Have The Atlanta Reign Already Won The 2023 Offseason?
With the Overwatch League offseason locked in a holding pattern, there is one team that has dominated the headlines. The Atlanta Reign have likely always held championship aspirations, but today it feels tangible. Refreshed with new talent and playing in a league that is scaling back in the budget, is 2023 Atlanta's year?
On the surface, the 2023 Atlanta Reign look superbly explosive.
What is left to be said about Lee "LIP" Jae-won? His Sojourn was ranked among the best according to the Overwatch League stats lab. We also know how dominant he can be on picks like Tracer and Sombra.
It's difficult to upgrade from a top hitscan but the Reign have unequivocally done so.
Standing next to him is Jeong "Stalk3r" Hak-yong. 2022 welcomed Stalk3r as an exciting rookie, but he played third-wheel to the Seoul Dynasty's premier DPS duo. While this has drawn some legitimate questions regarding the height of his potential.
Yet, if we look at Stalk3r's stats from this year, his Genji performance stands out as impressive and we know how good his Tracer is from his amateur performances in Overwatch Contenders.
Past that, being able to retain talents like Xander "Hawk" Domecq and Kim "vigilante" Jun is enough to field a solid structure. The fact that the Atlanta Reign have landed all four players in such a turbulent market is an impressive feat in and of itself.
With only these players, it's clear that the Atlanta Reign have high explosivity, very akin to the inaugural season champions, the London Spitfire.
LIP grants them a world-class hitscan in a game that has only increased in FPS elements.
Stalk3r is far more flexible than people realise and plays as a great counterpart.
And don't forget that vigilante was good enough that the Washington Justice had him waiting in the wings for a good part of their 2022 season.
However, are we just foaming at the mouth as this is the only team with tangible news to discuss or are Atlanta the real deal?
Ironically enough, one of the biggest criticisms that you could leverage against the 2023 Atlanta Reign is centred around their biggest strength. Both LIP and Stalk3r don't have any experience playing on mixed rosters let alone living in the United States.
This could hamper their initial integration and perhaps limit their potential, thus hamstringing the Reign. Yet, Atlanta has seemed to answer this concern with an acquisition that is flying under the radar.
Perhaps to answer these concerns of cohesion, Atlanta has signed Kim "WizardHyeong" Hyeong-seok. Not only is he a tenured coach in the Overwatch space, he has experience working with western teams. WizardHyeong could be the key to any kind of logistic issues the team may face on top of being a well-accredited coach.
Let's also consider their peers for a moment without going too deep into the well of wild speculation.
Regardless of budget, any team with Kim "Proper" Dong-hyun and Park "Viol2t" Min-ki are to be considered playoff locks. With that in mind alongside their silver medal from this year, the San Francisco Shock should be early favourites.
The Los Angeles Gladiators have always been a team on the higher end of budgets. Per GGRecon's 2022 budget tier list, the Gladiators were ranked as one of the teams with the most resources available. On top of that retaining a talent like Kevin "kevster" Persson easily puts them into consideration for playoffs.
Past those few examples, nearly every other team has an air of mystery to it that threatens to shake up the pre-established power dynamics. Our 2022 champions in the Dallas Fuel have let their entire team explore unrestricted free agency. While there are rumours that another team come prepackaged with the ability to punch above their weight, nothing seems set in stone as of yet.
However, comparing the 2023 Atlanta Reign to these titanic figures of the modern Overwatch space should speak volumes. Their debut in 2019 saw them upset but also uproot the eventual champions. 2021 saw them reach the finish line but finish just short.
Flying under the cover of subtle yet strong performances, the Reign should be considered a top franchise in the space and this year only should bolster confidence.
With these kinds of names being tied to their roster for the upcoming season of the Overwatch League, expectations are undoubtedly high. With that increase of expectations, is the ceiling to their potential just too lofty for such a new team?
Are they teetering on the edge of "win or bust" territories?
With so little known just yet of the wider landscape, it's difficult to say with certainty just how far Atlanta can reach. However, if we were to use last year as anything to go by, there are a litany of green lights.
Hawk was more flexible than fans tend to give him credit for. LIP was a bright spot for the Dragons outside of his early Sojourn performance. And Stalk3r has all the makings of a hyperflex DPS just waiting for the right team to unlock him.
That alone has the makings of a strong team, now pair that with 2023's assumed widespread budget restrictions and the Reign's movements seem even more impactful.
Title expectations seem too farfetched to call but with all things considered, putting the Reign into playoff lock territory seems completely justified.
With a star-studded lineup that is likely to only continue to grow as we approach the free agency window, the Atlanta Reign is on the shortlist of frontrunners for the 2023 Overwatch League season.