0-40. 13-15. 27-2. 4-0. The protagonists of the Overwatch League have faced a long and hard road to greatness. But after an eventful season (and tons of elbow grease), the fruits of their labor have come to form. The Shanghai Dragons are your 2021 Overwatch League Grand Finals Champions.
You've been with us through the winless season. You've been with us through countless heartbreaking defeats.
This was four years in the making. This one is for all of you
— Shanghai Dragons (@ShanghaiDragons) September 26, 2021
This historic win perfectly punctuates the Dragons rise to glory and dominant 2021 season. Shanghai maintained their status as League frontrunners throughout the year, destroying rivals and tournaments alike on their path to glory. But despite their incredible performance, some fans expected the last match of the season to mark an end to the Dragons’ winning streak. However, these expectations were quickly proven wrong. The Shanghai Dragons were dominant throughout the Grand Finals, beating the resurgent Atlanta Reign 4-0 in a decisive sweep. With this performance, the Dragons have become the first APAC team to claim the Overwatch League crown.
However, the Dragons’ journey to this point hasn’t been easy. In fact, the team’s journey to stardom has been uniquely difficult. The Dragons’ 0-40 Inaugural Season record (the worst in esports history) is clearly remembered by Overwatch League fans, many of whom reminisced on the team’s unique history following their dominant Grand Finals win.
Shanghai’s history until now:
2018: 0-40 disaster
2019: Anti-GOATS meta definers Widow/Pharah, Stage 3 Champs
2020: Seoul’s rivals in APAC, the super team that couldn’t cross the finish line
2021: Another successful rebuild become dominant Overwatch League champions
What an arc
— Wolf Schröder (@proxywolf) September 26, 2021
But how did the Shanghai Dragons secure this Overwatch League Grand Finals victory? The clear answer is versatility. The Dragons showcased a massive number of compositions throughout the Grand Finals. Though they demonstrated prowess on their famous dive compositions, they were successful in matching the Reign in rush compositions, too. It seemed as if there wasn’t a single lineup of heroes the Dragons’ didn’t have an answer to. The team played Overwatch at its highest possible level. And though every single player on Shanghai’s roster bolstered this adaptability, there was one who stood apart from the rest.
Jae-won “Lip” Lee has had a truly incredible season. As one of this year’s MVP candidates, Lip has shown repeated DPS success, and is a large part of the Dragons’ regular season dominance. However, Lip’s performance tonight may go beyond the realm of dominant performances. In fact, it may be one for the history books. The Dragons’ star player showed incredible versatility throughout the four map series. On Hanamura, the Atlanta Reign’s best map, Lip demonstrated his mastery of Ashe. On Kings Row, he showcased a brutally effective Sombra. And on Havana, he beat out Kai “Kai” Collins, a player considered to be one of the best hitscans in the League, in high-stakes Widowmaker duels.
Though occasionally taking a backseat to tank player Jun-woo “Void” Kang and 2020 MVP Byung-sun “Fleta” Kim, Lip’s heroics did not go unnoticed. At the end of the night, Lip was awarded the title of Grand Finals MVP. This position, previously held by the likes of Nam-joo “Striker” Kwon, is a prestigious one to possess. However, status isn’t all that follows the acquisition of this title. Lip will also be heading home with $100k- a fitting reward for such a dominant winners bracket run.
His performance cannot be denied!
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) September 26, 2021
Though the Dragons consistently possessed the upper hand throughout the series, the Atlanta Reign were still a tough nut to crack. The team was forced to battle their way through a brutal losers bracket to make it to the Grand Finals, and though they weren’t favorites to take it home, Atlanta had to pull off multiple upsets to make it as far as they did. After all, they were the ones to send the reigning champs, the San Francisco Shock, home. They were the ones to shut down the resurgent Los Angeles Gladiators. And they were the ones to shred the script by defeating the Dallas Fuel, who occupied the League’s second seed. The Atlanta Reign had to show both incredible individual performance and synergized teamplay to make it as far as they did. And their accomplishments this season are ones for the Overwatch League history books.
In the end, the Shanghai Dragons will leave this season of the Overwatch League with a trophy and $1.5 million to their name. But their win today carries far more weight than either money or a championship ever could. In becoming this year’s Grand Finals Champions, the Shanghai Dragons have signed off on an important chapter of the Overwatch League’s history. This years Grand Finals marked the end of the Overwatch League’s tenure on the Overwatch 1 client. From now on, the League will be played on Overwatch 2, starting with a beta build in April next year.
So no matter how you spin it, the Shanghai Dragons aren’t just the champions of the 2021 Overwatch League season. They’re the champions of Overwatch itself. Every single nanoblade, grav-dragon, and C9 we’ve seen has been bookended by historical Shanghai Dragons performances. One, an 0-40 regular season that cemented their position as the worst team in the League. And the other, a 4-0 victory in Grand Finals that cemented their position as the best team in the world. There couldn’t be a more fitting way for our time spent in 6v6 Overwatch to end. And there couldn’t be a more exciting way for our journey into a new era of the Overwatch League to begin. From 0-40 to 4-0, the Shanghai Dragons are your Overwatch League Grand Finals champions. And there isn’t a player, coach, or fan who’s likely to ever forget it.
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The featured image for this Grand Finals recap is courtesy of @bmzloop on Twitter.
Thank you very much for reading our Overwatch League coverage throughout this eventful season. Congratulations to the Shanghai Dragons on today’s historic win! And thank you very much to every team, player, and staffer in the Overwatch League for making this season so incredible to write about.