The Shanghai Dragons have had an incredible comeback story after their winless inaugural season, to becoming Stage 3 champions just weeks ago. While some of their success comes after replacing their line-up with an almost entirely new roster after Season 1, hiring BlueHaS as Head Coach for Season 2 has been a great boon.

Dedicated to his job and barely allowing himself some personal time, I was grateful for the opportunity to speak with BlueHaS to talk about his work in shaping the Dragons to who they are now. We discussed what has changed this season for the team, what to expect going forward, and I dug to find out a bit more about him and his style of coaching to maybe fine clues about where their successes are coming from.

This is part 1 of the interview where we discussed the season up until now, and in part 2 we talked more about his style of coaching.

After barely making it into the playoffs in Stage 3, the Dragons when on to defeat NYXL, TItans, and the Shock to become the Stage 3 champions. What, if anything, changed for the team between Atlanta and going into the playoffs just days later?

I feel that the Atlanta Homestead had a great benefit for our team because of the difference in attitude my players gained after the experience. After playing on such a different and large stage [compared to the Blizzard Arena], they were motivated to play harder. As a result, their dedication and attitudes improved so much that I was very confident entering into playoffs.

2019_S3W5D2_0184_Danny Lim and Min Sung -diem- Bae_Ben Pursell.jpg Photo by Ben Pursell For Blizzard Entertainment

Okay, skipping ahead to the finals against the Shock, were there any weaknesses that you saw during the game that you could tell your players to exploit?

[laughter] Yeah, there were a lot, but one of the things that I really emphasized to my team was to play Widow against San Francisco Shock.

Any reason that you can share?

I had two reasons. One is that Widow puts a lot of pressure onto Reinhardt, and San Francisco Shock have a heavy emphasis on that character. The other was with Sinatraa and his Sombra play. I noticed that Sinatraa prefers to harass the tanks rather than going for backline picks. For that reason, I thought our Widowmaker, especially with Diem being such a good Widowmaker, would be a great answer to such a playstyle.

Jumping to Stage 4, with regards to 2-2-2, which team do you feel will benefit the most from the change? Feel free to brag if you feel like it.

[laughter] I think Spitfire will benefit the most from this.

What are both yours and the team’s biggest challenges when it comes to Stage 4?

I think for the team, they have to play with an off-tank position again. We didn’t have D.Va or the off-tank position during Stage 3, so now having to play with one due to the Role Lock will be a very difficult challenge for the team.

As for me personally, I think as a team we are known for our frequent and effective usage of Pharah, so incorporating that into my strategy is the hardest challenge for me at the moment.

2019-S3W6D4-035611-Shanghai Dragons wins-Robert Paul.jpg Photo by Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Izayaki just came to the Dragons from the Valiant. What do you hope to be able to draw from his abilities, or is there something you feel is missing from the roster that he provides? Will he see stage time during Stage 4?

For me he is a player full of potential and I have high faith in him that he will be an excellent player for us. Since he’s a off-healer, he would be playing Ana or Zenyatta if fielded, and his being on stage is entirely up to his performance during practice.

I think teamwork and coordination is the most crucial thing that I am looking for. If I discuss it with the team and they and I agree that he is truly ready as a team member, then that is when I would make the judgment that he is ready to be playing on stage.

Going further with that, how do you come to choosing the players that you’re going to focus on as your main roster?

The obvious one is that I look for the form of the player. Their mechanical ability. That is the fundamental importance. Another one is I would try to emphasize most is how willing they are able to communicate with teammates and relay information in an effective manner.

Jonathan_Tayag-Shanghai_Dragons_fans_(6-16-18).jpg Photo by Jonathan Tayag for Blizzard Entertainment

Every time the Dragons play, I hear, “Where is Geguri?” Where is she and why has she barely played this season?”

I would not like the fans to think that Geguri is not playing because of her skill. That is not true at all. The reason why she is not finding any playtime is because our team as a whole has a very aggressive style, meaning we often chose not to run an off-tank, a role she specializes in. As a result, that is mainly the reason she was not able to get that much play time.

With the off-tank role being used again in Stage 4, will we see her more?

While it is my personal hope that she gets a lot of playtime, again it’s ultimately dependant on her performance. If she performs well, then she will definitely be able to get playtime, but nothing is set in stone.

Coming up on Monday: [Part 2]( where BlueHaS talks more about his style of coaching.

Follow me on Twitter at Sabriality.