A rookie without any significant competitive history enters the Overwatch League. He’s only known for his streams of high-level Ana and Zenyatta play and ranks consistently high on the Korean ladder. The team which picks him up is one of the favourites for the season, and they haven’t signed anyone else for the flex support role. When the regular season concludes, he has redefined our understanding of Zenyatta, out damaging his DPS players on occasion, and is crowned MVP with a sizeable lead. So goes the most unlikely story of New York Excelsior’s Jjonak, a feat that is unlikely to be repeated in that constellation ever again. Yet some are trying to get close and the hunt is on.
Similar stories – Krillin (London Spitfire)
In terms of the narrative set up–a complete rookie who didn’t have a lot of competitive experience, plays flex support, and was picked up out of the blue by a title candidate–you won’t get closer than London Spitfire’s Krillin.
His match record is as sparse as it is underwhelming for an OWL rookie, playing with CRusher in Korean Open Division and then in Contenders trials in early 2018 where they bombed out of the group at a 0-7 record. Next season they’d try again but would run into GC Busan Wave, a team we have since learned to be a title contender within South Korea.
Not much else is know about Krillin and it is unlikely that he would see much play ahead of Bdosin, who’s planted himself right in the middle of the star-studded Spitfire roster as not only a main shot caller but a versatile player that should be considered top-3 in his role. Krillin’s role will most likely be to apply pressure to Bdosin as a tool for Spitfire to control him. This is a role which many teams utilize two-way players for, but because London’s academy team participates in European contenders, a two-way contract seems less feasible.
If Krillin would make it into a starting position against these odds, it would likely have to be on the back of a tremendous performance which should put him on the same plane as Jjonak’s achievement.
Flex support disciples
Overwatch as a game has an inherent quality that allows support players to be stars of their team. It is commonly assumed that Seoul Dynasty’s flex support player Ryujehong was the best player in 2017, delivering stellar performances on Ana during both his APEX season 2 and 3 victories. In addition to Jjonak’s performance last year, as well as the general importance of an outstanding flex support over the entire first season, it stands to reason that OWL season 2 might also find MVP candidates in this role. The following rookies are in pole position to assume these slots.
Twilight (Vancouver Titans)
Hardly a rookie in the grand scheme of competitive Overwatch, Twilight enters the Overwatch League with the prestigious title of a Contenders Korea winner. He has been competing since 2016 where he started out with BK Stars, moved to CONBOX and WGS Red, and finally landed with RunAway. Replacing KoX, he had big shoes to fill, yet surpassed them and together with Slime formed a monster of a back line that shouldn’t have to hide behind the best in the Overwatch League.
Twilight is an aggressive player with very strong mechanics, though it remains to be seen if they bear comparing to Jjonak’s. He’s from the breed of flex supports who actively look for opportunities and do more than just staying alive and delivering solid performances. At least against Korean Contenders competition, these plays most often hit which made him perform at a consistently high level with bursty peaks and game-turning potential. He can be found on the occasional flank which could be punished hard by strategically superior OWL teams.
For Twilight to be considered an MVP, he’d have to prove that his at times audacious playstyle does indeed work against OWL calibre players. With an arguably weaker pound for pound roster around him than Jjonak had, he has even more stand out potential. If Ana ever becomes meta, Twilight has also shown to deliver.
Viol2t – (San Francisco Shock)
Viol2t is one of the many former O2 Ardeont players which made their way into OWL and arguably is the crown jewel of that roster. In the first season of Korean contenders he made it to the finals by upsetting favorites Element Mystique in the quarterfinals but were blown out by the core of Hangzhou Spark (then known as X6) in the finals in a clean 4-0.
Viol2t by the eye test is the player most reminiscent of Jjonak’s season 1 performance, especially after the latter learned to utilize his ultimates more efficiently as the season went on. He too is an aggressive player, exploiting opponent ultimate timings as well as map structures to more advanced degrees than was standard in OWL season 1. More so than Twilight, Viol2t has top-notch mechanics, the likes of which we’ve rarely seen.
Viol2t’s chance for season MVP very much reminds of the conditions around Jjonak. The team that San Francisco Shock built this year is widely regarded as a super team. If scrim reputation is to be believed, the Shock are also performing to expectation. Viol2t is said to be a quick learner and his coach Crusty has a reputation for raising flex supports to the highest level. If Crusty can install the software, Viol2t has the hardware to match.
Shu (Guangzhou Charge)
On paper Shu has had a long career, ranging back to being part of Flash Lux in the latter half of 2017 and Meta Athena in early 2018, yet he rarely saw play. He joined Boston Uprising’s academy team in March last year and finally received a starting slot. Despite what Shu’s history might suggest of him, the organisation led by Huk has proven to have an impeccable eye for talent in the flex support position, demonstrated by their signing and development of both Neko and Aimgod.
When word got out about the roster of the Guangzhou Charge, I was certain to see Rise (formerly known as WonJaeLee) start. He had been a solid talent and was arguably the third most impressive flex support in Korean Contenders behind the aforementioned Twilight and Viol2t. Yet scrims have seen Shu start almost exclusively, revealing that he has stepped it up a notch once again. Shu too is blessed with excellent mechanics and positions more conventionally than Twilight does.
Theoretically, Shu has the steepest hill to climb to make a case for MVP. Both his main support and his flex tank, roles which in most metas are instrumental to flex support performances, appear weaker than of the above-mentioned players. Hopefully this will be considered on the ballot when the season concludes, because in raw ability, Shu can hold a candle to anyone.