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Overwatch League: Takeaways from the Pacific Challenge

With their official Overwatch League debut just around the corner, the Guangzhou Charge had the opportunity to preview their skill set. The expansion team traveled to the Paradise City Hotel and Resort in Incheon, South Korea, where they took on the Seoul Dynasty in the Pacific Challenge showmatch. The four-match series ended in a draw, but each match featured close fights on both sides. Though we can expect that both teams kept some of their regular season strategies to themselves, the showmatch provided a first look at some things we can expect in February.

New Faces to Watch

With the exception of Hong-jun “HOTBA” Choi, Guangzhou’s entire roster is new to the league, with players coming in from a variety of Contenders teams. The showmatch gave them their first chance to square off against a more seasoned squad, and they showed up with a solid performance. Despite the team’s cohesion as a whole, a handful of players stood out. Notably, support players Jung-yeon “Chara” Kim and Jin-seo “Shu” Kim created a combined force to be reckoned with. Chara’s Lúcio gameplay often proved deadly, particularly with his ambitious boops on Lijiang Tower. Shu, meanwhile, played an aggressive Zenyatta that gave his Seoul counterpart, Je-hong “ryujehong” Ryu, a run for his money. Beyond enabling their team, Chara and Shu demonstrated some eye-catching gameplay in their own right, and they could very well prove a support duo to watch in season two.

Courtesy of the Guangzhou Charge.

Besides Chara and Shu, Guangzhou also has a potential star in Jung-woo “Happy” Lee. The continued dominance of the 3-3 meta meant that Happy was primarily seen playing Zarya. Though he demonstrated some impressive tracking on her, his time playing Hanzo on Route 66 really gave him a chance to shine. With any luck, the regular season will give him a chance to show off more aspects of his hero pool.

The Dynasty, for their part, had a few new additions of their own to show off. Seung-soo “Jecse” Lee offered up some fearless Lúcio gameplay, particularly on Hollywood, where his forward playstyle bolstered Seoul during several of their closer team fights. He and ryujehong appear to complement each other well, and he’ll likely have future opportunities to shine in Seoul’s support rotation.

Sticking to the Meta We Know

No one expected either team to break out an earth-shattering new composition for a showmatch, but it appears that we’re not ready to leave GOATS behind just yet. Seoul and Guangzhou played the showmatch on the current patch, leaving viewers hopeful that recent changes to Brigitte would inspire some changes in hero choice. Both teams did break out some more diversity on Route 66, where Widowmaker, Pharah, and even Ashe saw some solid playtime on both sides. For the rest of the match, however, they leaned back on the three tank, three support meta that we all know and love.

Overall, these composition choices might not mean anything at all. Both Seoul and Guangzhou are likely saving the bulk of their strategies for the regular season, and sticking to GOATS is a solid way to demonstrate skill without exposing any tricks they have up their sleeves. As a general rule, however, the current meta’s dominance doesn’t seem to be fading, despite fans’ increasing boredom with it. Meta-wise, a lot could change between now and February, but any potential changes weren’t revealed in the showmatch, unless Seoul’s inspired choice of running Wrecking Ball as a solo tank becomes the new meta.

Courtesy of the Guangzhou Charge.

A Contender in the Making?

Pre-showmatch discussion didn’t seem to have a lot of faith in the Guangzhou Charge. Maybe that lack of faith stems from Guangzhou stepping onto the stage unproven, or that the team doesn’t have the established star power enjoyed by some of its expansion team counterparts. Either way, the general attitude predicted a mediocre showing from Guangzhou at best and a total sweep at worst. Despite a draw as the final result, Guangzhou took a commanding 2-0 victory on Lijiang Tower and a 3-1 victory on Route 66. The match on Hanamura also went to three rounds before Seoul took a 5-4 victory. Showmatch or not, Guangzhou made sure to make Seoul work for their wins, and that bodes well for the new team as their official Overwatch League debut draws near.

Support player Won-jae “Rise” Lee. Courtesy of the Guangzhou Charge.

Early looks at the new expansion teams tend to put the Charge around the middle of the pack. They don’t have the established reputation of the Vancouver Titans or a coaching staff as well-known as the Paris Eternal’s, but they’re a well-rounded team with few glaring issues in their roster. Nearly every player on the team has prior experience with at least one of their teammates, and that familiarity showed in their match against the Dynasty. Already, the Charge appear organized and methodical. The showmatch gave them a valuable chance to test the waters against a far more experienced team. Among the expansion teams, and even in the league as a whole, it may be worth taking a second look at the Guangzhou Charge.

Bonus: The Production Issues Plague

Several teams have streamed their off-season activities on Twitch now, from showmatches to branding reveals. Very few of these streams have gone off without a hitch, whether it’s quality issues or, far more noticeably, a lack of chat moderation. The Pacific Challenge was no exception; besides the English-language stream cutting out altogether several times, it didn’t take long for viewers to realize that the channel was unmoderated yet again. Mods did eventually sweep in to try and at least curb some of the uglier spam, but the question still remains regarding why teams so often overlook the importance of managing their official events.

Blizzard appears to be considering testing a new chat moderation system in its Contenders streams. Although the initiative has generated discussion, we still don’t know much about its methods or implications. Whether or not the Overwatch League needs to take new measures regarding Twitch chat is a discussion for another day, but in the meantime, teams need to recognize the importance of managing their events. The Pacific Challenge’s glitchy and mismanaged start shows us that we haven’t quite learned our lesson yet, but hopefully we can look forward to smoother streams in 2019.

 

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Featured image courtesy of the Guangzhou Charge. 

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2 comments

Anonymous January 3, 2019 at 8:15 pm

You didn’t mention how awesome Rise looked during this match it looked like. He looked dominant in that match.

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Overwatch League: Expansion Players to Watch • The Game Haus January 29, 2019 at 10:45 pm

[…] Charge have revealed more about their playstyle than most of the teams covered here. Their showmatch against the Seoul Dynasty served as an unofficial introduction, providing a first look at what to expect from them moving […]

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