It Is Time Overwatch Put Some Respect On Yaki’s Name
Surviving in a game like Overwatch is like wading up a sand dune. Every step is a little steeper; each foothold immediately depresses and makes it that much harder to progress. All the while, the winds of change constant blow, spraying sand to obscure your vision. That’s why it is rare in Overwatch to have veteran players stand the erosion of time.
Each grain, each little bead of dry heat, ticks away like seconds on a timer. We’re all constantly in a losing race to father time, but Kim "Yaki" Jun-ki has persisted. Not only has he been a major factor in upsetting one of the greatest Overwatch teams in history, but he’s joined and performed well on successful teams, lasted through the rigid and jagged metagames, and came out the other side with an impressive rookie debut and an MVP nomination during Overwatch League’s 2020 season.
Not only did he have a successful rookie debut in 2020, but he stood out among the sea of competitive hopefuls entering their first bid. Yaki is among the Overwatch League’s “Worst Generation”, a title lovingly bestowed to the standout stars from the 2020 rookie class. That is the kind of player we’ve seen since 2017, and that same pedigree will be on display during the May Melee playoffs.
It is high time we put some serious respect on Yaki’s career, and more than just a bronze or silver pat on the back or an honourable mention before passing him over for fan favourites—Yaki is a bonafide S-class, tier-one DPS all-star.
Starting In Space
The dry summer heat of 2017 would play host to Yaki’s global debut, and OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 3 would be his battleground. Playing alongside MVP Space, a team with potential but would struggle to find consistent results, Yaki would showcase a handful of heroes he’s now known for. Tracer and Pharah are two picks he is known for. However, his Genji was impressive during his stay with MVP Space.
During APEX Season 3, Yaki was a leading Genji player, according to WinstonsLab.com. His climb up the sandy dunes of Overwatch would start more akin to a sprint than a measured jog. One notable instance, which to this day is one of the most shocking upsets in Overwatch history, was their win over two time APEX champions, Lunatic-Hai.
Yaki would be a constant thorn in the legendary team’s side through their five-game set, peppering the supports from afar with Pharah while Kim "OneFact" Jin-heung’s Doomfist would cause mayhem in the ground-war. However, that didn’t bar him from playing more standard DPS picks like Tracer and Sombra at the time. This surprising victory would be one of the earliest feathers Yaki could put in his cap as the young prodigy continued to hone his skill.
Sadly, that’s as far as MVP Space would ferry Yaki. Even venturing into the advent of Overwatch Contenders, their mantra would remain the same; a farm team that was producing competent talent, but could not find results. They dented the mound of sand, perhaps even created a few footholds for their rising star, but Yaki would have to find his own way forward.
After a quick stint with the New York Excelsior’s academy team, XL2 Academy, Yaki would find himself a part of Overwatch royalty alongside beloved South Korean team, RunAway.
Here he would be an important fixture to the team success, especially in their 2019 Overwatch Contenders title win. Whether it was Pharah, Genji or playing Sombra in for their iteration of the GOATS composition, Yaki was a noticeable star on a team that would make most Overwatch League team’s blush. This era of RunAway housed names like Kim "Mag" Tae-sung as well as support duo Lee "LeeJaeGon" Jae-gon and Kang "Gangnamjin" Nam-jin.
Their bronze medal performance at Overwatch Contenders: The Gauntlet in 2019 was another vote of confidence in how wide Yaki’s hero pool actually was. Sure, we had metrics to measure his signature picks, but we had never seen him play things like Mei or Doomfist in such high volume and to an equally high degree.
His performance alongside RunAway solidified his stake as a true, colourless DPS threat. Not only was he consistent, but he was capable of tapping into the entire roster if the need arose—something inherently positive when looking at the fundamental rules in Overwatch.
Yaki was truly flexible, and it was on display for the world—and many scouts—to see.
However, Yaki would soon be eligible to play in the Overwatch League, and, as fate would have it, one team in the midst of a rebuild needed a strong DPS ace to round out their roster.
Raising Some Mayhem
“We’ve been in dire need of a carry flex DPS for a long time,” general manager for the Florida Mayhem, Albert "yeHHH", Yeh said in a feature highlighting the rookie star. “Someone that can play Genji, someone that can play the projectile heroes. Yaki just slotted in perfectly in that role.” And perfect is an accurate description. The Florida Mayhem were a team in need of a star, in need of someone that could become the spearhead of their success. We first bore witness to Yaki’s pedigree in the Overwatch League as the Mayhem upset the Philadelphia Fusion in the semifinals of the 2020 May Melee and would go on to play the San Francisco Shock closer than you’d expect.
While the team would have a hard time recapturing that same success, Yaki would be a continuous threat all season long.
In his rookie debut, most remember Yaki for his immaculate Mei performance as well as his return to his signature pick of Tracer. However, when we look at the statistics, the picture is much more saturated.
His Mei performance ranked seventh-highest in final blows, and he had the fifth-most solo kills per ten minutes. As for Tracer, Yaki ranked sixth-highest in final blows per ten minutes, seventh-best in eliminations per ten minutes and was within the top ten in solo kills per ten minutes. However, something people don’t tend to rate was his Echo play. Sure we remember his legendary Duplicate against the Washington Justice, where he was able to build three separate Earth Shatters, but how many people highlight his Echo from his repertoire of heroes? Not only did he lead the league in finals blows per ten minutes, but he was third in eliminations per ten minutes, had the second-highest solo kills per ten minutes, and was within the top ten in hero damage per ten minutes.
With that kind of performance, it should be no surprise that Yaki was nominated for the 2020 Overwatch League MVP award.
Now, as we brace ourselves for the Mayhem to face international competition, let’s review their road to the May Melee playoffs. Entering the qualifiers, their only loss was to the San Francisco Shock. And frankly, after trouncing both the Toronto Defiant and Washington Justice to book their tickets to Hawaii, that loss can be expunged—especially for Yaki.
Heading into the May Melee playoffs, Yaki sits as the highest DPS player and the eighth-highest overall player per the IBM Watson power rankings.
This speaks volumes to how Yaki is performing individually. However, he has been doing this for years and is constantly passed over or pushed towards the back of our minds when thinking of the best DPS players in the world.
With a glowing rookie debut, a career that positions such a young man as a veteran of his craft, and nearly the perfect marriage of flexibility, consistency, and the killer instinct of a star, Yaki is a world-class DPS player. The same grace we give to talents like Jang "Decay" Gui-un and Lee "Carpe" Jae-hyeok should be echoed when we judge Yaki. And, to not mince words, he’s been a more consistent threat historically than some of those names we might put ahead of him. Yaki has been far too good for far too long to not be among the names we think of when the perennial question of DPS stars rounds the next Discord call.
In the race to the top of the sand dune, Yaki stands firmly among those who lead the pack.
And with the resume he boasts, that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment