Decay gives us hope for the future taught through the ordinary and just being.
Expectations and poison ivy share a lot in common - as good as crying over a desert rose trying to bloom in a tundra - You may dust the fuzz off a dandelion, but twelve more spring up in their place - cultivate a beanstalk that would leave Jack gobsmacked - we all wear pants.
Fans the world over often forget that Jang "Decay" Gui-un was once an unproven prospect laying in wait on a second-tier South Korean team. Even now it sounds heretical, but mighty oaks from little acorns grow, and even the smallest seeds can display experience far beyond their years. After seasons germinating, Decay now advances into his third year in the Overwatch League and is done spreading his roots. He is firmly planted and prepared to become the contender he was always meant to be. Bending, but not breaking, Decay has set his sights on the Overwatch League title unintentionally armed with a philosophy taught to us by quiet farmers.
Expectations and poison ivy share a lot in common. Both are harmless enough, but once mishandled, both leave us disappointed and irritable—something Decay became eerily familiar with early on in his career. Home to numerous legends throughout Overwatch’s competitive history, the KongDoo organisation housed two teams during the prestigious OGN’s Overwatch APEX seasons. KongDoo Panthera stood atop of the pile with strong finishes and more impressive talents. And KongDoo Uncia, the sibling who couldn’t seem to match up to their relative’s success.
Decay found his debut on the later of the two during the spring of 2017. Their results were fair, all things considered. At this point, Panthera was the favourite child, receiving all the attention and resources while Uncia seemed to be effectively cast as the potential ridden understudies who would eventually see the stage, just not right now. However, in spite of it all, Decay was already under a watchful eye as a budding all-star.
Eventually joining the ranks of KongDoo Panthera during the start of Overwatch Contenders, Decay quickly made good on the promise of those early expectations put on him. Peaking during 2018’s Season 2 grand finals in one of the most stunning amateur performances, Panthera battled against the legendary RunAway core. Shortly after both teams would find their ways to the Overwatch League in the following year.
Breaking soil in the Overwatch League alongside the 2019 Los Angeles Gladiators, Decay was finally stood under the bright lights of the biggest stage in the game, and the community at large was buzzing about the new would-be star. To give context to the time, Overwatch expert and commentator, Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson, had this to say about the young prospect heading into this rookie season.
“[Decay] was reportedly one of the most sought-after players in this offseason and for good reason,” Sideshow said. “When he turns 18 on February 27, the Gladiators will have access to a strong hitscan player—who also possesses a mean Zarya and Genji—and the potential for even more untapped talent.”
Again, expectations and ivy; the more they grow, the bigger the problem they become.
Make no bones about it; the Gladiators were a good team. They faired well enough in the GOATS metagame, but it didn’t allow Decay to show what the hype was all about. This season was often used as ammunition to attempt to discredit his potential; however, it removes all the context from the equation. If you travelled to a market and purchased one piece of produce, that market then doesn’t magically sell only that one type of produce. By the end of the season, the expectations weren’t met, and sadly, Decay’s California dreams would be shortlived.
The Dallas Fuel would acquire Decay for the 2020 season in a trade deal that positioned the historically lacklustre Fuel roster has a quiet darkhorse. Decay was heralded as the catalyst towards Dallas finally being put on the Overwatch League map, the harbinger of a team to be reckoned with. However, those seeds never seemed to bear fruit either.
While starting off the 2020 season with promising showings, the Fuel meandered back down towards the middle of the table. Good enough, but nothing to dig up, wheel out, and show the family. Decay flourished, but behind the scenes, turmoil developed at the bedrock of the Fuel. Subsequently, the pair parted shortly before the 2020 Overwatch League playoffs were set to begin.
There was no sense in pity; the only disappointment was the probability that the league was about to lose one of its brightest stars. However, sometimes even the best situations don’t work out for one reason or another. It is as good as crying over a desert rose trying to bloom in a tundra. Each person, place or thing needs the right environment, specific to them, to change them from sprout into spruce. And Decay may have found that home in the twenty-third hour of the 2020 season.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has certainly thrown the world for a loop, and that same chaos echoed throughout esports as well. Through some late minute amendments to the rules to help preserve what integrity the playoffs had left within them, the Washington Justice were able to not only sign Decay but start him in a metagame that allowed him to shine. Penning a story only fairytales can tell, Decay and the Justice nearly completed the run of a lifetime but fell just short of the North American grand finals. From homeless to taking the eventual champions to their limits, Decay not only landed well with the Justice but has found a home fitting his stature.
Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.
– Alan Watts
Not only has 2021 brought hope to Decay, but it has also provided an avenue to success. Now Decay finds himself on a franchise hungry for success, alongside bright new prospects ready to drive him forward, and an achievement that remains locked. Decay is on track to unveil his finest work come the 2021 Overwatch League season. However, it was patience that got him here. From fighting for a spot in the league to becoming one of the brightest faces of it, Decay looks to be evergreen. You may dust the fuzz off a dandelion, but twelve more spring up in their place, and in his case, it is that hydra-like perseverance that consistently puts him centre stage.
This coming year Decay steps past the itchy embrace of expectations. We know who he is, we know his skill, we know Decay. He and the Washington Justice are on track to cultivate a beanstalk that would leave Jack gobsmacked. Like in life, sometimes we need to trim back our grow to promote development, to take steps back to move forward.
It is the reason why we’re set to witness the spring of Decay.
Persistence in the face of towering odds is the flag that Decay bears to this day. He reminds us, intentionally or not, that there are times in life where you have to submit to the forces of nature. Sometimes you have to sit through your own KongDoo Uncia and watch as your peers pass you bye. Other times situations like Dallas just don’t pan out, try as both parties might. And, against all conventional thought, the home that seems to suit you the best, can come when least we expect it. Decay saw his fair share of winters, many of which undoubtedly buried bulbs of doubt, but he continued nonetheless. His skill is unignorable, but what should impress you is his grit, his determination to thrive in spite of his many false starts and early frosts.
Life just is, and Decay’s career shows us that.
You may argue exception, but that only shows we are in dire need of reflection. You and Decay are not too terribly far off. While you sit from the sidelines working on chasing after him, Decay not a few years ago was climbing the same ladder, looking up to his own North Star. You may be at your Uncia today, tomorrow holds your Justice, and if not tomorrow—that’s okay. Persist forward and carefully. Dissemble the pedestal, we all wear pants, and both of you have gotten your hands dirty at one point or another. Ralph Waldo Emerson had it right, “Every artist was first an amateur.”
So farm on Decay, for your own sake, for those who take pride in you, and for us all.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment