OWLtopsies: The LA Valiant
The Overwatch League 2021 regular season is done and dusted and unlike last year, not every team gets a shot to make the playoffs. This means for six teams, their dreams and hopes at even a chance of taking it all are at an end. For the most part, the most generous summations of how the season has gone for the bottom six, are as follows; a disaster, a travesty, a trainwreck, baffling, bewildering, and really any other words that can showcase how truly disappointing it feels to watch so many rosters with a wealth of talent, completely crash and burn into obscurity.
What happened? What could’ve possibly gone wrong for some of these teams to not even have a chance at standing up against even the most mid-table of teams in the league? Well, each team’s time under the magnifying glass will come, what exactly went wrong and what was the cause of “death” remained to be examined, but for now, it’s time to focus on the most baffling team in the Overwatch League, the 2021 LA Valiant.
It’s no secret that this year the league was going to be incredibly tough for any team deciding to field a roster of rookies. Not only was the schedule immensely tight and wins mattered more than ever, but the amount of talent that was introduced this year is also probably the highest it's ever been on average in all four seasons of the Overwatch League meaning the competition was deadlier than ever… even with the LA Valiant dragging down those numbers.
See, when the LA Valiant decided to drop an albeit exciting group talented of upstarts and an incredibly well-loved and highly praised head coach, for a bewildering mid-franchise market change and a roster of complete unknowns in the off-season, no one had a lot of faith in their chances of having a very good 2021 season.
The pickups were baffling, a player who literally hasn’t played the game professionally in over two years, an off-tank player moving to main support, and a player so wrapped in scandals he was literally considered the biggest meme pickup you could possibly think of for 2021.
Everyone knew the Valiant were going to be bad, in fact, everyone knew they were going to be dreadful, and they fulfilled those expectations by becoming the second team in OWL history to ever go an entire season without winning a single game. Legends in their own right honestly.
The Valiant were farmed for wins throughout the entire season, and their biggest high point as a team was being scheduled as the first match of the day in APAC so that Western fans had more time to sleep in before an actual match started. Well, that’s not entirely true, there was that one time they took a map off the Philadelphia Fusion to deny them a trip to Hawaii (again). That was pretty funny but other than that the Valiant were as paper-thin and made of cardboard as teams could get, winning only one other map throughout the entirety of the season.
Let’s face it, the majority of the LA Valiant’s players are not Overwatch League calibre, and that’s not even including Yelin "NvM" Wen, the player who was signed after not playing a single professional Overwatch match in over two years and who never saw a second of playtime. Granted it would’ve been nice to see him subbed in to see what damage he could’ve done, anything would’ve helped break the monotony of watching Han "Silver3" Haibo completely flounder on Wrecking Ball for an entire season.
Did the Valiant have some bright spots? Yeah, sure, Cai "Krystal" Shilong is a talented DPS player, everyone knew that, it was just his antics outside of the game that most people believed would’ve blacklisted him from ever playing in OWL again. Qi "Wya" Haomiao was nice to see each weekend, it’s clear that he’s also talented and it would’ve been nice to see him have a chance to shine on the Guangzhou Charge, while he was still on the roster.
Lastly, if anything Liao "MoLanran" Yang was an entertaining player to watch due to the sheer amount of feeding he would manage to pull off only just after he showcased impressive feats on a hero like Tracer. MoLanran was a feast or famine type of player, one second he’ll show off a good play on Echo or Tracer, and the next he runs into the backline or locks in Sombra and looks completely lost for an entire map. He certainly was the player with the most personality on the team, especially when the camera lands on him and he’s stuffing his face with noodles mid-match.
In the end, however, no amount of consistent play from Wya, or gooberness from MoLanran is enough to say that the Valiant brought anything to the table. They were a team barely composed of any Overwatch League calibre players, with barely any staff to help set any type of direction with this dead-in-the-water roster. It wasn’t too long ago that the LA Valiant were a respected franchise in the Overwatch League, with tons of fans to support and back them win or lose, fortune or hard times. The Valiant were once a team to be admired, with fan-favourite players, and a charming presence to boot. However, within a couple of months, all of that goodwill and reputation has been torn down, cast aside and discarded, and for something no one really understands.
All that’s left is a group of players and staff with no hope of ever succeeding in the Overwatch League, team ownership that presumably does not care in the slightest about the team’s ability to perform competitively, and a heartbroken fan base that watched their once-beloved team, turn into a historical laughing stock.