Opportunity comes in myriad forms. Some players get their ticket to the Overwatch League as key offseason signings brought in to support established stars or become stars themselves; occasionally players enter the league to fill a crucial need on a contending roster.
It’s quite rare, however, that opportunity comes in the midst of a complete roster overhaul in the middle of a season. That was the situation damage specialist Niclas “Shockwave” Jensen found himself in when he was signed by the Vancouver Titans weeks after the organization replaced their dominant 2019 roster with a group of inexperienced players from Overwatch Contenders North America and Europe.
After his Week 16 debut for the Titans, Shockwave had the attention of fans and analysts alike with a stellar Echo performance that gave the team their first breath of life after four straight losses. Despite losing to the Toronto Defiant in a five-map thriller, Shockwave proved that he could be a key player for a team looking to find their stride.
“I don’t only want to shine as an individual,” Shockwave said. “I also want to actually win matches, but since [the Toronto match] we’ve come together and played more as a team. I can play up with good players on my mechanics, but there’s still some team play and experience I need.”
The ease with which Shockwave adapted to the league is partly due to his abilities as a damage-dealer, but it was also aided by his quick rise through Contenders and a friendly demeanor that allowed him to quickly adjust to playing on new rosters throughout his career, culminating in his unusual entry into the Overwatch League.
Compared to teammates Dalton “Dalton” Bennyhoff and Randal “Roolf” Stark, Shockwave is a newcomer to the scene. While many of his contemporaries have been honing their skills on the Path to Pro since as early as 2017, Shockwave started off with more of a casual approach and only found himself pursuing a pro career in the middle of 2019.
“I wasn’t really that competitive. I’d say I felt I was just naturally better than my friends. It was kind of an indicator I might have a shot of going somewhere,” he said. “I think at that time it wasn’t necessarily the Overwatch League, it was just at that time reaching Contenders and competing there. My ultimate goal was to at least make it a living out of it and have fun.”
After several tournaments in the tail end of 2019, including a stint with Raspberry Racers in Open Division: Breakable Barriers, Shockwave started 2020 by joining Square One and pursuing success in Contenders NA. Like most young players, Shockwave had to adapt to high-level organized play. However, due to his lack of experience and quick rise through the ranks, the lessons came hard and fast.
“In the more experienced environment you get punished easier for doing certain plays,” he said. “I think my biggest issue is sometimes I’ll do a certain play where I wouldn’t get punished on the ladder and then I would get punished in scrims or matches. I think that was the hardest transition. I also think that’s why I learned so fast. I think it’s because it was very clear for me, these mistakes, so I could easily pick them up and learn from it.”
Square One performed well, reaching the semifinals during Week 1. For Shockwave, that success was a signal that he had plenty to offer the world of competitive Overwatch. Later Shockwave would transfer to the Defiant’s academy squad, Montreal Rebellion, before returning to Raspberry Racers in Contenders Europe alongside his future Vancouver Titans teammate Alhumaidi “KSAA” Alruwaili.
“I always had the feeling that I was better than some and I had potential, but I never knew for sure before I actually played in Contenders,” Shockwave said. “So for me, I was so happy that I finally got to somewhat prove myself.”
Before 2020 reached its halfway point, Shockwave already had experience with three Contenders teams, but the biggest opportunity yet came from the Titans in early May. KSAA aside, Shockwave wasn’t familiar with his new teammates; however, his brief Contenders career prepared him to fit into a fresh team environment with ease.
“Funny enough, the most important thing that happened for me in Contenders was swapping teams quite often,” he explained. “I think the whole situation of adapting faster to a new team environment in Contenders transitioned to the league.”
While Shockwave’s addition was a boon for the Titans, the team still struggled to get that elusive first victory until Week 20, when they swept the Dallas Fuel. For Shockwave this victory was a milestone—it boosted morale and pushed the team to work harder. Vancouver followed it up with a victory against the Boston Uprising in straight maps.
The Titans’ improvements were noticeable towards the end of the regular season, and Shockwave remains motivated to help the Titans build a foundation that can elevate the team in the future.
“I think the important thing is to just say we were happy with our performance,” he said. “[Whether it’s] the fact that we can make an upset or show potential, my biggest goal is to be happy with my performance.”