The off-season between 2019 and 2020 brought about some of the biggest roster changes the Overwatch League has seen thus far. The Toronto Defiant was among those changing teams, overhauling superstars from a variety of old rosters to build something new. Together, this new team delivered rivalries, competitive matches and some very familiar faces throughout their 2020 season run.
By bringing on the lovable duo that is Brady “Agilities” Giradi and Young-seo “KariV” Park, as well as Canadian fan-favorite Lane “Surefour” Roberts, this new Toronto team brought some hometown talent to Canada, and gave fans plenty to cheer about from the comfort and safety of their own homes. In fact, the team even went door to door delivering merch to Toronto superfans, ensuring that the Defiant community were aware of how important they are to this team.
Gameplay Review: The Good
Though the Defiant struggled on more than one occasion, they certainly seemed to shine when the meta hit just right. Superstar hitscan Andreas “Logix” Berghmans performed on more than one occasion, using his Tracer and Ashe skills to lay teams like their Canadian competitors, the Vancouver Titans, to rest. Particularly, in the Summer Showdown, the Defiant truly exceeded all expectations, and landed themselves a fourth place finish from what was an incredibly low seeding. The power of Agilities on Genji ensured that the Defiant fought until the very end among the best of the best.
How The Roster Stacked Up
The support line only grew as well. The season started with Boston Uprising veteran Kristian “Kellex” Keller fighting alongside KariV. Putting up impressive numbers and earning them multiple wins in Map 5 scenarios, Kellex proved his worth on a more competitive team. Once he retired, Paris main support Harrison “Kruise” Pond took over, ensuring that the Defiant stayed in the fight until the very end. Joo-seong “RoKy” Park picked up some play time as well, proving himself on the Baptiste when KariV needed to take a break.
Rounding out the roster was the incredible tank line of Adam “Beast” Denton, and Andreas “Nevix” Karlsson. Both Beast and Nevix started the season as the only players in their respective tank roles. Working alongside each other for so long enabled them to build up a good syngery that all top tier tank duos need to sustain themselves. Nevix specifically proved he’s much more than a D.Va one trick, showing incredible gameplay on Sigma, and even Reinhardt. Halfway through the season, the team welcomed back veteran Seb “numlocked” Barton into the folds, allowing him to shine with his Winston and Reinhardt play.
The way this team banded together under less than ideal circumstances is nothing if not admirable. Though the results weren’t always what they were looking for, they managed to break even in the end, and did their best considering everything that was thrown their way.
Failing to Impress: The Bad
However, for all the shining moments that the Toronto Defiant showed, they still had their fair share of disappointments. Mostly, these revolve around underperforming. In preseason power rankings, most analysts and fans had the Toronto Defiant as a true middle of the pack team. With talent from the LA Gladiators, the LA Valiant, and the San Francisco Shock, there were expectations for them to do better than their initial debut season. The Toronto Defiant fans saw throughout 2020 wasn’t exactly the team they expected.
With people like Surefour and Agilities leading a Canadian DPS line, things faltered more than they should’ve. In fact, Surefour stopped playing halfway through the season, handing over playtime to both Logix and late signing Thomas “zYKK” Hosono. Together, the team never game up and still did their best to deliver top tier performances, but sometimes struggled to push themselves all the way.
Flying Rudderless Into The Summer
These faults and inconsistencies could be a result of a multitude of things. The main issue, however, comes from the coaching department. Unfortunately, for most of 2020, the Defiant were running without a captain. Initial head coach Félix “Féfé” Münch retired in the middle of the season, for very understandable and personal reasons. This left Alban “Albless” de la Grange to coach on his own. Former two-way player Liam “Mangachu” Campbell also joined the coaching staff, focusing specifically on working with the DPS players on the team.
The beginning of June brought about the retirement of Jaesun “Jae” Won, the team’s general manager. Chris “spazzo” Infante and David “Lilbow” Moschetto were left in charge, steering this team through the rest of their season, which ended in the knockouts of the North American Playoffs Bracket. Lilbow was also released from the team after their season ended. In his Twitter post, he explains the lack of coordination behind the scenes from an administrative perspective.
There’s no reason for anyone to speculate on what happened specifically. However, it’s easy and clear to say that Toronto lacked a clear direction, both literally and professionally. This lack of leadership caused a lot of faltering, and a lot of missed opportunities within the organization.
Looking Forward to 2021: The Impossible
Ending in the lower end of the North American region, it’s hard to say what the Defiant should do next season. The main talent can and should stay on the roster. Their performances were still strong enough to maintin their place in the League. This includes players like Kruise, Nevix, numlocked, Beast, KariV, RoKy, Agilities and Logix. Having multiple players in multiple roles is the best way to ensure that the team isn’t struggling with back-to-back-to-back matches.
Building A Stronger Roster
The mystery lies in the hitscan damage role. Notably, Surefour has been absent from professional play. The reasoning for his absence is unknown, however. Either way, it’s safe to say that the Defiant needs someone to replace the role that Surefour held. While he specializes in things like Widowmaker and Ashe, Logix has proven that he can uphold the sniper shots. What Logix lacks, however, is the ability to play pretty much everything else. Surefour is always touted, rightfully so, as a jack of all trades. Lead Overwatch developer Jeff Kaplan explained that players like Surefour would be best at heroes like Echo. Being able to duplicate anyone in the game would suit players who could play everything to a high level. Finding someone to fill that void in their roster is one of the best things to focus on.
Beyond the roster, this team needs a stable foundation. The talent is clearly there, but the lack of direction was a devastating blow to an already tough year. With a strong coaching team to lead the way, there’s a solid chance for old and new talent to come together and give it another shot. There’s no telling how well they’ll rank up against the other teams in North America, but with something strong to build on, there’s at least hope to see more success from this organization in the future.
Advancing Forward: The Toronto Defiant’s Future
Overall, fans of this Canadian based team had a season that was middling, at best. The Defiant pulled off some miracle wins, including pushing the over powerful Philadelphia Fusion to a Map 5 game. However, the floundering moments cannot be forgotten. Ending the season as a lower tier team only proves one thing: there’s no place to go but up. The raw materials to build a team that’s bigger and better are at the Defiant’s disposal. Fans can certainly look forward to this team making some shake-ups during the impending off-season.
Featured Image Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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