The Hunters live by their double-edged sword approach to Overwatch
Week 24 in the Overwatch League had an impressive amount of surprising showings. We had Super playing Genji for the San Francisco Shock, the Houston Outlaws losing tragically to the Dallas Fuel, but none of them held a candle to the Chengdu Hunters, who broke their seven-game losing streak, in a reverse sweep no less, against the New York Excelsior. However surreal that is to read, it’s true, the Hunters managed to topple a team that many people still hold in high regard as a top team. However, things didn’t start as optimistic as you might think.
A Hunter Caught In Their Own Trap
The Chengdu Hunters started this series extremely slow and awkward. Nepal Shrine saw NYXL snuff each dive attempt made. Ameng’s Wrecking Ball was quickly killed or forced out and the only other person that can feasibly follow up on his slams is Leave on the Genji. Coming off the bench, Lateyoung’s Zarya is in his relatively small wheelhouse but doesn’t feel like it does much of anything this first submap.
Nepal Village starts off a bit better with Ameng waiting for his team to soften the NYXL up before diving in and finding an early kill on to SaeByeolBe. However, NYXL quickly repositions to mitigate JinMu’s damage and not only get the first point capture but just Coalescence alone is enough to whittle down Lateyoung due to the Hunters composition not having very many defensive resources. The best-case scenario is having Lengsa try and Speed Boost Lateyoung out of the fight to buy the dive more time to find a counter-kill, but once Lateyoung uses his Particle Barrier, their backline is woefully under-equipped to deal with any pressure.
Towards the end of Village, the Hunters find good use of their ultimates to spearhead the last few team fights, but in contrast to their neutral fights, without these resource advantages, it’s clear that they feel the need or rather gains direction from having a clear idea on what their win conditions are. For example, if JinMu has his Dragon Blade the team properly dives and he pulls his blade, whereas, without it, the dives come late and feel sloppy. Another example is the botched Graviton Surge attempt. They feel the comfort of their resources to guide them and make plays rather than understanding what their composition does on its own merit.
Nepal as a whole felt like a group of individuals rather than a team or like a Hollywood movie set, a lot of “hurry up and waiting.”
This becomes a theme in the maps the Hunters end up losing, especially on Temple of Anubis. Chengdu quickly lose control of Point A after an aggressive peak from JinMu leaves him weak and he rotates away from his team, rather than to his team. This makes it extremely difficult for Yveltal to stick with him, a fact NYXL’s Genji ace WhoRU quickly capitalizes on. If JinMu were to Dash to the safety of his team, Elsa’s Sigma is able to mitigate damage through body blocking or simply using his Experimental Barrier.
- Read More - How Chengdu's Leave Became A Hunter
This returns us to the general consensus around how the Hunters played Nepal, they don’t have a clear idea of what to do in the neutral. JinMu feels forced to find opportunities on his own through these aggressive plays, which puts him at risk and result in exactly how this first fight ends up.
Point B’s defence doesn’t fare much better due to a similar reason. ATing is looking to pressure New York from the high ground as they round the corner to enter into dark. Both Elsa and JinMu are nowhere to be found. This again mimics the same problems; Chengdu feels awkward in the neutral, attempt to force a play, get pressured out, lose a ton of ground, which puts them at a severe disadvantage before the fight really begins. NYXL are able to walk into Temple of Anubis Point B without much push back and take the fight with ease.
While unconventional, the Hunters’ audible call to swap to full-on Genji/Echo dive for their Point A attack feels intelligent. If the teams feel pinched and not fully understanding how to play the neutral game, giving them something very direct, a composition that is very straight forward makes a ton of sense. Everyone commits to one attack and one target and you move from there, nothing too fancy with positioning, just very traditional Dive engagements.
Unfortunately, things get much more sloppy than they need to. Whether it’s Dashing into a D.Va’s Self Destruct or pulling his blade with 5% HP, JinMu nearly costs them the round and in that same vein, he also is the catalyst that wins them the round. It’s this Hunter’s double-edged sword that finds a scrappy Dragon Blade and pushes them towards Point B in overtime.
Instead of being the team to force errors out of the NYXL these first two maps feel flipped. The Chengdu Hunters are the ones that feel under pressure and are taking these aggressive angles to try and find advantages due to their lack of direction.
Havana is the first map where the Hunters miraculously live through their own volley of errors which range from 4 empty Wrecking Ball slams to Molly using Tracendence to attempt to save Ameng but doesn’t get to him in time. However, it is these more open maps that allow for some chaos to be sewn. Strangely enough, Ameng has a difficult time finding any proper engages and often dies early in their first point defence, but in a 2018 Philadelphia Fusion-esque way, both gives Chengdu needed space and goats the NYXL to overcommit to fights. From there, the Hunters can pull the NYXL apart and allow their individual pieces to begin to shine.
With Molly stifling pushes by himself, and JinMu finding his rhythm, the Hunters hit a fever pitch on their defence of Point B. Here, NYXL feel the need to take the side entrance to the distillery to circumvent Ameng’s position above the choke point. This forces NYXL in a weird position to have Mano solo the cart while the rest of the team attempts to try and manage a 5 vs 6 team fight.
The Hunters attack on Point A furthers this sense of the team finally finding a breakthrough as NYXL attempts a close hold with a Reinhard/Zarya brawl composition. This allows Ameng and JinMu to dismantle SaeByeolBe and the NYXL backline while the rest of their team kites out the pressure. Any form of trades taken favour Chengdu due to being able to reinforce the fight faster than their opponents.
Numbani saw the Hunters showcase their individual potential nearly every fight. If it wasn’t Leave finding an extremely early kill onto Nenne’s Sombra, Molly was sniping people across the map. While he isn’t exempt from criticism this game, there are a number of fights both on Temple of Anubis, Havana and Numbani that Molly finds early picks by himself. Without some of these early kills or counter-kills, the Hunters do not stand a chance. There are moments, especially on Havana, that Molly drags this team across the line, kicking and screaming. This removes a lot of the problems that plagued them in the earlier maps regarding the neutral game. You can ignore that concept entirely if you just find picks early and start the fight with a statistical advantage and while it’s not something you can plan for or count on the Hunters wield their skill like a broad sword and cleve the NYXL in two.
Another great example of the Hunters’ individual mechanics in action happens in the first two fights on Lijiang Tower Control Center. As both teams approach the point for the first fight, Leave finds an early kill on to Anamo. This forces NYXL to give ground and step back. Once New York regroups, Leave finds another pick onto Anamo. This wins them the second engagement and earns them the first point capture.
Throughout the entire series, NYXL are plagued by their aversion to Brigitte or Sigma. Having either of those two heroes makes it much harder for Chengdu to get anything done and while New York has found a substitute in Sombra, it doesn’t carry the same threat potential. Ameng’s Wrecking Ball and JinMu’s Genji have so many more obstacles to overcome when either of the two aforementioned heroes are in play. Finding a Hack quick enough while not being scouted can shut down a single target, however, Sigma would be able to keep Genji at a distance with his shield and with Accretion. Brigitte fills a similar role with Shield Bash and Whipshot, both heroes threaten the Hunters’ composition by just being on the field.
Through a series of small team performances, sewing chaos through Ameng’s signature Wrecking Ball, and ending the series with some impressive individual plays, the Chengdu Hunters were able to mount not only a shocking comeback but upset the New York Excelsior.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment