If you’ve followed Overwatch before the OWL was a thing, or are interested in the rising stars of the game, you’ve probably been watching Contenders. If you don’t fit any of those labels, though, worry not! Right about now is the perfect time to jump in on the action.
Season 1 of Contenders has been ongoing for some time now, but many regions are quickly approaching their final games of the season. Each region showcases the best of the best in local Overwatch. While there are seven regions in all, today I’ll be going over the biggest names in the scene: the North American semifinalists. Let’s get to it!
The North American Contenders scene is arguably the largest and most popular. NA features plenty of old and well-respected names in the minor-league Overwatch scene, as well as a few new teams and a few more “academy” teams. These teams are developed by existing Overwatch League franchises to train the next generation of OWL stars, and have the extensive resources and training regimens of an Overwatch League franchise at their back. Many even practice with their OWL counterparts, giving them the edge in training and coaching over their smaller-scale opponents.
Seven of the eight teams that made it to the quarterfinals were academy teams, and three of those advanced to the live semifinals in Poland. The fourth team is a particular favorite of mine. Let me introduce you properly…
EnVision eSports- McGravy, Jaru, iShiny, Fire, Crimzo, Buds
EnVision started working on their roster in January 2017, and quickly became a staple of the early Contenders era. Their roster had a healthy mix of strategic thinking and raw mechanical skill, and pulled off some impressive tournament wins. Despite their smaller stature when compared to giants like Rogue and EnvyUs, EnVision held their own through Contenders Season 1, falling to Faze Clan in the semifinals. Players from Faze Clan later moved on to the Houston Outlaws (Rawkus, SPREE, FCTFCTN) and the Philadelphia Fusion (ShaDowBurn, Carpe), so a third place finish wasn’t so terrible, really!
After some time off between seasons, EnVision rebuilt their roster and got back into the tournament groove. Second place finishes in the PIT Championship and the BEAT Invitational leave EV with a lot to prove in Contenders, but the team certainly has the experience to give their opponents a run for their money.
Toronto Esports- Axxiom, Dalton, Shu, Kruise, nero, Guardian
Toronto Esports is the first of the three academy teams. They’re partnered with the Boston Uprising, though Toronto as a team existed before the Overwatch League did. They rebuilt their roster in early 2018 (much like EnVision), and blazed a trail through the Overwatch Open Division.
Despite the loss of their main support Grant “moth” Espe, who was signed by the San Francisco Shock, Toronto maintained their momentum through the regular season with ease. They signed Harrison “Kruise” Pond, a well-known DPS main turned support star, and kruised all the way to the semifinals. (I am very sorry.)
With their tickets to Poland secured, Toronto are no doubt preparing to face off against EnVision for a spot in the Grand Finals against the next two teams on this list. With a 4-1 record and the greatest map differential in all of Contenders (+14,) they’re a strong candidate to win it all.
Fusion University- WhoRU, ZerG, ZachaREEE, crakinlakin, Beasthalo, Alarm, Elk
This team has the most interesting collection of names (and talent) I’ve ever seen. Let me break it down for you.
Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee is a legendary DPS player, who played for Lunatic Hai (now the Seoul Dynasty) when they were slamming all of their APEX opponents into the dirt on their way to a back-to-back championship run. His Genji play is the stuff of dreams, and his game sense is some of the best in the history of Overwatch. And that’s me going easy on the praise, here.
Haydin “ZerG” Gordon is fourteen years old. Yeah. I know. He was so good that he caught the Fusion’s attention without playing in a single tournament. He was so good that Kephrii accused him of hacking, several times. (Wait, he does that with everyone. Forget that part.) What was I saying? Really, REALLY good. Yeah.
Zachary “ZachaREEE” Lombardo was a mainstay for longstanding minor league team Renegades, who participated in some of the earliest Overwatch tournaments out there. Fun fact- Renegades was founded by MonteCristo, the famous caster and analyst for the Overwatch League. The organization is now owned by Jonas Jerbko, who plays basketball for the Utah Jazz.
For the sake of your attention span, I won’t go over the rest, but Beasthalo, crakinlakin, Elk and Alarm are all absolutely phenomenal talents who work hard and study harder to be the best at what they do. And with an acronym like FU, how can you not root for these guys?
OpTic Academy- kellar, RinaVX, SharP, Voll, Kaiser, smurf, Aid, Greyy, Tehpwnzorr
If you’ve followed any other esport, you know the name OpTic. The Green Wall has been a fixture in the competitive DOTA, CS:GO, and Call of Duty circuits, and their ventures into Overwatch (Optic Academy and the Houston Outlaws) have been no less successful. Just like Fusion University, this roster is utterly stacked, and the raw talent contained within the confines of their team house is really something special.
My personal favorite among them is their main tank- Sang-hoon “Kaiser” Ryu. Kaiser hails from a little Korean team called RunAway, and is responsible for the most impressive Reinhardt play in the history of the game. That is not a statement you can usually make about an Overwatch player. Yet here I stand.
And that’s just one guy!! OpTic has it all, really, and that’s going to make for some impressive Overwatch when they face off against FU in May. For a preview of that action, a regular season match between the two teams is available here. I know what I’ll be watching on repeat for the next two weeks…
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Featured photo Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment