Over the past weekend, the Overwatch League finally returned to fan’s screens with some great online action. This was also the first time fans got to see the Chinese teams in play, battling it out with each other to determine who is the top dog in their region right now. The Chengdu Hunters, Hangzhou Spark, Shanghai Dragons and the Guangzhou Charge faced off against each other on Saturday and Sunday.
Due to online play, which makes some teams only be able to play against a select group of other teams, the Chinese representatives will also battle it out amongst each other next weekend. For now, The Game Haus will be looking at last weekend’s performances to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each team on the basis of the games they played.
For season three, the Dragons basically have a completely new roster, again. From their last official match in the Overwatch League, only Min-chui ”Izayaki” Kim was in their first starting line-up Saturday morning. Last time anyone saw this team was during the Esports Shanghai Masters, a preseason tournament hosted by the Dragons where they were dominant in their two wins over fellow Chinese teams the Spark and the Hunters. Expectations are pretty high for this team who managed to snag Byung-sun ”Fleta” Kim away from the Seoul Dynasty during the offseason. Shanghai also picked up some great Contenders players to accompany the new DPS star on this new Dragons team.
In their first match against the Charge, the Dragons looked sloppy. Their ultimate economy was not very disciplined which could have cost them maps against better opponents. It seems that in this meta, Fleta and Jae-won ”Lip” Lee are the DPS duo of choice. The Guangzhou Charge gave some good resistance but Shanghai closed the match out in pretty quick fashion with a 3-0. The score is a bit embellished from the actual gameplay because Shanghai looked pretty uncomfortable at times. Questionable ultimate usage seemed like an issue they need to work on for the future.
The Sunday match was where the Dragons really fell apart, they faced the Hunters whose aggression and chaotic style just couldn’t be handled by Shanghai. The Chengdu DPS-line showed their incredible skill backed up by great play from their rookie flex-support. Shanghai seemed to not have the team chemistry yet to stay calm and think about how to approach their opponent the right way. Losing 3-0 whilst capping only a single point all match was probably not a result they were looking for. The Shanghai Dragons have a lot of potential but still need to find their consistent groove.
The Spark were a slow starter last season and this season seems to go the same way. Their first two games both ended up going to map five where they were able to clutch it out against Chengdu but lost to the Charge. Hangzhou do have good moments in both games, especially Kyeong-bo “GodsB“ Kim showed his talents on Tracer and even Sang-hyeon “SASIN“ Song making multiple appearances in which he performed to a pretty good level.
The Spark ended last season as fourth in the overall standings, being the best of the rest after the big three teams. Their major signings in the offseason were highly talented Chinese flex-support Tong “Coldest“ Xiaodong from their academy team BiliBili Gaming among other newcomers. Though none of their new players played during their first two games. Hangzhou relied on what they’re used to and the synergy the existing squad had built up. The Hangzhou Spark are definitely still a solid team but it seems that the rest of the region has caught up with them, they really have to step to another level to make a claim for the strongest Chinese team right now.
Maybe the most exciting signing of the offseason was made by the Hunters with the addition of Huang “leave“ Xin to their roster. Having stood out wherever he played, leave was already seen as potential future MVP before he even played a single map in the Overwatch League. Chengdu was not done there, because they added another main tank player to back-up Ding “Ameng“ Menghan as well as two talented support players from Chinese Contenders. The Hunters seem to want to take a step up in the rankings this season and with their potential starting six, it might actually happen.
During their first two matches of the 2020 season, the Hunters looked unchanged when it comes to style. Alongside leave, He “Molly“ Chengzhi started on the flex-support both games. The Hunters seemed to get a slightly surprising victory over the Spark after great performances on Ilios and Dorado where Molly showed that he deserved the starting spot over Kong “Kyo“ Chunting. After the break, Hangzhou had enough and fought their way back to a very close five-map series where the Hunters were not able to close out Oasis. The Hunters were chaotic, being brilliant in one moment and failing to do the simplest things in the next moment. Consistency was still a thing the Hunters were in dire need of.
The match against Shanghai was a pleasant surprise from the Hunters. Chengdu were playing their chaotic, aggressive style which allowed both DPS players to reach their potential. Control might have been close but the Hunters really had the Dragons’ number on the other two maps which they closed out quickly. If the Hunters can be the team they were on the first two maps on Saturday and in their game against Shanghai, it might just become an amazing season for the central-Chinese based team.
The squad in blue had a rough first weekend. They managed to scrape out a close win over the Hangzhou Spark in which both teams made a lot of mistakes and lost a pretty close game to the Dragons. Two new players debuted for the squad (Ki-cheol “Cr0ng“ Nam and Alberto “neptuNo“ González) and seemed to be part of their new starting six. The match against Shanghai was maybe not that close on the scorecard but in reality, the only ones that the Charge can blame for that loss is themselves. On the second day the Charge got a victory over the Spark in a really close game where either team could have taken it in the end. The ability to clutch out key team fights is something they should probably be looking for in next weekend’s matches.
This is where the new team seemed to run into their problems: synergy. If the team had more experience playing together in official matches the results might have been more in their favor. Individually, the players had great moments across all positions. The more this team plays together, the better they will get. For now, the Charge needs to get back to the drawing board to fulfill their potential next weekend.
Who’s at the Top?
Hangzhou seems to be the most consistent and Guangzhou only needs a little push to get to a higher level but they were still a bit behind the top team: the Chengdu Hunters. The Dragons really are a wildcard. Their raw talent should have made them the best but the coaches need to figure out how to best approach their squad because sloppiness will not win you Championships.
All teams went 1-1 which makes it really difficult to determine their power compared to each other. The teams were super close together and next week’s matches will be very hard to predict. The Hunters seemed to be the truest to their style and best coordinated. Shanghai are second because of their potential star power and even though they played sloppily, they were able to grind out a win on the first day. The Spark and the Charge lack a little behind and need to elevate their play a bit. They will probably be on the same level as their regional companions within no time.
Featured Image Courtesy of Ben Pursell for the Overwatch League
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