Over the last three years, Overwatch and its pro players have accumulated a lot of history. While proven champions and dominant teams are always fun to back, it’s also fun to root for the underdog. It’s even more fun when the underdog vindicates the faith you had in them, and a player manages to pull off a redemption arc. Comeback stories are exciting and inspiring. Here are some of 2019’s best OWL redemption arcs (so far).
#5: XepheR Cashes In The Scrimbucks
The Florida Mayhem have had a pretty disappointing season, and Jae-mo “xepheR” Koo has been no exception. On the Seoul Dynasty, he spent most of the season looking like the least impressive player on an unimpressive team. In Stage 3 Week 2, when the Mayhem went up against the Houston Outlaws, even their fans didn’t expect much. The Outlaws were on an unexpected hot streak, finally embracing a DPS-heavy style that played to their strengths. Houston were coming off three wins, one against Stage 2 Champions the San Francisco Shock. The Mayhem were expected to be little more than a speed bump for them.
The first map of the series didn’t challenge that expectation, as the Outlaws took Ilios 2-0. However, after a strong attack on Paris propelled by picks from Jung-woo “Sayaplayer” Ha’s signature Widowmaker, the Mayhem were able to tie up the series. After going on to win Hollywood, the Mayhem weren’t able to finish their attack on Gibraltar. With the Outlaws pushing the cart through the last point, it looked like they’d be able to tie up the series and take the Mayhem to another tiebreaker map: control, the game mode Houston had dominated them on in the first map of the series.
Enter xepheR. As the clock entered overtime, the Mayhem’s flex tank came out of spawn on Bastion. Fans of Florida must have felt bewilderment, then glee, as the ticking overtime clock meant Houston couldn’t leave point to contest him. Without anyone able to kill him, xepheR was able to mow down the Outlaws and secure the win. Although we might not be seeing much of xepheR after the signing of Beom-jun “Gargoyle” Lee, this moment of quick thinking probably saved the match for his team and guaranteed them their second win of the season.
#4: Rascal’s Revered Return
Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim has never been a typical DPS player. Always known for specializing in (at the time) niche, off-the-wall picks like Mei and Sombra, he played a more supportive DPS style than his partner on KongDoo Panthera, Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim. To form the London Spitfire’s roster, KongDoo were merged with APEX winner GC Busan. Unfortunately, London wasn’t able to find a starting spot to slot Rascal into. The sheer talent and flexibility that the Spitfire got from playing birdring alongside Joon-yeong “Profit” Park was simply too much to pass up on. After not seeing much play on London, Rascal was traded to the Dallas Fuel. Between behind-the-scenes drama, inconsistent rosters and language barriers, Rascal was unable to shine on this team and was eventually released by the Fuel before the season ended.
All in all, 2018 was a disappointing season for Rascal, that could be summed up in two words: wasted potential. Fortunately, this would change in time for 2019. After a stint on NRG, the San Francisco Shock picked Rascal up in the off-season. The Shock took a while to build up steam, and Rascal had to integrate into the roster at first. But by the time Rascal had meshed with the rest of the team, they looked truly formidable. Rascal was a large part of that, playing an excellent Brigitte and contributing strong in-game communications. Rascal’s penchant for playing odd heroes continued as he played Baptiste in the Shock’s unique 3-3 variant. In 2-2-2 lock, Rascal’s phenomenal season has shown no sign of slowing down as he’s able to return to his old favourite Mei.
For all the disappointment of the inaugural season, Rascal has proven his naysayers wrong in his return to the league. His career looks like it’ll only go up from here.
2018 was not kind to Dong-eun “Hooreg” Lee. Coming off the high of being part of the GC Busan squad that won APEX Season 4 and blazed through APAC shortly after, Hooreg saw little play when he was signed to the London Spitfire. His old teammate Profit and KongDoo Panthera’s star birdring were the team’s starters – Hooreg was only fielded for the occasional map as a Pharah specialist. When he was dropped from the team near the end of the season, he found a spot on RunAway in Contenders Korea. However, his fortunes didn’t improve. Despite strong showings in scrims, this never translated onto the stage. Spending most of the season on the bench, Hooreg didn’t even play in RunAway’s historic victory over KongDoo Panthera in the playoffs.
When the Vancouver Titans signed Hooreg, as well as the rest of RunAway, to play in the Overwatch League, he was expected to stay on the bench. And he did — for the first three stages. In Stage 4, Hooreg finally played his debut OWL match for the Titans against the Shanghai Dragons. It would have been a comeback if he’d simply managed to play well. But he did more: thoroughly outplaying one of the world’s best Widowmaker players, Min-seong “diem” Bae. After so long on the bench, Hooreg’s return to the OWL stage was a truly fantastic redemption.
#2: Corey In The House
GOATs was not a meta that suited the Washington Justice. Fortunately, Stage 4’s 2-2-2 lock has given the team a brand new look. Jun-hwa “Janus” Song and Hyang-ki “SanSam” Kim look much better playing together on Orisa and Roadhog than they ever did on Reinhardt and D.Va. Yeonjoon “ArK” Hong is back to playing Mercy, a hero he spent most of 2018 as the undisputed master of. Ethan “Stratus” Yankel is showing off a magnificent Pharah. But most of all, the Justice owe their newfound success, showcased in their shocking 4-0 upset against the Vancouver Titans, to Corey “Corey” Nigra.
Coming into the league praised by commentators as someone with the potential to be North America’s best hitscan player, the meta forced him onto Zarya. Clearly uncomfortable on the role, Corey looked like his first season in the Overwatch League would be a poor one. However, during Stage 4 as the 2-2-2 lock rolled around, Corey was able to return to the DPS Heroes he was best at. With showstopping performances on Hanzo and Widowmaker, Corey was instrumental in his team’s crushing defeat of the Vancouver Titans.
With his team now on a winstreak and set to roll through the rest of Stage 4, Corey’s had one of the most impressive redemption arcs in the OWL. If he’s selected for the USA’s 7-man roster at this year’s World Cup, his career is only set to skyrocket from now on.
#1: Lunatic Lows, Lunatic Hais
Two years ago, if you’d asked who the best professional Overwatch player was the answer would have universally been “Ryujehong”. On Lunatic-Hai, Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu redefined not only his signature hero, Ana, but the whole field of support play. Ryujehong showed the world that support players could be playmakers. His play demonstrated how a good support player could swing a match one way or another. And by his side, Jin-mo “tobi” Yang and their synergy gave Lunatic-Hai one of the most fearsome backlines in Overwatch, helping to bring the team to two APEX championships. But when the Seoul Dynasty signed Lunatic-Hai’s roster for the Overwatch League’s inaugural season, things changed.
The way that ryujehong had redefined Ana, it was the turn of Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang to redefine Zenyatta. Lucio and Ana, tobi and ryujehong’s specialty heroes, were out of the meta. On Zenyatta, ryujehong found himself focused by enemy teams without his team able to back him up.
The team had difficulties fielding a consistent roster, especially at the main tank position. (Ryujehong himself even played at the main tank position at one point in 2018.) Between all these circumstances, tobi and ryujehong’s performances were below the standard they’d set at APEX. Tobi even found himself benched, with Seoul instead fielding Mercy specialist Jin-woo “Gambler” Heo. While ryujehong never looked like a bad flex support, many commentators believed that other players had simply surpassed him.
In the 2019 season, however, both tobi and ryujehong have often been standout for the Dynasty. Ryujehong particularly has been the deciding factor in many of Seoul’s victories and the lone bright spot in their defeats. With the return of Lucio to the meta, tobi has also had a chance to shine. He even sometimes starts over Seong-soo “Jecse” Lee, a much-hyped acquisition and prodigal support player in his own right. While Seoul have had their issues in 2019, the tobi and ryujehong that won Seasons 3 and 4 of APEX are back.
Hopefully, they’ll be here to stay. If Seoul manages a deep run into 2019’s season playoffs, it’ll be thanks to these two. For those who have been Overwatch fans since APEX, seeing these legends return to form might be the greatest OWL redemption arc yet.
If you want to read a more in-depth piece about Hooreg’s legendary comeback, The Game Haus has covered his journey to redemption here.
Featured photo by Tonya McCahon courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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