Coming off a championship season that included a golden stage, the San Francisco Shock move into Season 3 with a target on their backs. Throughout Season 2 they were the team to beat, after a middling performance through the Inaugural Season. In 2020 they are looking to repeat their success, but need to be wary of other teams making significant roster changes.
Season in Review
In the 2018 Overwatch League Season, the Shock looked to build for the future. Their 17-23 final record does not represent the marked improvement throughout the season. Nor does it recognize the young talent come of-age and acquisitions that would lead to future dominance. No one outside the organization could foresee what was to come.
But come 2019 they made like Missy Elliott, flipping and reversing expectations. Despite a somewhat shaky start, they took the Vancouver Titans to seven maps in the Stage One Finals, then followed that by not losing a single map throughout the entirety of Stage Two and winning that stage title. Stage Three saw them upset by both the Houston Outlaws and Chengdu Hunters, but they rallied back with no losses in Stage Four.
The Season Playoffs were what truly showed the team that San Francisco had become. With the first match against the sixth-seeded Atlanta Reign, they went the distance and faced a map seven on Rialto. In the midst of a tense team-fight on the last point, the Shock stepped off the cart just long enough for the timer to tick down and deliver them the loss. Emotions ran high in the aftermath, but ultimately motivated the team. In the loser’s bracket, they did not drop a map to the Spitfire, Gladiators, Spark or Excelsior as they climbed their way back into the Grand Finals. This momentum continued through the Finals as they swept the Titans 4-0.
Head Coach: Dae-hee “Crusty” Park
Main Tank: Matthew “Super” DeLisi
Main Tank: Myeong-hwan “Smurf” Yoo
Flex Tank: Hyo-bin “Choihyobin” Choi
Flex Damage: Jay “Sinatraa” Won
Damage: Min-ho “Architect” Park
Damage: Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon
Flex Damage: Dong-jun “Rascal” Kim
Main Support: Grant “Moth” Espe
Flex Support: Min-ki “Viol2t” Park
The only player from the championship squad to not return in 2020 is Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson. However this loss should not impact the team since he hardly played in Season 2. However, this leaves the team with no backup for Choihyobin. With increased fear of player burnout due to travel, this could potentially be a problem in the longer scheme of things. But for now, Choihyobin is looking like the best off-tank in the world with no signs of slowing down.
The most concerning part about the Shock’s roster going into the 2020 season is the fact that they only have two support players on the team. Although they are incredibly talented, it brings back up the issue of burnout. That could be devastating since there are no back-up support players on the team, save for when Rascal flexes to that role. But when considering that Moth played in every map except one for the 2019 season, it shows he is a machine built for this.
Assistant Coach: Ji-won “Arachne” Lee
Damage: Seon-chang “ANS” Lee
The single player addition to the roster was Seon-chang “ANS” Lee in late December. This pickup is a bit confusing as it brings their DPS roster to five players. The four before ANS already had the whole hero pool covered and ANS specialized on Widowmaker in particular. While his sniper play wowed the team while they were bootcamping in Korea, the meta will need to shift to fit his niche.
With the departure of Beom-hoon “NineK” Kim as assistant coach, the Shock signed Ji-won “Arachne” Lee. Arachne had been the head coach of Talon Esports. Under his leadership, Talon placed first in Season 2 of the 2018 Contenders Pacific region, and Seasons 1 and 2 of the 2019 Contenders Pacific region. In the 2019 Contenders Gauntlet, Talon held their own against fierce competition but were eliminated by Gen.G. He should prove to be a more than capable assistant coach and keep the Shock in the upper echelon.
With the switch to travel and Homestands throughout the 2020 season, travel management will be crucial to the success of any team. As far as total distance travelled, the Shock are estimated to be in the middle of the pack with around 43,000 miles. They do gain somewhat of an advantage, as they have more weekends where they only have one match whereas their opponents play in two.
But their schedule places them consistently in the lion’s den, as they must play in their opponents’ Homestands seven different times. This is one of the higher numbers in the league, exacerbated by the fact that they only play four matches at home.
After the opening weekend in Dallas, the team will travel to Asia for a month. They play in Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Seoul before making their way back home for the first time. After that, they spend several different weekends in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Dallas, while making trips as far as Paris and London. All in all, the schedule is definitely manageable, but will still be taxing for team members unaccustomed to it.
Homestand Dates & Venues
March 28-29: First Arrival ShockFest @ Zellerbach Hall
July 18-19: Silicon Valley Showdown @ San Jose Civic Center
A new rivalry arose throughout the 2019 Season. Both impecable in the GOATS meta, the Shock and the Vancouver Titans slugged it out throughout the course of the season. Each team took a Stage Finals victory over the other, and the Shock shut the Titans down in the Grand Finals.
With no stage playoffs this year, the two teams will only have two opportunities to face off against each other besides season playoffs. Both of these bouts happen to be hosted in Vancouver. The first is on May 17, and the second on June 28 where the Shock are technically considered the ‘home’ team.
Additionally, they play the Chengdu Hunters three times throughout the season, on February 29, April 5 and 12. San Fran will be looking to exact revenge for the upset Chengdu gave them in Stage Three. The other team that upset them that stage is the Houston Outlaws, who they face in their second Homestand in San Jose on July 18.
Player to Watch
For the 2020 season, the “player” to watch has to be the Head Coach Crusty. This is to say, watching how he manages the roster and rotations of the DPS players. With the addition of ANS, the team now has five players on the DPS role, with several overlaps in hero pools. CEO Andy Miller says ANS has incredible skill and will be worth watching, but it is hard to place him as the point of interest with split playtime.
In 2019, Crusty’s rotations were a centerpiece of the team’s success, especially in the playoffs. The ability to keep the opponent off-guard as to the composition they were running, plus subbing in and out to keep players fresh is a huge tactical advantage. With a new sniper in the mix, this adds another layer of depth to this strategy. If they can pull it off, it will be a work of art. But if not it may cost them some map wins throughout the season. Only time will tell.
Keys to the Season
Coming off a dominant season and even more dominant display in the playoffs, the Shock are the unanimous #1 seed in preseason power rankings. With this expectation comes much pressure from fans and analysts alike, but the team has shown its ability to perform under pressure. Travel may confound this pressure and cause some players to have a tough time playing their best. So the team, just like every other, have to work hard to mitigate the negative effects.
Another crucial part for San Francisco to manage is the seeming lack of depth in their Tank and Support roles. With no backup support or flex tank players, Moth, Viol2t, and Choihyobin will have their work cut out for them. Super and Smurf should be able to sub in and out for each other as necessary. Plus if there is a Reinhardt-Orisa meta then Choihyobin may get some time on the bench. Rascal has shown his ability to swap to Support so if there is some midseason burnout, perhaps he can fill in there.
Overall, the Shock look poised to compete for the championship again this year. Playing with a target on their backs, the team has nothing more to prove except repeating as champions. With a fresh new color scheme and the chance to show out in front of their home fans, 2020 should be an exciting season for fans and regular viewers alike.
Featured image courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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