43 times is the charm for the Shanghai Dragons.
“Ladies and gentlemen, history has been made,” Seth "Achilios" King called to a roaring Overwatch League crowd. “The Shanghai Dragons, with their 43rd attempt out, manage to pick up their first match victory!”
The worst team in professional competitive history
Yes, the team that now holds the impressive record for most consecutive losses ever in professional sports has just finally secured their first win. They beat the odds and went 0-40 in 2018. Then, after a massive rebuild, they still managed to struggle in the debut of Overwatch League’s sophomore year.
Loss number 43 was in arm’s reach and the Boston Uprising was set to play executioner and they would have gotten away with it too if it wasn’t fora little bit of serendipity, some pesky rules, and that meddling main tank that they traded to the Dragons just ten days earlier.
Yes, you read that correctly. The Boston Uprising are partially to credit for the Shanghai Dragons finally breaking their losing streak. Let me explain.
2018 was an abysmal year for the Dragons. What was supposed to be a momentous inaugural season quickly spiralled into one of the worst stretches of sports history ever.
The team was originally built with a smattering of mid-table talent from the Chinese region and this mirrored itself in their play. Coordination was not a friend to the Shanghai Dragons in 2018 and their play was anything but inspiring. For a time, they were the mayors of Dorktown, USA.
Stage 1 saw the Dragons go 0-10 with some close showings against the Philadelphia Fusion and the Dallas Fuel. With the winds of a winless season already murmuring, the Dragons quickly imported additional coaching staff and injected the team with some much-needed back-up.
None of that helped.
The added players were promising South Korea prospects which served to cut against the grain as the fully Chinese team attempted to build up their communication and coordination. As the players neared exhaustion with their strenuous practice schedules, the coaches decided it was a good time they had a friendly game of musical chairs.
Head coach and alleged architect of the 2018 Dragons, Chen "U4" Congshan, stepped down from his position just before Stage 2 came to a close. Assistant coach Son "Kong" Jun-young would fill in his stead until the new head coach could arrive. And after joining the team at the beginning of the year, Xingrui "RUI" Wang, would finally arrive sometime in March. However, two months later and RUI would step away due to nagging health concerns, leaving KONG in charge for the remainder of the season.
May 9th the coaching changes were announced. By that point, the 2018 Shanghai Dragons were already 0-30. There was no saving this team. 2019 was tasked to rebuild the Dragons into an actual competitor.
The entire SHD crew thank you for your dedications and contributions throughout the first season of the Overwatch League.
A new beginning
The Dragons moulted a majority of their roster heading into the new year. Kim "Geguri" Se-yeon, Lee "Fearless" Eui-Seok and Weida "Diya" Lu are the only players that remained on the team from Season 1. As replacements, the Dragons acquired the core of promising Overwatch Contenders stable, KongDoo Panthera off the back of a second-place performance in Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 2: Korea. This included the likes of Yang "DDing" Jin-hyeok, Bae "diem" Min-seong, Jin "YOUNGJIN" Young-Jin, and Son "CoMa" Kyungwoo.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if the story just coasted from this point out? It would be like walking on the beach with the perfect weather, a nice drink in your hand, just soaking up the warm sunlight. The Dragons could go on, win some games, lose some games. Everything would be great.
Unfortunately for us, this beach is made up of broken beer bottles and rusty crews.
On February 8th, just shy of a week until season two’s debut, it was announced that Fearless was taking a personal leave citing “ the strain of keeping up with training amid his undisclosed health issue.” It was also alleged that he wasn’t performing well behind the scenes. Perhaps a bit from Column A and a bit from Column B, but who knows. I for one think he forgot that he had to walk his childhood pet goldfish.
This left the Dragons stranded. Without a main tank, they were on track to repeat the sins of the past. 2018 starred them in the face and giggled at the thought that the 0-40 record could be continued.
Then on February 12th, just over 48 hours before the 2019 season was set to begin, former main tank for the Boston Uprising, Noh "Gamsu" Young-jin, shockingly was announced to have joined the Shanghai Dragons.
Did I mention this beach was horrible?
Introducing veteran coolness
While the details of this story are still being debated by parties close to the situation, there are two clear sides to the story. Shortly after the trade was announced, Gamsu commented publicly to InvenGlobal saying, “[the trade] actually came to me as a surprise. It was unexpected and very sudden. It was not entirely due to my own decision so I did struggle a bit.” Former Boston Uprising players Jeffrey "blasé" Tsang also has claimed that Gamsu “[…] didn’t want to leave either.” This supports the notion that Gamsu was blindsided by the move. To contrast this, Boston Uprising’s President of Gaming, Chris "HuK" Loranger, has said that “Gamsu requested to be traded after we had a sit-down conversation and he was made aware he was essentially [third-string],” and “Him getting caught off guard is purely but the suddenness of it [as far as I know].”
Time to deliver
Regardless of the details, Gamsu was now a Dragon and would be leading this team into the 2019 Overwatch League season in just a mere few days. February 14th, 2019. The Shanghai Dragons faced off against the Hangzhou Spark in their season opener.
Loss number 41.
February 16th, 2019. The Shanghai Dragons played the Vancouver Titans.
Loss number 42.
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February 22nd, 2019. D-Day. The Shanghai Dragons were set to face off against the Boston Uprising.
It was now or never. This was the day the Dragons storm the beachheads at Normandy and attempt to swing the tide of the war.
Did you know that a two-way player loses his or her Overwatch Contenders eligibility for that season after playing in more than two Overwatch League games and that players who competed in Overwatch Contenders Season 3 2018 were only eligible to play in two select official Overwatch League matches during Stage 1 of 2019? The Boston Uprising didn’t.
Cameron "Fusions" Bosworth was set to play against the Dragons but was unable to through a league ruling that was not widely discussed regarding a clauses added to how the league handled two-way players. Minutes before the players walked out on stage, Park “Axxiom” Min-seob was sent in as a last-minute replacement.
The match began and the Uprising fumbled early on Control, showing some understandable uncomfortably dealing Shanghai’s DPS centric style in the heydey of the GOATS metagame. In particular, DDing’s Pharah was a thorn in Boston’s side as they attempted to attack the point, even off of spawn. Boston attempted to answer back on Map 2 but again did not look prepared to deal with Shanghai’s strategy centred around Sombra. With the Dragons up 2-0, things began to slip out of control--something Boston still to this day know little about. Were they about to lose to the team they had sold their “third-string” main tank to nearly a week prior? Sure they wouldn’t be the team to lose to the 0-42 Shanghai Dragons, right?
After trading blows on Horizon Lunar Colony, the Dragons managed to squeak past the Uprising one final time.
History had been made. In hilarious consolation, even though the series was over and the Dragons had technically scored their first career match win, both teams were forced to play a fourth map. The Dragons proceeded to lose in impressive fashion. Regardless, the steak was finally over. This special, special loss cemented Boston Uprising as a bottom feeder for the remainder of the 2019 season. The team finished 19th overall with an 8-20 match record.
Shanghai, on the other hand, the team that began this story with a whooping 42 straight losses, managed to bring back their team from the brink. They later would go on to win the Stage 3 title against the eventual season champions, the San Francisco Shock. The Dragons finished 11th overall with a 13-15 match record.
From global laughing stocks, to their first win, to stage title holders, the Shanghai Dragons did what many people thought impossible and broke through.