Only Four Players Remain On Their Original Day One OWL Teams
Of the 100 players confirmed to have spots on an Overwatch League roster for its fourth season, only 21 of them were players that were signed during the league’s start in 2018. A fact that’s even more intriguing is that among those 21 players, currently only four of them are members of the franchise they had originally signed with. That’s right, with the departure of Jong-ryeol "Saebyeolbe" Park and Hae-seong "Libero" Kim from the New York Excelsior this past week, and Matthew "super" DeLisi’s future with the Shock being publicly unknown, only four players remain on the rosters they’ve belonged to since day one of the Overwatch League.
What makes these particular players so special that they’ve outlasted the test of time? What’s the uncopiable quality in them, that would make their franchisees have to ensure that they remain an integral part to their teams, through over four seasons of the Overwatch League? With new talent and stars in the making waiting in the wings on the very roles all of these players specialize in, what’s the x-factor that keeps them coming back every year?
THE DEADLIEST FISH IN THE SEA
From the moment they debuted their 2018 roster, the Philadelphia Fusion saw widespread recognition from the Overwatch community, but for all the wrong reasons. Yes, who could forget the hilarious and absolutely lambasted roster announcement video that the Fusion premiered all those years ago. Where a hideously shot and edited Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee, looked directly at the camera and meekly stated “That’s how we do it in Philly”, creating a meme that set the tone for the community’s expectations of the Philadelphia Fusion.
Immediately, the Fusion became a laughingstock, and with the news showcasing that the team would be unable to field their roster for the upcoming pre-season, soon many thought that this patchwork roster of the off-season’s leftovers would remain an inhabitant at the bottom of the standings for the rest of 2018. Of course, history would show that this wouldn’t be the case, that the Philadelphia Fusion had struck gold, and that it had actually conglomerated a roster that was full of the game’s most promising future stars.
One of those, was Carpe, a seemingly quiet DPS player, who had an up and down showing throughout his time in APEX and Contenders. More frequent viewers would note that he certainly had the skills to succeed, but they definitely weren't enough to contend with the god hitscans of the times. Of course, as the season went on, Carpe’s name would become legendary among the community, showcasing how absolutely oppressive he could be in the right situations, and by season's end, had the award been carried out differently, would have been a surefire nomination as the 2018 MVP.
From here on out, Carpe would make a name for himself as an incredibly deadly hitscan, one that not only remained at the top throughout 2018 but who was able to climb back from the Zarya-jail of the GOATs meta in 2019 and return to his throne at the top in 2020. Carpe was consistently still one of the best Damage players in the game, statistically and viewing-wise. He was always a deadly force on Ashe, Widowmaker, and McCree, and his flanking style would consistently punish unprepared and vulnerable teams, enough so that he would become the first player to reach 4000 final blows in the Overwatch League. Deadly and widely-loved, Carpe is a superstar and there’s no question about it. The Fusion have his contract hidden and locked away because outside of a few contenders, no one can really match Carpe’s explosive power, deadly accuracy, and overall value to a brand.
THE D.VA AUTEUR
A seemingly lost narrative, as D.Va has fallen consistently out of favour when it comes to the meta, but not long ago, Gael "Poko" Gouzerch was once known as the master behind the Self-Destruct. The best D.Va’s in those days had excellent positioning, defence matrix usage, and great reaction times for peel and ultimate negation, but only Poko truly had the magic flair to pull off any number of legendarily clutch D.Va bombs. Such was the birth of the phrase, the Poko Bomb. With a boost in the air, and a spin as she exited her mech, D.Va’s ultimate animation became synonymous with a clutch bomb from the Fusion’s star off-tank, a moniker he carried even to the final moments of the grand finals against the London Spitfire.
Poko is clutch, handsome, and widely recognizable to all kinds of fans for the Overwatch League. He became a player people had come to expect to always be able to pull the Fusion out of a rut. Even while sharing time with another legendary off-tank player, Jun-ho "Fury" Kim, Poko has managed to showcase his skill across a variety of the metas teams found themselves playing in 2020. For the Fusion, Poko is popular, talented, and a silly enough person that he makes a great teammate to have, and an even better player to keep in front of the camera. What more could you ask for on a team with championship aspirations like Philadelphia? Poko is the glue that keeps the team together, and he’s a latch for the fans to keep them engaged and cheering, even during the roughest of times during a season.
30 FPS TRAINING WEIGHTS
Josue "Eqo" Corona, was once hailed as one of the best flex-DPS players in the west. His prowess on projectile heroes like Genji and Pharah, earned him widespread fame and appeal, especially since only a few months earlier, before the start of the Overwatch League, hardly anyone would’ve been able to say they’ve heard of him before. Eqo’s story was inspiring, laced with heartbreaking details like overcoming hardship in his home nation of Israel, the death of his father, and trying to make it in professional Overwatch as a DPS player on inferior hardware, his road to stardom was a ridiculously hard path to walk. Of course, Eqo’s talent and determination won out in the end, and with his spot as a starter on the Fusion secured, Eqo instantaneously made a name for himself as one of the game’s elite projectile specialists.
With bombastic mechanics and a calm personality, Eqo was a big factor in the Fusion's legendary 2018 playoff run. However, after their loss to the Spitfire and moving into their second season as a team, 2019 was a sleeper year, not filled with much success. For Eqo especially, there wasn’t much to cheer about, as no one on the Fusion really showcased a great understanding of the GOATs meta that dominated the year. To make matters worse, moving into 2020, once upcoming star Seung-hyun "Ivy" Lee was revealed to be starting over him, his future as a player was uncertain. But like many other Genji masters of the game, the Summer Showdown’s Genji meta would send a huge surge of energy through the careers of many DPS players, including Eqo’s, and it was his Genji that helped carry the Fusion to the finals and almost to the trophy.
It’s very easy to forget his impact over the course of time and just how good Eqo is mechanically, but the Summer Showdown seared into our collective brains, a performance that sticks with you throughout the test of time. Four years into the Overwatch League and Eqo still shows an incredible amount of skill and promise for the Fusion and continues to be one of the game’s most highly gifted players.
THE OCTOPUS KING
Sung-hyeon "JJoNak" Bang came into the Overwatch League with relatively no competitive experience and only a reputation as a ranked ladder star to back him up. Soon after the league started, however, JJoNak became the immediate poster-boy for competitive Overwatch, a captivating example that showcased the storyline the league had so frequently promised since its announcement. An unknown player, with nothing but his skills with a mouse and keyboard, that would rise to stardom representing one of the greatest cities in the world. That is the story of JJoNak, who's gameplay and complete revitalization of the support position, pushed him over the edge to become the Overwatch League's Inaugural season MVP. Even to this day, people still cling to the stories and legends of how JJoNak is the game's best support player, and the deadliest Zenyatta of all time.
The truth may differ a good amount from the perception fans have of JJoNak but with New York’s decision to shed away the expectations and players of old, JJoNak is the only one left of the team’s old guard to make another run at the trophy while representing NYC. After being knocked down a peg in 2019, and being overshadowed by other flex support counterparts in 2020, JJoNak has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to reach the pedigree of his best peers, something it seems he’s still completely capable of doing so. Loved by fans across the world for his deadly mechanics and nonchalant personality, JJoNak is revered as a hero for the fans of the Excelsior, who all believe wholeheartedly that he can return to the same glory he’s achieved before. It seems the NYXL believes that too, and JJoNak has another chance to finally capture the title he’s been desperately wanting. Covered in octopus tattoos, clothing, and his own personal in-game Zenyatta skin, all JJoNak needs is a playoffs trophy on his shelf to finally cement himself as one of the all-time greats.
The 4th season of the Overwatch League is gearing up to be the most exciting yet. Hopefully, there will be a time when in-person events or LAN tournaments can return so that fans and viewers across the world can be treated to the hype and spectacle that is deserving of any esport. Hopefully, it'll be another chance for these four members, all who have yet to claim championship trophy of their own, to finally reach that goal, and surpass the chains and barriers of the past. For the Philadelphia Fusion, it's building on top of an already immensely successful season to surpass their former record. For the New York Excelsior, it's a recovery from their worst season as a franchise, and a changing of the formula to finally find what they need to carry them over the finish line. But for the Overwatch League, fans will continue to be able to see Carpe, Eqo, Poko, and JJoNak return with familiar colors, and new opportunities to finally stand at the top.
All images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment