Support Mains Unite: An Interview with Los Angeles Valiant’s Verbo

If you’ve ever been on Reddit or any Overwatch group on Facebook, you’ve probably seen it: The claim that playing support heroes takes no skill. Well, those salty bait posters have probably never seen Verbo play.

Stefano ‘Verbo’ Disalvo is one of Los Angeles Valiant’s support mains. And you’ve probably seen him wall riding all over the maps during the League’s preseason. And you’re about to see him boop the enemy team off a ledge in the upcoming first season.

“A lot of misconceptions about support comes to mind,” said the Canadian native. “People say you can’t really shine. You don’t have the spotlight on you. You don’t really output that much damage… That’s not necessarily true. A good support player will be able to enable those damage heroes. You’re the one enabling all the plays. People think it’s a dull role, but it’s not true. You’re making everything happen.”

During a tournament against Cloud9 last year, Verbo recalls a specific play that still stands out to him. His team was mowed down. One by one. Soon, Verbo was the only teammate left alive. A lone Lucio facing half of the enemy’s team. Alone. But with some quick maneuvering and even faster thinking, Verbo ended up killing three people on the enemy team, winning the round.

“That was one of my most memorable moments,” said Verbo, “because I was able to show that support are able to make those kind of plays.”

 

So, healing isn’t just “click and hold,” like shitposters commonly spew out. They aren’t being carried. It sounds more like healers are carrying the team. Making the plays. Ensuring the team’s strategy works.

And that’s the perfect role for Verbo.

Strategizing the Best Strategy

“I initially liked the damage role,” Verbo admitted to me. “But what made me switch to support was interest in strategizing, during and after the game. Supporting the team emotionally and strategically was a more suitable role for me.”

At just 19 years old, the Immortals had brought Verbo on board not only to heal, but lead the team:

“Even though there are flashier teammates who can draw attention with an expert Dragonblade, Verbo’s been a key part of the team’s success through its various iterations. The Valiant (then, Immortals) recruited him when they needed a healer and a leader as they transferred from the original acquisition of Sodipop into the Immortals roster that took the Overwatch Contenders Season Zero championship.” – Los Angeles Valiant

While many Overwatch players may argue that it’s the DPS that make the plays as they charge fearlessly into the enemy team’s line of defense, Verbo has proven himself as a strong leader and humble team player many times. The Los Angeles Valiant went undefeated during the League’s preseason, defeating the Los Angeles Gladiators and fan favorite San Francisco Shock.

Brady ‘Agilities’ Girardi holds onto Verbo for SUPPORT in the upcoming season one match against San Francisco Shock

But during the team’s full-time practice schedule leading up to the first season, Verbo discovered that being the sole strategist wasn’t the best, well, strategy for the team.

“When we first started playing, I was always strategizing and coming up with the plan going into the fight,” he recalled. “But as time went on, we felt there shouldn’t be on distinct voice. It’s good to have everybody share ideas and opinions and make decisions off of that. That’s the dynamic right now with our team. If someone has a creative idea they shout it out. We’ll discuss if we want to do it or not.”

That’s the kind of teamwork that will most definitely make Los Angeles Valiant a tough team to beat. And it’s the type of teamwork that Immortals CEO Noah Whinston had in mind when putting together the Valiant’s roster.

“Whinston’s team has intentionally broken conventional esports wisdom. Instead of recruiting the strongest players currently available and trying to force them to fit together for a short-term payoff, he prioritizes players with the right mentality and high long-term potential. Instead of acquiring veterans from other first-person shooters, he’s betting that newer competitors like Brady ‘Agilities’ Girardi will soon come to dominate competitive Overwatch. And rather than focusing on a single, tight, six-person lineup, Whinston plans to have at least eight players and swap them in and out, perhaps on a per-map basis—a goal he began working toward with the acquisition of the talented Korean subsitute player Lee ‘Envy’ Kang-Jae.” – Los Angeles Valiant

Verbo’s goal for the team going into season one is not only to win, like many would expect, but to continue to develop as a team. And to continue to grow as a family.

Verbo has completely embodied what it means to be part of the Los Angeles Valiant, letting every voice be heard and allowing each players’ diverse background to further educate the team. The disciplined and professional atmosphere of the League has also further proven to Verbo that pursuing a career in esports was the right decision for him, despite his parents initial concerns and a lack of competitive scene in Canada.

“You Should Have a Good Reason You Swapped”

Despite the fact that famous streamer and current Gladiator, Surefour, hails from Alberta, Canada, The Great White North really doesn’t have a huge esports scene. According to Verbo, the only way to really see several people playing competitively was in downtown Toronto, practicing in gaming cafes in the heart of the city. But it wasn’t really anything too serious.

Before Overwatch was announced, Verbo was playing League of Legends for about four years, hoping to go pro. But unfortunately, the game was already too established for new players to truly shine. So when Overwatch was released, he jumped at the chance to really set the pace and forge his own path.

“I liked how you could switch heroes mid-game,” said Verbo of his first impressions. “You could role out as a DPS and then switch to support mid-game. That was something Overwatch brought to the table.”

This created endless possibilities for team composition strategies and in-game strategies, two things that really spoke to Verbo.

And while he did start out as Widowmaker (“I found it interesting to play her. She was somebody that was way in the back, looking for those cool headshots, picking off enemies.”), Verbo soon found himself enamored by Lucio’s play style.

“He’s one of the strongest supports right now,” he said. “He’s fun. You can really abuse the wall riding. He’s very cool to play. You have to make sure you’re basically maximizing the shift ability, turning from moving speed to heals. Some people will only lean towards using one most of the game, but you should be using both. Every time you switch, you should have a good reason why you swapped.”

#Valla

It’s that variety of play that really stood out to Verbo. And he’s hoping Blizzard will create more support heroes that do more than just heal in the future.

But until then, Verbo is pleased with the current changes. Like Mercy’s major nerf, that had forums in a frenzy.

“I personally like Mercy’s change,” he stated when I asked him about her most recent nerf. “She’ll probably see less game play. It means other supports will get a chance. I personally like other supports over Mercy. As Mercy, you can’t really do too much outside of damage boosting and healing. She has no room to really make plays, like Lucio, Moira or Zenyatta. As those support heroes you can be in the spotlight more often.”

As the Overwatch League heads into its initial season, support mains will continue to prove their varied skills to the masses through live Twitch streams of each match. Watching these professionals, casual gamers may begin to see the importance in a balanced team and see support heroes in a new light, hopefully realizing the importance of teamwork if they truly want to succeed in Overwatch themselves.

Los Angeles Valiant on Media Day (courtesy of Los Angeles Valiant)

Unlike other FPS titles, Overwatch is really a game about strategy. Working together. Utilizing everyone’s abilities and ultimates in the most effective ways possible. And seeing professional players discussing strategies and making plays that require full-on cooperation will hopefully wake players up and make them realize it’s not only about their KD ratio.

Maybe they’ll start appreciating support mains a bit more.

“Communication is a big part of the game,” said Verbo. “Don’t be afraid to communicate in-game. If you’re not giving 100 percent, don’t expect victory. And talking while playing is part of that.”

Follow us on Twitter for more Overwatch League coverage, Overwatch discussions and daily polls! And check out the Los Angeles Valiant’s Twitter page for team updates.

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iamoliviar

Olivia is a professional journalist, freelancer, and is still undefeated at Mario Kart Double Dash. When she's not writing, Olivia likes to play Overwatch and watch Futurama.