As the Shanghai Dragons soar, LIP rises with them.
We all were prepared for a shocking offseason. However, to everyone’s surprise, in November of 2019 the Shanghai Dragons signed a relatively unknown DPS player named Lee "LIP" Jae-won. To some, the name was fairly familiar as he played for the South Korean Contenders team BlossoM throughout 2018 and 2019. Known for being partial to hitscan DPS heroes like McCree and Widowmaker, you could easily place LIP in the specialist category and forget about him. At least that’s what we thought going into the season.
As the season approached, rumours started to circulate that there was a rookie player in Asia that was crushing everything with a pulse. Come to find out, that the unassuming roster move that the Dragons had made was one of the biggest of the year. Now we know LIP to be the spearhead for the Shanghai Dragon’s potential 2020 title run. This begs the question; with such a story and with such a performance, is there anyone that can topple LIP’s nomination for Rookie of the Year? One team, in particular, boasts two very strong candidates.
The Paris Eternal has been a breath of fresh air when compared to some of their peers. What looked to be a strange mash of cultures and playstyles has evolved into an incredibly promising team with a coaching staff that should be put up on a pedestal. With that in mind, it should not surprise you that two of the Eternal’s stars could easily be on the 2020 ballot for Rookie of the Year. Jung "Xzi" Ki-hyo roared into the league showcasing some of the most exciting McCree performances to date, but on top of that, he managed to adapt to the shifting steps of Hero Pools on a weekly basis. Behind him sits French main support Brice "FDGoD" Monsçavoir who has finally gotten a chance to prove himself on the world’s stage. His aggressive nature on Lucio keeps the enemy team honest at all times, and if they attempt any sneaky rotation or some dishonest duels in the backline, FDGoD punishes them severely. Both players have good arguments and will likely be on the final ballot, but do they stack up to LIP?
Both Xzi and FDGoD are consistent performers but suffer in some areas. Unfortunately, Xzi has been out for a number of weeks now with severe neck pain and with no timeline on when he’ll be able to return to play, this hurts his chances at securing the award. On the other hand, FDGoD looks like one of the world’s best Lucio’s but questions have arisen around how deep his hero pool goes. LIP has seen massive amounts of playtime and success on more subtle heroes like Sombra and Reaper. LIP looks like the more “full player” at the moment where FDGoD needs to show a bit more prowess on a wider range of heroes. The Paris Eternal duo undoubtedly are strong contenders, but just don’t shine as bright as LIP right now.
The hitscan ace that has been a large factor in the Los Angeles Valiant’s success, Kai "KSP" Collins, makes a strong case to be on this list as well. With little to no notice going into the 2019 post-season, KSP flew under the radar until landing with the Valiant. This is surprising due to his success with the United Kingdom’s Overwatch World Cup team and on teams like XL2 Academy and Samsung Morning Stars. Much like LIP, KSP has the firepower to single-handily take over games with his Widowmaker and McCree, but the Valiant have showcased that KSP has an incredibly strong Ashe, strong enough to build entire compositions around. KSP checks off the skill box and shares a similar story to LIP as a rookie people didn’t see coming, but the worry lies in the fact that because the Valiant are not in striking distance for the title, KSP might not receive the same praise as someone like LIP which is undoubtedly going to sway voters.
The only person that boasts a strong enough narrative to sway popular opinion has a similar level of success this season, and holds a similar calibre of skill compared to LIP is the Philadelphia Fusion’s flex support ace Kim "Alarm" Kyungbo. Since February of 2018 he has waited patiently to debut on the Philadelphia Fusion. For two years Alarm was a part of the Fusion University dynasty that dominated Overwatch Contenders North America. Now that he’s playing on the world’s stage, Alarm stands among the best flex supports in the world and presents his own case for being the best himself. Alarm checks all the boxes. Funnily enough, this pits the best of Asia, the Shanghai Dragons, against--arguably--the best in the west, the Philadelphia Fusion.
Alarm matches LIP’s unlikely and unsuspecting tale with a story of dominance and stopping power. Both can play the field in terms of which heroes are asked of them. The only player currently capable of toppling LIP from winning 2020’s Rookie of the Year award is Alarm.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment