Can Guanzhou Charge's Power Surge Carry Them Into The 2022 Playoffs?
For the first time in a long time, the Guangzhou Charge are within striking distance of some of the best teams in the world. Ending the 2022 Overwatch League Summer Showdown qualifying matches with a 4-2 is an incredible change in polarity when you review their first half of the season.
With dreams of 2020 dancing around them, the Charge venture into the Summer Showdown with newfound vigour. Can this surge in power last for Guangzhou and does this signal some glowing omens for their playoffs run?
Somehow the Summer Showdown always presents us with a shift in the global power dynamics. With narrow wins over everyone but Seoul and Shanghai, Guangzhou has established itself as the clear favourite for bronze in the upcoming Summer Showdown finals.
While it does feel weird to say when you review the landscape and the moves they've made recently, this surprising power surge feels more expected than not.
The impulse may be to underrate the Charge but, just for a moment, let's remove our biases. Yes, the Guangzhou Charge were absolute stinkers in the first half of the 2022 season, that is painfully true like an empty litre of milk to those intolerant. Yet, when you look at the ingredients on the Summer Showdown souffle, things make much more sense.
We talked at length about why the Summer Showdown has seen an influx of new teams "suddenly" just becoming good. Again, it has more to do with how new Junker Queen is and the shift from individuals carrying the weight to a metagame where heavy team play is king. This has effectively soft reset the standings. This hasn't chipped away at some of the best teams in the world but for most teams below them, we've cycled the power and have woken up to a brand-new league.
Now when you begin to look at some of the biggest winners of this stage, you also start to notice that they have improved individually and added to their roster as well - the Charge included.
What does an all-star rookie that has been waiting for his chance to shine, one of the best main supports in the world, and a forgettable DPS hungry for success mean for the Charge?
Well, apparently it means tripling your wins for the season and emerging as a threat to the Summer Showdown title.
We've always had strong rookie classes in Overwatch, and this season it was no different. Li "Apr1ta" Yuanjinghao was originally supposed to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the 2021 MVP on the Chengdu Hunters. However, due to reported financial constraints, Apr1ta has been relatively absent this season. That said that isn't the only Hunters alumni now fighting for the Charge.
Formerly playing under the tag "Yveltal", Li "Xerneas" Xianyao has returned to prove once and for all that his name deserves to be placed among the best main supports in the world. His raw output has been put to good use now, but what happens when main supports are allowed to flex their mechanical might?
Then there is Lei "Jimmy" Yujia, a name some folks should remember from seasons past for less than stellar reasons. Not for anything he did, just more the things he couldn't do. That said, for those shrewd viewers of all things third-party Overwatch, Jimmy was also a name tapped by some insiders for his fairly surprising performance in the pre-season.
Heading into the Summer Showdown playoffs, the Guangzhou Charge currently have a 5-13 match record and limited league points to stand on. While they don't maintain an envious position, you don't need to be Magnus Carlsen to find a line where they begin to close the gap on their neighbouring teams—and even surpass them.
If we were to go into an Overwatch League metagame grab bag and build the most ideal situation for Charge to succeed it would look something like this.
First, we need Tracer. This allows for Apr1ta to become the second threat that the Charge has needed all season. And not only can his skill overcompensate for their lean and mean roster, but he'll also likely draw the team over the finish line kicking and screaming in some matches. Don't let the absence of Apr1ta in this metagame and from this season as a whole, sway how valuable he'll be if one of Overwatch's most common DPS threats becomes available.
Staying with DPS as they've been a large marker of success this season, Choi "ChoiSehwan" Se-hwan is one of the most underrated DPS talents we have in the Overwatch League. ChoiSehwan is the modern Overwatch equivalent of Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun's initial rise to glory. Genji would be preferred for the red lantern bearer, but we when look at his stats from past seasons, we're not particularly worried about what he does. With this kind of metagame, he might have to lunge for snowflakes much longer.
Then there is Jimmy. Can you remember a DPS who stunk worse than Jimmy in 2021? With Chengdu's rotation carousel of DPS to pair with Huang "leave" Xin, Jimmy was thrown into the wash and got mulched. Now go and compare that player to the monster that has been stealing the souls of the finest hitscan DPS Overwatch League's APAC region has to offer. From Sojourn to some of his pre-season stylings on Widowmaker, Jimmy is quickly becoming a dreamy third-DPS that Guangzhou has in their back pocket going into stage four.
But the biggest questions mark, the largest gamble to be made is what happens with the tank situation?
The "most ideal" situation is that we venture into some odd world where Sigma is the metagame and Nam "Cr0ng" Ki-cheol becomes a playmaker once again, but the chances of that happening are like being struck by lightning.
The Charge's tank situation has to survive at the very least one more metagame. If Cr0ng can manage, even if it's with a pair of rickety old crutches, the post-Junker Queen world that hopefully awaits us in the Countdown Cup, the Guangzhou Charge should be spoken about in the same vein as the Chengdu Hunters and Philadelphia Fusion.
Are they perfect? No.
Do they have merit? No, he plays for Houston.
Yet, the firepower this team has shown looks good—but it looks emaciated and weak next to what could happen if we return to a metagame where DPS carry the burden of proof and dive is the Overwatch archetype of choice.
Summer Showdown is set to be the climactic end of a few different narratives, but in that rough outline of a story, there are some serious diamonds.
As wild as this might be to read, the Guangzhou Charge have very real and tangible playoff aspirations ahead of them.
Things are about to get really interesting.