As Overwatch League preseason inches ever closer and all expansion branding and teams have been announced, for better or for worse, we’ve continued to keep our eye on the eastern contenders leagues for our weekly Overwatch fix. Xander Torres and Emily Rand return to discuss what happened in Korean, Chinese, and Pacific Contenders.
Emily: Xander, the theme of this week is tilt, as in, some of these teams tilt me so hard while watching, but somehow I love them anyway. RunAway doing RunAway things by stomping WGS Armament for the first three maps before giving them Route 66, and the entirety of Meta Athena’s series against Kongdoo Panthera. Even my new Chinese favorite, Flag Gaming, slipped slightly this week when they put in Huang “Lie” Haoxuan on Numbani, giving ReStart their first-ever map victory of the season.
Xander: I’m totally with you on that. There were a lot of 3-1s and 4-0s across Contenders in general, but a lot of the matches were closer than the end score. Meta Athena in particular was difficult to watch, as they squandered ultimate advantage after ultimate advantage. In Pacific, it was Nova Esports that hurt me with their 2-1 victory over We Are Eternal Gaming. It really should have been a 4-0 a best, a 3-1 at worst, but it all came down to overtime on Route 66. Tons of teams have the pieces, but there always seems to be that one glitch in the system that holds them back.
Emily: I’m going to return to Flag Gaming, not only because I love them, but because I think a few issues that they had this week are an interesting demonstration of what can go wrong in a meta that so heavily relies on coordination, especially between the tank and support lines. Last week we talked about how GOATS compositions are all about positioning and communication. Swapping out just one player can make all the difference. Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you have a player as good as Tong “Coldest” Xiaodong if you can’t coordinate how a lot of these engages should go. Many of Flag’s map wins this week came off of Coldest on his Zenyatta or Wu “MG” Dongjian on his D.Va. The good news for MG fans is that he’s been performing really well since returning to China. Some of Flag’s teamfight victories came off of the back of his strong D.Va play or a Coldest outplay, which again is a . . . red flag (I’m sorry) given the lack of coordination we saw at times from this team against ReStart.
Timing is everything right now, even more so than it used to be in the past, and if the Zarya isn’t working in tandem with the tank and support lines, it makes a large difference in team fights, as we saw from ReStart and their strong Zarya play coming from Kim “DeleteBrig” Han-byeol. As an aside, what a name. Do you think he’s sending a message to Blizzard?
Xander: Flag can tidy up their main tank play, but it’s clear that they’re one of the best teams in Chinese Contenders right now. Much like the other top teams this week, they definitely played with their food a bit, but the class is there. As far as DeleteBrig’s name goes, players are definitely frustrated with GOATS, but he has a personal vendetta as a Widowmaker and McCree main. He actually played under the tag “Raphael” in Contenders Pacific with Talon Esports.
GOATS is always a hot topic, but players tend to be just as bad at balancing as developers. There were even some movements to counter it this week in Korea with StormQuake most notably running a quad DPS composition that included Soldier:76, Widowmaker, Pharah, and Hanzo against GOATS gods GC Busan Wave. There were Genji Dragonblades, real life Tracer duels, and mind games up the wazoo. Deleting Brigitte isn’t really the answer when there’s still plenty of room for innovation in Overwatch. What did you think of the quick play style comp?
Emily: The first time I remember seeing this in Korean Contenders this week was actually with O2 Team’s attack run on Route 66 against GEEKSTAR with Soldier:76, Tracer, Pharah, Widowmaker, and then Orisa with a Mercy. It didn’t work out so well for them, but I really enjoyed watching it. Maeng “Climax” Ju-ho looked pretty content to hit those Widow shots until his team started dying after their first teamfight win. The problem with quad DPS is always going to be the lack of tankiness and sustain, which means that you need to land that first punch, and it basically needs to be a knockout.
However, as we’ve alluded to here and previously, GOATS relies on positioning and coordination. Where these quad DPS quick-play compositions can really shine is in punishing these tanky teams for being out of position. If they overextend, that’s when you can land that knockout punch. You just have to survive long enough from range to land it, because you won’t win an extended teamfight up close. What did you think of the quad DPS. Is it the answer?
Xander: I loved watching quad DPS, but I’m not sure it can always be the answer. StormQuake has struggled with consistency so far, but the players are obviously talented and handled their heroes well. Not only that, but their greatest strength in Contenders is still general target selection. It wasn’t a great fit for O2 Team, but it was the perfect mix-up for StormQuake against a less flexible GC Busan Wave team that has historically struggled against Pharah compositions.
In the future, I could see the same composition working on maps like Numbani or Hanamura where burning targets tends to be pretty easy. It’s a fun composition and I hope more teams play with the idea of burst damage in the face of GOATS. That being said, that Route 66 run was probably my favorite moment of the week. Were there any moments or matches that got you the same way?
Emily: I think you’re right in that a few of these more creative compositions can only work on certain maps. Returning (again) to that ReStart victory on Numbani, they came out with a Sombra/Doomfist combination for DeleteBrig and Cloud on Point A defense against Flag that was pretty fun to watch. You already mentioned StormQuake against GC Busan Wave, which I think was one of the most entertaining matches in Korean Contenders this week. There was also the Team CC series against Laboratory where Lab tried some, uh, interesting compositions that left viewers wondering just what their read on this meta is. Speaking of infuriating teams, Lab actually have a lot of individual talent, but as we’ve harped on again and again, that’s not really going to cut it now, especially in this meta.
Before we sign off, I did want to ask if you’ve felt any sort of talent vacuum from Korea, China, or the Pacific Contenders tournaments. People may or may not know that this is my first season watching these leagues with a more discerning eye. Previously, I just watched Korean Contenders (and before that, APEX) on a more casual level. Since you have a lengthier history in Contenders viewing, especially for Pacific, have you felt any sort of loss from the players that have now left for OWL?
Xander: I think Korean Contenders has felt that loss in terms of branding, but overall, the well of talent just keeps on giving in South Korea. Even more talent has left this year, with X6 Gaming and Season 2 champions RunAway heading overseas, but the level of play really hasn’t changed. There are still veterans like Ryu “Kaiser” Sang-hoon and Jeong “Recry” Taek-hyun trying to make it, as well as young talents like Kim “Edison” Tae-hoon and Kim “SP9RK1E” Tae-hoon (I have to google his ID every time so he sucks).
Chinese Contenders is losing some pretty clutch players to the Overwatch League this year, with Xu “Guxue” Qiulin heading to the Hangzhou Spark and Ou “Eileen” Yilliang, but it feels like the league is only getting better. Whether it’s the region’s increased interest in Overwatch or the mere presence of four Chinese teams in the Overwatch League, nothing has slowed down. The same can’t really be said for Pacific, which remains a Korean Contenders development ground, but I doubt Lo “Baconjack” Tzu-heng will be its last export. Pacific has felt the pain of the Overwatch League, as players feel hopeless in making it to the apex of the esport, but Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong still have notable players. The region is stagnant and the teams are weak, but it’s a furnace of talent that has to get their shot at one point or another.
Whether it’s about GOATS, quad DPS, or why Korea is good and Pacific is bad, we’ll keep having conversations about Contenders on a weekly basis. The Overwatch League starts in February, but Contenders will be by our side until the end of January. Until then, Overwatch never stops.