Notable moves, and OWL’s first female player
By Steven Toroni
It’s that time yet again, Overwatch League fans! Stage 3 of the first season of the Overwatch League will begin on Wednesday, April 4. The league is starting to build an identity in terms of hierarchy between the 12 teams and Stage 3 will present more opportunities for success. The playoff will now consist of the Top 4 teams of the Stage (by record) and the best of those four teams will no longer be awarded a bye. Instead, the team with the best win/loss record will be able to choose their opponent from the remaining three teams. So if these rules applied to Stage 2, the Seoul Dynasty would have made the cut for the four slot with a 7-3 record and the New York Excelsior (9-1) would have been able to choose who they were going to face between Seoul, the London Spitfire, and the Philadelphia Fusion.
Behind the scenes news and rumors have certainly -to put it nicely- added character to the OWL over the first few months of its inception. Multiple players such as the Dallas Fuel’s Mineseok “OGE” Son and the Philadelphia Fusion’s Su-Min “SADO” Kim have received suspensions for account boosting (receiving money to increase a user’s Skill Rating) while Felix “XQc” Lengyel of Dallas was released for excessive public racist remarks on his Twitch account. The most recent of the league’s disciplinary action may be towards one of the OWL’s up and coming stars – the Fusion’s Josue “Eqo” Corona- for making a facial expression that mocked Korean people in a stereotypically derogatory way.
Like the NFL, the OWL is full of young personalities who are getting paid a lot of money (standard salary for a OWLplayer is $50,000. Plus incentives, prize money, sponsorships, and subscriptions for personal Twitch accounts – that is a lot of moolah for an 18-year old).This can be a recipe for disaster. However, as the old adage goes: Any publicity is good publicity and media and fans alike will always be fascinated with controversy.
Stage 3 starts tomorrow at 4PM PST! #OWL2018
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) April 3, 2018
Players on the Move
Along with negative press, the OWL has also followed suit a la the NFL as it has seen a number of significant roster changes as of late. Since the New York Excelsior walked away with OWL glory on March 25 after winning a championship and being awarded $100,000, teams have hedged their bets on certain players as a few different transactions were made within the last two weeks.
Let’s take a look at what additions teams have made and who has the best chance of extending their seasons into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Valiant Make Some Noise
The Valiant had a disappointing Stage 2 performance, finishing in seventh place with a 4-6 record. This effort followed a successful Stage 1 campaign where Los Angeles established themselves as one of the better teams in the league, finishing 7-3. With a lot left to be desired, the Valiant were the most active team in the OWL in the week-break between Stage 1 and 2.
The most polarizing of the Valiant’s acquisitions was that of Jun-Hyeok “Bunny” Chae – formerly of the Seoul Dynasty. Bunny was used exclusively in Stage 1 as Seoul’s Tracer, but that role was taken by Sang-Beom “Munchkin” Byun in Stage 2. Since Bunny was not being utilized after only appearing in two games for the Dynasty in Stage 2, Los Angeles bought out the Damage Per Second player’s contract. Los Angeles predominantly used their best offensive player Terrance “So0n” Tarlier at Tracer in Stage 2 and it clearly did not translate into success. The addition of Bunny should allow So0n to be more flexible and commit to the role that best suits the Valiant based on the scenario (map, opponent, game-situation, etc.), a role that So0n excelled in during Stage 1.
In a sudden move, the Valiant parted ways with their tank player, Kang-Jae “Envy” Lee. Envy started every game of Stage 2 for the Valiant, using D.va almost exclusively. After the Dallas Fuel declined a trade that would have sent Envy to Dallas for Brandon “Seagull” Larned, the Valiant were put in a compromising situation. Envy and L.A.’s player/coach during Stage 2, Christopher “GrimReality” Schafer had reported disagreements that the two seemingly could not get past. Now Envy is a free agent that should have many suitors. As for Los Angeles, GrimReality has been taken off of the active roster and will exclusively handle coaching duties on the Valiant sideline.
While a deal could not get done for Seagull, the Valiant and Fuel did end up swapping support players as Los Angeles sent Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson to Dallas for Scott “Custa” Kennedy.
The Valiant will look completely different going into Stage 3. Despite their poor record in Stage 2, they will be one of the teams in contention for one of the four playoff spots as their talent is good enough to compete for fourth place with the London Spitfire, the New York Excelsior, and the Philadelphia Fusion, all favorites to take the Top 3.
Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon Makes History
The Shanghai Dragons have yet to win a game through 10 weeks of Overwatch League play. To boot, the underachieving Dragon players had multiple personal issues – most notably of which have resulted in the release of one of their best DPS players in Chao “Undead” Fang after multiple rumors regarding his reputation with women. Other players on the roster during Stage 2 will not appear in Stage 3 for Shanghai as they will be in China after ongoing Visa issues.
While the Dragons still have a long climb ahead of them to achieve relevance in the highly competitive Overwatch League, Kim “Geguri” Se-yeon will be a bright spot on this roster over the next five weeks. Geguri will be the first female player to participate in the OWL starting on April 4, but the Korean-born tank player does not plan on that being the only feat to her legacy. Geguri is considered one of the best players in the Overwatch community outside of the OWL to run Zarya. Her reputation running the tank hero has caused many spectators to accuse the 18-year old Geguri of cheating because of how dominant she is.
While Zarya has not been used traditionally in the OWL meta, the hero was spotted on occasion towards the end of Stage 2, including during the title match between Philadelphia and London. In this scenario, the Fusion went with a three-tank lineup that included D.va and Reinhardt to lock down the contesting point in confined space in the map of Nepal.
Regardless of Shanghai deciding to use Geguri as Zarya or not, the newest acquisition should make an impact early in Stage 3. While Shanghai’s success has been limited, including winning a map against the Seoul Dynasty during Stage 2, the addition of Geguri – along with the release of bad seeds like Undead- should see the Dragons improve in Stage 3.