In the last couple of games in the regular season, the Hangzhou Spark decided to showcase the young, Chinese support duo Liu “M1ka” Jiming and Tong “ColdEst” Xiaodong. Following a sub-standard showing from Spark veteran Ho-jin “iDK” Park and rookie Jeong-ho “MCD” Lee throughout the 2021 season, the well-deserved playtime for the pair gave both players some needed seasoning going into the OWL Play-ins in September.
Amid this trial phase, flex support MCD came under fire after reports of the player using racially insensitive remarks towards a Chinese player were disclosed just a couple of days ago. This led Hangzhou – a Chinese organization based in a major Chinese city with a host of Chinese players – to release the Korean rookie just mere hours after reports came out.
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) August 24, 2021
This is unfortunate for a rookie that was the league’s top Ana player at one point in the season and had a bright future ahead of him.
With MCD out of the picture, this puts the Spark organization in a peculiar position. IDK himself is not at fault but based on the history of ColdesT and M1KA as a pair, as well as the xenophobia at hand, it would make sense for the team to go into play-ins with the Chinese duo starting. Not only have both players proved their worth last season based on their numbers, but based on the team’s regular-season record: the team is in need of a shake-up if they want to change their results going into the postseason.
The Spark, as a team, have gone 0-4 in their final four games of the season. This includes two 1-3 losses and pair of close, map five losses. Ironically, the first two losses came at the hands of the Philadelphia Fusion and the Seoul Dynasty – the two teams Hangzhou must defeat in the play-ins to advance to the playoffs. In both matchups, IDK and MCD covered the backline in a 2-3 loss to Seoul and a 1-3 loss to Philadelphia. During both games, IDK posted an average of 36104 healing with 14.5 Rallies used and 77.5 defensive assists with his most played hero: Brigitte.
MCD, on the other hand, posted 49 eliminations, 38924 healing, 19 ultimates used, 45 offensive assists and 57 defensive assists with Zenyatta against the Dynasty. Against the Fusion, MCD recorded 34 eliminations, 44524 healing, 19 ultimates used, 33 offensive assists and 60 defensive assists with a combination of Zenyatta, Baptiste and Ana.
The New Blood
The final two games saw M1ka and ColdEst go up against the Chengdu Hunters and the Guangzhou Charge. The Spark lost to the Hunters 1-3 while they gave a valiant effort against the Charge in a 2-3 loss. In comparison to his Korean counterpart, IDK, M1ka stayed on Brigitte for a majority of the two bouts with small stints as Mercy. With the Swedish support hero, M1ka recorded an average of 40027 healing, 16 Rallies and 97.5 defensive assists in both games.
ColdEst versus his, now-former, fellow flex support MCD, posted 49 eliminations, 35894 healing, 17 ultimates used, 58 offensive assists and 74 defensive assists against Chengdu as Zenyatta and Ana. Mind that ColdEst only played Ana for a total of 8:49, which boils down to ColdEst averaging over one offensive and defensive assist per minute total. The Chinese flex support’s seven eliminations on Ana means that he was close to averaging a kill per minute on the hero, on top of his assist statistics. Against the Charge, ColdEst posted 60 eliminations, 55130 healing, 27 ultimates used, 81 offensive assists and 96 defensive assists as Zenyatta and Ana. Once again, ColdEst only played 8:32 minutes of Ana and contributed 13 offensive and 10 defensive assists in that time away from his Zenyatta pick.
As the same as it was last September, M1ka and ColdEst have proven that they are still on par, if not better, than their starting equivalents. Last year, the story was whether the players’ calls ups were wasted. This year, however, the narrative is how the duo stacks up as future starters.
And if that is the narrative: M1ka and ColdEst are ready for the spotlight.
Based on the circumstances with MCD, the Spark will most likely need to rely on ColdEst to fill his starting position. While this does not necessarily bar IDK from keeping his spot, M1ka’s numbers show that he can keep up with IDK even after being benched for the majority of the season. His history and chemistry with ColdEst will probably be the catalyst in the team’s decision to keep the pair together for the foreseeable future.
Rust does not seem to show for the still-young Chinese duo. Both players have been benched for long periods in their two seasons in the OWL, and both times have played above average vs OWL talent when given the opportunity.
These two players now have a chance to prove their worth at the Overwatch League’s ultimate proving grounds: the play-ins. For both these storylines to align, it is only fitting for the two to be on the starting six.
Regardless of the means by which M1ka and ColdEst made it to this point, it will be riveting to see how Hangzhou adjusts to the future of their support core.
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Featured Image Courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark.
M1ka and ColdEst