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Offseason OWL Team Grades: Pacific West

San Francisco Shock Stage 3

Yesterday, The Game Haus handed out offseason grades to the teams of the Atlantic North division. Today, it’s time for the Pacific West, where three of the league’s top five teams from 2019 reside. It’s been a tumultuous offseason for the West Coast, with nearly every team making major changes. Who improved their 2020 chances, and who fell behind?

Dallas Fuel: B

Roster Moves

+ Youngjin “Gamsu” Noh                                     – Minseok “OGE” Son
+ Gui-un “Decay” Jang                                         – Timo “Taimou” Kettuten
+ Dong-ha “Doha” Kim                                         – Julien “daemoN” Ducros, Assistant Coach
+ Yong-Jin “Yong” Kim, Assistant Coach           – Justin “Jayne” Conroy, Assistant Coach        

Affer two disappointing seasons in the Overwatch League, Dallas entered the offseason looking for a new direction. While fans might have been expecting a higher number of changes, it’s hard to argue with the quality of the new additions. The question now becomes whether they can put all the pieces together into something cohesive. 

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The DPS line got a major facelift with the additions of Doha and Decay. Decay is the consistent carry DPS Dallas has been lacking, and Doha already knows how to compliment a star from his time on Element Mystic. Of course, to get Decay Dallas had to part ways with OGE, one of the few bright spots from their first two seasons. In his place, they’ve picked up Gamsu, a jack-of-all-trades main tank with a penchant for team leadership. 

Dallas’s moves suggest an improved Fuel team in 2020, but there are still definite question marks. Is the support duo of Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson and Wonsik “Closer” Jun up to snuff? Can the team coalesce around Gamsu? Those answers will decide whether Dallas went far enough in their rebuild.

Los Angeles Gladiators: B-

Roster Moves

+ Indy “SPACE” Halpern                                        – Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye
+ Minseok “OGE” Son                                            – João “Hydration” Telles
+ Ji Hyeok “birdring” Kim                                      – Riku “Ripa” Toivanen
+ Chris “MirroR” Trinh                                            – Gui-un “Decay” Jang
+ Nolan “Paintbrush” Edwards                              – Lane “Surefour” Roberts
+ Aaron “Bischu” Kim                                            – Jun Woo “Void” Kang
+ Roni “LhCloudy” Tiihonen                                 – Byong-ho “Panker” Lee
+ Jason “Jaru” White                                             – Timothy “Tim” Albanese, Assistant Coach
+ Sam “face” Merewether, Assistant Coach        – Seetoh “JohnGalt” Jian Qing, Assistant Coach
+ Rohit “CurryShot” Nathani, Strategic Coach   

space overwatch
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

One look at this roster and it’s immediately obvious that it isn’t the same LA Gladiators. With seven departures and eight new players, the Gladiators have been remade according to the vision of Head Coach and GM David “dpei” Pei. 

The team is right to be excited about their new tank line. Both Space and OGE have been standouts in their previous stops, and taking top talent from Pacific Division rivals is always that much sweeter. Whether they represent a significant upgrade over rOar and Void remains to be seen.

The DPS is where things get interesting. Parting ways with all three of Hydration, Surefour and Decay is tough, and their replacements are decidedly less proven. MirroR and Jaru have shown promise in Contenders, but will it translate to the OWL stage? The biggest swing factor has to be birdring. Once considered an elite DPS talent, birding has been inconsistent and unreliable through two seasons with London. If he can recapture his past form, the Gladiators might not miss a beat in the transition.

Los Angeles Valiant: D

Roster Moves

+ Sanglok “Dreamer” Song                                    – Indy “SPACE” Halpern
+ Damon “Apply” Conti                                          – YoungSeo “KariV” Bak
+ Owen “Slur” Warner                                            – Brady “Agilities” Girardi
+ Jung-won “Lastro” Mun                                      – Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell
+ Rick “GiG” Salazar                                               – Scott “Custa” Kennedy
+ Jae-ho “RaiN” Park                                              – Marvin “Promise” Schröder, Assistant Coach
+ Jordan “Gunba” Graham, Assistant Coach

Kariv
Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

The Gladiators’ cross-town rival had a similarly transformative offseason. Multiple fan favorites have either retired, signed with other teams or been traded, and the result is almost unrecognizable – especially after the team changed its color scheme. 

What’s left is a mostly unproven squad with five OWL rookies heading into what is sure to be a grueling season of global travel. While some of those rookies – Lastro and Apply in particular – show real promise, most are either question marks or outright downgrades. Perhaps most critically, losing Custa to the OWL broadcast leaves them without an obvious leader. With such a young team, it’s hard to see them even cracking play-ins. 

San Francisco Shock: B-

Roster Moves

+ Seonchang “ANS” Lee                                      – Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson
+ Ji-won “Arachne” Lee, Assistant Coach         – Bumhoon “NineK” Kim, Assistant Coach

The Shock made just two moves this offseason, letting go of Nevix and adding ANS. Flashy pickups and sweeping changes just aren’t necessary for the defending champs. Nevix’s impact was entirely behind the scenes last year, so gauging that move is difficult. Otherwise, the Shock returned everyone and enter the season as the obvious favorites.

Their lone addition, ANS, is a Korean sniper specialist with spectacular aim. Whether he ever sees the stage depends largely on the meta and his ability to supplant one of the Shock’s four star DPS players. The move probably doesn’t change much, but it furthers the embarrassment of riches the Shock were already blessed with.

Vancouver Titans: C+

Roster Moves

+ ChanHyoeng “Fissure” Baek                                 – Jang Hyeon “TiZi” Hwang
+ Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu                                        – Jun Keun “Rapel” Kim
 .                                                                                   – Dong-eun “Hooreg” Lee
 .                                                                                   – Sangbeom “Bumper” Park
.                                                                                    – Harsh “Harsha” Bandi, Assistant Coach

Even after more than a month to process, it still doesn’t seem real that Fissure unretired to join the Titans. The move represents a massive gamble on the side of Vancouver. After the best regular season in OWL history, they risked it all to increase their odds of winning it all.

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

After letting go of both their 2019 main tanks, the Titans brought in one of the most volatile players in Overwatch. Fissure has at times been a transcendent talent, the kind of player who can single-handedly change the direction of a franchise, as he did for the Gladiators. He’s also struggled mentally, as evidenced by his explosive exit from LA and his midseason retirement last year. If he sticks around and lives up to his potential, Vancouver will be right there in contention again. If not, this offseason will be one of regret for the Titans.

If that weren’t enough, the Titans also acquired another legend of the game in ryujehong. His exact role in the team is to be determined, given Juseok “Twilight” Lee has established himself as an elite flex support. Still, having ryujehong there as a veteran presence can hardly be a bad thing. 

Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

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