The most impressive feat of the season is not going to be New York Excelsior only dropping a few maps or the Boston Uprising winning the most games in a row. No, the most impressive thing to come out of the inaugural season of Overwatch League would be the Shanghai Dragons miraculously failing at winning a game, and ending with a 0-40 record.
With one week to go in stage three, the reality of their situation is starting to reach a boiling point. Sitting on a 28 game losing streak. A streak so long that it will pass the biggest all-time losing streak in professional sports history with another loss. 12 more losses and the unthinkable will become reality.
Fortunately, stage three has been an improvement on their past two stages. The new additions are starting to find their footing, and that shows with this team winning seven of their 15 total map wins in stage three. Looking back a week ago, the Dragons took the Philadelphia Fusion to the edge before losing on Oasis in game five. It’s not a total lost cause for Shanghai.
Unfortunately, stage three ends for the Dragons against the best team in the league and the London Spitfire currently sitting as the three seed. The likeliness of them going into stage four with a win is low. The fate of their winless season will depend on either the week one matchup with the Dallas Fuel or the week four match with the Florida Mayhem.
Outside of the Dragons beating one of the bottom four teams, the Dragons have been to game five twice against the Fusion and have played close games with the Seoul Dynasty. Of the 14 shutouts against the Dragons, only two have come on stage three. After a staggering seven matches that ended in a sweep in stage two, the Dragons have shown some promise with the new roster.
The Barrier of Entry into the Overwatch League
One of the hardest parts of adding all the new players is getting the right communication. The Shanghai Dragons employed a team of all Chinese players, who speak primarily mandarin, before signing all the Korean-born players at the opening of the stage two transfer period. The Language barrier being an issue is a theme throughout the league, but it’s none more prevalent than on the Shanghai Dragons.
Coordinating dives is hard enough without a language barrier, adding that into the mix makes it nearly impossible. And unlike the other teams, this team didn’t have an entire preseason or offseason. This is all having to be handled mid-season. Each one of the new additions not only had to adjust to living in the United States, learn their new teammate’s playstyle and tendencies, but also had to do this while working through a translator. It’s not the only reason this team is falling, but it’s safe to say they have an excuse.
Additionally, the level of competition the Chinese players faced before OWL was nowhere near the level of these other players. This team came in with a hindrance and after 13 weeks of play, nothing this team has done has resulted in a win. The roster changes have helped, but we’re still seeing this team lacking in the same areas.
The progress is slowly starting to show. Chon “Ado” Gi-hyeon is working more efficiently with Weida “Diya” Luas both of their playstyles mesh well together on DPS. Dae-min “Daemin” Kiim seems to be a nice find, but it will be a few weeks before he reaches his normal playing level. The signings have not only brought in new players, but are actively helping the original roster improve. Peixuan “FreeFeel” Xu looks like an entirely different player in stage three, playing behind Lee “Fearless” Eui-Seok and Geguri.
The outlook for the Shanghai Dragons
On top of adding talented players, adding a name like Se-yeon “Geguri” Kim, the first woman to be signed in the league, has provided the Dragons with a cult-like fan-following. Most fans of the OWL love an underdog story, and there’s nothing more underdog than a team looking to avoid a winless season. It’s brought in a boisterous crowd of fans to the Blizzard Arena, and each week the yells and screams grow louder.
Looking ahead, this team isn’t far off from a win, and it isn’t necessarily going to be a non-playoff team that finally breaks the streak. Teams with aggressive tanks seem to be their best bet because their DPS hero pool tends to lean more towards anti-dive, using Diya on McCree or another his-scan. Based off their two matchups with the Fusion, seeing Ado outplay the Fusion’s EQO on Genji, showed the potential.
However, the Shanghai Dragons ending this season with a winning record seems unlikely. Even against the bottom teams, only a few of those matches produced any map wins. So far, the Dragons only have three map wins off the bottom four teams. The league isn’t too far ahead, but this team needs more time before they’re truly ready for the task. Regardless, the entire OWL viewer base will be behind this team cheering them on. A raucous pro-Dragons crowd could make a huge difference in the end.
Feature photo via Overwatch League Twitter