The Eternal’s victory is more than just a title, it’s a culmination of stories
With the San Francisco Shock and the Philadelphia Fusion at their feet, the Paris Eternal reign as the kings of summer. With portions of their team starting their careers with playoff jitters, with arguably the best general manager at the helm, the most improved player, and a new star being born, perhaps it was fate all along that the Eternal was always going to perform. The Eternal’s victory at the Summer Showdown is more than just a title win, it’s a culmination of stories that stretch back to 2018.
After the upheaval of OGN’s Overwatch APEX, Overwatch Contenders filled the void in South Korea. Rookie prospects at the time, Element Mystic were on the road to becoming the first Overwatch Contenders champions during 2018’s first season. They advanced undefeated from Group A losing 2 total maps, one to KongDoo Panthera and the other to Meta Bellum. Paired off with the 4th seed from Group B in 02 Ardeont, Element Mystic were supposed to coast through the quarterfinals.
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Their opponents didn’t have the resume, they didn’t have the punch, and were clearly beneath them, but the stage does something to people. Being put in front of a crowd projecting expectations, fans on either side of the aisle cheering their favourite teams on, your own internal anxieties begin to ride on a high. It’s no wonder why teams can crumble under the spotlight and Element Mystic, in this case, fell apart at the seams.
After going up 2-0 over 02 Ardeont, Element Mystic was reverse swept in their first major LAN performance. The loss took a visible toll on the players. Their play in the final map was uncharacteristically sloppy, nearly frantic, and their emotional reaction post-match spoke volumes to what they must have been thinking.
This wasn’t them. This wasn’t what they had practised. This wasn’t Element Mystic.
Moving forward, Element Mystic would go on to dominate in South Korea in 2019 winning Overwatch Contenders Season 1, the Pacific Showdown, and The Gauntlet. In an act of defiance, the core of the Paris Eternal roster that won the Summer Showdown in magical fashion carries those same memories from Element Mystic. This core would not simply go quietly into the night. It didn’t matter who it was that sat across the aisle, it didn’t matter what the score was, the Eternal was not going to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Surviving near-relegation, french main tank Benjamin "BenBest" Dieulafait is easily the most improved player this season. His growth is the best example of the Eternal’s overall explosion this season.
2019 gave us the polarizing GOATS metagame, a style of play that relied on teamwork and strong tank play, something European teams seemed to thrive in. With the Eternal fielding an entirely European roster during Season 2, hopes were high. This was a roster that had familiarity with the dominant metagame and had players that performed well in it. Paris was supposed to be the guiding light of Europe and while they weren’t a bad team, they were painfully consistent and played as the gatekeepers to the genuinely good teams. Instead of being vibrant and full of colour, BenBest and the 2019 Eternal were just grey.
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After Paris Eternal’s disappointing performance during their franchise debut, many of the original Eternal members were assumed to be cast aside in the 2020 rebuild. BenBest was one of the assured members departing the team. His Reinhardt centric style was dated and while he had his moments, the future demanded flexibility and it wasn’t certain he could meet expectations. How wrong we all were. Not only had he found massive success on his signature pick, but his Orisa was phenomenal all throughout the Summer Showdown. While BenBest had to execute once put in a position to succeed, the person who opened the door is rarely talked about.
Kim "NineK" Bumhoon is the silent architect of this entire Paris Eternal roster. From keeping portions of the talent from the 2019 roster and securing the core and the coaching staff of Element Mystic, NineK is criminally underrated and often overlooked when crediting the Eternal. From his time working with the San Francisco Shock in their 2019 run to become champions, NineK puts the “General” in general manager.
In this interview with Overwatch League commentator and expert Josh "Sideshow" Wilkinson, it was clear that NineK and the coaching staff had a good read on how to approach Hero Pools before the system was even integrated. NineK preached fundamentals, and not in a nebulous and overly general way either. It was always about giving the players the tools to think in the server, for them to become their own coach.
“Our coaches help us understand the game more,” former flex support for the Paris Eternal Luís "Greyy" Perestrelo said in an interview with Sideshow. Greyy explained that the 2020 Eternal staff tried to emphasize the strengths of the roster while mitigating the weaknesses. “This year, the coaching staff is a really big deal, like a really, really big deal. I can emphasize this enough.” That is the calibre of staff that NineK has brought to the table and directly correlates to their success this past weekend.
The team that he built, the coaching staff he assembled, all now rivals the best in the world. NineK deserves all the respect in the world for doing what he has done with the 2020 Paris Eternal roster.
From The Shadows
Jung "Xzi" Ki-hyo earned his MVP after the Eternal bested the Fusion in the grand final. Playing shadow to SP9RK1E’s light, hitscan to his projectile, shield to his sword. However, both are aces in their own right. Throughout the Summer Showdown, he has shown us that the shadows are to be feared. Not only was he the backbone of every aggressive push, but, like a rouge in the night, he quite literally backstabbed the Philadelphia Fusion in the final two plays of the grand final.
After having to return home to South Korea to be treated for severe neck pain, Xzi stubbornly planted his feet throughout his return in Week 20. Unflappable throughout the Summer Showdown, he became a strong tailwind that pushed the Eternal through the bracket with impressive performances on Widowmaker, McCree, and Ashe. After playing 12 straight maps, from the semifinals directly into the grand finals, Xzi became the spear to push the Eternal over the edge.
2020 is nearly almost finished and discussion around MVP and Rookie of the Year are mounting. That said, ask yourself this; after his breakout performance stretching all the way back to Week 1 and his triumphant return to assist the Eternal during their championship run at the Summer Showdown, is Xzi on both of those ballots? If so, how far does he climb in those rankings?
Images via Blizzard Entertainment