The Overwatch offseason is soon coming to a close. Both the Overwatch League and Overwatch Contenders will soon return. The T2 system is a good showcase of regional talent for any viewer that gains interest in international competition.
North American Contenders is known for many things. Of these, its growth, imports, and young talent are probably the three that best define the scene. A while back North America was a second rate region. Now, it is the second most important Overwatch League farm region.
Path to Daycare
As mentioned, cultivating young talent is one of Contenders North America’s fortés. The best known is undoubtedly Kamden “Sugarfree” Hijada. Only 15 years old, he became known as one of the best DPS players in T2.
In 2019 he participated with Atlanta Academy, where he spent the year at the top of North America. Besides that, Atlanta Academy constantly remained in the top of the Atlantic Showdown and the Gauntlet.
He is among the few with the honor of having fans countdown his eligibility, and with good reason. His flexibility will instantly place him among the top of his country once he can join the League (and probably World Cup).
Christian “Ojee” Han doesn’t get as much recognition as Sugarfree, but he came into his own with XL2 Academy. His exceptional Lúcio play took the team to a second-place finish in North America West. Then, he led the team to a middle of the pack finish in the Gauntlet. Ojee is currently teamless.
Another great support player is Troy “berd” Grady. Possibly the least experienced of the three, he had a brief stint in Atlanta Academy, but most of his play has been for the notorious Second Wind.
Both Ojee and berd are currently 16 years old, and won’t be eligible until Season 5 and 4, respectively. Sugarfree will have to wait for the League to be in its sixth season. It will be interesting to see whether they can maintain their form until then.
Naturally, the list of underage players eventually becomes a list of players that are eligible for the Overwatch League. Fusion University’s main support Carson “CarCar” First features among these players.
He was one of the best support players in the region for a large part of the year and is now able to play in the top teams. As the offseason comes to a close, it doesn’t seem likely that he will not remain in Contenders, at least for a while. Regardless, he is an up and comer that will certainly be acknowledged as one of the best American support players by the end of the year.
Atlanta Academy’s Garrett “Saucy” Roland spent a year as one of the team’s various damage dealers. With his flexibility and hitscan prowess, his contribution to the team’s successful seasons was undeniable.
Unfortunately, he will miss the cut off for eligibility, but with the Atlanta Academy system will develop perfectly by the time he has an opportunity for the League’s fourth season.
John “iCy” Kazura, currently on Third Impact, is another breakthrough player that basked in the spotlight last season. With Triumph, his Season 2, from Open Division to Contenders, did not leave viewers disappointed. The Canadian’s skill on various off-tank heroes will be impossible to ignore come 2020, and by Season 4 it is likely that teams look to him to fill the gaps in their tank line.
World Cup Stars
Another large part of the North American’s scene is its identity as an importer and developer of foreign talent. And, with foreign talent, comes World Cup participation.
If you ask anyone, casual or pundit, who is missing from the Overwatch League, chances are that Jeffrey “Vizility” de Vries is one of the top answers. Since his first appearance for the Netherlands in 2017 and his participation in popular team Orgless and Hungry, viewers were awed by his mechanics.
So few players can boast his flexibility, and even less can boast such high skill on his signature heroes. One would think that leading his country for three years would earn him acknowledgment from the big teams, but so far the League evades him.
Alex “A10” Kuipers is another Dutchman that participated in the 2019 World Cup. His time there could easily be overlooked (playing mostly Reaper in Control maps), but he managed to impress nonetheless.
In Contenders, he will have a better opportunity to continue to showcase his talent. Should anyone have an itch to watch a hitscan prodigy, Phase 2 matches with A10 should do the trick.
The Denmark national team was probably the most overlooked roster this year, all things considered. Sure, everyone paid attention to Mads “Fischer” Jehg, but the rest of the team deserved the same. Victor “Scaler” Godsk definitely knows the feeling.
With Denmark, he performed at a high level and held his own against OWL talent. This is no surprise to fans of his that followed his path in Contenders. Scaler would be a very valuable pickup for any mixed team, given his skill with any support hero.
Empty Handed Veterans
The Path to Pro is known for its knack of toying with its participants. Kai “KSP” Collins, Steven “KodaK” Rosenberger, and James “Cloneman16” D’Arcangelo are way too familiar with this.
KSP started out with orgless teams Bazooka Puppiez and Young and Beautiful, neither known for their accolades. He later represented his country in Blizzcon. As a bench player. Before jumping the pond, he was a part of the Samsung Morning Stars and suffered from their decline. With XL2 he fared better, but the team ceased operations.
Despite this, he is an excellent hitscan player. His record really does not do him justice, and it is a shame to see it stagnated at the moment.
One of the more beloved main tanks since the beginning of his career is Cloneman16. Initially a streamer, he decided to join the Path to Pro with its introduction. Since then, he has shown steady improvement, however, this has not translated to results or accolades.
Of course, anyone that follows his performances will assure that this is not indicative of his skill. Unfortunately, like many others in the system, Cloneman can assure that the relationship is not directly proportional.
KodaK, meanwhile, did momentarily taste the fruits of the Overwatch League, but opted to lower himself into Contenders. On the Atlanta Reign he traded time with Dusttin “Dogman” Bowerman, but decided Atlanta Academy would be his stomping ground for 2019. In North America East and the Gauntlet he was one of the best support players.
With any luck this momentum can earn them some silverware (goldenware?) next year in the big stage or at the very least a first-place finish in international Contenders.
Stanislav “Mistakes” Danilov, Blake “Zholik” Solberg, and Hafþór “Hafficool” Hákonarson are three great players that are arguably stuck in the Path to Pro.
Mistakes played since the beginning in Contenders, reaching second place with 123. “Stan Dan the Man” was the Tracer player that everyone was excited to continue seeing. He resurfaced with the Boston Uprising and contributed to their unpredictable 2018 season.
Though he returned to Contenders with the Montréal Rebellion (which since released him), he is still a great player in terms of mechanics.
For the Overwatch World Cup in 2019 the Canadian national team decided to host open tryouts. Seemingly out of nowhere, Lúcio player Zholik was a strong contender to a starting spot. Alongside other newcomers, however, the team opted to pass them up for different players.
Now, he is a popular name among fans of Contenders, and it is clear that he has a long career ahead of him.
Hafficool was another 123 player, joining after Mistakes’s departure. Initially a projectile DPS player, he transitioned to an off-tank role for the British Hurricane, where he won Contenders in 2018.
Now on Team Envy, he has been a consistently great player for the team across a number of tank heroes. With his national team, Iceland, he returned to his DPS roots. It is definitely disappointing to see Hafficool continue in T2, he has what it takes to compete in the Overwatch League, but will continue to prove this in Contenders.
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