Best Mid-Season Acquisition // Spark-itect
How about an addition?
Please welcome @Shock_Architect as flex! He joins us as a reigning champion from @SFShock . We are so excited to have you join and can’t wait for the OWL veteran with a huge hero pool to shine with the Spark. Welcome! d(`･∀･)b
#owl2020 #sparkbang pic.twitter.com/hKvPf1XPR0
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) May 18, 2020
The obvious choice for this award is Architect. The Spark’s entire identity shifted the moment Minho “Architect” Park was announced to the team. Hangzhou were not able to win the 2020 Overwatch League championship with this single move, but the move does mean much more. It established the direction of the future of the organization. From the manga tease to the poetic debut, the Korean DPS is something Hangzhou has been waiting for but never thought would fall into their lap. Now the team has a cornerstone to work with in regards to future acquisitions.
Biggest Surprise // #SPARKxRAILGUN
Entering the Playoffs and
WE ARE READY! ┗|｀O′|┛
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) September 5, 2020
For fans of the Spark, it is known that the identity of the team is heavily influenced by anime. Like the colours of the brand, much of it is directly taken from Japanese otaku culture and more specifically the anime series A Certain Scientific Railgun. In a random announcement going into the postseason, the Spark announced that they are partnering with the said series. One that has a major impact on the Spark/BiliBili brand. One night the team was vaguely associated with the idea of anime, and the very next night, the protagonist of a major anime series is wearing the team’s uniform and helping usher in the playoff season.
Biggest Win // vs. Seoul Dynasty (Countdown Cup)
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) August 8, 2020
For the entire season, the Spark were considered choke artists going into tournament play during the COVID-altered 2020 season. Even with the postseason in mind, the Spark have never been great at opening matches, but the Countdown Cup was a different story. The team found a way to claw towards a reverse sweep against the eventual Grand Final runner-ups: Seoul Dynasty. Both teams went back and forth the entire season, and for the Spark, this was the final opportunity the team had to gain the upper hand on Seoul until they inevitably met up in the season playoffs. Not only were Hangzhou able to win their first tournament matchup of the season, but also it led to a string of wins that brought them to the finals of the APAC region bracket.
Best Comeback // The Posters
We are switching the Manga Series to the Single Art like what we did in 2019. The team could hardly plan & write a consistent storyline as expected, due to the abort of the previous schedule caused by COVID 19. And the 2020 schedule varied from time to time.
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) June 20, 2020
Speaking of comebacks, the return of the patented Hangzhou Spark gameday poster was a welcome sight for many going into their match on June 19. Previous to the bout, the Spark were telling stories through the comic medium, something that was unique to the team, but when quarantine hit its peak, the team had to dial back on the content creation which led to the reintroduction of the iconic posters. From the return of Telly to the integration of the manga-stylized players into the gameday slides, it was nice to see the Pink and Blue flair back on Hangzhou gamedays.
Best Schedule Template // June’s Persona 5-inspired Graphic
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) June 8, 2020
Many teams rely on standard, mostly-legible graphics to promote game days and upcoming matches, but for the Spark: style is essential. As seen in the previously mentioned posters, the Spark always find a way to put their spin on normal, mundane graphics. For June, Hangzhou’s art department got together and delivered a hyper-stylized schedule post heavily influenced by the ever-popular JRPG Persona 5. Regarded as one of the best role-playing games of the last decade, Atlus’ masterpieces in game design easily translates to the flare Hangzhou looks for in their content.
Most Wholesome Team Exchange // Guxue & ColdesT’s Pre-game Cheer
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) August 8, 2020
While the majority of the Spark played together in a separate team house, Qiulin “Guxue” Xu & Tong “ColdesT” Xiaodong played from BiliBili Gaming’s facility. This circumstantially led to some of the best “fighting” cheers in professional Overwatch history. With only Guxue and ColdesT present for the BiliBili side of things, the lone pair is seen chanting with the rest of the team in spirit. By 2021, the team hopes to all be playing together, but for all the bad that has happened in 2020, it was nice to see the team make the most of it whether it was a group of 10 or just a small few.
Best Anime Reference // Architect’s Inuyasha Tribute
Launch Pad Musician @Shock_Architect is presenting the Affections Touching Across Time from Inuyasha!
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) June 23, 2020
While yes, teaming up with Railgun is a feat in itself, but who would have thought that clicking heads could also translate to playing a graceful rendition of a theme from the anime Inuyasha on a MIDI controller. There is not much else to say but to give it a listen.
Biggest Flex // The New Team House
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) October 30, 2020
As if fans thought the season was over after the Shock won back-to-back championships at this year’s Grand Finals, the Spark dropped a bombshell on the league. While not in the form of a big free-agent acquisition or trade, the team rather revealed their new neon-ladened team facility. A few up-to-date computer setups and meeting rooms are probably enough for most teams, but as the proof shows from this article: the Spark are not just some normal team. From the LED video-walls to the neo-futuristic geometric design of the entrance, this new team facility is on-par, if not better, than many traditional sports camps in North America let alone an esports team. For a team that doesn’t make many splashes in the roster move department: they sure enjoy finding ways to continuously make huge strides in style within the esports space.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark
“From Our Haus to Yours”