Highs and Lows: Contenders China Seeding Tournament
The 2020 Overwatch calendar year is finally underway with Contender’s regions across the world preparing for their upcoming seeding tournaments. China is first up on the docket and while their seeding tournament is still underway, depending on when you’re reading this, there have been some surprising results. To set the stage and introduce you to some of the new teams, LGE.Huya seemingly has been dissolved and has transferred its seed to Ghost Mode Gaming, Bubble Burster Gaming transferred their seed to Neutral Break Gaming-X, and due to LGD Gaming stepping away from Overwatch, Flag Gaming has acquired their seed.
While I have a lot to critique T1w Esports on, they have done some things right. Their rookie DPS player Pineapple brings a shining light to T1w’s stubbornness. His hitscan prowess, including Hanzo, has some potential. He’s a bright prospect on the Guangzhou Charge’s academy team. MoLanran’s role swap to flex tank is going well enough. Hard to judge exactly where he’s at with how the teams doing currently, but in their victories, he looks solid. His ultimates seemed timed well and the projectile work he’s done previously seems to be paying off in terms of damage output. Outside of that, I do think this team could be running Dive compositions to a high level and expect them to do so seeing the new PTR patch, but might just be starting slow.
As for the Shanghai Dragon’s academy team, Team CC, they look like the hands down the best team at the moment. Diya, coming into his first season of Contenders as a two-way player, still looks great on hitscan and is a focal point for the team. Fearless looks to be having a return to form on both Winston and Reinhardt respectively. And part of that comes from working so well with GAGA on Orisa. More generally the team just has a cleanliness to that that makes them feel very comfortable and refined. They seem to have jumped ahead of the pack in understanding the metagame and I expect that to last quite a while.
As for one of the new teams, Neutral Break Gaming-X, doesn’t look half bad but seems to have a weak gas tank. Take for instance their match against T1w, up until about map two, Neutral Break Gaming-X look solid. Excited to see how they do in Trials, they might not be a terrible team. Both Mjs and EnriqueX look to be promising DPS prospects, but we’re going to have to keep an eye on them.
Flag Gaming looked revitalized with ShowCheng, someone whom I’ve criticized for a long time. He and the team seem to be having a bit of a redemption arc and look to be in striking distance for a title at some point this year if they continue to trend upwards. Then there are the rookie stylings of Seawave. His debut on Rialto against T1w was a jaw-dropping performance from a region that has been highly questioned in terms of talent depth. Seawave looked great on a number of heroes including Hanzo, Widowmaker and Tracer. Excited to see them continue to grow and settle back into a playoff contender.
The Hangzhou Spark’s academy team, Bilibili Gaming still harbor a ton of potential. As unpolished as they might look this team is chuck-full of future Overwatch League talent. I’ve been incredibly bullish on DPS prodigy, Shy, since he was playing flex support for LGD Gaming back in 2017. His transition to DPS later that year was seamless and he hasn’t stopped looking impressive. His Hanzo and Widowmaker look like they haven’t missed a beat and I expect him to be the heart and soul of Bilibili going forward right up until his 18th birthday and he gets signed away into the Overwatch League.
Mika has a solid Baptiste. Great use of his ultimate as a defensive tool, his Immortality Fields are placed well, he shows up in the kill feed from time to time. I’ve been fairly impressed with Mika so far. Then there is their projectile player, Winter. This kid’s Pharah is the real deal and he’s easily in the argument for the best in China at the moment. He puts people like jwj and Yakumo to bed with the sheer number of solo kills and duels he wins on his own.
First and foremost, Ghost Mode Gaming are so unbelievably disappointing. As the team presumably replacing LGE.Huya this is a mess and a horrible first look regardless for what was once an academy team. They look to have forfeited their first game due to internet issues and immediately got slammed the next day in the lower bracket by Big Time Regal Gaming, a team that historically has been middle of the road. Someone needs to save KaMi from GMG jail, he’s better than this.
T1w Esports, what are we going to do with you. T1w are still so stubborn with regards to Mijia. In their match against Neutral Break Gaming-X they run Mijia on Doomfist into a McCree/Brigitte composition. Needless to say, it still worked but had more to do with Neutral Break Gaming-X misplaying then it did T1w finding success. This really was also a thorn in their side when it came to their match against Flag Gaming.
Their main support, Zihee, hard-locked into Ana due to the team seemingly being held hostage by Mijia. The running idea being that T1w aim to using the damage mitigation and burst healing potential on the allied Doomfist to allow him more active time in the enemy team’s backline. Mijia’s Doomfist in the past has been fantastic, but is this the time you really want to throw the chips all-in on someone whose fighting an uphill battle? The team has to invest and actually stick to a DPS rotation because Mijia’s Doomfist can be good, but it can’t be their only look.
T1w just look one dimensional and, frankly, lost in the new metagame.
Another academy team looks to be missing a bit of luster as well, and that is the Hangzhou Spark’s academy team, Bilibili Gaming. This is the team that should have had China’s Gauntlet ticket last year. They were one fight away from taking the trip to Korea last year and missed it due to hero plays and ultimate botches. Things already look grim and while we can excuse some of these things due to the possibility that the team is still learning the metagame or has a bit of ring rust, what we’ve seen in the seeding tournament doesn’t look as polished as I expect out of such a historically strong team.
Bilibili needs to iron out its communication and ultimate planning. A great example of this going down the tube is their fight on the second point of Route 66 against Big Time Regal Gaming in the lower bracket. Once Over gets picked early, Winter pulls the trigger and engages on the enemy Orisa. Zijin gets spammed out due to not having the Orisa shield cover the off-angle and both Mika and Coldest try to save him by investing both their ultimates. They then lose the fight and get stalled out.
There’s also a fight later on where Coldest is using his Transcendence when three of his teammates are dead! And let’s not talk about their attempt at a last-second stall defense in the same match where Coldest uses his Transcendence to touch the cart before the enemy team caps, then Shy shoots his Dragon Strike at the cart, the team doesn’t follow up, and they walk away like deer in headlights.
That can’t be happening.
Shy still is going for wild flanks which can hamstring the timing of pushes if he doesn’t find success. He often does, as his mechanics are phenomenal, but this is going to be abused and quickly become a weakness when it comes to the Contenders tournament and teams have had the time to learn Bilibili’s tendencies. You’ll often see Shy split from his team in a 5-1 formation or a 2-4 with himself and Over, the team’s Orisa, taking an aggressive off-angle to draw pressure. It’s my theory they do this to quickly find a pick through having Orisa babysit Shy long enough to find a pick or they invest Halt and due to the ability dragging them in a predictable pattern, Shy has a high percentage chance to find a kill.
More generally though I’m worried about China as talent is running thin and solid teams are hard to come by. From what I’ve seen so far, this is going to be one of the most top-heavy years in China. Barring a massive meta upheaval or a roster shuffle, I don’t see the top 4 teams dropping to trials and will be easy nods to pass their lower-tier opponents. The infrastructure and coaching in China seem to be quite all over the place and to be fair it always has been, but this season has a strange air about it. China has always been top-heavy, think back to Lucky Future Zenith and even T1w’s run that followed, but I fear with the new tournament format, no one is going to watch prior to the round-of-four.
For all you Chinese diehards reading, I’m hoping we get a Fiat Lux or an Ambitious Immortals type teams coming up through Open Division because if there isn’t one, I have a feeling Bilibili and Team CC are just going to trade titles all year.
Image via Blizzard Entertainment