This season of Contenders didn’t see a lot of DPS play. There were scattered moments, depending on your region – a Widowmaker here, a Doomfist there – but GOATS comp’s global domination has largely crushed our chances of seeing damage dealers on the field lately.
Contenders playoffs are on a new patch, and with that new patch comes the faintest glimmer of hope. The changes to Brigitte and the introduction of Ashe have loosened the vice grip GOATS had on the meta – if only a little. New compositions and new variants are quickly coming in vogue, and that means I actually have something to talk about here!
As in the rest of the “Watch Around the World” series, below lies a list of players from all seven Contenders regions. I think these players will have the greatest impact on their teams – and their regions, by extension. Keep an eye on them!
A note: I’m gonna try and focus on DPS players playing DPS heroes, but that may or may not work. A lot of damage dealers have been flexing to Zarya lately – she plays like a DPS hero anyways, so it usually makes a lot of sense.
Dale “Signed” Tang – Athletico Esports
Well, that didn’t work.
Yes, Signed has made a name for himself playing Zarya in recent games. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been melting faces off the whole time, though. Athletico’s play style doesn’t allow for passive moments or anything silly like “retreating” – pff! With Signed leading the charge, Athletico pulls out fights like this:
Did Signed really just do that? @AthleticoES comes back from the brink thanks to some ridiculous Zarya play! They take Hanamura, and the lead. Route 66 could decide it all – don't miss it! pic.twitter.com/W9sn5rWdFT
— Path to Pro Community (@Contenders_OW) January 8, 2019
Even Elfishguy and Sandman couldn’t believe that Athletico had the cojones to take this fight. That’s probably the best word for what Signed brings to this team, now that I think of it…
While a blander analyst might say that Athletico stands no chance against the monolith that is Sydney Drop Bears, more adventurous (and handsome) analysts like myself would tell you that there’s never been a greater opportunity. All three semi-final teams – ORDER, Athletico and Heist – have set their sights squarely on the biggest dog in the room. This post-season could be the moment that a team with a crazy Zarya player like Signed goes for the throat.
Andre “Lubbock” Carravieri – based tryhards
There’s a lot to unpack when you look at based tryhards. We’ve been over their story many times before – one of the three perfect Contenders teams so far this season, an unstoppable force destined to make the finals again… yadda yadda yadda. The thing is, while many attribute this dominance to long-standing players like Mateus “neil” Kröber, Felipe “Liko” Lebrao and Maurício “honorato” Honorato – and while that attribution is well-deserved – Lubbock has played as great a role in their performance as anyone else on the team.
He’s the newest member of the squad, joining almost a month after the team broke away from Brasil Gaming House in November. In the 28 days or so that he’s been on the roster, the team has continued its undefeated streak, even when most teams integrating new blood might stumble. Lubbock has had a lot to do with that success. His flexibility and deep hero pool have made him a natural fit for BT’s fast play style, and that means the team should have no trouble cruising to another championship.
Sim “TYG” Seok-ho, Myeong “aWeek” Il-ju, and Jeong “Aquila” Da-Un – Talon eSports
Many regions on this list will only feature one major DPS star. PAC is not one of them.
When most regions are stuck in the grind that is the GOATS meta, PAC teams have risen above the noise, agreeing to eschew what might be considered optimal for the sake of playing something that might be considered fun. That doesn’t mean they never play GOATS, of course – it just means that we’re much more likely to see plays like this in PAC than anywhere else.
Triple DPS on defense on Route 66 works again to perfect effect. GOGORA catches a couple on the GRAV and the DPS go to work 🔫⚔️👊 @Contenders_OW @owpathtopro #overwatch #contenders #pacific pic.twitter.com/N3mgieDkuY
— Talon eSports (@Talon__eSports) December 20, 2018
All three of these players were plucked from relative obscurity when Talon rebuilt in June 2018. Each played on a thoroughly middle-of-the-pack Korean team, but have come into their own in the Pacific. Contenders playoffs are no big deal to Talon at this point, but they’ll be facing stiffer competition than ever before. Teams like Xavier Esports, Hong Kong Attitude and GE Pantheon are in their way, and something tells me they won’t go down quietly. Time to turn up the heat!
Also, a note: Yes, I know I didn’t include Kephrii. While he is certainly the most novel addition to the PAC DPS scene lately, I view Talon’s DPS corps as a slightly more consistent line-up than he and Min-sung “Water” Lee. That said, thanks to Kephrii, both what Global Esports Pantheon has been able to accomplish and the attention that’s been brough to the region in general have been extremely impressive.
NEW ADDITION: Ely and Jecky – Cyclone Coupling
Talon’s DPS corps still deserves its time in the sun, but I can’t ignore the team that managed to upset them in the quarterfinals!! Cyclone Coupling have pulled off the biggest upset in the Contenders world so far this season, and it came off the back of some amazingly innovative DPS play. Like this. Who came up with this? I want to shake their hand.
While Cyclone came into the playoffs as a 4th seed, all eyes are on them now. They have a new lease on life after upsetting Talon, and will look to maintain that momentum next week going against Nova Esports, who also had some great DPS plays today. That’s an article for another time, though.
Yeong-han “Sp9rk1e“ Kim – Element Mystic
Korea is a region that could feature some DPS duos, if I were so inclined. StormQuake’s Dong-hyun “Proper” Kim and Do-young “SSEULGEN” Lee, for instance, are some of the most consistently impressive DPS players in the world right now. Even with that distinction under their belt, though, they’re no more than an honorable mention in Sp9rk1e’s story. This guy is insane.
While other DPS mains trouble themselves with things like “bullets”, Sp9rk1e (pronounced “sparkle”) goes for a more… direct approach. Namely, with his Fist.
— Path to Pro Community (@Contenders_OW) December 16, 2018
While Doomfist was nerfed in the Contenders playoff patch (1.31), teams are still using him to great effect. I don’t see the changes affecting a player who’s made his bread on the hero for some time now. Element Mystic relies on the disruption and flexibility a good Doomfist can provide, and with a perfect record to show for it, I don’t think they’ll want to stir the pot. (That’s a good thing for people who like watching great Doomfist play!)
Just watch this. I don’t need to show you anything else. Thank you Mr. Logix!
— Brandon Padilla/Seagull-Man (@thibbledork) January 4, 2019
What, did you think I was gonna say something more? No, seriously. That’s it. He’s that good. It’s not even fair. There’s nothing else to say. Bye!
Stefan “ONIGOD” Fiskerstrand – Angry Titans
Europe as a region is home to some of the most veteran non-OWL talent in the scene – a point of pride for some, and contention for others. ONIGOD seems to take things in stride, having played competitively since 2016. From Reunited all the way here, ONIGOD has been a fixture in a number of successful teams. Angry Titans may be one of his best showings to date.
It’s not just the insane mechanical skill that separate ONIGOD from the rest of the EU pack. It’s not just the extensive team experience or cross-regional play time. What makes him special, beyond all of that, is his brain.
— Path to Pro Community (@Contenders_OW) December 3, 2018
When others might struggle on a problem – like getting on top of the cafe on Hollywood without going inside, for instance – ONIGOD finds solutions. His creativity and mechanics combined means that he maintains the metaphorical high ground as often as the literal high ground. (You want both, generally.) This capability has kept Angry Titans in the post-season running all year long. With another Contenders playoffs run well on its way, he’ll need to keep it up to get past Morning Stars. They might be the toughest puzzle he’s ever faced.
Peng “Assassin” Yulin and Tan “Mijia” Xujie – T1w
I was going to use this section to showcase Flag Gaming’s Zhao “evillx” Hanbin. I had a clever Scott Pilgrim joke set up and everything.
Then I remembered that these guys exist.
Sometimes you just need a clean @owpathtopro Contenders China play to get your week going…
Thank you, Assassin 😍 pic.twitter.com/wLNQS0W5G8
— Broadcast.gg (@BroadcastDotGG) November 27, 2018
Assassin hasn’t played a whole lot lately – though his occasional flexes have been plenty impressive, as you can see. What’s really stuck out has been Mijia’s flexibility. According to resident Chinese Contenders expert and Path To Poverty coach Ieuan “vowels” Hall, T1w’s dominance is largely thanks to his sudden rise on Zarya.
“[His play] was enough for T1w to go from “not a GOATS team” to “possibly the best GOATS team in China”, vowels asserted. With a perfect record under T1w’s belt, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
Chinese Contenders analyst Joseph “Volamel” Franco also offered me some context on Mijia’s performance: “He had an entire team play around his Doomfist for Open Division S3, and they went undefeated in sets – going 24-6 in overall map score.”
Between the two of them, the picture surrounding T1w’s dominance grows a little more clear. The flexibility of a strong hitscan player and a Doomfist that rivals the best in the world is reminiscent of teams like Element Mystic or XL2, and with few opponents capable of standing in T1w’s way… well, we’ll see how that goes.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment