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The 2021 Spark Make Their “Debut” This Weekend At The Shanghai Masters Invitational

Spark Invitational

For the first time since the 2020 OWL postseason, each of the Chinese OWL teams will compete in single-elimination bracket at the Shanghai Masters Invitational. The matchups will all happen on December 5, 2020. This exhibition tournament will be the first time fans and critics will be able to see many of the new additions each of the four teams have acquired since the beginning of the 2021 off-season. For the Spark, in particular, the potential of two full, multi-map matches could give the team plenty of opportunities to showcase much of their revamped roster. On one side of the bracket, the Guangzhou Charge will go up against the Shanghai Dragons. On the other side, the Chengdu Hunters will face the Hangzhou Spark.

For the first time since the flurry of announcements Hangzhou made a couple of weeks ago, the Spark will be able to show off their new squad in at least three full maps of play. The Spark have a chance to play either the Dragons or Charge in the tournament finals, but the only guaranteed team they will face this weekend will be the Hunters. The Hunters themselves have made a few moves that will also shake things up in the APAC region in 2021. The prospect of each of these teams being able to experiment with all their new players and create early chemistry is wonderful, especially under the current circumstances that the world is facing today.

Chengdu’s OffSeason

Spark Invitational
Image via Chengdu Hunters

Since the season ended in mid-October, Chengdu has made a few changes and have now developed a full Chinese roster. The Hunters started their off-season early on October 15th. The first two changes came in form of the retirement of the Taiwanese duo, Chen “ATing” Shao-Hua and Lo “Baconjack” Tzu-Heng. The Tank and DPS players, respectively, were the only two Taiwan players on the Hunters’ roster. From there, the team took about a month to make any further changes. 

On November 18th, the team made some contract moves with their academy team: Team Chasers. World Cup vets Ma “LateYoung” Tianbin and Li “Yveltal” Xianyao’s contracts were both given two-way status. This allows both players to jump from team to team whenever parent company, Huya Live, saw fit. Then, Supports Chen “Lengsa” Jingyi and Kong “Kyo” Chunting were both sent down to Team Chasers on the same day.

A couple of days later, on November 20, the team announced the signings of Damage players Lei “Jimmy” Yujia and Liu “Kaneki” Nian. Jimmy is a Hitscan player who played for a few Condenders China teams in 2020. Kaneki, on the other hand, played with Jimmy on the team Cosmos et Veritas Gaming. He also had a stint on LGD Gaming as a projectile DPS. 

Two days after that, the Hunters acquired Support Tan “Nisha” Li from Hangzhou’s farm team: Bilibili Gaming. Nisha was formerly known as “illusion” in Contenders China. The matchup between him and his former BLG teammates could be interesting in particular. 

On November 25, the Dragons would announce that they acquired Flex Support He “Molly” Chengzhi from the Hunters. This would place Nisha as the teams only one-way Flex Support on the team. But then a few days later, Chengdu announced that Qiu “GA9A” Jiaxin and Cao “Farway1987” Jiale would join the team form Team CC.

Team CC was dominant in 2020. The Dragon’s academy team was virtually unbeatable for the majority of both seasons of Contenders. Farway1987 was the team’s Flex Support and brings a lot to the table for Chengdu. Main Tank GA9A seems to be a perfect fit for the Hunters as a strong Winston player. However, he also has shown wild capabilities on Wrecking Ball, which fits in seamlessly with the anti-meta style Chengdu has patented.

For the most part, the Hunters have stuck to a similar core since the 2019 season. Leaders like Ding “Ameng” Menghan are still at the forefront of the team’s philosophy. But the team has also brought in plenty of new talent, especially from those in opposing team’s camps. These pick-ups should help the Hunters in the long run as a small but potent boost to the team’s lineup.

Spark vs. Hunters

Spark Invitational
Image via Hangzhou Spark

For the Spark, the team has also acquired capable Contenders players like Tank Jia “LiGe” Chengjie from Team CC and Support Jeong-ho “MCD” Lee from Element Mystic. Piled on top of that, Hangzhou also has OWL-seasoned players like Se-won “BERNAR” Shin and fan-favourite Min-soo “SeoMinSoo” Seo. 

The matchup should be a must-watch as both teams will utilize the natural competitive setting to find new player combinations. This is even before any NA/EU team has a chance to do so. While this tournament is far from a true clash of rivals, the invitational did show its importance last year. Rookie at the time, Jae-won “LIP” Lee and the new-look Shanghai Dragons went undefeated on every map with a 7-0 record. They then took that momentum into the 2020 Overwatch League season. With this, the new-look Spark are looking to replicate that performance and push it into Season 4 of the OWL. 

The Spark play the Hunters on December 5, 2020, at midnight PST. The finals take place on the same day at 3:30 A.M. PST.


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Featured Image Courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark.

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