Volamel has taken an in depth look at Paris Eternal's Overwatch League potential ahead of the 2020 OWL
The Paris Eternal’s entrance into the 2019 season of the Overwatch League was a winding and twisting labyrinth and while their offseason blueprint called for re-imagination and restructuring, they’ve taped French horns on the walls and filled the sockets with steel-cut oats before calling it quits. The Eternal slowly trot through these strange and mysterious halls towards their own dimly lit exit sign, attempting to find their footing amongst the other teams in the league, but somewhere along the way, they’ve tripped up and caught themselves in a Sissyphusian nightmare.
After acquiring a smatter of mid-table European talent in 2019, the team was posed as benefactors of the style at the time. However, Los Angeles was the battleground for the strategic-refinement complex and the Eternal’s edge slowly become dull and outdated.
At the core of that overly tempered steel sits many familiar faces including Nicolas "NiCOgdh" Moret, Benjamin "BenBest" Dieulafait, Damien "HyP" Souville. Harrison "Kruise" Pond, Luís "Greyy" Perestrelo and at the head of the round table is French legend and backbone of the team’s DPS line, Terence "SoOn" Tarlier.
Flanked by the new acquisition of Eoghan "Smex" O'Neill, the European core is the epitome of bland. It’s not that the players are bad or shouldn’t be there, it’s just that they don’t inspire any faith whatsoever. They’re known quantities and I don’t expect much. It’s taken some of the good and the bad from last season and added a seasoned flex tank to the mix.
However, the Paris Eternal has made some interesting offseason moves that shifts them from bland to bold, but questionable.
Jung "Xzi" Ki-hyo fills a role which SoOn has shown to have spotty proficiency in, but not much else. His McCree has had moments of awe and inspiration in the past, but I fear that time may have eroded that pipe dream away. What saves Xzi from being as head-scratching as the 2018-2019 Florida Mayhem is his experience playing flex support. This does add a strange depth to him that could be a saving grace if mechanically demanding supports are required. Will he play over his peers in Kruise, who has DPS experience as well, and Greyy, time will tell, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
A twist in the Eternal’s visible thought process was the acquisition of Jeong "NoSmite" Da-un, a main tank that underwhelmed in 2019. He was placed alongside a team he had previous chemistry with and still managed a very apathetic performance. How, in response, you give NoSmite the nod to fill out your main tank stable with an under performer like BenBest, is frankly bizarre. Now it is a role that is difficult to find talent for, but both players are known quantities and I struggle to see how these two players stand out.
The blockbuster signing for the Eternal is a young prodigy, Kim "Sp9rk1e" Yeong-han, but this acquisition comes at a cost; he won’t be of age until late May. With their presumed ace benched until he turns 18, this marks half the season as questionable, at the very least. To say Sp9rk1e isn’t talented is a bald-faced lie, whether the speaker knows it or not. What can be critiqued is his overly aggressive positioning and need for duels. This can corner the team into being quite the “Sp9rk1e Show,” with all available resources being invested into his style of play--but, fair play to him, it’s been shown to work. I do worry that with a new team, under the stress of travel, and being introduced into the team so far into the league’s schedule that the potential is wasted.
And rounding out this band of merry misfits is workhorse Choi "Hanbin" Han-been. With his time on Overwatch Contenders team, Element Mystic, he’s been an above-average flex tank that rarely is the cause of your team’s downfall. Hanbin is a solid addition to the team and has previous work experience with Sp9rk1e and members of their newly acquired coaching staff.
What’s frustrating is that everything about the team makes sense in a vacuum, but together we get the strange furnishings of franchise that’s kind of lost. And in practice, the team might do well but after their honeymoon phases is up and tensions rise, I do question if things don’t start to fall apart. And a lot of this comes down to how the team structures.
With Sp9rk1e on the bench for a good portion of the season, the Eternal has two avenues to explore. There is one that includes Sp9rk1e in the team’s practice as much as possible and another which will slowly integrate him in once his birthday rolls around. And as unintuitive as it might sound, I think the latter is preferred.
Sp9rk1e is a star player in every sense of the word. He can snatch control of a game if you allow him, but he requires everyone to be on the same page, something that a team with many new players to a mixed roster system might find hard to manage. And on top of that, Sp9rk1e has been known to be one of the more aggressive players to come out this year’s graduating class of rookies. In GOATS his Zarya was great, but his position was often abused, and the same went for his Pharah and his Doomfist.
Don’t misunderstand me, Sp9rk1e’s very talented, but the Paris Eternal have a large question ahead of themselves when it comes to their new rookie ace.
The franchise’s new, fully Korean coaching is also something that will benefit them in the long run, but in the short term will probably be detrimental. Yes, I’ve heard that some of the coaches speak good English, but I’m going to guess there are varying degrees of language barriers still in place. This makes a season that is going to feature a stressed practice schedule some degree worse. Another topic this hints at is whether or not the western players will buy into a Korean coaching style.
A South Korean talent injection is good, but the problem is that your big star is benched for half the season. And before we drum ourselves up into a fit shouting about how other mixed roster found success, it has little to do with the inherent problems of a mixed roster and has everything to do with the massive amount of stress not only being put on the players but the coaches and management as well. I believe in the flexibility a mixed roster gives you, but with the advent of travel, I do question if this was the correct time to pull the trigger. I still wholeheartedly believe that there is a solid all-European team with a strong European coaching staff just waiting to be built. The Mayhem passed on the opportunity and the Eternal’s future doesn’t look to bright on that subject either.
With that said, unfortunately, the Paris Eternal receives a C.
They’ve not improved, and they’ve chosen to move more laterally, which has struck the fuze on its own powderkeg. I’d love to cling to the hope that Sp9rk1e can make that much of a difference, but I really think he, much like other star players, needs a roster tailored to him to fully realize his potential. As a matter of fact, this could position them nicely once the spectacular fireworks display runs its course--but that’s a long way away.
The Eternal does have the makings of a good team and in 2021, barring future changes. With respected South Korean coaches and advisors, they might have shot at rebuilding either mid-season or in the postseason for the fourth instalment of the Overwatch League. However, I think they’re going to slowly fade into the depth of apathy, which could save them this season. It doesn’t matter if you do poorly if no one recognizes it, take a look at the Mayhem in 2018.
That hallway the Paris Eternal walks continues, never-ending, never reaching any form of finality. Each move in this offseason adding a twist and then a turn and then a corkscrew to the Eternal’s strange, strange labyrinth.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment