Can the Mayhem find repeat success at the May Melee?
Quiet but impactful, the Florida Mayhem has had an incredible offseason. For a team that began as one of the weakest in the Overwatch League, that has been plagued with some of the most structural issues out of the modern Overwatch League franchises, the Mayhem are not in any way, shape, or form, that same team that Naruto ran out of the Blizzard Arena tunnel with palm trees in hand. Equipped with one of the easiest strength of schedules in the western region to start the year on top of expectations of being a top performer, the Florida Mayhem have a prime opportunity to make another statement at the May Melee. Heavy are the eyes that weigh down on the Florida Mayhem. Will they improve their record from last season’s May Melee or does the roster need more time to gel before they return to the top?
When it comes to more general analysis on the offseason, gone are the days that teams are forced to reinvent the wheel when it comes to improving a roster in the offseason. During the 2019 roster mania, the Philadelphia Fusion came under fire due to their lack of changes. However, when you scope in, even just slightly, you can see they were woefully underprepared to deal with the metagame at the time—and by far were they the only team.
In that sense, there is a general rule that teams tend to follow when it comes to making roster moves. They either are wide-reaching with mixed impact or few but mighty. Just because the Florida Mayhem took the latter half of that hypothetical doesn’t mean they are lacking, but it does begin to sow the seeds of expectations and pressure.
The biggest improvement is the departure of tenured Overwatch veteran Choe "Kris" Jun-soo in favour of Kim "SLIME" Sung-jun. While it felt like Kris improved by the month, there was a glaring weakness when it came to assuming their status as big-game hunters. SLIME has that pedigree, he has been in those high stakes matches and brings bulletproof mechanics that will undoubtedly shore up the minor moments of inconsistency Florida showed in 2020.
Then you have the rookie debut of Baek "Checkmate" Seung-hun, a young flex DPS with a long career ahead of him. Out of the 2021 rookie class, Checkmate is frankly overlooked but not out of spite but due to so many flashy and exciting prospects joining the league. However, with what this coaching staff has done for players and the calibre of players he has around him coupled with his own talents, there is a good chance he jumps the rankings and begins to be one of the gems Florida calls on late in their season.
This all stands against the backdrop of the Overwatch League as a whole. All of the changes, all of the things that have remained, the Mayhem all have to measure up to the level that the league is reaching in 2021—and not only domestically either, this is as close to global as it is going to get.
That said, the majority of the roster was stellar last season and seeing how they’ve only improved, it’s likely we’ll see them book a few flights this year—or at least, they should.
So while the Mayhem were measured in their approach to their roster building, it doesn’t mean they’re doomed to underperform. Their gamble will be tested against some of the best teams in the league that have only improved their rosters, but there isn’t one general panacea for all teams. It is true, the Mayhem has retained most, if not all,trap of their stars from their 2020 rebuild while improving on that core, however, one aspect that is rarely given credit is who is responsible for the majority of their success.
Head coach, Kim "KuKi" Dae-kuk, is an undervalued and often overlooked member of this team. He, and his staff, are easily one of the biggest reasons why the Mayhem performed as well as they did during the 2020 May Melee. Their stark uptick in performance was due to the coaching staff not only finding the new Tracer focused composition but having the confidence to double-down on it.
Remember, Ashe was easily a staple during this time, with splashes of Widowmaker here and there. However, the second DPS was hotly debated. Echo had just come out and most teams viewed her and the defacto pick on most maps, other teams would decide depending on the map and game type, but the Mayhem saw Tracer as their ace in the hole. This also played into Kim "Yaki" Jun-ki’s wheelhouse extremely well and with Lee "BQB" Sang-bum really coming into his own on hitscan, the fit was perfect. Coming into their 2021 debut, KuKi undoubtedly has the Mayhem in peak fighting form, as he had them almost a year prior. That same coaching is to be expected and should perform, but their expertise is likely to be on display although for different reasons.
Trying to paint the Florida Mayhem as a hero pools team is as disingenuous as it comes. Let’s take a look at the Mayhem’s 2020 playoffs performance. They battled the Valiant close and made quite the statement in the lower bracket. KuKi and the Mayhem aren’t a team that relies on the chaos of hero pools to find success, they can refine the metagame down and hang with some of the Overwatch League’s best and brightest. This is an incredibly important distinction to make due to the return of the hero pool format for 2021.
Again, when you look at the track records of those involved, even individually, this is a coaching staff that should be at the top.
While this year’s May Melee will not feature any hero pools, that won’t hamper the Mayhem in the slightest. Contrasting that, during the June Joust and the Countdown Cup, Florida can rest easy knowing that their team has a track record of success through one of the most tumultuous periods in Overwatch’s competitive life cycle. No matter the system, no matter the format, the Mayhem have shown they are evergreen—and that will likely be displayed within the first few weeks of the 2021 season.
Speaking of, the Mayhem have a light opener heading into the 2021 Overwatch League season. During week one they have to face off against the Atlanta Reign and the Vancouver Titans, two teams that are easily beatable. The former is a team that can be competitive but should be viewed as an underdog when compared to their last season standings and the relative offseason moves that were made. As for the Titans, early projections see them having a hard time staying competitive with anyone outside of the bottom five western teams this season. If fate adheres to the odds then the Florida Mayhem open with a strong 2-0 record.
Seeing as week two is a bye-week for the Mayhem, this means they can focus all their preparation on tackling their week three opponents.
Now we return to the concept of “trap weeks.” On one hand, week two’s extra preparation could be spent on tackling the San Francisco Shock. However, the Paris Eternal are not likely going to be a team you can simply coast past and take lightly. Realistically, the Florida Mayhem will likely head into the May Melee with a 3-1 record, with their sole loss coming by way of the Shock. That said, this preparation focused pitfalls are very real. The Mayhem’s performance during week three will be very telling when it comes to forecasting their tournament performance and will set the tone for the foreseeable future.
And the tone is everything.
As malleable and generic as it sounds, confidence is a factor when it comes to performance and if the Florida Mayhem comes out and start their 2021 bid as strong as the forecasts say, they can easily ride that momentum throughout the season. In that same sense, those seeds of expectation could present themselves during upset losses and begin to fester and grow. If this is such an easy stage for them, they should perform, right? These underhanded self-reflections are very real and can undermine what should be a glowing start to the year. There is inherent pressure in the mantra of “no pressure.”
They have the roster. They should beat most teams.
They have the coaching staff. With their track record, they should be able to figure anything out.
And they have a frankly weak schedule of opponents to get their 2021 sea legs underneath them.
All eyes are on you, Florida. How do you want to remember this May Melee?
Images via Blizzard Entertainment