All this week The Game Haus has been handing out offseason grades to every team in the Overwatch League. For a review of the offseason, be sure to check out our pieces on the Atlantic North and South along with the Pacific West. Today, it’s time for the Pacific West division, home of the four Chinese teams as well as the Seoul Dynasty.
Chengdu Hunters: B+
+ Huang “leave” Xin (Turned 18) – Li “GARRY” Guan
+ Chen “ATing” Shao-Hua – Zhang “YangXiaoLong” Zhihao
+ He “Molly” Chengzhi – Wei “jiqiren” Yansong
+ Chen “Lengsa” Jingyi – Xingrui “RUI” Wang, Head Coach
+ Wu “Dokkaebi” Xiuqing, Co-Head Coach
+ Li “GARRY” Guan, Assistant Coach
What started as a pretty quiet offseason for Chengdu has become potentially transformative in the last few days. For starters, they’ve completely overhauled the coaching staff, promoting Baconjack’s former Flash Wolves coach Chang “Ray” Chia-Hua to share head coaching duties with Dokkaebi, who was at the helm of Contenders China champs LGE.Huya. They’re joined by Garry, who makes the transition from player to assistant coach.
The Hunters’ roster has also received a major facelift. Though he was officially signed late last season, leave has finally turned 18 and will make his OWL debut this year. It’s hard to understate what leave could mean to Chengdu. A hyper-flex DPS in the mold of ByungSun “Fleta” Kim or Junyoung “Profit” Park, leave enters the season with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. This is especially the case in his native China where he’s been a star in domestic competition and the World Cup.
To their credit, Chengdu wasn’t content to simply lock down China’s top DPS prospect. They went out and made moves to cover their weaknesses from last season as well. ATing fills the role of a more traditional main tank, making up for the holes in Menghan “Ameng” Ding’s hero pool. Molly and Lengsa bolster the support line, at times a weakness in 2019. Molly especially was a standout in Chinese Contenders, so expect him to challenge for the starting spot.
Hangzhou Spark: C+
+ Tong “Coldest” Xiaodong – HyungKeun “Revenge” Ahn
+ Liu “M1ka” Jiming – Da un “NoSmite” Jeong
+ Young-su “yeah” Jung, Assistant Coach – Seung-jun “Sup7eme” Han
The Hangzhou Spark were sneaky good last year. They never quite cracked into the top tier of championship contenders, but they quietly took care of business. The result was a 4th place finish in their expansion season. With results like those, it’s understandable that Hangzhou didn’t have the busiest offseason.
The roster continuity that Hangzhou brings to the table is unmatched by anyone not named the San Francisco Shock. They’re betting on that continuity, along with a couple additions, being enough to keep them competitive. Their two free-agent signings, Coldest and M1ka, represent an attempt to incorporate more Chinese talent into the team as localization comes into play.
While M1ka’s role is likely as Ho-jin “iDK” Park’s backup, Coldest has a chance to be a game-changer for Hangzhou. Universally regarded as the best Chinese talent available this offseason, Coldest is another in a long line of stud flex supports who could have a big impact as a rookie. If he can live up to that potential, the Spark might just secure a spot amongst the league’s elite teams. If not, this offseason will feel like a missed opportunity for a team on the verge of something great.
Guangzhou Charge: B-
+ Ki-cheol “Cr0ng” Nam – Lee “Rise” Won-jae
+ Qi “Wya” Haomiao – Hong-Jun “HOTBA” Choi
+ Alberto “neptuNo” González – Joona “fragi” Laine
+ Chris “MirroR” Trinh – Aaron “Bischu” Kim
+ Nolan “Paintbrush” Edwards – Chen “OnlyWish” Lizhen
+ Aaron “Bischu” Kim – Rohit “CurryShot” Nathani, Strategic Coach
Perhaps more than any team, Guangzhou is relying on internal development to propel them to new heights in 2020. A strong second half of their expansion season has given the Charge confidence in what they built. In that spirit, they made just three offseason acquisitions.
First is the addition of Cr0ng, the replacement for HOTBA at flex tank. The transition from Contenders to OWL is tough, but Cr0ng has potential to be an upgrade here, especially with some of HOTBA’s value lost to role lock. At the very least, he’ll make a very reliable partner for Seungpyo “Rio” Oh in the tank line.
The support pickups are where things get interesting. Wya is unlikely to crack the starting lineup thanks to Jin Seo “Shu” Kim, but gives the Charge some depth. The real story is neptuNo, who joins Guangzhou after two years with Philadelphia. The Charge were the youngest team in the league in 2019, and neotuNo is here to bring some veteran leadership. Provided he can gel with the team, he is exactly what Guangzhou needed to take a leap.
Seoul Dynasty: B
+ Junyoung “Profit” Park – Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu
+ Jaehui “Gesture” Hong – Sung-hyeok “Highly” Lee
+ Young-wan “Creative” Kim – ByungSun “Fleta” Kim
+ Seungtae “Bdosin” Choi – SeungSoo “Jecse” Lee
+ Seong-won “MMA” Mun, Assistant Coach – Joonyeok “zunba” Kim
+ Hyeong-seok “WizardHyeong” Kim, Strategic Coach – Dong-gun “KDG” Kim, Head Coach
+ Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen – Ju-hyeop “WhyNot” Lee, Assistant Coach
On paper, Seoul’s offseason was an unmitigated success. They acquired three of the four best players from the 2018 champion London Spitfire. With Gesture and Profit, they landed two of the biggest names in Korean Overwatch. Now, with localization coming online in 2020, it was a coup to get such big names.
Still, something feels a bit underwhelming. Perhaps it’s the loss of Fleta, who would have made an excellent partner in crime for Profit. Maybe it’s the fact that Gesture’s star status doesn’t really line up with his lackluster performance last year. It could even be the pain of moving on from the legend, ryujehong, despite the presumed upgrade in Bdosin. In the end, this was undeniably a solid offseason for Seoul, but they’re still a piece or two away from making real noise.
Shanghai Dragons: A-
+ ByungSun “Fleta” Kim – YoungJin “YOUNGJIN” Jin
+ Jae-won “LIP” Lee – Youngjin “Gamsu” Noh
+ Jun Woo “Void” Kang – Gyeong Woo “CoMa” Son
+ Ji-won “Stand1” Seo – Seong-hwan “BlueHaS” We, Head Coach
+ Jae-gon “LeeJaeGon” Lee – Chung-Hyeok “Levi” Jeong, Assistant Coach
+ Byung-chul “Moon” Moon, Head Coach
+ Dong-soo “Dongsu” Shin, Assistant Coach + Jeong-min “Jfeel” Kim, Assistant Coach
If 2019 was the year that the Dragons had their breakthrough, 2020 could be when they take their seat alongside the rest of the league’s elite. As evidenced by their Stage 3 title, the talent was always there for Shanghai. Consistency was the issue. Well, that and having their triple-DPS style outlawed by the league just as they were hitting their stride.
The additions Shanghai has made could fix nearly every problem they faced last year. Fleta rounds out their DPS core with a flexible star who could play alongside Min Sung “diem” Bae or Jinhyeok “DDing” Yang. LeeJaeGon will elevate the support line from average to truly terrifying. Void might be the biggest pickup of all, bringing stability to the flex tank position that was a revolving door for Shanghai last year.
The one question mark that remains for the Dragons is the main tank spot. Stand1 had his moments with Gladiators Legion, but nothing about his play suggested he was truly OWL-ready, especially not for a team that should have championship aspirations. New head coach Moon sees him as a bit of a blank slate, someone who can be molded to fit the rest of the squad. If he can make Stand1 even an average starter in the league, Shanghai should be superb. If the rookie can’t perform, the Dragons will regret their lack of depth at such a crucial position.
Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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