Nick Theodorakis on Collegiate Esports: “You can’t expect it to instantly happen.”

by | Feb 5, 2018, 4:29AM PDT

Nick Theodorakis, more commonly known as Learntooplay of our collegiate Overwatch team,  serves as resident main tank and target caller. He had transferred from Saddleback Community College and is currently in his Junior year at UCI studying Business Economics.

We ran into Nick by chance at the UCI Esports Arena, and after sharing a few jokes and some cookies, he told us about his opinions on the current state of the game and what it’s like playing for the school.

This interview was a collaborative effort with Alexander Bond.

What do you think of the Junkrat and Mercy changes?

I think they’re really good. I think Mercy’s fine right now, she’s at a spot where you can’t just play it and go from Platinum to GM anymore. It makes the game a lot more fun, I think, with Mercy not picked every single game, especially for support players. All of the other players don’t like playing against Mercy because Resurrect’s is just an incredibly strong ability in my opinion. For Junkrat, I feel like it’s better than it was, but I feel like he still needs a little bit more of a nerf just because he can still do an insane amount of damage, especially with RIP-Tire.

How do you think the meta will develop? Do you see any other characters becoming stronger with these changes?

In my mind, I think Blizzard’s just trying to make everybody played equally, which, I don’t know if that’s realistically possible. Heroes that aren’t played now or as much, like Mei or Hanzo– I think we’re either going to see more people get nerfed to all be the same level in terms of viability, or we’re gonna see everyone else getting buffed to the levels that other heroes are currently at.

Do you think there’s any merit to playing these characters that aren’t played as often, whether professionally or casually?

These heroes that aren’t meta are usually picked in certain scenarios just because sometimes it’s not best to just have the meta picks. But it’s almost always good to not play these off-meta heroes.

From what I’ve heard from Bischu and Agilities, compositions are going go to run at least three tanks or four tanks, and we’re going to see more Moira, Ana, and Lucio. What do you think about that?

A little bit more Ana, more than she was played before. Definitely a lot of Zen, Lucio, and Moira for sure. A lot less Mercy, which is good. It’s gonna just be Zen, Lucio. Moira primarily.

Do you think Moira needs any changes with her kit in this new meta?

Yeah, I think she definitely needs– I don’t know exactly what, but her ult builds way too fast, so if they could increase the amount of damage and healing it takes to charge the ult, that’d be really good. Maybe fix something with her left click. Her right click and her orb aren’t really too bad. Maybe like less healing and damage for her orb, but her healing’s just nuts since she builds ults every single fight.

Learntooplay offering game play advice.

When the Mercy changes went live, there was a lot of community backlash, especially from players who just wanted to play casually. Do you think Blizzard needs to focus more on the professional side of play, or on the casual side, or do you think there’s a balance they can find there?

Blizzard is trying to do both right now, and that doesn’t work. It’s gonna be one way or the other, somebody’s gonna be upset, whether it’s the casuals or the top-tier players. I’d prefer if they were balancing for top-tier, although Blizzard’s a company, they gotta cater to all fans. They can’t just focus on the one percent, they have to please everybody. With the Mercy changes, I don’t think it makes the hero harder, I guess. It’s still the same Mercy, she just isn’t able to change fights as easily. It isn’t as easy to come in and win the fight for your team with Mercy’s ult. Other than that, I think the changes are fine. People are gonna complain obviously. [Laughs.]

Aside from who you play in game, when you’re playing on your own just for fun, who do you like to play?

Reinhardt’s a lot of fun in the right situation, because without a team, there’s not a whole lot I can do. If a team’s not working with me, then I can’t play the game. With the changes to Mercy’s nerf, I like Winston a lot more because I can actually kill things, and I’m still working on Orisa because that’s pretty new to me.

When Orisa came out, not a lot of people were playing her. Was it kind of the same mentality when playing with her, not really keen on playing a hodgepodge of different abilities from a bunch of different heroes?

At the beginning, Orisa wasn’t super niche. Now she’s used occasionally, just because that’s how the meta works, I guess. It used to be really dive-heavy meta, so Orisa can’t do a ton against dive, especially when you just go past her shield. With these new metas, I guess, where it’s not a whole lot of damage, or like going past a shield, she’s able to do a lot more because she has her shield every nine seconds. Hog/Orisa’s a really good combination.

What do you guys think about your personal trainer? What kind of workouts do you do?

Oh, Haylesh? Haylesh is awesome, he’s the man. I love Haylesh. We just go in, we stretch, we do all our exercises and stuff– lifting weights. Usually we’ll do warm up stretch, we’ll do some cardio, then a warm down stretch. But yeah, he’s awesome, he’s a really cool guy and I like him a lot.

Is it hard balancing everything that the esports college program demands you to do?

Not for me personally. I’m just taking 12 units. My classes are difficult, but they don’t require me to be working every single hour of the day. So I have time to still practice and do what I need to do.

Has playing in the collegiate program changed the way you feel while you’re playing on your own? Do you still enjoy the game as much?

I started to enjoy the game enjoy less not because of collegiate, but because of how the meta was. That’s pretty much it. Way back when in Season 3 or something, a year ago, I was loving the game. Then, obviously the Mercy and Junkrat changes happened around Season 4, I believe. I dunno, ever since then the game had a bad taste in my mouth, I didn’t have as much fun. I wasn’t always excited to get up and go play. It was more of “I have to do this so I better get it done,” but now I’m starting to love it the way I used to before the changes.

Learntooplay in the middle of a casual match.

Are you considering on going pro after your collegiate career? What kind of pathways are you looking into taking there?

Yes. It’s difficult because, compared to other people who aren’t working or have a lot more time, they can just play everyday. Whereas I have to go to school and I have other commitments as well. I’m not able to play as much as other people. You don’t get to choose whether you go pro. You get picked up, so I’m just trying to play my best. Hopefully I’ll get picked up at some point.

It’s difficult to go pro, especially in collegiate I think, because collegiate is looked down upon by the rest of the community. And because it’s difficult to make a name for yourself, I guess. Because I might be the same skill level as another main tank player who’s on an academy team, but he’s on the team just because he’s more well known. So that’s another hard part about going pro.

So distinguishing yourself from the rest of your team?

Yeah. Just making sure that everybody knows that, hey, I’m a good player, you should get me on your team.

You’ve been watching Overwatch League. So after watching matches there, how do you think you compare to the professionals?

It depends on the team, right? Because not all teams are the same skill. Obviously, some Korean teams are much better than other teams. If I were to compare myself to those main tank players, obviously I’m nowhere close. But if I compare to lower tiered teams, I think I’m pretty close in skill.

What advice do you have for someone trying to climb ranked?

You can’t expect it to instantly happen. You need to work at it, you need to work hard. You need to work hard with your team even though sometimes they don’t wanna work with you. You gotta do your best to keep a positive attitude because some players are just gonna bring you down. I dunno man, in order to just keep going and keep improving, you gotta keep a positive attitude and don’t one-trick heroes because that doesn’t work. [Laughs.]

What are your favorite teams and players in Overwatch League?

I like Valiant a lot. I thought [the viewing party] was awesome. I think Valiant’s probably my favorite team. I think New York’s gonna win it just because I think they have the best team. I really like Nomy, he plays for San Francisco Shock. He’s a really awesome guy, I met him in person two days ago. He was super cool, super nice dude. I also like Muma a lot, he plays for Outlaws. I’ve just met a lot of main tanks. I like GrimReality too, he plays for Valiant. Best main tank player I think is Gamsu, he plays for Boston.

Favorite game types and maps?

Either hybrid or escort. Those are just the best in my opinion. I like KOTH, but I dunno. I just really like hybrid and escort. For maps, everybody likes King’s Row. It’s the staple map of Overwatch, I guess. I like King’s Row and I like Dorado.

Favorite combos to pull off in the game?

It’s really satisfying to push people off a map with Winston, Orisa, Reinhardt’s charge. It’s really fun because you know it tilts them. [Laughs.]

Did you spend your OWL tokens yet? Which team and which characters?

I believe I bought the Gladiator skin for Orisa on one of my accounts, and then I bought Seoul Reinhardt and Seoul Winston on two other accounts. I wanna support teams.

Any shout outs?

Shout out to my team, I love you guys. Shout out to UCI Esports. They support us a lot and I really appreciate it. Shout out to Mark. Shou tout to my parents and sister for supporting me. Oh, and my girlfriend because she’s my girlfriend. [Laughs.]

Photos by Alexander Bond and Ashley Gayoso.

LA Valiant Agilities & LA Gladiators Bischu on collegiate Overwatch and the current meta

by | Feb 3, 2018, 2:38AM PDT

Thank you to Nick D’Orazio for helping us get an interview with Agilities! Thank you to LA Gladiators for hosting college night!


What do you think of the Junkrat and Mercy changes?

I am very happy about it. The game is just going to be much more enjoyable for everyone. Even on the first day when the patch came out, I was enjoying watching and enjoying playing the game more. I feel like Junkrat may need a bigger nerf than that because he’s still very powerful. Maybe a little too powerful. His tire is crazy.

How do you think the meta will develop? Do you see any other characters becoming stronger due to these changes?

I think more supports will become stronger. I think Moira and Ana will be played more. The main comps that I’ve run into right now are quad tank because Lucio and Moira just go in with the tanks. Speed boost in and Moira heals all of the tanks at once.

Thoughts on collegiate Overwatch teams?

I think there’s a place for it. Those players that aren’t in the Overwatch League, like from that [collegiate] to the Overwatch League is a really big step. I think it’s a good idea. It gives Blizzard a lot of publicity. It gets viewers from the colleges.

Advice/ tips for players looking to go pro after collegiate?

You can’t get too down on yourself if you’re not making it. You have to put in 100% effort and play every chance you get. If you put in the practice and review your own mistakes, using Overwatch as an example, if you record your own POV and watch it later, you can see what you’re doing wrong and then you could try to fix those mistakes. That will probably help more than just playing the game. I feel that if you watch your own gameplay, it’s the easiest way to improve.

If you’re really good at the game and you have 100% confidence that you can make it, then it’s probably better to focus on the gaming side. If you’re not confident in yourself, then you need to balance it and have a backup plan. If you don’t make it in esports and drop out of college, then you’re kind of screwed. The best way to do it is to have smart practice so that when you get the chance to play, you’re getting the most out of it.

LA Gladiators is hosting a college night/ meet and greet. Fans get the opportunity to play Connect 4 against Surefour. Do you think that you could beat him in Connect 4?

I don’t know, I used to be pretty good at Connect 4. I can challenge him.

LA Valiant viewing party at UCI?

I would like join them and be at one in the future. I think it’d be cool.


Thank you to the fans, thanks for supporting us and we’ll hope to do good in the future as well.


What do you think of the Junkrat and Mercy changes?

I’m pretty happy with the changes. A lot of the times the kills kind of felt robbed. You make a sick pick and then it doesn’t even matter anymore because res is up. It kind of rewarded you for playing aggressively, being unsafe, and having bad positioning. I’m happy to see Mercy go for sure. I think Junkrat is still a little bit too strong in my opinion but I’m still happy with the changes. People might not think that it’s a big change, but Junkrat not being able to 2-shot you with “skill” isn’t really a thing anymore. It was crazy. You could miss your shots and still be relevant.

Do you think they will still be viable characters to play?

Junkrat will still be viable.

How do you think the meta will develop? Do you see any other characters becoming stronger due to these changes?

I think the meta will shift to tank meta where teams will run at least three tanks. I think that Moira and Lucio will get a lot more play time. People don’t know how much AoE healing that is. When you guys are all clumped, the tanks can’t die. It’s crazy. There’s so much healing. If people remember back when Ana came out, it was all about building ults fast. It’s similar with Moira. I think she’s going to need a bit of an ult nerf. She’s getting it way too fast. It feels like season 3 Ana where you tell your team to just take hits and build ults.

If there were a need for a significant patch change in the future, do you think that they’d implement the patch immediately or after a stage?

If something was incredibly broken, I feel like they would hotfix it. As long as it’s not game breaking, I don’t think they’d patch in the middle of a stage.

General thoughts on collegiate Overwatch teams?

I think collegiate Overwatch being there is really good. I was on a collegiate team myself back when I used to play League of Legends. It’s a little bit weird though because if you look at traditional sports, people go from college sports into the professional scene. In esports, the transition from the collegiate scene to the pro scene isn’t really there. You don’t really hear about great college players going into professional esports. I’m a little disappointed that the transition isn’t as smooth but I feel like in the future especially with the Overwatch League being so well made and produced, I feel that it’s set a good future for aspiring talent out there

UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and University of Toronto are in the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate Championship. Who are you rooting for?

I gotta root for my boys from San Diego!

[Bischu smiles and laughs]

Advice/ tips for players looking to go pro after collegiate?

It’s really up to them. I was only going to college for a year and I saw a good opportunity and took it. It’s not as scary as it seems. If anyone puts in the effort and remembers that they’re doing it for themselves, they can do it. I forget it sometimes too. I just play and then I get complacent and then I stop practicing and stop watching vods. Every day someone else is doing all of that. As long as you put in the effort anyone can do it, and don’t be too scared.

So you guys are hosting a college night and meet and greet today at the Guildhall. Do you think you could beat Surefour at Connect 4?

I don’t know. He’s pretty big brain so we’ll see. I’m pretty confident too, but Surefour is definitely the main boss here.

Any advice for climbing solo queue?

Play D.Va.

[Bischu laughs]


To my family who supported me through all of this. I’m happy that they’re happy with where I am. I was stressed out and they were just as stressed out. I’m really happy with how everything turned out and they still support me. Big shoutouts to the fans. None this would’ve been possible without the fans. We would just be here (College Night at Guidhall in LA) in an empty bar.

Thank you so much to Agilities and Bischu for their time and good luck on their future matches. Follow their teams LA Valiant and LA Gladiators. Player photos taken by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment. College Night photos taken by Oshin Tudayan.