For the teams that competed in Season 1 of the Overwatch League, the offseason means reviewing their season and tweaking what worked and what didn’t. For newcomers like the Atlanta Reign, this offseason is being used for scouting talent and building a squad that can keep up with other teams with measured successes. By scouting worldwide for new talent and adding in an experienced coaching staff, the Reign are hoping to take Season 2 by storm and show the world that Atlanta has what it takes to compete with the seasoned veterans of the league.
Head Coach : Brad “Sephy” Rajani
Assistant Coach : Dimitri “Silence” Couturet
Player Development Coach : Cas “Casores” van Andel
Data Analyst: Danny Mychakov
Translator: Dongmin Jeong
Main Tank : Hyun-jun “Pokpo” Park
Main Tank : Blake “Gator” Scott
Flex Tank : Dong-hyeong “DACO” Seo
DPS : Ilya “NLaaeR” Koppalov
DPS : Joon “Erster” Jeong
DPS : Daniel “dafran” Francesca
Support : Petja “Masaa” Kantanen
Support : Steven “Kodak” Rosenberger
What makes this team stand out is the diverse lineup of international talent coming from 6 different countries and 4 Contenders regions. Hyun-jun “Pokpo” Park and Dong-hyeong “DACO” Seo bring one of the strongest tank lines from Korean Contenders. While, the support line of Petja “Masaa” Kantanen and Steven “Kodak” Rosenberger bring knowledge from the European scene with strong performances on teams in both Contenders and the World Cup.
Couple that with top talent from Chinese Contenders of Joon “Erster” Jeong, North American Contenders players Blake “Gator” Scott, Ilya “NLaaeR” Koppalov, and one of the best mechanical players in the world, Daniel “dafran” Francesca, and you have built one of the strongest and most knowledgeable squads in the Overwatch League.
As was shown by Philadelphia Fusion in Season 1, a varied group of nationalities are capable of overcoming communications issues and building a synergy that can rival more homogeneous teams like the London Spitfire (who the Fusion ended up falling to in the Grand Finals). This is what Atlanta is hoping to do to find success in Season 2. For them to be able to flex their strong foundation of talent and experience, the ability to communicate fluidly and understand each other perfectly will be the path to success
Brad “Sephy” Rajani has a long history in Overwatch, having spent time in the Overwatch League as coach of the San Francisco Shock for the beginning of Season 1. He has also coached Last Night’s Leftovers in North American Contenders for Season 2, as well as build and coach one of the most successful teams to compete in the early North American tournament scene with Selfless. With his knowledge and experience of building teams and compositions with storied successes, Sephy is integral in bringing the team’s varied talents together under a single vision.
Dimitri “Silence” Couturet is the former analyst for Last Night’s Leftovers, and while he tends to keep a low profile, he brought enough to the table to be brought over alongside Sephy. He was also elevated from an analyst position to a full fledged assistant coach for the Reign.
The analyst position on the Reign is filled by Danny Mychakov who worked previously as an analyst for Team Canada in the World Cup and Angry Titans in European Contenders. Cas “Casores” van Andel comes on as the player development coordinator. A previous player with solid success while on That’s a Disband, Casores moved to a coaching position with One.PoinT. He helped them with a strong showing in trials and eventually played in Season 2 of European Contenders, but did not find much success.
Dongmin Jeong rounds out the coaching personnel, and while he is not an in-game performance coach, his expertise in translation for esports is going to be a huge benefit. When it comes to overcoming communication struggles due to the mixed roster of eastern and western players Jeong should help quite a bit. Having translated for the Heroes of the Storm finals at Blizzcon 2017, Dongmin is very familiar with the Blizzard esports scene. He is able to not only translate directly, but to communicate intent and understanding which will be integral in helping to synergize the mixed roster of the Atlanta Reign.
The Atlanta Reign’s talent stretches across the globe and includes one of the strongest tank lines from one of the strongest teams in Korean Contenders: Element Mystic.
Pokpo and DACO are Korean players who played together on Element Mystic in Season 2, where they went on to lose to fan favorites RunAway in the semi-finals. That said, they had a strong showing throughout the season staying on top of their group during the regular season games.
With Pokpo being known for his insane Winston play, and DACO having established himself as one of the best D.Va players not currently playing in the Overwatch League, the Atlanta Reign should be looking good at this position. Grabbing these two together ensures a preexisting synergy to anchor the Reign as a strong contender for Season 2 success.
Additionally, from North America, the Reign picked up Reinhardt specialist Gator who formerly played for the team GOATS and helped to develop and pioneer the 3-3 composition, known as the GOATS Comp. Gator is a on a 2-way contract with the Atlanta Reign’s academy team ATL Academy. He helped lead the team to a second place finish against the reigning champions of North American Contenders. Which, is no small feat for a newly formed academy team.
Moving west, the Reign’s support line was picked up from Europe with players with Contenders and World Cup experience. Masaa, a Finnish player formerly with Team Giganti, has found success in European Contenders, making it to the playoffs both seasons he played with them. Additionally, Kodak, the league’s first German player and a former 6nakes player. He brings experience from his 2018 World Cup appearance where he was able to help Team Germany make a strong showing, even if they weren’t able to overcome behemoths like Team UK and Team France to make it to the Blizzcon finals.
The biggest question mark comes from the pickup of streaming superstar Daniel “dafran” Francesca, who is arguably one of the most mechanically skilled players in the world. While he has controversy surrounding him based on questionable and controversial moves in the past, dafran is making huge strides in self improvement. This will hopefully lead to more support and stability for such a masterful player. Only time will tell as to whether or not dafran will be able to take the pressure of playing on stage week in and week out. But, with a history of playing with Coach Sephy, and a newfound dedication to the game, if he can find a comfortable place where he can be free to perform at his peak, it will be hard for anyone in the league to go toe-to-toe with him.
As far as players in the North American scene go, NLaaeR is a Russian hitscan player who found success with Last Night’s Leftovers and was yet another member of that team to be brought over to the Reign. While playing with the North American squad, NLaaeR had to overcome incredibly high latency in order to perform his role. He was still able to help the team make a respectable push into Contenders Season 2. It will be interesting to see how a low latency setting will affect his performance.
Another Korean player on the squad who made a name for himself playing in Chinese Contenders is Erster. The flex DPS player is known for his projectile play on Genji and Pharah. With a dominant history on Lucky Future Zenith in the Chinese Overwatch scene, Erster brings a ton of knowledge regarding Chinese coaching, play styles, and players. This should be instrumental when competing against the handful of new Chinese teams in the Overwatch League.
Atlanta Reign will be put through several smaller gauntlets throughout their debut season in the Overwatch League. They will have a healthy mix of stress levels as they head through the season. The biggest hurdle will be in Stage two where they not only have to compete against the Season 1 Champions, London Spitfire, but also against the New York Excelsior not once, but twice over a three week period. If Atlanta can make it through Stage 2 without much of a hit, expect them to make it very far in Season 2.
Atlanta is also the location of one of three “Homestand” weekends where teams will host the League for one weekend in their home town. This will be a great opportunity for teams to connect with their home cities, as well as a good testing ground for localization of teams that is supposed to take place for Season 3. During the weekend of July 6th and 7th, the Reign will be competing against the Toronto Defiant and the Florida Mayhem, both teams they will face in the opening weeks of Season 2. Keep an eye on these first few games to have an idea of what to expect from Atlanta during their Homestand.
The biggest game to look forward to is their second game versus the Philadelphia Fusion on February 17th. It’s no surprise that Philadelphia inspired the idea that an international roster can compete, as the Fusion ended up second place overall during Season 1. Watching Atlanta’s take on the mixed roster go up against the best performing mixed roster in the league will be a good barometer for how well Atlanta has built their team. This will also be an opportunity for Atlanta to get revenge on Philadelphia for the North American Contenders Season 3 finals where ATL Academy, ended up falling to Fusion University after a close series.
Those things combined will fuel tensions in the very first entry in the rivalry that is being called the “Battle of the Cable Conglomerates,” as Cox Communications owns the Atlanta Reign and Comcast owns the Philadelphia Fusion. It should be a great way to lead into the rest of the season and get a glimpse at how well Atlanta can perform against a proven team from Season 1.
If the Atlanta Reign want to reach the playoffs, the path requires the team to synergize and communicate well enough to allow their individual talents to shine through. The raw skill is there, and the experience is there, but with Overwatch being played at such a high level in the League, the callouts and fluidity of play between this freshman squad is the biggest question in the room. If they can overcome that, however, and players like dafran are given room to stretch their skills to the limit, Atlanta could prove to be a playoff contender much like Philadelphia became during Season 1.
Expect Atlanta to have a lukewarm start to the season as they attempt to find their unity with one another on stage. But, expect that synergy to grow and for the Reign to become stronger as the season goes on. Atlanta absolutely has the talent and personnel to be a playoff caliber team, but whether or not they can put all of the ingredients together in time to keep up with the proven squads already in the league and debuting in Season 2 will be something to keep an eye on.
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Featured Image Courtesy of the Overwatch League
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