It is time we address Overwatch League’s Philadelphia Con-fusion.
Like Whiplash, the whole discourse around the 2021 Philadelphia Fusion just isn’t our tempo. Did we all just conveniently forget about their 2020 performance where they led the majority of the regular season in North America, were featured in the Summer Showdown final, as well as the Countdown Cup final, and the team who advanced as the second seed from North America heading into 2020’s grand finals weekend?
Sure, they’ve lost pieces through the offseason, but are we just going to ignore the positives from their offseason on top of their track record as a team? There should be no confusion when addressing Philadelphia's place in the league. The Philadephia Fusion are a firm lock as a playoff calibre team.
Let’s start with some of the newcomers, because the Fusion has easily had one of the most underrated offseasons in the short history of the Overwatch League. The acquisition of Niclas "sHockWave" Jensen and signing Kim "NineK" Bumhoon as their new head coach after his success with the 2020 Paris Eternal—whom he helped coach, mind you—are simply box office moves. With two added to their already stacked core, the Fusion alone could be the discussion of team’s who “won” the offseason.
To speak specifically on these two, the fact of the matter is this; sHockWave is going to thrive under NineK.
In his 2020 rookie debut, sHockWave dominated the entire league statistically when it came to Echo during the May Melee. He was first in terms of final blows per ten minutes, second in terms of hero damage done per ten minutes and led the league in solo kills per ten minutes with an astounding 4.2. To put this into perspective, the second-highest performer in terms of solo kills was Dante "Danteh" Cruz with 1.8. To further contextualise what kind of star we’re going to see come April, sHockWave did this for the 2020 Vancouver Titans, a team not necessarily known for winning too many games.
2021 will likely be the breakout season for this duo as they take flight and sHockWave becomes viewed as premier and true colourless flex DPS in the Overwatch League, and NineK starts to be placed in coach of the year discussions.
That doesn’t warrant talks of under performances.
When you examine their track record, the 2020 season was a resounding success. Did they win a monthly tournament? Did they show up in the playoffs? Admittedly, they did not, but that does not discredit the litany of other wins they earned and finals appearances they had. Again, go back to the Summer Showdown, the Countdown Cup, the North American playoff race; who is consistently featured?
And you can’t have such a successful season, which it was, regardless of what you think about winning titles, without an all-star lineup—which they’ve kept the majority of. 2020 Rookie of the Year winner, Kyung-bo "Alarm" Kim, paired with Daniel "FunnyAstro" Hathaway is already praiseworthy, then you add in Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok and Kim "Mano" Dong-gyu. Four titanic level players sit at the heart of Philadelphia but wait; then you have to consider the supporting cast—who are no slouches either. We all saw what Josh "Eqo" Corona can do during the Summer Showdown, and sHockWave was a standout player on one of the worst teams; it doesn’t get more promising than that.
From that roster, where do they fall flat when it comes to metagames? Where could a hero pool format thwart them? We saw what NineK was able to do with frankly weaker pieces on the Eternal, now we put a title-contending roster together, and the Fusion somehow are mid-table domestically, let alone globally?
The maths doesn’t check out.
And to top it all off, Philadelphia has seen the pressure that deep postseason runs can bring. They’ve survived through that deep water but just were unable to top a dynasty. Outside of teams whose names rhyme with “Dan Frandisco Dock”, who else managed a dominant regular season and performed well in the monthly events? The Shanghai Dragons come to mind. They see the pedestal while the Fusion gets ridiculed as chokers. The Dragons had the better season, that goes without saying, but the narrative of the “big three” stood out for a reason—there has not been enough to squash that as of yet for Philadelphia.
Now, this isn’t to say the Philadelphia Fusion is going to have a walk in the park for 2021, but to cite these as insurmountable is a discredit to this team.
One of the major factors that could stymie their performance is their move to the Asia region. Not only is the competition increased, but the logistics around picking up your team and moving them across the globe to compete, while still maintaining a world-class level, is not a small task and can easily be viewed as detrimental.
While it is not inherently a bad thing, it will be interesting to see Mano play within the new Fusion’s system and how he gels with the team. Also directly relating to the roster, the loss of Kim "Fury" Jun-ho and Jeong "Heesu" Hee-su is a net loss. However, the community—for years—has thrown Gael "Poko" Gouzerch under the bus. He is more than good enough to play in the league and play on this team. And while losing Heesu weakens their depth and removes a primer level Sombra ace, that cannot be understated, is that enough to take one of the big three from last season and kick them to the curb in favour of some “on-paper” roster with potential?
The good severely outweighs the bad here, and it isn’t close.
The Fusion have a leg up on a good majority of the teams throughout their region when it comes to general synergy, their core is quite literally award-winning, and they’ve added two huge pieces in the form of a new head coach and a promising young prospect.
Many of the rosters in Asia are either too fresh to fight against Philadelphia’s consistency or have their own stability problems, peaking one moment and floundering the next. In that sense, the 2021 Philadelphia Fusion are likely to be top performers not only in Asia but should be viewed through the lens of playoff consideration.
Say it with us now; the Philadelphia Fusion are a good Overwatch League team, will likely make playoffs, and continue to close in on an Overwatch League title.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment