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Chengdu Hunters Dallas Fuel Guangzhou Charge Hangzhou Spark Los Angeles Gladiators Los Angeles Valiant Overwatch San Francisco Shock Seoul Dynasty Shanghai Dragons Vancouver Titans

Overwatch League Secret Santa: Pacific Conference

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Last week was the Secret Santa gifts to every team in the OWL’s Atlantic Conference. The goal was to pick the player that could improve each team the most. Of course, it’s all purely hypothetical but an interesting exercise nonetheless. Every team is unique and the player who could lift one up might not fit on another at all. It’s about identifying weaknesses and trying to project how teams would be transformed by one change. That said, it’s time to dive into the Pacific Conference. Each player’s current team is listed in parentheses.

Chengdu Hunters – Qiulin “Guxue” Xu (Hangzhou Spark)

Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

This might be the most obvious answer of all, but it’s because it would represent the perfect marriage of team need and player fit. Chengdu is the only Chinese-speaking roster in the league. Guxue is China’s biggest OWL superstar. Chengdu doesn’t have an above-average option on most of the traditional main tank picks – Menghan “Ameng” Ding is a stud on Wrecking Ball but last year proved how hard it is to build around that. Guxue plays everything to at least serviceably and some to an elite level. An MVP candidate in 2019, it’s tempting to wonder what Guxue could accomplish surrounded by his countrymen and World Cup teammates.

Dallas Fuel – Hyobin “Choihyobin” Choi (San Francisco Shock)

For the first time in three seasons, the Dallas Fuel have the bona fide talent to be competitive week to week. That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns, however. Chief among them has to be the tank lineup, the flex tanks in particular. Both Pongphop “Mickie” Rattanasangchod and Lucas “NotE” Meissner have found the bulk of their success playing D.Va. Part of that is the meta (and D.Va’s near-permanent place in it). Part of it their shortcomings as players. Bringing in the Grand Finals MVP would take Dallas from a promising project to a real threat. Choihyobin is arguably the most well-rounded flex tank in the league and he’s got the big-game experience that a team like Dallas needs.

Guangzhou Charge – Junho “Fury” Kim (Philadelphia Fusion)

Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

At first glance, this may seem like a strange choice. After all, Guangzhou already have a highly anticipated rookie in Ki-cheol “Cr0ng” Nam ready to take the reins at flex tank. He was stellar in Contenders, but like many at his position, he’s never had the chance to prove himself on Sigma or really much else besides D.Va. His background as a DPS player says he should handle the transition well, but it’s tough to pin Guangzhou’s hopes on a brand new face. Fury would give them another option at that spot. Plus, his championship experience would be useful for a team looking to make a big leap in 2020.

Hangzhou Spark – Minho “Architect” Park (San Francisco Shock)

Despite all of their success in 2019, the Hangzhou Spark are still one of the few franchises without a true superstar DPS. Kyeong Bo “GodsB” Kim and JunKi “Bazzi” Park both had their moments of brilliance, but neither is the consistent carry that most top teams have. In part, they expected Shilong “Krystal” Cai to be that player, but he derailed that train with his out-of-game antics. Architect can be all of that, and from his time on the Shock bench last year, it’s known that he’s a team player. Getting him back in the spotlight would be a blessing for the league and the perfect gift for Hangzhou.

Los Angeles Gladiators – Corey “Corey” Nigra (Washington Justice)

The Gladiators are a fascinating test case entering 2020. After two years of consistent success, they blew it up and retooled most of the roster. The only potential pitfall is the unproven DPS group. It all hinges on Ji Hyeok “birdring” Kim, the 2019 champion joining the first mixed-language roster of his career. He was inconsistency incarnate in his two seasons with London. If he can recapture his form, the Gladiators can go far. If not they’ll wish they had another strong option at the hitscan position. After a breakout Stage 4 last season, Corey could be that kind of player for LA. 

Los Angeles Valiant – Grant “moth” Espe (San Francisco Shock)

2019 OWL MVP
Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

With the retirement of Scott “Custa” Kennedy, the Valiant are down both their starting main support and the primary leadership figure from last year’s team, not to mention his fan-favorite status. Replacing him at the moment is Owen “Slur” Warner, an unproven import from Europe. It’s obvious from this move, and others, that the Valiant are going low-budget in 2020. That said it would still be nice to have one player who really knows the ropes. Moth would be that and more. An impeccable mechanical player, Moth would also bring vital mixed roster experience that the Valiant sorely need.

San Francisco Shock – Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson (Toronto Defiant)

There’s a reason the defending champs haven’t made a single offseason addition so far. It’s nearly impossible to pick out anything resembling a weakness on this roster. Bringing back Nevix doesn’t necessarily fill any holes, given his lack of playing time last season. Still, everyone on the Shock swore by him and behind the scenes, his contributions helped lift the Shock to unmatched heights. This team doesn’t really need any help so bringing back the same group is the safest option.

Seoul Dynasty – Juseok “Twilight” Lee (Vancouver Titans)

Photo: Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment

Seoul lost an icon this offseason. The face of the franchise and the most revered Overwatch player alive, Jehong “ryujehong” Ryu, is gone, headed to Vancouver to join Twilight. If they could, Seoul would do anything to make that trade of flex supports a reality. Where ryujehong has lost a step, Twilight has only ascended. Bringing in the best flex support in the league would go a long way to easing the pain of saying goodbye to a legend.

Shanghai Dragons – Dong-Gyu “Mano” Kim (New York Excelsior)

The Dragons have had a busy offseason, making big upgrades at a number of positions. ByungSun “Fleta” Kim and Jae-gon “LeeJaeGon” Lee are the kind of pickups that can make a strong team into a contender. At the same time, it’s hard to see this team excelling without a star main tank. Ji-won “Stand1” Seo has promise, to be sure, but he’s the weakest link in an otherwise well-crafted chain. Adding a powerhouse like Mano could make Shanghai the most talented team in the league, even challenging the Shock. Utterly dependable, capable of being the focal point or a bit player and stellar on every required pick, Mano is the platonic ideal of a main tank. He would instantly lift Shanghai’s ceiling to the stratosphere.

Vancouver Titans – Tae-sung “Mag” Kim (Runaway)

The Titans have had a curious offseason. Releasing both Sangbeom “Bumper” Park and Jang Hyeon “TiZi” Hwang to bring in ChanHyoeng “Fissure” Baek is the kind of move that threatens the undeniable chemistry built in Vancouver and before. The franchise wasn’t content with their runner-up finish last year and decided to go all-in on one of the most volatile players in league history. It’s a move with monumental risks, but also massive upside. Fissure at his best is an unconquerable force of nature. At his worst, he’ll leave his team high and dry at a moment’s notice. With that in mind, there needs to be a backup plan. Mag is a magnificent prospect who hasn’t yet been picked up in part due to being ineligible for much of the season. He would be ideal to fill this backup role. A young player who can learn from Fissure’s prodigious skill, Mag can develop and serve as a break-in-case-of-emergency insurance plan for the Titans.

Featured image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

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