Overwatch’s Mercy is a “support” hero, which in layman’s terms means she’s mopping up trails of blood left behind after Overwatch battles. Mercy’s job is to heal her weak teammates, assisting them as they lay waste to enemies. It’s an apparently subservient job often painted as easy, and therefore, undervalued—that is, unless you’re Hong “Ark” Yeon-joon, arguably the best Mercy player in the world. And if you ask him, the best Mercy players are no one’s helpers.
Ark was training to be a nurse before he dropped out to be a “support” player for the New York Excelsior, the Overwatch League’s top team. When he first got hooked on Overwatch, he never dreamed of going pro. “I wasn’t that good actually,” he told me at NYXL’s meet-and-greet in a New York brewery on Monday. “As time went on, I tried really hard. That’s why I’m here now.”
Now, Ark plays a lot of Mercy and, at the same time, is NYXL’s literal shot-caller. He tells people who to kill, where they need to be, and when they need to be there. Like his teammate Sung-hyeon “Jjonak” Bang, Ark has led NYXL to the top of the OWL standings by playing against his hero’s stereotypes.
“I try to play selfishly,” Ark said. According to stats from Overwatch League analytics site Winstons Lab, Ark died only 2.7 times every 10 minutes in stage two, when the average across pros last stage was 4.3. But he also used his risky “resurrect” ability—which makes him momentarily vulnerable—less than any other pro, too.
“I try to be alive all the time. If I die, I can’t heal. If I’m alive, I can heal afterwards,” he added. Sometimes sacrificing teammates in an effort to prevent further bloodshed, Ark looks out for number one. And he’s not the only so-called “support” player on NYXL who does so. The team’s Zenyatta player, Jjonak, is a damage-dealing monster who often side-steps bleeding-out teammates on his way to kill enemies.
“We try to make selfish plays. I’m trying to be alive all the time and Jjonak always plays selfishly, too,” Ark said, adding that he and Jjonak form the “core” of NYXL. “If you want Winston to go in and your enemy’s Winston is between me and our Winston, I try to make our teammates make him go back to the base so they can make me more comfortable,” he said, adding, “be selfish.”
Because Ark is NYXL’s shot-caller, he has the power to make the team play around him. That’s par for the course in a game that values protecting support players. Ark takes it one step further. “You need to make your teammates do stuff so you can make yourself comfortable,” he said. Mercy has the ability to fly to teammates, which is how she gets out of thorny situations that might result in an untimely death. Like a chessmaster laying out his board, Ark places his teammates where he needs to be at any given time to escape death. “I make our team move the way I move. I try to place Jjonak the place where I want to dodge [an enemy]. That’s the key.”
Playing selfishly is surprising advice coming from a nurse-turned-Mercy player, but it’s refreshing advice in a game where the players who kill are often the ones considered the most invaluable assets.