Intro: Into the Gauntlet!
As the 2019 Overwatch League season ends, fans may be left wondering how to satisfy their competitive Overwatch cravings. Such a feast is displayed through the 2019 Gauntlet, a World Championship-esque tournament featuring the greatest Overwatch Contenders teams around the globe. And while some teams have dominated their regions throughout the season, the Gladiators Legion enter the bracket as the most surprising inclusion.
Entering as the lowest-seeded team to represent North America, the Gladiators Legion will have a lot to prove in their first-ever international showing. The team has a lot of talent, however, and has a history of ruining brackets and exceeding expectations. In 2019 alone, the Gladiators Legion finished in second for both seasons of Contenders: North America East. These placings were surprising, as the team placed fourth and sixth in the regular standings, respectively. But the Gladiators Legion seemed to pull tricks out of their sleeves every time, defeating teams such as the dominant Mayhem Academy and the revamped Third Impact throughout both playoff brackets this year.
SEOUL BOUND. ✈️
This victory is taking us to The Gauntlet. pic.twitter.com/xqTP4mpQxV
— Gladiators Legion (@GLALegion) August 14, 2019
Head coach Thomas “maid” Mok had a lot to say about his team’s successes in critical matches.
“Regular season means nothing,” he elaborates. “This year we’ve always managed to make matches that matter, matter. Not that we wanted to come sixth in [the] regular season — I don’t think anyone does — but the team always rallies when it matters.”
Heading into season 2 of the 2019 Contenders: North America East season, the Gladiators Legion saw a large shift in their roster. First and foremost, star main tank player Byung-Ho “Panker” Lee was benched in favor of new addition Ji-Won “Staniel “Stand1” One” Seo. Stand1 previously served as a stand-in player for Team Envy, who placed second in the 2019 Atlantic Showdown, and assimilated well into the Gladiators Legion. Panker seemed to struggle towards the end of the first season, and did not play for the remainder of the second season.
Additionally, 2-way flex-tank player Aaron “Bischu” Kim left the roster, as he was eventually traded to the Guangzhou Charge. This was a pivotal move, the Gladiators Legion had relied on Bischu for the latter portion of the first season as they sought out a replacement. That permanent pillar came in the form of Emil “eMil” Sandgren, a former player from European powerhouse team Angry Titans.
Aside from the roster changes in the tank department, the core of the Gladiators Legion remains the same this year. The support duo features a young Swedish superstar in Ludvig “Luddee” Håkansson and Canadian veteran Randal “Roolf” Stark. Both players have been solid throughout the team’s turbulent season and the game’s various metas.
Also, main DPS player Dalton “Dalton” Bennyhoff has been phenomenal throughout the season. His outstanding Reaper play and his unpredictable Death Blossom ultimates were pivotal to the Gladiators Legion’s success in their season 2 playoffs run. Finally, flex-DPS Min-Sung “Water” Lee rounds out the lineup. While hailed as one of the best Genji players in the world, Water seemed to struggle as Brigitte during most of the year. But with the resurgence of damage heroes in the Gauntlet’s metagame, the team’s coach believes that Water could finally live up to the hype placed on him.
“I think Water is going to exceed expectations,” maid claims boldly. “The man has been playing out of his mind in scrims, and he’s in his home environment [in Korea]. I’m hopeful he’ll do well on stage.”
Of course, maid is also confident in the entirety of his team.
“The level of support, expectations, and professionalism from the players and the organization is overwhelming and far beyond what I’ve experienced before. All the players are going to surprise and wow people.”
The Gladiators Legion find themselves slotted in group B of the Gauntlet, where they will be facing off against the likes of Team Envy (North America West), Gen. G (Korea), and LGE.Huya (China). Although they’ve been classified by many as the weakest team out of this group, the Gladiators Legion are well-prepared and confident in their training.
“Our plan this entire year if we made it to the Gauntlet was always to bootcamp super early and give ourselves the most focused environment that we can,” maid explains. “We’ve been in Korea, scrimming in the most world-class environment outside of OWL against the top teams in the region for almost a month.”
The Gladiators Legion’s first match will be against Team Envy, Stand1’s former team. Team Envy finished first in season two of the 2019 Contenders: North America West, and will look to bolster their previous achievements. If the Gladiators Legion struggles against their domestic counterparts, it is likely that they will exit the tournament at the hands of Asian powerhouses Gen. G and LGE.Huya.
But maid and the Gladiators Legion are confident. The world hasn’t seen the team play in just under two months — and the team is ready to show their newfound strengths on stage.
“I’d say we’ve grown in leaps and bounds over the course of this boot camp,” maid confides. “We’re quietly optimistic, but what happens, happens.”
The Gladiators Legion will face their first test on Sunday, October 10, 2019, 11:00AM KST (Saturday, October 9, 2019, 7:00PM PST).
The 2019 Contenders Gauntlet begins on October 9th, 2019, on www.twitch.tv/overwatchcontenders.
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