Overwatch Contenders is not just a training ground for future Overwatch League players. It’s a place where players in underrepresented regions get a chance to prove themselves where they might be overlooked.

No Contenders region can embody that more than the Pacific Region. With Korea and China having their Contenders scenes, the Pacific region represents other Asian countries looking to compete in Overwatch. Teams and players from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and even Australia had teams compete. No nation in the region has seen more consistent representation than Thailand.

No Thai squad has won Pacific Contenders or its predecessor, the Overwatch Pacific Championship. It did not look hopeful in 2018 as teams disbanded and all-Korean rosters began populating the scene. One Thai organization has lasted all of 2018 and emerged as one of the favorites to take this season. Xavier Esports.

Xavier entered Pacific Contenders in 2018 and got respectable results immediately. In the last season of Pacific Contenders, Xavier’s only group loss was to the all-Korean Talon Esports. While the two other Thai teams, Lynx TH and Giant Esports, bottomed out, Xavier thrived. It helps they have Jirawat “HeadKawk” Kalumpanun, coach of the Thailand World Cup team, as head coach and 15-year-old wunderkind Patiphan “Patiphan” Chaiwong as the star DPS player.

I spoke with Xavier Esports’ founder and manager Anat “Drew” Ruangwong about his organization, esports in Thailand, and where he thinks the Overwatch scene in Thailand could be heading next.

RC: Could you start by telling me a bit about Xavier Esports? What other esports does it compete in? Does it have any other successes? What are your ambitions?

Drew: Xavier Esports is a Thai esports organization formed with great passion. It all started with a group of friends who love to play overwatch together two years ago. The team “NIXZ” was formed to participate in Overwatch Thailand Championship 2016 and I was one of the players as Reinhardt, and we could make through the semifinal round and end up with the third place in the tournament.

We tried to present the team profile to professional teams in Thailand, but none of them seemed too interested in us, so I decided to form a team of mine named “Xavier Esports” and that is how Xavier began

In early 2017, Xavier participated in many tournaments and we could complete from top 8 team to top 4-team in Thailand, but we couldn’t go further. I considered my age was pulling the team back, so I decided to drop myself as a player but still took care of the team as a coach and manager.

As the time pass, the OW tournament in Thailand became fewer and fewer. As a result, many Thai teams gave up Overwatch. Fortunately, there was a South East Asia tournament called Open Division 2017, Xavier participated only first and third season and the result as following, Season 1: group stage and Season 3: second place.

Unfortunately there was no further tournament Xavier could go further in the SEA Open Division but in the last Quarter of the year 2017, there was a tournament called Open Division 2018 APAC season 1 and the top 4 teams would go through contender trials Xavier was second place and had slot for Contender trials and we end up with fourth place and got slot for Overwatch Contender 2018 APAC season 1 and that was how Xavier became a part of contender team.

Meanwhile, while managing Overwatch team, Xavier has formed Dota2 team which won 2 Trophies for Thailand Championship (right now Xavier has no Dota2 team, most of the ex-Xavier Dota2 players are in top Thailand Dota2 teams)

The third Xavier team is PUBG team. In the beginning, Xavier PUBG was among the top teams in Thailand but never had won first place in any matches until December. We won the Thailand Championship for the first time. (right now Xavier PUBG is a part of Xavier team that has great achievements through the year 2018 including the tournament called “Broadcaster Royale” in Seattle, USA)

Another team for Xavier is Rainbow Six Seige. It started from an ex-Overwatch player who wanted to form Xavier R6. He came and asked if I could support an R6 team and so naming Xavier and I said yes. Xavier R6 is as successful as Xavier Overwatch team. We are the first place not only in Thailand but also in South East Asia. We got a slot for R6 APAC LAN final in Japan and we ended semifinal round and that makes Xavier R6 the third place in APAC.

When I joined “NIXZ,” I only wanted to know how far I could go for Esports. When I made that far, I set another goal that Xavier get to be well known in Thailand. After that, Xavier has awarded by “Thailand Game Show” to be one of the best three esports teams in Thailand. Right now we are somehow known in APAC and partly known for the rest of the world. If you ask what my ambitions are, the answer will be another goal to make Xavier a world-class esports team.

RC: Xavier is only Thai team to compete in every Pacific Contenders 2018 season and has gotten better results every time. What do you attribute to that success?

Drew: The reason why Xavier Esports has been to all seasons in Contenders Pacific is that we have players who can flex many roles and they are good at that. When the meta of the game changes according to the patch, we are able to catch up with it. To be specific, we don’t only have Thk and Patiphan who can flex as many roles as they can, but we also have the coach, Headhawk, who trains our team for the better, so it is our advantage. The second reason can be the fact that we build the team together. When they lose in-game, they sound like there is hope in that lost. We learn from mistakes, we accept that we are not the best team yet, but there is potential that we can be and the longer we stay together, the stronger we are.

RC: What is the esports landscape in Thailand like? Where does Overwatch rank compared to other esports games like DOTA 2?

Drew: In 2018 there have been a number of major and minor tournaments in Thailand for Dota2, CSGO, PUBG as well as OW Bangkok stage. From my point of view, although OW is less popular, it is the most successful tournament. The fact that we have such a number of tournaments may come from that by late 2017. Esports is considered to be a kind of sport by the Sports and Tourism ministry. That boosts up the concern of esports to non-esports interest.

Courtesy of Anat Ruangwong

RC: You can’t talk about Thai Overwatch without bringing up Dallas Fuel’s Mickie. What has been his impact on Overwatch in Thailand?

Drew: For a start, he has been the iconic picture for successful esports player. Many children see him as a role model and want to be like him. He always gives advice to children on how hard it is to be successful. Patiphan also takes him as his model. We hope to see Patiphan in OWL or an OW academy when his time comes.

2018-09-16 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

RC: I saw there was an event called the Thailand Community Exhibition Match, featuring 8 Thai teams. Could you tell me about that?

Drew: For the Thailand Community Exhibition Match, We as teams who participate in Contenders (Xavier, Lynx, Mega, Illuminate ) come on to agree that in 2017, there aren’t any tournaments in Thailand. So we decided to make our own tournament with both amateur tournament and exhibition match. We believe that it will increase the interest in OW in Thailand. We hope the year 2019 we will have more of the tournaments and hope it will be great.

RC: The Thailand world cup team won only one match in the Bangkok group stage, against Spain. They were considered weak, but the support in Bangkok was incredible. What does that hometown support mean?

2018-09-16 / Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Drew: For Bangkok world cup group stage, although Thailand team won only one match, this created a new shining star like Patiphan. He has become well known from that group stage. More and more people know him to contender s3 that Xavier can finish the second in group A and we have a slot for Contender S1 2019.

RC: The Contenders changes for 2019 emphasize more homegrown talent, and for Contenders pacific, less all-Korean teams. There are currently six all or mostly-Korean teams at the moment in Contenders Pacific. How do you think that will change the Pacific scene?

The new rule will affect the Contender such as soft lock region and only eight teams round robin. We hope this we create a great chance for Xavier and we hope it is going to be great for all of us Contenders Pacific.

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A guy born and raised in Buffalo who loves to write, play video games, watching Arsenal Football Club and watch enjoyably bad movies. I would also like to travel around the world to see what it has to offer. I’m trying to make something new out of my life by writing about video games, mainly Overwatch, which I play too much of, after writing for other websites and newspapers. Tank and support player by trade since everyone wants to play DPS. And desperate to break out of gold-ranking. My other work can be found at www.robcreenan.com. Feel free to reach me at [email protected] or @RobertCreenan on Twitter.
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A guy born and raised in Buffalo who loves to write, play video games, watching Arsenal Football Club and watch enjoyably bad movies. I would also like to travel around the world to see what it has to offer. I’m trying to make something new out of my life by writing about video games, mainly Overwatch, which I play too much of, after writing for other websites and newspapers. Tank and support player by trade since everyone wants to play DPS. And desperate to break out of gold-ranking. My other work can be found at www.robcreenan.com. Feel free to reach me at [email protected] or @RobertCreenan on Twitter.

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