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Can NYXL Recapture Their Season One Glory In Overwatch 2?

Can NYXL Recapture Their Season One Glory In Overwatch 2?
Images via Blizzard Entertainment

Written by 

Joseph "Volamel" Franco

Posted 

17th Jan 2022 23:57

New York finally is returning home. Yes, Overwatch League’s New York Excelsior will battle the best teams in North America once more.

With their captain retired and their franchised flex support gone, New York approaches a brand-new game with a fresh rebuild for their reinstatement. After a frankly disappointing and backloaded 2021 season and standing in the shadow of their early success in the Overwatch League, are New York an early favourite for one of North America’s top spots or will this reignition fail to strike?

For a moment, let’s return back to the bright-eyed entrance of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. The world was pandemic free, esports was buzzing around its brand-new franchise league, and the New York Excelsior was barreling through the league like a professional footballer in a sea of primary schoolers. And before ‘Redditor Jones’ tries to counter by pointing out that the NYXL didn’t even win the first stage; go back, rewatch all those games leading up to the final, and attempt to make the argument that New York weren’t the clear and obvious favourites. 

Go ahead, we’ll wait… much like the Excelsior did during their heyday. 

People often forget that when New York was king, they were a slow and trap-laden team, constantly giving room for teams to overextend and being very methodical on where and how they take their engagements. This continued into the rigid GOATs metagame of 2019 where the franchise took the lowest amount of team fights but still managed to find surprising success. What many people forget is that the New York Excelsior were the Atlantic Division leaders and were a win away from mirroring the San Francisco Shock’s end of season record. 

This is the golden era the 2022 NYXL aim to recapture. With a re-tooled roster and a brand-new version of Overwatch to learn, do they have what it takes? The statistics certainly think so.

We all know why you’re here, Kim "Yaki" Jun-ki is the frontman of this roster - as he should be. His star quality and playmaking capability has seen him jettisoned into the limelight and he’s never looked back. The 2020 MVP nominee has been a mainstay within Overwatch nearly since the beginning and boasts a level of experience few can match both in and out of the Overwatch League era. 2020 remembers his Tracer as something to behold. Yaki was ranked fifth in final blow per ten minutes ahead of Jang "Decay" Gui-un, fifth in eliminations per ten minutes ahead of Kim "birdring" Ji-hyeok and ninth in solo kills per ten minutes ahead of Lim "Glister" Gil-seong and Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun. 

His Genji nearly boasts the same accolades, being ranked sixth in final blows per ten minutes ahead of Lee "TTuba" Ho-sung, sixth in eliminations per ten minutes ahead of Kim "Doha" Dong-ha, and ended up leading the entire Overwatch League in solo kills per ten minutes. Another hero he excelled at was surprisingly Mei. For the 2020 season, Yaki’s Mei was ranked sixth in final blows per ten minutes ahead of Lee "Ivy" Seung-hyun and second in hero damage done per ten minutes ahead of Dante "Danteh" Cruz.

These high marks continue into 2021. Through the Florida Mayhem’s 5-11 match record, Yaki’s Tracer was ranked tenth in final blows per ten minutes, ahead of Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han and tied with Fleta and Park "Profit" Joon-yeong and third in solo kills per ten minutes ahead of Kevin "kevster" Persson. This extended to his Mei as well as he was ranked fourth in final blows per ten minutes ahead of Nikolai "Naga" Dereli and third in solo kills per ten minutes ahead of Oh "Pelican" Se-hyun. Adding to that ocean of heroes, Yaki’s Echo not only matched the eye test but it did score some high marks statistically as well as he was ranked fifth in hero damage done per ten minutes ahead of Zheng "shy" Yangjie. 

Again, for someone whose team last year held a negative 12 map differential and was in the bottom five teams across the league standings, Yaki is the dynamic DPS fixture that the Excelsior has been waiting for since their golden age. This should speak volumes of the type of player that he is. However, flanking him are two flex supports that echo a similar degree of high praise.

Both Kang "Gangnamjin" Nam-jin and Seo "Myunb0ng" Sang-min have carved themselves out a nice plot of land within the dense pocket of talented support players. Debuting in 2020, Gangnamjin provided the Florida Mayhem with an incredibly aggressive support player and secondary star behind Yaki’s prowess. Myunb0ng on the other hand has been the backbone of the Boston Uprising since his debut. After impressing alongside O2 Blast in Overwatch’s amateur division, Myunb0ng was the ironclad support coaches could only dream of, making similar plays to his contemporaries but doing so in reaction to his opponents. To top it off, both supports have boasted impressive statistics throughout the last few years of the Overwatch League. 

Gangnamjin held an impressive rookie season being ranked Eighth in final blows per ten minutes ahead of Jonas "Shaz" Suovaara and seventh in hero damage done per ten minutes ahead of his current teammate, Myunb0ng, on Baptiste. On Ana he was ranked Eighth in final blows per ten minutes ahead of Mun "Lastro" Jung-won, ninth in eliminations per ten minutes ahead of Choi "Bdosin" Seung-tae, Second in hero damage done per ten minutes ahead of Bdosin. 

On the other hand, Myunb0ng has been quieter statistically but more consistent throughout the years. In 2020 his Ana obviously was rated within the top ten but it wasn’t until his 2021 performance that his potential was really showcased. Ranked fifth in healing per ten minutes ahead of Kim "Ir1s" Seung-hyun on Baptiste and seventh in eliminations per ten minutes ahead of Bang "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon on Ana, Myunb0ng provides a valuable foil and increased coverage should the Excelsior need it coming into Overwatch 2.

Now when we review the roster, there is a distinct style that does peer out. Looking at the core of Yaki, Gangnamjin and rookie main tank Kim "Kellan" Min-jae, there is this aggressive Dallas-esque look that could emerge from the empire state early in 2022. We’ve seen the importance of proactivity in the past and, in a strange and ironic way, New York could be paving a new way for themselves in Overwatch 2. The team that was known for their inaction could become one of the most proactive in the west. 

The other elements of the team do not necessarily match, but they don’t clash either. One of the biggest flaws on holding a pointed style is that pivoting is incredibly difficult. Take Dallas last year, they held one style that worked and got them to the big dance at the end of the season - but how did that end? Take Chengdu in the past, similar circumstances just weaker results. New York can be more reserved and that’s a good thing. However, what they have to avoid is the mediocrity of doing too many things at the league average. This is, along with another reason, is why we assume the NYXL will house and utilise two effective rosters. 

There are obvious caveats we have to wave off when it comes to both the 2022 New York Excelsior and the coming Overwatch League season. What’s most concerning about this initial announcement is how shallow the roster is currently. While they have a possible double flex support metagame covered, they lack a traditional main support and depth at the now single tank position. Overwatch 2. Overwatch League commentator and expert Kevin "AVRL" Walker also pointed out another important factor to consider. With NYXL moving back to North America, adding players to their fully South Korean roster is going to be very difficult. To counter this potential problem, New York should be overcompensating and signing a fairly wide roster for the 2022 season. However, the biggest selling point for the NYXL is their return to North America. 

When you compare the two regions, the leaner and meaner of the two towers over the other. Yes, without a doubt in our minds, the Eastern region is and has been easily the more difficult of the two to compete in. Unsure? Think back and name how many teams last year from North America were genuinely title contenders? Atlanta? Dallas? Gladiators? Maybe an outside vote for San Francisco? 

While the west had good teams, few held a torch to the highs of some of the “great” highs showcased in Asia. Shanghai towered over the world and no one was close. Then you have teams like Seoul and Chengdu who hold some of the heaviest hands in the world. Across the pond, the west held select teams with distinct styles, the region was banking on dice rolls to find success. 

Even past the subjective eye test, having fewer teams is inherently more difficult due to the fact that you have to play the top teams in your region more frequently. This automatically chips away at your match record. New York does not have to concern itself with the Dynasty or the Dragons or the Hunters anymore. Now they, at worst, will file directly into the grey area and the gatekeepers that contend for stage titles. However, at best, New York could challenge for the top spot in North America. 

There are some serious question marks for many of North America’s typical darlings. While the San Francisco Shock have the odds-on-favourite for the 2022’s Rookie of the Year, many of their new additions have never played on a mixed roster let alone unrooted their lives to move to the United States. 

The Los Angeles Gladiators are banking on a slew of unknown or uncertain quantities to level their roster up.

The Atlanta Reign arguably have decreased in power while still housing an innate element of instability. 

And does the Dallas Fuel’s offseason inaction provide really provide a confident look? 

The fact of the matter is this: while the 2022 New York Excelsior still have room to build, their foundation looks very strong. And with such a strong base, things can really only go up from here. We would not be surprised if 2022’s final verdict for the NYXL saw them within the top five teams in North America with a stage final under their belt, if not a stage title. 

Glory is not only within reach, it is easily attainable for the New York Excelsior.

The sky truly is the limit.

 

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