BEFORE THE LEAGUE: Contenders Europe 2017
After the test-run that was Contenders Season Zero, Contenders Europe 2017 Season 1 was Blizzard’s attempt to lay the groundwork for the upcoming Overwatch League. Running only in Europe and North America, it was able to attract the top western teams. Previously, teams such as Rogue and Misfits were frequently in Korea, playing in OGN’s APEX tournaments. However, in July of 2017, OGN announced that no western teams would be invited to APEX Season 4. This left Contenders Season 1 as the pinnacle of competition for western teams at the time. Misfits, who went undefeated in the group stages, were the favourites to win. The mostly-Swedish lineup featured Sweden’s then-star DPS player, Kevin “TviQ” Lindström, and Lúcio expert Sebastian “Zebbosai” Olson.
Making quick work of the other side of the bracket were Team Gigantti. The all-Finnish lineup were considered the underdogs in the matchup. Made up of the core of Ninjas in Pyjamas in Joona “Fragi” Laine and Joonas “zappis” Alakkurtti, the team had added some new Finnish talent. Jonas “Shaz” Suovaraa replaced Aleksi “Zuppeh” Kuntsi, who by a quirk of fate was now playing for Misfits. The series was much closer than most expected; the two teams going neck-and-neck and facing down on the seventh map, Ilios. With Benjamin “BigG00se” Isohanni knocking their tankline into Ilios Well’s titular water feature, LiNkzr finding Dragonblade kills and Tuomo “Davin” Leppänen killing TviQ mid-ult, Gigantti took the series. But where are all those players now?
When Misfits bought a spot for the Overwatch League’s inaugural season, keeping their European roster was an easy decision. Misfits’ Overwatch team was made up of veteran players who knew how to play with each other. However, a lack of infrastructure proved highly damaging to the team’s prospects. The only team to enter the inaugural season with only the minimum six players and a single coach, the Mayhem struggled to find their footing. The team showed signs of life during Stage 2, scoring several upsets. Despite this and the addition of hitscan superstar Jung-woo “Sayaplayer” Ha, they finished the season near the bottom of the standings. Andreas “Logix” Berghmans and Tim “Manneten” Bylund showed moments of brilliance; however, TviQ was the only Misfits player to be retained for the 2019 season.
As the 2019 season began, TviQ was left in the awkward position of being one of two English-speaking players on a mostly Korean roster. Unsuited to the three-tank three-support meta, TviQ was dropped when the team transitioned to an all-Korean roster. He would then join former teammate Manneten in joining contenders team Revival.
Logix was quickly picked up by XL2 Academy, where he played alongside Liam “Mangachu” Campbell. While XL2 made it to the Contenders 2018 S3 semifinals, they were knocked out by ATL Academy. In a roster restructuring, Logix and Mangachu were both let go. Mangachu went to Mayhem Academy, which then became Revival. Logix was picked up by the Toronto Defiant’s new academy team, Montreal Rebellion. After playing for a season, Logix was promoted to the Defiant’s main team as they transitioned to a mixed Korean-western roster. Mangachu was also brought onto the Defiant, with the two forming a strong DPS duo as the team looks towards the 2020 season.
Zebbosai, who had struggled learning a new hero in a Mercy-dominated meta, would not play on another team and retired six months later.
His support partner Zuppeh, ironically, went back to Europe to play on Team Gigantti’s new roster. Zuppeh’s performance in Contenders has been very impressive, and he helped Gigantti win their second Contenders trophy in Contenders 2018 Season 1.
Johan “CWoosH” Klingestedt would also retire from professional play after being cut from the Mayhem. Unlike Zebbosai, however, he decided to enter the field of coaching. After a month-long stint as an assistant coach at, also ironically, Team Gigantti, he was selected as head coach of the Paris Eternal’s academy team. After a poor season that saw the team relegated to Contenders Trials, they failed to qualify for the next season and were disbanded. Currently, CWoosH is coaching Sweden’s 2019 World Cup team.
After being dropped from the main team, Manneten played for Florida’s academy team, Mayhem Academy. It was with Manneten that Mayhem Academy delivered Fusion University their first defeat since 2018’s Atlantic Showdown against British Hurricane. When Mayhem Academy was disbanded, its players, including Manneten, continued to play in Contenders under the team name Revival. After a disappointing 1-6 season, Revival’s future is unknown.
While almost all of 2017’s Team Gigantti were picked up to play in the Overwatch League, the team has remained a fixture of Europe’s Tier 2 Overwatch scene. Consistently making playoffs, Gigantti have one more Contenders title and two EU Grand Finals appearances under their belt. Two years later, they remain one of the region’s strongest teams. For the 2019 season; four of their new crop of players were picked up by Overwatch League teams. But what happened to the six that played in Contenders Europe 2017?
The DPS (#FreeDavin)
After Gigantti’s victory in Contenders Europe 2017, Davin has yet to break his way into the Overwatch League. Despite being offered tryouts for several teams, Davin has come extremely close but never quite managed to make it into the League. The team’s veteran, he has now been playing with Gigantti for over two years. With consistently strong performances in Contenders and the introduction of 2-2-2 lock, Davin may soon find his chance coming up.
LiNkzr, despite mostly playing Genji on Team Gigantti, was signed to the Houston Outlaws as a hitscan player. Houston’s inaugural season was disappointing, and they barely missed out on playoffs. However, LiNkzr proved himself as an expert Widowmaker player, excelling in sniper duels. Despite spells of inconsistency and difficulty adapting to the GOATS meta, LiNkzr is one of the Outlaws’ stars and should be expected to stay on the roster for 2020.
The Supports (#TheGooseIsLoose)
Many organizations, building for the inaugural season, took established rosters to build their team about. The L.A. Gladiators took a slightly different approach, picking individual sets of players as building blocks. Shaz and BigG00se were one of those blocks. The Gigantti support line were picked up alongside the tankline of Contenders NA team Kungarna.
Although both Luis “iRemiix” Galarza Figueroa and Aaron “Bischu” Kim would part ways with the Gladiators, Shaz and BigG00se started every single match for the team in both 2019 and 2020. Both BigG00se and Shaz are core pieces of the L.A. team. They’re unlikely to be going anywhere any time soon.
The Tanks (#FreeFragi)
Fragi was picked up as one of many disparate parts as the Philadelphia Fusion assembled an all-new roster for the inaugural season. With his signature Reinhardt out of the meta, Fragi adjusted admirably to playing Winston. His hyper-aggressive style, while it frequently led to him being killed first, enabled the team’s star DPS Jae-hyeok “Carpe” Lee and Josue “eqo” Corona. However, in the latter part of the 2018 season, the team decided to invest their hopes in Su-min “SADO” Kim at the main tank position.
After not seeing play for the Fusion in 2019, Fragi was traded to the Guangzhou Charge. He has so far only played one map with the Charge, and a meta that favours Orisa and Wrecking Ball over Reinhardt and Winston is unfavorable to him. However, as a fan favourite, Fragi may well see more playtime with the team going forward, whether in the playoffs or in 2020.
Strangely enough, zappis would be signed to play alongside his old rivals in Misfits on the Florida Mayhem. However, he received little playtime. Despite a stellar performance on Finland’s 2018 World Cup team, he was cut from the roster before the 2019 season. Reuniting with old teammate Davin, zappis returned to Team Gigantti, bringing fellow ex-Mayhem player Zuppeh with him. Since then, the three of them have enjoyed considerable success as key pieces of one of Europe’s top teams.
With a lack of support and coaching, the Misfits roster had a disastrous inaugural season. However, many of them have since been shining in Contenders, and should soon rejoin their teammate Logix in the League. Misfits players ending up playing for Gigantti and Gigantti players playing for the Mayhem is more than just a funny coincidence; it shows how deeply everything in the esports world is connected. Esports is an ecosystem, and teams rely on one another to find and develop new talent. Take good care of the Tier 2 scene, and it’ll take good care of you.
Now that you know his origins, are you curious about the trade that might bring Fragi back into the limelight? The Game Haus covered his acquisition by the Guangzhou Charge here.
Featured photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.
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