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NYXL 2020 Season Preview

The NYXL have been a permanent resident at the top of the leader-boards since the inception of the Overwatch league. A powerhouse all of 2018, they finished Season 1 with an unprecedented regular season record of 34-6. Unfortunately, though they held the best record in the league, they fell short of reaching the Grand Finals with a heartbreaking semifinals loss to the Philadelphia Fusion. Haunted by that now-infamous series, they went into the 2019 season looking for another shot at the championship. However, their 2019 playoff run would be cut short by the 2019 Grand Finals victors, the San Francisco Shock, in the lower bracket finals.

Hopeful that the third time will be a charm, the NYXL are entering 2020 bent on redemption. They have ensured equivalent exchange for the minimal roster moves they made over the off-season, and there is no reason to assume they will struggle with cohesion. Their previous record and a new coaching staff add to the confidence that this team will continue to dominate as a well-oiled veteran machine.

The Road so Far- a 2019 Review

NYXL 2020 Preview
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The NYXL asserted their dominance early, starting their 2019 season strong with a perfect Stage 1 record. Expectations were high after their inaugural season performance, and the NYXL were eager to prove they were still a top-tier team. Despite falling to the Seoul Dynasty in the Stage 1 Playoff Quarterfinals, they barreled into the next stage, garnering a 23-map win streak along the way. They would not see their first regular season loss until the end of Stage 2, where they suffered back-to-back defeats at the hands of the Atlanta Reign. Despite qualifying for the second straight stage playoffs, they were eliminated from the semi-finals.

Stage 3 marked a resurgence for the NYXL, and they again found themselves with an undefeated stage record. Echoing their Stage 1 performance, they were eliminated from the Stage 3 Playoff Quarterfinals, this time by the Shanghai Dragons. After the implementation of role lock, Stage 4 was rocky for the NYXL. The Chengdu Hunters would deliver them their first 0-4 loss in franchise history, but they would clinch the top seed in the Atlantic Division for Season Playoffs.

They began their 2019 playoff run with a 4-1 victory against 2018 Grand Finals Champions the London Spitfire. The NYXL continued onward, sending the Atlanta Reign to the lower bracket and heading to the winners’ finals where they would face the Vancouver Titans. The match against the Titans ended with an especially painful loss on Dorado, forcing the NYXL into the lower bracket, where they would suffer a decisive defeat by the San Francisco Shock. Once again, Grand Finals hopes had been snatched from the hungry jaws of the NYXL.

 

Returning to the Stage

NYXL 2020 Preview
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
Head Coach: Yong-cheol “imt” Jeong (formerly Assistant Coach)
Hitscan DPS: Jong-ryeol “Saebyeolbe” Park (Captain)
Hitscan DPS: Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong
Flex DPS: Hae-seong “Libero” Kim
Main Tank: Dong-gyu “Mano” Kim
Main Support: Taesung “Anamo” Jung
Flex Support: Sung-hyeon “JJoNak” Bang

Consistency continues to be one of the team’s greatest strengths, and as such very few changes were made during the off-season. Much of the 2019 roster is returning, and their “new” head coach isn’t new at all. As the former assistant coach, it is hoped that imt will have minimal growing pains filling the head coach shoes.

Mano’s power and dependability as a main tank have been stable influences for the team for two seasons. The departure of flex tank Tae-hong “MekO” Kim was a shock to the community, but Mano should be able to adapt easily to the new talent.

Anamo is nearly impossible to kill, with the 2nd fewest deaths in the League for the 2019 regular season. Two time All-Star and 2018 T-Mobile MVP Jjonak is still widely regarded as one of the most dangerous flex support players in the game. With both of NYXL’s battle-tested supports returning, their support line gives little cause for doubt.

The off-season also saw the retirement of fan-favorite Do-hyeon “Pine” Kim, who stepped into a new role as a streamer for NYXL. Despite losing Pine and Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang- New York’s DPS talent pool remains optimistically stacked. Nenne proved himself with a breakout 2019 season, showing his flexibility on Zarya during the ill-fated GOATS meta and then reminding everyone at the All-Star game just how good he is at clicking heads. He quickly became the player to watch and established himself as a household name. Along with NYXL originals SBB and Libero, this squad is sure to shine in 2020.

 

The New Guys

Assistant Coach: Ju-hyeop “WhyNot” Lee
DPS: Seung-jun “WhoRU” Lee
Flex Tank: Hong-joon “HOTBA” Choi
Flex Tank: Dong-wook “BiaNcA” Kim
Support: Chan-hee “Mandu” Kim

In what could prove to be a significant change, the NYXL parted ways with head coach Hyeon-sang “Pavane” Yu. Pavane’s departure led to the promotion of assistant coach imt and the addition of WhyNot as assistant coach.

With the release of MekO, the NYXL needed to fill in the hole in their tank line. Their first off-season acquisitions added off-tanks HOTBA and BiaNcA to meet that need. With the tank situation under control, they looked to the future of their support line by adding Mandu, despite his ineligibility to play until June. Rumors swirled regarding the signing of Fusion University’s DPS sensation WhoRU, and in December the announcement was confirmed.

 

Taking the Reins

Newly appointed head coach imt has blinded the NYXL with science. With a PhD in neuroscience, he has been weaving his scientific knowledge into his coaching since the start of Season 2. Playing Overwatch as a hobby, imt became interested in the strategy behind the game. He began to research via YouTube and was soon creating his own strategy videos. It was through these videos that he was noticed by the NYXL organization, and hired as an assistant coach. He started coaching long-distance from Korea, which proved initially challenging, but soon found a groove with the players and became more comfortable. Applying his science background to esports, he has been credited as being the driving force behind their 2019 playoff run. Fun Fact? His moniker comes from the phrase “image trainer,” which refers to his love of basketball and his tendency to hone his skills with an imaginary ball.

Joining imt at the helm for the 2020 season is assistant coach WhyNot. As the former assistant coach to the Seoul Dynasty as well as Korean organization O2 Ardeont- WhyNot is no stranger to coaching competitive Overwatch. While with the Dynasty, he helped them make it out of the play-in tournament and reach a top 8 placement in the playoffs. Previously, the player-turned-coach helped lead O2 Ardeont into two playoff appearances, one of which landed them in the grand finals. His background as a coach and as a player (MVP/MVP Infinity) bring experience and understanding to his leadership role with the NYXL.

 

Rounding Out the Roster

NYXL 2020 Preview
courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Filling MekO’s chair may seem like a daunting task, but if anyone is up to it- it’s HOTBA. HOTBA has been a staple on the OWL stage since the beginning, when he went all the way to the Grand Finals with the Philadelphia Fusion. After moving to the Guangzhou Charge, he shone even brighter as their starting off-tank. After a stellar performance, it shocked fans to see his release from the Charge but their loss will be NYXL’s gain.

In addition to HOTBA, the NYXL promoted BiaNcA from XL2 for some added depth to their tank line. BiaNcA was the longest running member of the NYXL’s academy team before the team was disbanded, albeit some of that was spent on their bench. He is highly regarded for his skill, and it remains to be seen whether he or HOTBA will secure the starting spot.

One of the most highly anticipated pickups of the season, WhoRU has big expectations to live up to. Fans of the dominant Fusion University squad can’t wait to see WhoRU take on the big dogs in OWL. The DPS star was already a household name before his time with Fusion University, from his APEX days. He’d carved his legacy out with Lunatic Hai, winning two seasons of APEX in Korea before OWL even existed.

Hailed as one of the best Lucio players in Contenders Korea, Mandu is a longer-term investment for the NYXL. At 17, he narrowly made the cutoff for contract eligibility for the 2020 roster. After an impressive 2nd place run with O2 Blast in KRC, Mandu is expected to be a standout support. He will not be eligible to play until June, so it will be some time before his impact on the NYXL will be fully realized.

 

Strength of Schedule

NYXL 2020 Preview
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Season 3 marks an unprecedented change in the Overwatch League format. Instead of the teams battling in Los Angeles, the season will be conducted entirely in the new homestand structure. The NYXL are only hosting two homestands in New York City and will be spending much of their time on the road, including several trips overseas. While all teams will have to adjust, the NYXL will not have a backup support player until the later part of the season to help ease the burden of travel. This could prove problematic as the season wears on and the players grow increasingly exhausted.

The NYXL will cross the Atlantic four times, heading to Paris and London. While London will be their first trip to Europe, they will return three more times to attend matches in Paris. Toward the end of the season, they head to China for a whirlwind three weeks of games before coming back across the Pacific to finish the regular season in Toronto. This is in addition to their back-and-forth stateside schedule, pulling them all over the East Coast and across to Texas. The NYXL certainly do not seem to have one of the lighter travel schedules in the League.

As far as the match-ups themselves are concerned- the Atlantic North Division is no slouch. While the NYXL ranked highest among the teams in their conference in 2019, a lot has happened over the off-season. Teams like Toronto and Paris have made some big changes and could prove to be bigger threats than previously anticipated. With shifting metas and unpredictable travel consequences- Overwatch is very much anyone’s game in 2020.

 

Homestands

Opening Weekend, February 8-9 at the Hammerstein Ballroom

Week 17, May 30-31 at the Hammerstein Ballroom

 

Games to Watch

The NYXL’s season will start at home, with their highly anticipated first homestand on opening weekend. Kicking off the season at home should be a huge momentum boost, with matches against London and Boston. Last season, all but one team won both their homestand matches, and the home-field advantage should prevail for the NYXL. After that though, they have a week off so it will be up to the NYXL to keep up the hype and take it with them to Washington.

Immediately following the All-Star break, the NYXL will find themselves on the other side of that coin playing against the Eternal in Paris. As Overwatch World Cup fans know, the French crowd can be rough to play against, and are known for being quite a force. It will be interesting to see how the calm and collected NYXL will fare against them. This will not be the last time the NYXL are forced to face the hometown team. They will play against two hometown teams in Guangzhou and Chengdu, before ending their season against the Defiant in Toronto.

Another match worth tuning in to will be their week 19 bout with the San Francisco Shock in Paris. Fans will remember that the Shock defeated the NYXL in the lower bracket last season, taking all hopes of a Grand Finals appearance off the table. The Shock then went on to defeat the Vancouver Titans and become the Season 2 champions. Undoubtedly, New York will be hungry to repay them for the kindness in their only meeting of the regular season.

Potential Standout

The NYXL are nothing if not consistent. Every change they make and each season they power through brings them a little closer to tasting that Championship victory. With a host of returning talent and the leadership of their Captain, All-Star DPS Saebyeolbe, 2020 just might be the NYXL’s season. That being said, the players to watch this season are definitely the new roster additions. How they do or don’t gel with the team is going to be the fulcrum for the NYXL’s success.

After seeing what WhoRU is capable of in APEX and with Fusion University, he is poised to have a breakout season. Given his history, he is a player that can be counted on to make the most of any situation his team lands in. This level of skill paired with their already hard-hitting DPS talent might be what sends the NYXL into the finals. Regardless of meta, WhoRU is going to be a name people will be talking about all season.

Keys to Victory
NYXL 2020 Preview
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Getting one of the coveted Grand Finals spots relies on getting a lot of things right throughout the season. Fortunately for the NYXL, they excel at getting a lot of things right. This season, the most important thing they will need to hammer down quickly is their tank line. Mano getting into a good groove with HOTBA and BiaNcA is crucial to the success of the NYXL. While HOTBA is used to adapting to new team environments, as this is his third in OWL, nothing is guaranteed.

Additionally, it remains to be seen how flexible the new tanks will be with regard to Jjonak. Former off-tank MekO often played quite defensively around the star support, but it’s unknown how the new tanks will play. Will they adopt the same protective playstyle or will Jjonak need to adapt his methods? The effect this will have on the NYXL supports will be a vital key for 2020.

Perhaps the most pivotal key to getting those fashionable “Grand Finals Champion” jackets is going to be in the coaching.  As strong as they are during regular season matches, the NYXL are not known for their excellent playoff showings. If imt and WhyNot can get the team over their tendency to freeze up during playoff matches- it could be the NYXL hoisting that trophy this time. After all, third time’s the charm.

 

Questions? You can message me on Twitter @Psyryn_OG and ask away!

I’m always happy to discuss OWL or my work.

 

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