The Chengdu Hunters were expected to become “the other winless Chinese team”. When the roster was announced ahead of the 2019 season, many were quick to compare them to the original Shanghai Dragons team, who went 0-40 in season one.
Just like the original Shanghai Dragon’s team, the Hunters were filled with Chinese contenders players. China has its own bustling Overwatch community, but it’s a region largely ignored by the west in favor of regions like South Korea, North America and the EU. Generally many were not particularly impressed with the Hunters roster, to most western fans the team was made up of relatively unknown talent.
At the start of the 2019 season, there were already rumors buzzing that the Hunters were not scrimming GOATs, aka the 3-3 meta. A shock to many as GOATs, a team composition of three tanks and three healers, was the prevailing meta that every team was playing. Evidently, the rumors were true, as it became the Hunters signature style to almost exclusively never play on-meta.
The Hunter’s unorthodox playstyle, at times, allowed them to do better than many expected during their 2019 season. They became known as a team impossible to prepare for because of their unpredictability. Despite their often surprising performances, the team however narrowly made it to play-ins. They clinched the 12th seed with a 13-15 record and were eliminated in the play-ins by the Guangzhou Charge.
Flex Support: Chunting “Kyo” Kong
Main Support: Xianyao “Yveltal” Li
Off-Tank: Wenji “Elsa” Luo
Off-Tank: Tianbin “LateYoung” Ma
Main Tank: Menghan “Ameng” Ding
DPS: Tzu-Heng “Baconjack” Lo
DPS: Hu “JinMu” Yi
Most of the returning players were regular starters for the Chengdu Hunters’ 2019 season. Only two players were cut in the off-season, signaling perhaps the Hunters didn’t plan on straying too far from their original formula. With a year of the Overwatch League under their belly, the Chengdu Hunters appear to be choosing to work on their existing synergy for their 2020 season.
DPS: Xin “Leave” Huang
Main Tank: Shao-Hua “ATing” Chen
Flex Support: Chengzhi “Molly” He
Main Support: Jingyi “Lengsa” Chen
By far the biggest pick up for the Chengdu Hunters during this season has to be star DPS player Leave. Although his signing was announced at the end of the 2019 season, Leave was ineligible to play because of his age. A Leave and JinMu DPS duo will likely be the heart and soul of the Chengdu Hunters going into 2020. ATing rounds out their Main tank position and gives some stability, given that Ameng often plays off-meta tanks. While Molly and Lengsa, a support duo known for their great synergy is an added boost for the Hunters.
The Chengdu Hunters underwent some changes in their coaching department. Coach Xingrui “RUI” Wang, a widely popular figure in the CNOW scene, stepped down as coach during the off-season. Former assistant coach, Chia-Hua “Ray” Chang, will move up as co-head coach alongside Wu “Dokkaebi” Xiuqing. Dokkaebi worked previously as the head coach to the Hunters academy team.
On top of their new co-Head Coaches, the Chengdu Hunters also moved up main support player Li “Garry” Guan to an assistant Coaching position. Garry spent the 2019 season mostly riding the bench. However, Garry was the eldest member of the team and a veteran player. As a player, it said that he worked as a go-between players and coaching staff. His transition to assistant coach was probably in the works for a while.
Player’s Back Grounds:
Leave only turned 18 recently and thus became eligible to play in the OWL, although he has played professionally in contenders since 2017. He played on a Chinese contenders team called Miraculous Youngsters. But Leave got his name playing for Team China for the 2018 Overwatch World Cup. He is known for his impressively flexible hero pool and was a much sought after free-agent.
ATing, a Taiwanese main tank player, has also been playing professional Overwatch since 2017. He briefly played for LGE.HUYA, the Hunters’ academy team. Until he was signed to Nova Monster Shield, a Taiwanese and Hong Kong contenders team.
Molly and Lengsa, played together on LGE.HUYA and are known to have existing synergy. Most recently the two played at the Contenders 2019 Gauntlet.
The Chengdu Hunters are in the Pacific East Division, alongside the Guangzhou Charge, the Hangzhou Spark, the Shanghai dragons and the Seoul Dynasty. Pretty stiff competition for them in this division- considering that the Hunters struggled last season against the other Chinese Overwatch Teams.
On top of that, their schedule is fairly tough. They take on top tier teams like the Vancouver Titans and the San Francisco Shock twice. Along with having to face many opponents, they struggled against last year twice as well.
Like many teams in the Overwatch League, the Hunters have a bit of traveling to do. They start off with a large portion of their schedule in China. After that, it gets a little more hectic with a few stops in the USA. But fortunately, they end their season with another long stint in China. Their final match of the season will be at their own homestead; hopefully, they can end on a high note.
Most Anticipated Games of the Season:
Who doesn’t love a good Chinese team rivalry? With all the Chinese teams in one division we will certainly get a lot of them. Matches against the Hangzhou Spark, the Shanghai Dragons and the Guangzhou Charge will likely be the matches to watch. Those matches will be important for the Chengdu Hunters overall 2020 playoff potential. Leaders of each division get spots in the playoffs. But also the pure entertainment value of Chinese teams duking it out for the spot as the best Chinese Overwatch team is also entirely exciting in its own right.
Another fun rivalry for Chengdu Hunters, are matches against the Los Angeles Valiant, who they will face twice in 2020. At the end of last season, the Valiant was only a few games away from clinching a spot in the play-ins. The Hunters were the ones that took it in the end and ended the Valiant’s season. There could be some bad blood between them for that, which will make for an interesting match.
Player to watch:
There appears to be no doubt in anyone’s mind, who the player to watch will be for this season. Leave is probably the largest acquisition for the Hunters and the key to their own success. Leave was one of the hottest free-agents, and many were very excited to finally see him able to join the Overwatch League. With the minimal changes the Hunters made to their roster, it seems clear that all eyes are on Leave to carry. Last season, JinMu was that ridiculously strong carry potential; but a JinMu and Leave DPS duo could be the stuff of nightmares.
Key to Success:
The Hunters seem to be generally satisfied with their experience in the 2019 season, so much so that they have only made small changes. It appears likely that the Chengdu Hunters’ starting six will remain the same for the 2020 season, but with the addition of Leave on DPS.
Last season, the key to their success often hung on whether their DPS talent could perform. Leave is quite a nice upgrade in that department and his carry potential could be very high.
On another note, Coach RUI’s departure was no doubt a blow to them. But a Ray and Dokkaebi coaching duo will probably not drastically change the team, either. It’s hard to picture them moving that far up or down, and it is likely they will end up in the same position they were last season. As long as they can keep their opponents guessing.
Their schedule and division, however, is hard to ignore. Last season, they showed a general weakness against their fellow Chinese teams. With all their Chinese rivals sharing the Pacific East Division, it’s likely they will struggle this season. On top of that, their previously chaotic style which always caught teams off guard may not be so surprising anymore. In any case, as we have come to expect from the Chengdu Hunters- it will positively be very entertaining to watch.
Featured photo credit to Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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