shanghai Major, and my dedication to try and play professionally, it al just came together. By the time TviQ wanted to put together his own team after departing “IDDQD”, which later got picked up by EnVyUs, I was one of the top candidates for the main tank role.
I assume, because you have walked this unique path, you seem to have a holistic view of esports. You understand the business aspect because you were allowed a look behind the curtain. You also spoke out against the potential invite of NRG to Apex Season 2, which presumably would’ve been given out based on popularity. Therefore my question is this: Where do you draw the line between business and competitive integrity? Where does the Overwatch industry overstep those boundaries in either direction? Does one have to take the current state of the scene into account when answering those questions and can we follow a different path later on when the viewership is there?
The most important thing is that in the end the best team wins whatever tournament they’re participating in. Now to reach that final end result, you can throw in a bunch of variables, whether it’s tournament format like single elimination brackets or double elimination brackets, seeding, map drafts etc. but my top priority has always been that the best Overwatch team should win in the end.
Being a player, I also have an advantage as I have a very good idea about pretty much all teams I practice against, so I can look at tournament results objectively, see how a tournament affected a team’s performance and if they over performed or underperformed compared to their practice standards. Obviously you need to objectively see how well the team performed in an official game compared to practice, but to me it’s very obvious for example when a team has been screwed over by being forced to play their worst maps, thus affecting the outcome negatively, when they would have had better results playing on maps they were good at, it’s then I can reflect and ask myself how the tournament format affected the outcome, for the better and for the worse.
Now where I differentiate myself from the hardcore esports personalities in Overwatch, is I don’t think that everything has to be black and white and the most fair tournament structures have to be put in place. Quake is a very fair game, often unlike Overwatch, but there’s gameplay reasons why people prefer the latter.
Despite the underwhelming reality which currently is the Overwatch scene for Europe and also North America, I’m willing to take a step back and let Blizzard do their thing with OWL. In the end people has to realise that Blizzard wants the most successful esport they can achieve, but I’ll be there poking them in PM’s reminding them to not forget about the competition at hand, and not tunnel-vision on the brand itself.
Due to the changes to Lucio, the hero can’t be played individually on autopilot anymore. This could mean that mental resources are allocated more towards individual play. Do you think Reinhardt players have to take more responsibility in shot calling because of this? Aren’t the same issues of perspective of the tank role still in place? What is Misfits solution?
While I agree that Lucio has to focus more on his individual play given the recent changes to make the most of the hero, I don’t consider it a big deal (with the risk of sounding ignorant), and it’s mostly about the Lucio player’s playstyle more than anything. You look at players like Selfless’ dhaK and DSPStanky and it’s pretty obvious that those two play Lucio in such a way that it’s naturally harder for them to shotcall as much, as say someone like Gambler, who openly jokes about that the best way to play Lucio is to emote next to your Ana.
One of the reasons we decided to swap out Zave for Mineral in Misfits was because they play Lucio different from each other, while Zave being more of an aggressor who likes to follow the dive, go for boops and thus naturally shotcalls less, someone like Mineral is a lot more passive, stays with Zebbosai most of the time to peel for him (making Zebbosai survive longer vs. dive comps), and because of that Mineral has more time to think of the game as a whole and count enemy ultimates and set up things. I think you can make both styles work, and in our case it was that Zave’s playstyle just wasn’t naturally a good fit for us, but I’m sure he could make it work in another team and I wish him best of luck.
In terms of other roles shotcalling, I think a Reinhardt could do a lot of shotcalling, and I believe I’m one of those who do (at least in Misfits, I wasn’t very vocal in Rogue), but the vision of a Reinhardt does make it harder, and I could never be the main guy leading my team just due to how I am as a player.
There’s a lot of Reinhardts out there in the scene that the public are fans of, but most of them are actually very quiet and reserved players who are more often than not just guided by other teammate’s actions. Again, maybe there’s room for both types of Reinhardts in competitive play, but my team in Misfits have often told me how much they appreciate that I’m vocal, call engages and take initiative unlike others they’ve played with because it makes life easier for them. I’m never going to make the right call 100% of the time, and sometime I’ll miss an engaging charge, but I’ve learnt past couple of months that you can’t stop taking that initiative just because it doesn’t work out once, you just have to try again and do it better.
Let’s get into the mindset of “Reinhardt - Be the shield they need”. Reinhardt is one of the deepest paradoxes in the community. On first glance, he looks like a character that should have a fairly high skill floor. Yet the phrase “I suck at Reinhardt” is one of the most heard in the team selection processes of ranked play. Everyone seems to be able to appreciate and sense the skill of a great Reinhardt but few have a firm grasp of what that actually entails. Could you unriddle this for us? Why is Reinhardt such an enigma for the community?
I think being a good Reinhardt player is very dependant on understanding how and when to take fights, basically having good game sense. You see a lot of players even in grand master where they don’t understand what fights are good to take, and what fights leads to the enemy snowballing, and so occasionally if I don’t pick up the Reinhardt role in ranked play myself, someone will pick him up for me and just continuously back off until someone else in the team takes initiative.
The general skill of Reinhardts in ranked is sort of a reflection of the game understanding of the playerbase itself, and so I just don’t think the community, or even pro players to an extent themselves, have deep knowledge of how the game is to be played yet. The knowledge difference between top 500 players and professional players is occasionally ridiculous, but that knowledge will trickle down, to even diamond, gold or silver, and with time the broader player base of Overwatch will get more educated. The fundamentals of Reinhardt is probably the most knowledge-dependant in the game, and so in a year or two, I think you’ll really see something flip a switch which in turn will lead to better Reinhardt players across the board.
You’ve stated in the past that Reinhardt is a lot of mindgames around the usage of Earthshatter. Could you try to explain where those take place, what you do to throw others off or what you look for to predict the other person? Is it like a game of rock, paper, scissor with many more variables of which you all know off, but need to recognize in the moment or do you sometimes get surprised by what your opponent does? Do you have a more fitting analogy?
Earlier in my career I used to compare it to rock paper, scissor, but since then I think pro play has advanced quite a bit to the point where things are more predictable. Knowing what ultimates the enemy team has to work with, and observing their positioning ahead of the fight, you usually have a pretty good idea of what’s about to happen, and so the fights themselves are more about how you play around the enemy’s set up. Most of the time these days, my team behind me knows that they have earthshatter up, and I’ll often even call a second or so ahead of the enemy Reinhardt using his earthshatter because it’s used more as a play properly set up i.e. by Lucio speed boost or Lucio boops these days, rather than used instinctively by the enemy Reinhardt.
Now there’s still some room for mindgames, for example if the enemy team lands a big graviton, will you risk trying to stun that nano-boosted Reinhardt coming in to swing at your team, or do you surrender the fight just to have a better shot at the next one? Playing safe and structured is a way more lucrative idea in this day and age of competitive Overwatch, rather than relying on YOLO-charges and risk earthshattering shields. If you as a Reinhardt can make that playstyle work however, you’re in for a treat.
Kaiser has previously stated that 90% of what he does is reactive, proven by the fact that he can’t even remember what he did most of the time. Is that true for you too? If so, do you think Reinhardt could be played successfully in a calculated and systematic manner?
That’s how I used to think and play Reinhardt a couple of months ago, but my mindset has shifted quite a lot. On tournament days I used to drink a lot of energy drinks, sometimes even 3-4 a day at most, and I’m really set on the idea that it made me more of an impulsive player which sometimes lead to clutch charges or stuns, but more often than not I panic-ulted into shields when all I had to do was stay calm. I’m using substances such as caffeine more “strategically” these days, and I believe it has made me a better Reinhardt player overall since I’m more structured and thoughtful in my play, and I felt really good about my performance in the Overwatch Pit compared to our first match vs. LW Blue in OGN APEX Season 2 or ELEAGUE (where I guess we had to play 10 maps in a row so fatigue was real).
That kind of reactive playstyle Kaiser is talking about can work, but I think there’s underlying inconsistency issues following it (despite him having a very good playoff run overall).
When playing at the highest level against another top level Reinhardt, in your mind is he the person you are first and foremost playing against? Do you feel the need to outperform him? Or do you not perceive it as a duel and you instead think of yourself more as one of six tools to solve the entire opponent team by?
Again, before I think I over-emphasized a lot on the enemy Reinhardt, but now my mindset is more about how to shut down the biggest threat on the enemy team. In a lot of cases, the best thing I can do is take care of that Reinhardt to the best of my ability, but I’ve also come to realise that a Reinhardt, if not played around, doesn’t consistently wins you the fights you need to win.
Having enjoyed the 3 DPS-dive meta for quite some time now, I guess my mind is more set on shutting down Soldiers, Genjis and Anas, but for the moment I’m more concerned and will play around, the Zarya with Graviton up, rather than the Reinhardt in front of her. It leads to a less emotionally fueled duel between the two Reinhardts, but I guess there’s nothing more humiliating than single-handedly losing two teamfights in a map having been earthshattered.
I’m a big fan of the crouched firestrike illustration. You also had a segment way back at ELeague about using the momentum of a jump to wind up a charge. Do you have a similar piece of tech for us that you see too few people use?
I guess something small I’ve been doing past couple of weeks is shielding the Tracer bomb whenever she goes in for it, and if she stickies it on the front of your shield you can quickly drop your shield, making the pulse bomb drop to the ground, and then you can shield up again essentially blocking the exploding damage on the ground. It can save your life a couple of times, but you have to be really quick in pulling it off correctly.
You are asked to create an RPG character and its purpose is to be the best Reinhardt in the world. You are allowed to spend 10 skill points and there are no limits as to how many you can spend in each category as long as the total sum is 10.
Aim/Mechanical skill 2
Game sense 5
Shot calling 3
Complete the sentence.
Given that I am LOTTOFORCE, if I played EUROLOTTO, the numbers I would pick would be…
3 - 8 - 19 - 27 - 45; 8 - 9
If I was on the committee for South Korea, my team would be…
One upcoming Reinhardt talent that not many people know about is…
Swedish Lullsish, playing for Vivi’s Adventure!
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