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Overwatch League: Toronto Defiant Season Preview

Toronto Defiant

The Toronto Defiant are one of two highly anticipated Canadian teams set to make their debut for Overwatch League’s second season. The young roster sports a core of veteran talent, complemented by several members of the 02 Ardeont Korean Contenders squad. At first glance, this roster may seem lost. A rugged band of misfits in search of their place in the fast paced scene of the Overwatch League. After a closer look, fans may be surprised to find a contender lurking in the North.

Meet the Defiant

Toronto Defiant
Photo Courtesy of @MalinkaCosplay

The Toronto Defiant announced their name and branding on October 24 to an energized and sold out crowd in downtown Toronto. The team; owned by OverActive Media, looks to blend with what their color, font usage and name represent. strength, character and resilience. OverActive Media did not pursue this venture alone however. Joining them would be Splyce, an American esports organization set to handle the operations of the team.

With ownership established, the foundation had been laid for new Defiant General Manager Jaesun “Jae” Won to recruit his coaching staff. Jae firmly believed that establishing a balanced and experienced coaching staff ahead of any roster selections would remain his priority. With that prerogative in mind, a thorough call with former London Spitfire Head Coach Beom-joon “Bishop” Lee revealed a mutual interest between the two. Recently, on episode 36 of Oversight Jae explained, “I got to hear his [Bishop] philosophy on teams and I got to hear his philosophy on how to create rosters. Him and I just hit it off.” With Bishop entrenched as Toronto’s head coach, he would be in charge of drafting the remaining coaching positions.  

The Coaching Staff

Bishop is bound to play a major factor for the Defiant heading into season 2. Prior to mutually parting ways with the London Spitfire in March of last year, Bishop played a huge role in focusing the GC Busan and KongDoo Panthera rosters into a single successful unit for the now champion London Spitfire. His departure from London had no association with his effectiveness as their head coach within the organization.

Toronto Defiant
Photo Courtesy of Veronika Rodriquez

Toronto’s new head coach selected former Seoul Dynasty coach Yun-ho “Bubbly” Cho and former Los Angeles Valiant coach Dong-wook “Don” Kim as his assistant and strategic coaches respectively for the 2019 season.

Bubbly was added on after leaving a struggling Dynasty roster searching for a staff restructure. Bishop and Bubbly’s roots grow deep. The two commonly met as captains in scrims between Bubbly’s KongDoo Uncia and Bishop’s KongDoo Panthera several years ago. Going forward, Bubbly will function as Toronto’s one-on-one coach. Bubbly’s primary task will be conducting player performance reviews and reporting back on those with Bishop throughout the season.

Don joins Toronto after an early exit with the Los Angeles Valiant. After leaving the Valiant following their 2018 preseason, Don spent a short time coaching PUBG for the OPGG Rangers under the tag “Ookz.” as the team’s strategic coach, Don will lead daily team reviews and work closely with Bishop to establish team strategy for the upcoming season.

With a completely Korean roster, Bishop, Bubbly and Don all will have no problem communicating and coaching their players going forward; However, a final addition to the coaching staff will not find such ease in communication with his German roots.

Toronto Defiant
Image courtesy of Winston’s Lab

Winston’s Lab creator Dennis “Barroi” Matz was added alongside Bubbly and Don to function as the team’s top analyst. Bishop’s ability to translate will allow Barroi’s findings to be easily shared with the team. Naturally, Barroi and Bishop will be spending plenty of time together, working to formulate strategies the talented quartet will then implement into their roster.

Toronto management has made a direct effort towards combating last season’s player burnout plague. Joining the coaching staff will be a sports psychiatrist and personal trainer, along with a house manager and chef. Both the house manager and chef will act as translators for Barroi and the roster to utilize while living in Los Angeles. 

Defiant 2019 Roster

  • Main Tank: Gyeong-mu “Yakpung” Jo
  • Off Tank: Kang-jae “envy” Lee
  • Main Support: Jae-yoon “Aid” Go
  • Main Support: Joo-seong “RoKy” Park
  • Flex Support: Se-hyeon “Neko” Park
  • Projectile/Flex DPS: Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee
  • Hitscan/Projectile/Flex DPS: Do-hyung “Stellar” Lee
  • Hitscan DPS: Joon-seong “Asher” Choi

The 2019 Toronto Defiant roster was carefully recruited by the entirety of the Toronto Coaching Staff. Their utilization of Barroi’s analysis coupled with the already experienced coaching background helped Bishop narrow his search, and land his targets.

Veteran Core

The Defiant’s roster is anchored by a strong veteran core including Kang-jae “envy” Lee, Se-hyeon “Neko” Park and Joon-seong “Asher” Choi. Envy joins the Defiant after finishing a short stint with the Los Angeles Valiant in season 1. His time with the Valiant was memorable to say the least. The versatile flex tank was ranked highly during his tenure with the Valiant. Prior to his April release, envy was considered a top contender among DVa, Roadhog and Zarya players throughout the league. His departure from Los Angeles was clearly not dependent on his play, as his duo with Valiant main tank Pan-seung “Fate” Koo was a fan favorite. After spending season 2 of Korean Contenders with Meta Bellum, Toronto fans should be excited to welcome their new team captain to town.

Toronto Defiant
Image Courtesy of Unikrn News

Neko; formally of the Boston Uprising, joins the Defiant as their specialist flex support. His prowess on Zenyatta was put on full display during Boston’s undefeated stage 3 performance. Unfortunately, with a three game suspension sidelining Neko against the Houston Outlaws, Atlanta Reign, and Los Angeles Valiant, Toronto will be without a natural Zenyatta in three potentially close matchups. His presence will surely be felt upon his return to the starting lineup, as Neko will be a rallying point for his team as they push to contend for the stage playoffs. 

Asher brings some much needed veteran presence to the Defiant DPS lineup. Formally of the Los Angeles Gladiators, he made his presence felt anytime he received playtime for the LA squad. A talented DPS core, coupled with Tracer’s departure from the meta; Asher’s signature hero, reduced Asher’s playtime with the Gladiators significantly as season 1 wore on. Expected to be part of an early rotation for the Defiant, Asher could really offer some high upside for Toronto if Tracer ever returns to meta.   

Veteran to watch: Flex Tank – Kang-jae “envy” Lee [Captain]

02 Ardeont Roots

To round out their tank and DPS lineups, the Toronto coaching staff turned their attention to the Korean Contenders team, 02 Ardeont. After finishing second in season 1 of Korean Contenders, the 02 squad returned for season 2 with a successful group stage to begin the season. A lackluster season 3 performance from the newly re-tuned contenders squad shows just how much talent is headed for the Defiant’s roster. Gyeong-mu “Yakpung” Jo, Seung-hyun “Ivy” Lee and Do-hyung “Stellar” Lee all join the Defiant following success in their first two seasons of Korean Contenders. 

Yakpung joins evny to round out the aggressive tank core for Toronto. Heading into the team’s first season, the coaching staff agreed that they wanted to find a main tank with the right fit for their roster. His proficiency on Winston and skilled decision making proved vital to the team’s final decision. Yakpung and envy form a formidable tank duo and also stand as the team’s only tanks on the roster. Their aggression will be a focal point for Toronto heading into 2019.

Toronto Defiant
(Image Courtesy of Toronto Defiant)

Also joining from the 02 Ardeont squad will be projectile DPS Ivy and Flex DPS Stellar. Ivy steps in as the team’s only natural projectile specialist. His hyper aggressive style offers the upside of an incredibly talented and flexible DPS, with the balance and communication skills being supplied by Stellar. Stellar subbed in and out of 02 Ardeont’s starting roster throughout season 2 of Contenders. The reasoning for Toronto’s acquisition of Stellar over teammate Ju ho “climax” Maeng was detailed by Jae on Oversight Episode 36:

“Ivy, mechanically is a very gifted flex DPS… He’s very one-minded when he plays, he wants to just GO, and doesn’t really think when he’s playing. [But] Stellar is a very cerebral player. He thinks a lot, he communicates very well… he is very intelligent. Now, climax is just like Ivy and we couldn’t afford two players that were just like that.” – Jae on why Stellar was chosen over climax

Rounding out the starting roster for Toronto are Jae-yoon “Aid” Go and Joo-seong “RoKy” Park. RoKy; also briefly a member of 02 Ardeont, will be stepping in for Neko to start the season. Both Aid and RoKy each offer a vast proficiency of the support class paired with excellent calling and communication skills. RoKy’s lack of experience on flex support may cause worry for some, but if Toronto heads into week 1 locked and loaded, Houston could be in for a surprise despite Neko’s suspension.     

Rookie to watch: Main Tank – Gyeong-mu “Yakpung” Jo

2019 Schedule

Difficult early matchups and Neko’s absence highlight Toronto’s debut stage. Key wins and the team’s ability to rebound from tough losses will be integral if they want to set a standard for the remainder of the season.

Toronto Defiant
(Schedule Courtesy of Toronto Defiant)

Stage 1 Key Matchups

Week 3: New York Excelsior & Boston Uprising

With the Outlaws, Reign and Valiant welcoming Toronto, week 3 of stage 1 is where fans will really see the sparks fly. Neko’s return will be a blessing for Toronto, as he will offer much needed flexibility at the support position. With their supports now locked in, proper communication, strategy and team synergy can take over for a team very much dependent on those factors.

Toronto Defiant
(Photo courtesy of Overwatch League)

Week 3 begins verses the reigning regular season champions, the New York Excelsior. NYXL are expected to retain their elite status throughout season 2 as they boast top talent across their roster and bench. Against an opponent like this, Toronto is sure to be considered the underdog. Fortunately, the coaching staff prefer it. Count them out, underestimate them and pay them no mind. Toronto may be outmatched, but could coaching and strategy make the difference?

The Defiant close out week 3 against Neko’s former team, the perpetually underestimated Boston Uprising. Despite many criticisms from the community, Boston’s core remains unscathed. Neko’s departure clear’s the path for his Uprising understudy, Min-seok “AimGod” Kwon. Both Young-jin “Gamsu” Noh and Lucas “NotE” Meissner solidify their tank core and their December acquisition of Renan “alemao” Moretto brings even more talent to their support line.

The major questions surrounding Boston revolve around their DPS. Following the departure of season 1 standouts Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon and Stanislav “Mistakes” Danilov, Boston will turn to rookies Jeffrey “blasé” Tsang and Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse in 2019. Toronto will have to be mindful of Boston’s “never count us out” attitude. With a northern rivalry brewing, this is sure to be the first of many great matchups.

Stage 2 Key Matchups

Week 1: Boston Uprising 
Toronto Defiant
(Photo Courtesy of Jonathan Tayag for Blizzard Entertainment)

With stage 1 in the books, Toronto will now be looking to climb in the standings. Toronto opens the stage against a hungry Washington Justice squadThe next day, Toronto once again faces off against the Boston Uprising for a stage 1 rematch.

Apart from the team’s obvious connections with Neko, these two teams share many similarities. Both have passionate northern fan bases, both offer impressive Winston play from their main tanks and both have talented underrated rosters overall. Will Toronto be looking for the season sweep of Boston, or potentially looking for revenge as they work towards the stage 2 playoffs?

Week 5: Vancouver Titans 

Week 5 brings a new challenger, but surely a familiar foe to most Overwatch players and fans. Toronto’s first matchup against the Vancouver Titans is sure to bring the headlines as the former Runaway squad have their eyes on claiming the great white north for themselves.

Toronto Defiant
(Image courtesy of the Vancouver Titans)

The Titans first season in the Overwatch league will begin with high expectations following their season 2 championship in Contenders Korea. Their experience and synergy from years of teamwork and practice puts Vancouver one step ahead of the additional expansion rosters entering 2019.

Boasting a roster with unparalleled flexibility, Vancouver seems virtually meta-proof if their play form contenders can translate to the intensity of the Overwatch League. This is a tall task for a roster on their first competitive excursion away from South Korea. With the stage 2 playoffs just around the corner and the all star break bringing the season’s halfway point, Toronto and many other rosters will need to establish synergy early if they want to keep up with what should be an impressive Vancouver team.

Stage 3 Key Matchups

Week 4: Los Angeles Gladiators

Stage three boasts yet another reunion for the season 1 veterans of the Defiant. With the Los Angeles Gladiators marching in, Asher will have his first chance to faceoff against the dominant pacific contender he once fought alongside.

Toronto Defiant
(Image Courtesy of the LA Gladiators)

The departure of Chan-hyung “Fissure” Baek was believed to be the beginning of the end for the Gladiators. To remain in a contending position for season 2, Los Angeles needed to make a splash in the offseason. They did just that. Their acquisitions of Chang-hoon “rOar” Gye and Gui-un “Decay” Jang not only fill the gaping hole left by Fissure, but also offer incredible flexibility and potential for an already strong and versatile roster. Possibly the two best signings of the offseason, both talented rookies will have immediate impact with the team going forward.

With two stages in the books and the all star weekend behind them, Toronto will have several important matchups against powerhouse teams.

Week 5: New York Excelsior

After a tough stage verses opponents like London and Los Angeles, Toronto closes out stage 3 with a rematch against the Excelsior of New York.

Toronto Defiant
(Photo Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment)

As the season wears on, many factors come into play when forming expectations this far in advance. Last season’s dominance by the NYXL through the regular season was a direct result of the insane effort brought forward by their players and coaching staff. With so much energy used early on, the team struggled adapting to the meta changes throughout stage 4 and their subsequent playoff run.

The team was exhausted. The long season forced some into a state of not only physical exhaustion, but mental as well. With the shortened schedule and the acquisitions of young DPS upstarts Yeon-kwan “Nenne” Jeong and Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang, New York now has the flexibility to seal the deal.

Any matchup against New York is a difficult one to say the least but with stage and season playoffs on the line, can Toronto bring down Goliath for possibly a second time?  

Stage 4 Key Matchups

Week 1: London Spitfire

What team doesn’t want the opportunity to knock off the defending champions? After facing off in stage 3, the London Spitfire stand as potentially Toronto’s toughest matchup to close out the regular season.

One stage can always make the difference. Last season’s grand finalists entered the playoffs as the fifth, and sixth seeds. With strong opponents like the NYXL and both potent Los Angeles Squads in the playoff mix, many figured London and Philadelphia an afterthought. Clearly those thoughts weren’t justified.

Toronto Defiant
(Image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment)

London is put in a precarious position for 2019. As the defending champions, every team will look to derail their opponents stage after stage. Toronto will be no exception. London looked to be unmatched in their stage 1 and Grand Finals Championship runs but apart from their incredibly high peaks, the team certainly experienced inconsistencies throughout the regular season.

London’s middling regular season performance nearly prevented their unforgettable run to win it all. With a late season surge needed and a relatively easy stage 4 ahead of them, Toronto could find themselves in a very similar position to the Spitfire of season 1.

Week 2: Philadelphia Fusion

With London behind them, Toronto will now need to prioritize a strong showing for their rematch with the Philadelphia Fusion. The re-tuned and refocused Fusion roster will be hungry for a return to the post season, but will their efforts be enough?

Toronto Defiant
(Photo courtesy of VGR)

With possibly the most dynamic DPS duo in the league, Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee and Josh “Eqo” Corona are threats who must be dealt with before their impact can be felt on the battlefield. Much like London and New York, damage isn’t the only position to be wary of on the Fusion’s roster. Philadelphia boasts top tier talent at both the tank and support positions as well.

After a three stage suspension in season one, Su-min “SADO” Kim joined his team for stage 4 and the postseason. His presence was immediately felt and his availability for the start of season 2 will bolster a powerful tank core alongside fellow main tank Joona “Fragi” Laine, and star off tank, Gael “Poko” Gouzerch. 

Both Philadelphia and London are major hurdles for the Defiant in stage 4 as this stage is where Toronto has the best opportunity to punch their ticket to the playoffs. These tough matchups will be what shape’s Toronto’s fate in 2019. Unless they manage to steal some victories, it is very possible fans will see Toronto on the outside looking in.

Closing Thoughts

The Game Haus overall rankings have Toronto ranked 13, which is outside season playoff contention. In an effort to keep expectations reasonable, this ranking is soundly based around a slow start, followed by many difficult matchups throughout the first three stages.

A slow start doesn’t end a team’s postseason hopes. Successful management and coaching are what set a team up for lasting success. Toronto’s team management will play just as important a role in season 2 as the players performance on stage. If their coaching staff can establish an early synergy with their roster, expect Toronto to be labeled one of the popular innovators of the Overwatch League. Pioneers of meta development, not GOATs copy cats.


Featured Image Courtesy of The Esports Observer

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