Voices echoed in the Blizzard Arena stairwells. I heard Kim "Pine" Do-hyeon, Kim "MekO" Tae-hong and Bang "JJoNak" Seong-hyun long before they popped their heads around the hallway corner into the press hallway on the second floor. They arrived without their coach-turned-translator at times, Kim "WizardHyeong" Hyeong-seok in a slight state of confusion. JJoNak messaged their coach and the three began chatting among themselves in Korean.
"Can I sit down?" Pine asked. I gestured towards the large interview room couch. All three players immediately collapsed on to it. Meko and JjoNak stretched their legs out in front of them; matching red and yellow Balenciaga sneakers clashed with the patterned carpet.
"So tired," Pine said.
While waiting for WizardHyeong, Pine looked at his own highlights on his phone while chuckling slightly to himself. Meko sat back in the coach, shivering a bit in the air conditioned room. I pointed up at the ceiling vent and apologized, not remembering the word for "cold" in Korean and hoping that they would understand. JjoNak continued to message WizardHyeong, who rushed into the room moments later, breathless, with an almost immediate disclaimer.
"I'm not a professional translator," he said. His three charges giggled a bit to themselves as they shuffled on the coach. They sat up straight as I placed my phone on the table, ready to record.
The saying "team color" was brought by South Korean teams to Los Angeles and has taken root in the Burbank Arena alongside the various playstyles of teams and individual pros. Team color describes how a team functions in game, expanding to include how members of the team interact and communicate with each other as a unit. Every Overwatch League team is different.
New York Excelsior has won two of the three Overwatch League stage finals so far, and competed in all three as a finalist. The team clinched a playoff spot in Stage 3, and claimed first seed with three and a half weeks left in Stage 4. With complete dominion over the Overwatch League's inaugural season, it would be easy to grow aloof and cocky. Instead, the players and coaching staff of the NYXL own every room they walk into with a quiet confidence that's backed by results.
"We understand the game so well, every move we make is meaningful," Meko said. "Every move has meaning."
"I agree with Meko," WizardHyeong said. "I think other teams are trying to copy us now that they have access to f-" he interrupted himself before he could swear. "Top-down view. They're trying to copy a lot of our strats but I don't think they're understanding the meaning of those moves, so I don't think it's going to be as efficient."
Many teams have attempted to copy the NYXL's playstyle. In particular, JJoNak's aggressive positioning on Zenyatta has been tested but never quite duplicated by any other support. The NYXL's use of substitutions is also peerless. Not only does the team have a wealth of talent and depth in every position, but it knows when to start or swap each player. Although this could be attributed to raw talent, the players and staff of the NYXL credit their trust in each other that naturally grew strong communication among all members.
When Pine immediately answered the group questions first, it was with excitement at sharing his thoughts on the game and the team's success. When JJoNak -- owner of the most PR-friendly answers of the group -- said that the team's first-place seed and standing was meaningful because they came in Overwatch League's inaugural season, it was with an undeniable earnestness. When WizardHyeong said that the first seed came easier than he had expected, it was with certainty, not conceit.
"I don't really care about this stage personally," he said. His voice was without arrogance, but again carried the quiet confidence that embodies the NYXL. "As a coaching staff, we're very much interested in making sure that our players are in good condition, making sure that they're well-rested as well, mentally and physically. If we have any in-game problems that need to be solved, now is the time."
If the NYXL do run into problems in game, it already seems inevitable that the players' camaraderie with each other will lead the team through any trouble.
"Even outside of the game everyone is very close," JJoNak said. "We have a happy environment, especially thanks to our company and our coaching staff." WizardHyeong laughed immediately. Pine and Meko each let out a low, "Whoa," praising JJoNak's concise answer that again said all of the correct responses while still coming across as genuine. They then joined their coach in laughing together. It's an easy fellowship that extends beyond the players to WizardHyeong and the coaching staff as well.
"Genius," Pine said immediately in English when asked to describe WizardHyeong as a coach.
"He goes with a certain character like a genius, crazy guy character," Meko added.
"That's not specific to me as a coach," WizardHyeong said. Meko doubled down on his answer.
"No, that's you as a coach."
JJoNak punctuated the conversation with praise for WizardHyeong's unique strategies.
"And I like his mustache and beard," JJoNak said. All four of them began laughing again.
Luxury Watch Blue -- most of the NYXL players' former organization -- was troubled by internal hiccups and mismanagement in OnGameNet's APEX tournament, the team's struggles were never due to a lack of talent. Now, witnessing the NYXL's dominance includes the rare experience of watching talented players realize that they are, in fact, the best at their craft in real time. The publicity and branding that accompanies the NYXL's success doesn't mean that the team's delight at their own success is any less genuine. This is the NYXL players' team color: pure joy and exuberance that they are able to play a game that they love together as a team at the highest possible level.