Hee-dong “Guard” Lee was signed to the Overwatch League by the London Spitfire coming into 2019 as a backup for Ji-hyeok “birdring” Kim. Known for his Sombra play on Element Mystic, Guard wasn’t considered likely to start over London’s star DPS players. However, when birdring struggled on Zarya in the three-tank three-support meta, the Spitfire had to change their lineup. Guard was put in to play Brigitte, allowing DPS prodigy Joon-yeong “Profit” Park to take over the all-important Zarya role. While the team looked better in this configuration, London’s triple-tank compositions continued to be lackluster. Throughout the year, the Spitfire remained a solidly mid-tier team, with flashes of brilliance overshadowed by chronic inconsistency.
What Could Have Been
Most disappointingly for those who’d hoped to see Guard on his signature Sombra, when London played Sombra compositions later in the season it was mostly birdring and Profit fielded on the hero. While he was able to shine on the hero in some maps earlier in the season, Guard was not made the centerpoint of London’s Sombra-centric strategies in Stage 3. After a season of not being able to show his true potential, Guard had a disappointing end to the season. Playing Doomfist instead of birdring in London’s last two playoff matches, he was thrown into the deep end and was unable to find success. After the highs of last year’s championship run, the end to the Spitfire’s 2019 season would be a disappointment for both fans and players.
This week, London released Guard, birdring, and Jong-seuk “NUS” Kim. Birdring and NUS, with championship victores on their resumes, should have no difficulty finding new teams should they choose to. However, Guard’s options might be more limited. Although he didn’t fit in on the Spitfire, Guard’s time on Element Mystic proved him to be a flexible DPS with a lot of potential and interesting pocket picks. Whichever team picks him up might find him a useful asset; that is, with the right coaching. So where might Guard end up in 2020?
#1: Boston Uprising
Since 2018, Boston has had the same strategy. They pick up inexperienced players and bring out their potential with coaching. Then, if last year’s offseason was any indication, they trade their new hot commodities for a profit. While 2019 was a difficult year for the Uprising, they nevertheless managed to find another crop of diamonds in the rough. The performances of players like Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse, Jeffery “blasé” Tsang, and Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth show that Boston is still able to identify coachable talent.
If the Uprising continue their established trend, they’ll sell blasé and Colourhex this offseason. Guard is a similar diamond in the rough, and a season spent with the Boston Uprising could help him develop into a true star talent.
#2: Atlanta Reign
The reasoning for Guard going to the Atlanta Reign is twofold. Firstly, he has pre-existing synergy with Hyun-jun “Pokpo” Park and Dong-hyeong “DACO” Seo from their time on Element Mystic. Secondly, while Andrej “babybay” Francisty is a vocal leader and mechanically talented, he has a relatively narrow hero pool.
Between them, babybay and the team’s star player Joon “Erster” Jeong provide the team a reliable DPS line. Signing Guard would allow him, along with Ilya “NLaeeR” Koppalov, to practice off-picks and heroes outside babybay’s hero pool. Guard has shown himself to be a capable player willing to flex for his team. Adding him to the roster would not only bring synergy with Pokpo and DACO but some much-needed versatility and depth.
#3: Seoul Dynasty
Since the departure of Sang-beom “Munchkin” Byeom, the Dynasty have lacked a dedicated hitscan specialist. Guard’s specialty, Sombra, is one of the few heroes that Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim doesn’t have in his arsenal. On Element Mystic, Guard played alongside superstar DPS Yeong-han “Sp9rk1e” Kim. With this experience under his belt, Guard would be perfectly suited to a supportive, flexible role focusing on enabling Fleta. Element Mystic having specialized in Doomfist-centric compositions, Guard should also make a strong partner to Deong-eon “FITS” Kim. Flexible, coachable, and with the perfect hero pool (including Sombra and Tracer) to cover for Fleta’s weak spots, Guard would be an excellent pickup for the Dynasty.
A Diamond in the Rough
Guard might not have the star power of his old teammates like birdring and Sp9rk1e, and he’s unlikely to be at the center of a bidding war going into 2020. However, whichever team picks him up will find themselves with a flexible, team-oriented player adding depth to their roster. Although he wasn’t able to find his place on London, the right coaching staff might help Guard not only land on his feet but rise to new heights.
Interested in where some of London’s other newly released players might land? The Game Haus took a look at birdring’s options here.
Featured image courtesy of the London Spitfire.
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