Catching Snowflakes - What Is ChoiSehwan To Do?
You cannot catch snowflakes, but if you watch the efforts of the Guangzhou Charge’s ace rookie, Choi "ChoiSehwan" Se-hwan, you might change your mind.
Troubled, the Charge venture through the frigid and isolated corridors of the bottom of the 2021 Overwatch League playoff race. No monthly tournaments to show. No added points. Just a solitary dream of recapturing last summer’s waltz. And at the heart of it all sits a young boy, experienced in spite of his age, and equipped with a persistent will draped in a dull, dim, yet familiar shade of crimson. This begs the question; has the torch - or better yet - has the proverbial lantern been passed? Has there emerged a new “captain of the red lantern” and what does his future look like within the Overwatch League?
The theme of the “red lantern” is in reference to a lantern that train conductors would hang to the last portion of a passenger train to track if any segments became disconnected. This practice then bled into awards being given out to those who finish last in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, as well as in the prestigious cycling event, the Tour de France. Both dole out red lantern awards to participants who finish in last place. However, in Overwatch, the idea has been co-opted to describe a wildly strong player kept cold on an underperforming team.
Originally given to Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun during his debut in OGN’s Overwatch APEX league in 2017, it was difficult to ever imagine anyone holding a candle to his sheer juxtaposition. His initial team, Flash Lux, was known for two things. They quite literally never won a match, and they had Fleta. For three seasons, Fleta amazed fans across the globe, occurring statistics difficult to replicate even today while being able to do so across a wide array of Overwatch cast of heroes.
Being so strong on such a frankly poor team, Fleta became the first to be crowned the captain of the red lantern - someone so good, someone with so much potential, who was kept locked away. Obviously, through the luxury of hindsight, we know now what kind of potential laid dormant all those years ago—so how does ChoiSehwan measure up to the original red lantern award winner?
One main argument, or staple, of this more grassroots award is boasting impressive statistical performances regardless of the match result, and with the Guangzhou Charge’s current record of 3-7, it’s safe to say ChoiSehwan has plenty of data points to pull from both sides of the aisle.
During the May Melee, ChoiSehwan managed some respectable statistical finishes on Tracer. He finished eighth overall in both final blows per ten minutes and in hero damage done per ten minutes, but that is not the complete picture. Ranking eighth overall out of the fifteen total player breakdown doesn’t scream success, however, it is who he’s placed over that is important. Take for instance his hero damage on Tracer, throughout the entirety of the May Melee, ChoiSehwan finished above players like Kim "Rascal" Dong-jun, Park "Architect" Minho, and funnily enough - Fleta.
This trend extends more recently to the June Joust, where ChoiSehwan maintained middle of the pack rankings on Echo but managed to outpace peers that receive glaciers of praise. Out of a twenty-one player report across the board, ChoiSehwan ranked thirteenth in final blows per ten minutes, sixteenth in both eliminations and hero damage done per ten minutes, and finished twelfth in solo kills per ten minutes.
However, players like Kim "Doha" Dong-ha, Kim "SP9RK1E" Yeong-han, and Rascal were ranked below him in terms of final blows per ten minutes and what’s more telling is who ranked right alongside him when it comes to solo kills per ten minutes. Fleta, as well as Huang "leave" Xin and Zheng "Shy" Yangjie are tied with ChoiSehwan when it comes to individual lethality on Echo.
For a moment, remove the sticker shock of just who he’s being compared to and just look at some of these teams these players are on.
ChoiSehwan is comparable statistically—but on a strictly worse team.
In terms of directly echoing his progenitor’s success, ChoiSehwan has flirted with deadlifting his team, but has yet to cross the threshold. During his week eight showing against the Philadelphia Fusion, ChoiSehwan managed to score a shocking 35% of his team’s total eliminations. And during his rookie debut against the Shanghai Dragons in week one, he had 32% of his team’s total eliminations. A rookie putting up those kinds of numbers on an underperforming team is special, much in the same way Fleta created the mould during his debut. Again, the context here is paramount; ChoiSehwan is managing this level of performance in clear and convincing losses.
That is not normal.
Overwatch is a game that rarely ever is charitable towards the losing team, especially in sweeping outcomes. One would rightly assume that when a team performs poorly, each player’s individual statistics are impacted negatively. And yet, ChoiSehwan is able to fight the creeping advance of this proverbial permafrost that comes part in parcel with these convincing losses. He is able to both lose and still manage to find noticeable individual success.
Again, that is not normal.
If it wasn’t obvious before, let us make this clear: chapter two of the red lantern saga has officially hit shelves. Considering the Guangzhou Charge’s record of 3-7 and their projections moving forward, ChoiSehwan’s striking and impactful debut is underlined by statistical support comparable to superstars in the league. He should be considered the begrudging inheritor of the title, the captain of the red lantern.
And if history is anything to go by, what might that mean for him moving forward within the Overwatch League?
To add context, Overwatch League commentator, Kevin "AVRL" Walker, shared his general temperature check regarding the young rookie star. “ChoiSehwan still generally looks like the best player on the Charge,” he said.
“He's been their breakout player from the start of the season and is still their leading man to date.”
While Tracer and Echo have been ChoiSehwan’s bread and butter for the 2021 Overwatch League season, AVRL pointed towards the rookie’s Genji as another hero fans and pundits alike need to keep their eyes on. AVRL further explained that during ChoiSehwan’s stint in Overwatch Contenders, he became well respected for his skill on the hero and for his tendency to force the hero. Be it an in-depth strategy or a comfortable crutch, ChoiSehwan’s Genji could be a fantastic weapon that the Guangzhou Charge could wield towards the end of the season.
As for his expectations and transition into the Overwatch League, AVRL gave resounding praise to Guangzhou’s ace. “I'd say he's well-exceeded expectations based on where he was in Contenders,” AVRL said. “As a graduate of Element Mystic you always have high hopes for a player like this, but he honestly never got to show this level of performance in Contenders.”
However, as far as accolades go, AVRL was sceptical about ChoiSehwan’s chances to find tangible recognition later this year. “Unfortunately, his chances for Rookie of the Year is fairly low as those awards typically go-to players on the top winning teams,” he explained. “Unless Charge can seriously turn their season around, it's unlikely he'll pick up an award.”
At the end of it all, regardless of how the 2021 season rounds out, ChoiSehwan has a bright future ahead of him. Whether or not the Charge finds a playoff berth, whether or not the Countdown Cup or the Summer Showdown sees the Charge upset an eastern staple, the ice the divides the Overwatch League has been cracked and ChoiSehwan’s presence has been heard, loud and clear.
Fleeting as life tends to be, snowflakes are impermanent. And with how promising ChoiSehwan has been during his rookie showcase, he won’t need to pay much mind to the weather for much longer. With skills like his, with the depth and potential he has shown, he’ll find his ticket away from the tundra that encompasses the bottom of the Overwatch League standings soon enough.
Aspirations or not, ChoiSehwan has the resume to become an eventual MVP winner, but until then, he marches forward, making headway into his quest for snowflakes.
What is ChoiSehwan to do?
Charge forward, captain. With patience and persistence, you’ll become a champion.