Dubbed by many to have one of the weaker rosters in the league, The Washington Justice have a lot to prove this coming February. Their first week of the stage stacks them against three of the top teams from the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. With a combination of pickups from previous Overwatch League players and Contenders players, these are the members that represent America’s capital city in the upcoming season of OWL.
Assistant General Manager: Kate Mitchell
Head Coach: Hyeong-seok “WizardHyeong” Kim, Head Coach
Assistant Coach: Kyoung Ey Molly “AVALLA” Kim
Assistant Coaching Staff: Mark “Obasill” Regush, Aaron Heckman, Canaan “Shrugger” Carman
Analyst: Mikael “mkL” Skjønhaug
Main Tank: Junhwa “Janus” Song
Flex Tank: Hyang Gi “Sansam” Kim
Hitscan DPS: Corey “Corey” Nigra
Flex DPS: Gi Hyeon “Ado” Chon
Flex DPS: Ethan “Stratus” Yankel
Main Support: Riley “Fahzix” Taylor
Main Support: Hyeon Woo “Hyeonu” Jo
Flex Support: Gi-Do “Gido” Moon
The Head Coach: WizardHyeong
Most notable in this set of coaching staff is WizardHyeong, the “self-proclaimed genius”. He was formerly assistant coach to Hyeong-sang “Pavane” Yu for the New York Excelsior.
It is hard to say how much of NYXL’s success can be attributed to his coaching, but his work with the Justice should show that quickly enough. That being said, a season’s worth of experience in a top-tier team is bound to provide skills applicable to whipping his team into shape.
The Assistant Coach: AVALLA
AVALLA is the first female coach in the Overwatch League. She has coached in both Contenders NA and KR for OpTic Academy and Meta Gaming respectively. Her experience becomes useful when taking in the Justice’s very mixed roster. She has also previously worked alongside mkL during her time in OpTic Academy.
AVALLA has mentioned that she looks up to WizardHyeong and their coaching styles have always been similar. Both coach from a very data-based perspective. WizardHyeong has his own dataset for players and AVALLA has stated she collects clips of mistakes her players make to provide them with information on how to improve. Both coaches are also bilingual in both Korean and English.
With the synergy in AVALLA and WizardHyeong’s coaching styles and their bilingualism, the coaches have definitely been lauded as one of the more impressive aspects of the Justice.
The Support Staff
Kate Mitchell is known for formerly being the general manager for Last Night’s Leftovers (now ATL Academy). She has been heavily involved in general player support and pick ups along the way.
Obasill and mkL have both had stints in Contenders NA teams such as OpTic Academy, Skyfoxes and Last Night’s Leftovers. Interestingly, Shrugger has limited coaching experience but is formerly known for playing competitive Team Fortress 2 as a scout. Undoubtedly, every coach has a role under WizardHyeong’s staff system.
This roster may seem like a hodgepodge of players at first glance. A further look will show each player’s demonstrable experience in competitive Overwatch.
Players Returning from Season 1
Janus, Gido, and Ado are pickups from Season 1 OWL teams, namely the NYXL, Seoul Dynasty, and Shanghai Dragons.
Janus is known for his aggressive playstyle and was considered at some points inferior to Mano, formerly his fellow main tank on NYXL. Up until he joined the Justice, he has been with LW Blue, NYXL’s parent organisation. Gido is a flex support player best known for playing Zenyatta for the Seoul Dynasty. He saw little playtime during Season 1 with the presence of Ryujehong on the roster.
Ado has played in the Shanghai Dragons. Despite their 0-40 record, he still showed his talent in many instances. One example is this play against Seoul last season. There is considerable potential from Ado that may surface with a better tank and support line.
Players from Contenders NA
Fahzix and Stratus are both pickups from NRG Esports, the San Francisco Shock’s Academy team, which may present some synergy when playing alongside each other in game.
Fahzix has been in the competitive Overwatch scene since 2016. He was picked up by enVision Esports in 2017. He then played for NRG Esports in Contenders in 2018. On top of his competitive play, Fahzix has also made a name for himself with his stream. He regularly puts up educational content surrounding his support play and demonstrates his in-game leadership that will no doubt come in handy with this team.
Stratus is definitely a newer player on the scene compared to his teammates. His first Contenders team was NRG Esports, after which he was picked up by the Justice. He will not be playing for the first portion of the season as he is not 18 until February 27.
Corey played in Gladiators Legion, the Los Angeles Gladiators’ academy team. He has played since Contenders 2017 Season 1 for several other teams as well.
Players from Contenders KR
Hyeonu played in Apex Season 4 in 2017 for Meta Athena, then Meta Bellum in Contenders. He also had a brief stint in World Game Star H2 in Season 2 of Contenders KR before getting picked up.
Sansam has also played in Meta Gaming, but has always been across from Hyeonu, playing for Meta Athena while Sansam played for Meta Bellum and vice versa. Nonetheless, he has also been with this organisation since Season 4 of APEX and into Contenders KR.
While both Hyeonu and Sansam would not necessarily be considered star players, they have shared history with AVALLA in Meta Gaming. This might indicate that AVALLA knows something about their playstyle that would fit them in with the Justice.
There is no argument that Washington has one of the most challenging schedules in Stage 1 given their situation. The first three teams they play in the first stage are the Philadelphia Fusion, OWL 2018 finalists with a terrifying DPS line, the NYXL, the former top seed and the London Spitfire, the defending champions. To say their schedule will be difficult is an understatement.
That being said, this could be a blessing in disguise as it exposes the team to the best of the best. This gives the players and staff time to grow and adjust to the situation without the pressure of needing to perform. Unless the Justice vastly outperform every power ranking listed about them, the matches to win will likely only be the matches from week 5, starting with the Seoul Dynasty and Paris Eternal.
There are some distinct rivalries that surface from players leaving their old teams. The Shanghai Dragons, the NYXL and Seoul Dynasty will be rivals to look out for. A large portion of the support staff have also worked with Last Night’s Leftovers, now Atlanta Reign’s academy team.
Reaching the Playoffs
The Language Barrier
In Sideshow’s keys to success, he mentioned that language barrier would be a difficult obstacle to surmount. The team consists of eight players, three Western and five Koreans. The team is heavily mixed but the roster is not large enough to run as fully Western and fully Korean.
Even though the coaches are bilingual, in-game communication is still an obstacle that the Justice must overcome to improve their gameplay. This is especially concerning when they require the strong team synergy and strategy to overcome a potential skill gap between their players and more talented players in the league. If this becomes a struggle, it could see the team dropping or picking up players along the way to transition to fully Western or fully Korean as other teams seem to have done.
Mid-season pickups or trades could also happen as a result of player fatigue, since Washington’s current roster only has one main tank, one flex tank, and one hitscan DPS.
Players to Watch
A case can be made to look out for any player in the roster.
With Janus, Ado, and Gido, it will be interesting to see how they perform in a team environment that is so different from their former teams.
Hyeonu and Sansam being relatively unknown players mean they have a lot to prove.
Fahzix’s in-game leadership will be worth analysing with respect to Washington’s team synergy.
Corey and Stratus are both relatively new DPS players in the scene. It will be exciting to pit them against the likes of star DPS players from established teams.
With so many teams with essentially new rosters, it is very difficult to immediately dismiss any one team. Washington is not made up of traditional star players, but every player can be coached and is formidable. As long as the team put in the work and make the right decisions, the Justice can far exceeds the expectations being set for them.
The Washington Justice definitely have the ingredients required to prove themselves – only time will tell if they can live up to their team hashtag #JusticeisServed.
Featured Image Courtesy of the Washington Justice.
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